An Interview with The Texan’s Konni Burton

Ralph Barrera — Statesman

Konni Burton is the founder and CEO of The Texan, a news startup founded as a counterweight to the increased polarization of the national media. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Burton served as a State senator representing district 10 from 2014 to 2018. Our Editor-In-Chief, Chris Schlak, interviewed her over the phone about media objectivity, the trials, and the benefits of trying to run a media startup without ads, and more.

Editor’s note: The interview took place on 3/11/21, and the following has been edited for length and clarity.

Chris: “What made you want to go into journalism in 2019?”

Konni: “Well, I’m not an editor, a journalist, or a reporter, but I do own The Texan. So, I have been an activist, a candidate, an elected official. And someone on the right doesn’t have to be an activist or an elected official to see what’s going on in the media world. But because I was deeply involved in activism and politics, I see it even more up close and personal what’s going on with the media. Particularly, the national media is becoming an arm of the Democratic party. There is no doubt about it. You see it in the headlines and the way they report things. It doesn’t serve anybody well and that’s why we launched The Texan.”

Chris: “How difficult was it to start The Texan in our current media environment? Was there any criticism?”

Konni: “It was interesting at first because I dealt with many of these news outlets as an elected official. I certainly got congratulatory texts from some, which was very nice. Mainly, the pushback was from ‘trolls’ on social media. Those who are left of center who knew me previously as a conservative Republican elected official immediately came out and claimed all sorts of things and accused us of pushing a right-wing narrative, even though we are an objective news outlet. Each and every one of them haven’t even read any of our articles. The beauty of The Texan is that we tell everybody what our political persuasion is. There is no hiding that. We tell them we are all right of center. However, you will not see that in the articles we write. As a matter of fact, we get so many compliments from those left of center who say that they don’t see the political bias of the person who wrote this article. It is just giving the facts. We don’t push any narratives. But we do talk about stories that the regular media doesn’t. Things that are important to right of center Texans that don’t even get discussed by the left of center media in Texas.”

Chris: “Yeah, I was going to ask if any of your readers were moderates or left of center, and I’m glad to hear that.”

Konni: “Yes, we have many self-described liberals or democrats who subscribe to The Texan. They tell us that they are ‘pleasantly surprised.’ We reach out to both left of center and right of center advocacy groups to get quotes from them on the issues we are talking about. I think it is important to see what these groups are advocating for from both sides of the aisle. There is nothing wrong with getting information from both sides out there. What is wrong is pretending you are a media organization providing factual information when you are not. They claim they are not biased, but we see their bias everyday when we read their articles.”

Chris: “I completely agree with that. Do you think you would be making more of a change if you provided opinion as well as facts? Isn’t it a disservice to readers to not provide conservative opinion?”

Konni: “In my mind, I see no lack of conservative opinion in journalism. We are not an advocacy organization. Right of center Texans have advocacy organizations. From a personal standpoint, I love our advocacy organizations. I think that both sides need those advocacy organizations that try to move the ball into a particular direction. And that’s great, but that’s their lane. It is not our lane, and we are not competing with them. Everybody and their dog is on social media and has an opinion nowadays. Every individual has the ability to get their opinions out. What we don’t have is straight news on issues, policies, and candidates that right of center Texans are interested in and that is the void we are filling.”

Chris: “Do you hire anyone who is left of center to write for you?”

Konni: “No, we are all right of center at The Texan. We do this purposely because we believe that our articles are better when we share the same viewpoints of right of center Texans. Let me give you a couple of examples. Life is a big issue on the right, and we have written about each and every of the sanctuary cities for the unborn in the state of Texas. We talk about the differences between the ordinances, if they exist, between each city. We don’t advocate it in our articles, we just report on it. Now, do you hear about these cities from the other media? No, right? So, we know these stories are important to at least half of Texans. Another example is border security. But when the mainstream Texas media reports about the border, it’s generally from a sympathetic viewpoint for those illegally coming across the border. It is not talking about the reasons why right of center Texans care: national security reasons, drug-trafficking, human-trafficking, etc. Instead of talking about those reasons, the media portrays people for stronger border security as racists. So, what The Texan does is report the number of those coming across illegally, the parentless children being sent across the border, and such. In our minds, everybody should be concerned. Now, everybody may come down differently on what the answer is on border security, but let’s just get the facts out there so everybody can be informed.”

Chris: “Right. So, how has not using advertising or click bait been working for The Texan?”

Konni: “It is excellent. We get so many compliments from people saying ‘Oh my god it is so nice.’ Just being able to open up the articles, read them, and move on. We don’t even have comments at the end, like so many other media organizations. Many people say ‘Oh, I read the comments. I shouldn’t have gone there.’ You know, if you want comments, then go to Facebook or Twitter. There’s plenty of them there. If you just want to read an article and not have your head explode from the comments coming in, then read our paper. Here’s the other thing. You mentioned the click-bait, and it is a huge reason why we didn’t want to go with the advertising business model for our media organization. It is very unsustainable. You would have to have so many ads in order to sustain an operation like this. From the people I’ve talked to in this industry, when you concentrate so much on getting ads, you end up selling how many clicks your article gets. So you are constantly trying to get people to click, not necessarily to inform people, you just want them to click on the article. So, the headlines get more and more outlandish because you have to get people to click so you can sell those clicks to advertisers. And, that’s how you get these click-bait headlines that don’t serve the reader well. It only serves to sell ads. What is beautiful about what we are doing is that we are immune from left-wing trolls who try to take right of center media organizations down by going after their advertisers. We’ve seen this with Hobby Lobby, Chick Fil-A, Fox News and other companies. We don’t have any advertisers, so we really can’t be cancelled.”

Chris: “In a media environment with a lot of advertising and click-bait titles, is it profitable or sustainable to not have any advertisements?”

Konni: “We are obviously in the early stages of our business. It has been 2 years now. We have a good business model and did a lot of research. We have a business plan that does allow us to be profitable. But, just like any business, you have to get there, and we are not there yet. My husband and I are funding this operation. Just like anyone who starts their own business, you put your own money into it and at some point, you turn a profit.”

Chris: “Of course. It looks like The Texan is doing well so far. So, I’m sure it will get there soon enough. I have another question for you. Did you enjoy being a state senator more or running your own paper?”

Konni: “That’s a great question. I enjoyed both really. Although, it was very frustrating being a state senator. While I was happy to be there and honored to be voted in, it was hard fighting for individual liberty, free market principles, and a limited government when there are some on your own side who don’t agree with you. Yet, I was happy to be in the fight. Now that I am doing this, it is the same thing. The rest of the media can be very frustrating because of some of the garbage that they print. We need to be on the battleground as well. Both have their good and bad qualities, but I enjoyed both of them.”

Chris: “That’s good to know. How has The Texan dealt with the pandemic in the past year?”

Konni: “At our headquarters, a quarter of a mile from the capitol, our reporters are able to get to the capitol easily for committee hearings and press conferences. At the office, our employees are as important to us as they are to anybody else, but we also believe in personal responsibility; so, our guys have been at the office this whole time. Although, there have been a few exceptions of when everything closed down for a couple of weeks a year ago. The media was deemed essential during that time, which was aggravating. Nobody should be deemed essential or not essential. All the other media organizations are still at their homes, but our guys are out there taking care of themselves getting stories, and reporting on them. In regards to reporting on the coronavirus, we report all of the numbers, not just the number of cases. The number of cases is important, but so is reporting on the decline in hospitalizations and deaths. They only talk about Covid from a fear-mongering perspective. Another way we were different is showing what governments were doing with covid. We reported on ridiculous things local and state governments were doing. We don’t hold back. A South Texas county judge, at some point, ordered that two people could not be in the same car while driving on the highway. Also, a skateboard park in Texas was filled with sand. It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen! We were writing that so people could see what the mainstream media wasn’t reporting on.”

Chris: “Yeah, and that is absolutely necessary in this media environment. Does The Texan have any future plans or anything special you want to announce or hint at?”

Konni: “We constantly add features. We have daily articles that you get via your email. You can get them on our social media sites as well. We have video interviews with people who affect politics and policy in Texas. We have The Back Mic, which is an every Friday morning insider look into Texas politics. We have a podcast that comes out every Friday morning, which is the editor and the writers who get an up-close and personal look into those stories. We continually add features. We are trying to get our own app. We have other things that we definitely have a vision for, and we want to continue to keep adding features. We want more and more people on board. We want to reach people in the best way that they can read or hear our articles. So, we’ll continue to innovate and be out there for all Texans.”

Chris: “That’s great. Do you have any questions for us at The Texas Horn?”

Konni: “How are y’all? I’m so excited! It is so awesome! I have been very busy, so I haven’t been able to pay much attention to y’all. Have you already launched? Give me the rundown.”

Chris: “We launched on Texas Independence Day. We have about thirteen articles up so far. We get a lot of opinion submissions because, you know, everyone has an opinion. So, we’re working on publishing more news stories at the moment. It’s been going well so far, and we recently created a newsletter as well.”

Konni: “Good! I was so glad to see the launch of your paper because we need more of that. We know that at least half of Texans are right of center, and they are not being served by left of center media. The more we report on straight news from issues that right of center Texans care about, the better served Texans will be.”

Chris: “Is there anything else you would like to add?”

Konni: “No, I think you covered everything. We really enjoy it. Our guys are great. We got a very young organization filled with young energetic people. We are so proud to have them, and we will continue to work hard to get the information out there to Texans who need it.”

Chris: “I hope y’all do. Thanks for talking, and everybody go check out The Texan at https://thetexan.news/.”

Originally published at https://thetexashorn.com/ on March 18, 2021.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Chris Schlak

Chris Schlak

Chris Schlak is an ISI Opinion Fellow for USA TODAY, the Co-Founder of The Texas Horn, and a Contributor for Young Voices.