The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith gives preview of the second annual festival at UT Austin


Fanny Trang

Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith speaks with UT President William Powers, Jr. at last year’s Texas Tribune Festival.

Bobby Blanchard

Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, spoke to The Daily Texan about this weekend’s second annual Texas Tribune Festival. The Festival is a weekend-long event with panels, discussions, debates and dialogues about current national and state political issues.

The Daily Texan: Why would it be important for UT students to go to the Texas Tribune Festival this weekend?
Smith: UT-Austin is a campus in a city that fancies itself the intellectual capital of the state. This is a place where all good men and women come together to fight about, discuss and debate the big issues of the day. The UT campus has had a long tradition of being a locus of that conversation. I think if you’re a UT student, your responsibility and obligation when you come to campus every day is to show up mentally as well as physically and be part of the dialogue and the conversation.

The Daily Texan: I know you will be talking to Ted Cruz and Julian Castro. Can you give us a preview of what you’re going to be asking them?
We’re going to talk about the future of Texas politics, which the two of them, together or separate, embody or exemplify. They are both younger than me. Castro is 38 and Cruz is 41, so they are going to be around for a long time, and they both represent very different views that are very much aligned with the times.

The Daily Texan: Are you excited for this weekend?
Evan Smith:
Absolutely. The problem with being so close to something, both physically and emotionally, is it’s hard to enjoy it. The reality is I have a lot of anxiety about this weekend. It’s not necessarily about any one thing. It’s going to go great. It’s going to be a huge success. We’re excited as can be about it, but it’s a big event. It’s a big event in terms of where the Tribune sees itself going forward. I’d rather be cautious than nervous, but I think it’s going to be great.

The Daily Texan: How is this year’s festival going to be different from last year’s festival?
We have more speakers. We are spread out over three days and not two. We tried to make our focus more about the state than the country. I think there is an essential key element that is the same, and that is we are bringing together the people who are in the position to make a difference in the state. We have the people in the rooms this weekend who run the state, and we’re going to ask them the hard questions. We’re going to get them to argue and discuss about the issues that matter. Hopefully people will walk out of those rooms better educated about the state.