The Texas Tribune, a digital news platform founded in 2009, has hired Stacy-Marie Ishmael, a digitally savvy journalist, as its new editorial director, The Tribune’s chief executive said on Friday.
Ms. Ishmael, 35, a veteran of The Financial Times, BuzzFeed News and Apple, will effectively replace Emily Ramshaw, The Tribune’s editor in chief from 2016 until her departure in January.
Ms. Ramshaw and The Tribune’s chief audience officer, Amanda Zamora, left the organization to start The 19th, a nonprofit news site focused on women and politics that is scheduled for a summer rollout.
Ms. Ishmael, who worked most recently as a senior editor at Apple’s app store, said that issues affecting Texas often turn out to be important to the nation as a whole. “Understanding them through the lens of Texas is a good way to understand the overall U.S. political story, or U.S. demographic story, or U.S. justice story,” she said.
Joining Ms. Ishmael at The Tribune’s headquarters in Austin will be Millie Tran, 30, the deputy off-platform editor at The New York Times. Ms. Tran, whose title will be chief product officer, said she was looking forward to “figuring out this problem of finding a sustainable position for local news.”
Ms. Ishmael and Ms. Tran, neither of whom has lived before in the Lone Star State, will report to Evan Smith, The Tribune’s chief executive and a co-founder, who helped start the organization in 2009 after nearly two decades at Texas Monthly.
He said the two hires represented an acknowledgment that The Tribune’s priorities included not only the traditional goals of covering one of the country’s largest and most fascinating states (just ask Texans), but an assurance that its journalism reached a larger and more diverse group of readers.
“They’re thinking about this stuff at a much higher level,” Mr. Smith, 53, said in a phone interview.
When Mr. Smith replaced himself as The Tribune’s editor in chief four years ago, he elevated Ms. Ramshaw, who had been at The Tribune since 2010 after working as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News. It made sense for a seasoned Texas journalist to run a news operation that boasts having the largest statehouse bureau of any outlet in the country.
Starting in the fall, when he learned that Ms. Ramshaw and Ms. Zamora would be leaving, Mr. Smith looked beyond Texas for their replacements. He said a conversation with Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, who is joining The Times as a media columnist on Sunday, had led him to Ms. Ishmael and Ms. Tran.
In their time at BuzzFeed, Ms. Ishmael and Ms. Tran seized on the realization that readers who arrived at the site via social media tended to do so on their phones — a truism today, but underappreciated at the time — and set about building mobile-specific apps.
Evan Smith said that although the pair would be new to living in Texas, they knew how to connect with digital readers, a priority for The Tribune in 2020. Ms. Ishmael, he said, is “an enormously passionate advocate for diversity and inclusiveness.” Ms. Tran, he added, “is obsessed with how people get and share news.”
The Tribune’s newsroom has grown even as local publications nationwide struggle to survive because of declining ad revenue and other factors. The site expects to have more than 100 employees later this year, including more than 50 journalists.
The Tribune’s 2020 budget calls for almost $11 million in revenue. That amount comes from donations — John Thornton, a venture capitalist and a co-founder of The Tribune, has given more than $2 million through the years — nonprofit grants and readers who chip in small amounts to support the free site. It also receives corporate sponsorships for events, including the annual Tribune Festival.
“What I’ve come around to is, we’re the Boy Who Lived,” said Evan Smith, using a Harry Potter reference to describe The Tribune’s survival. “The road behind us is littered with the bones of well-intentioned people who tried to make this work and couldn’t.”