The Texas Tribune Wants You to Help Fund Its Livestreaming Efforts

It’s fair to say that before her marathon filibuster on the Texas Senate floor, not many citizens knew who Wendy Davis was.

But on the night of June 25, 2013, they learned. And nonprofit news organization, The Texas Tribune, which covers politics and policy across the state, is a big reason why Wendy Davis’ filibuster speech was broadcast worldwide via livestream. So, the Tribune wants to take its real-time video coverage efforts a step further and has launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to purchase the technology to livestream the 2014 Texas governor’s election (Davis is reportedly running for Gov. Rick Perry’s post).

That evening, the Tribune had enough forethought to recognize that Davis’ 11-hour appearance at the Capitol, pink running shoes and all, was important and potentially really impactful. The Democrat’s refusal to allow Texas Republicans to ban abortion in the Lone Star State earned her national attention, and the Trib says it provided more than 183,000 people with live, unfiltered coverage of what was going on in Austin.

Their Kickstarter introduction reads, in part, “Our filibuster livestream went completely viral; by midnight, and into the filibuster’s 11th hour, we had more than 183,000 people watching from 187 countries. That’s right: a scrappy, public service news org had the best night in television — more viewers than many cable news networks had at that time.”

Crowdfunding contributors will help the Tribune to purchase the LiveU LU70, a piece of equipment that will let them transmit HD video across cellular networks, and a TriCaster 455, an “integrated switcher and encoder for live events.” The $60,000 the online news organization is asking for will have a cool payoff for Tribune readers and fans, though.

Leading up to November 2014, the Texas Tribune, which has become widely known and respected for its success at sponsored events with political heavyweights, plans to livestream gubernatorial campaign gatherings, one-on-one interviews with the candidates and, of course, footage of election and primary nights as their events unfold.

Though the small but powerful operation offers livestreams of significant political debates, the Tribune says they need the money and bandwidth to run their real-time coverage the way they want to.

“When the clock ran out on the abortion filibuster, the Texas Senate muted the sound on the livestream, even though the Capitol was erupting in chaos and the outcome of the filibuster was far from certain. Thus, viewers around the world were effectively locked out of the event… The Tribune is investing in its video hardware and services to make sure no one can ever cut off our live coverage,” the crowdsourcing page reads.

I’ve seen the Tribune getting a lot of love on Twitter for this Kickstarter, and they’ve already reached more than 1/6 of their goal with 22 days to go. If their relatively quick but dramatic success is any indication of what the Tribune is capable of, I think they their readers are going to knock this campaign out of the park.

If they follow through, the position of livestreaming for journalistic purposes will be more secured and help to make live video coverage — that is, footage that is unmodified, less produced and as straightforward as possible — more expected and celebrated in the industry.

PressThink’s Jay Rosen blogged about the value of livestreaming and how it worked for then-citizen journalist Tim Pool during his uStream coverage of Occupy Wall Street. Viewers relied on Pool to bring them the information they wanted and needed in that context.

As Rosen wrote, “If you really want to be a journalist, the best experience you can have is to be depended on by people who need you as their eyes and ears, their interviewer, their man or woman in the field.”

The Texas Tribune, by many accounts, has become a very trusted set of eyes and ears in the realm of Texas politics. The news org’s aggressive push into the livestreaming foray will only solidify their mastery of that space.

What do you think? Is livestreaming journalism? Does watching newsworthy events unfold visually help you to understand the event’s implications?