Texas Tribune Announces Sonal Shah as New Chief Executive Officer

Sonal Shah headshot
Photo credit Texas Tribune

With Nearly Three Decades of Experience Across Nonprofit, Public & Private Sectors, Shah Will Lead the Tribune Into Its Next Phase of Growth, Focusing on Long-Term Financial & Organizational Sustainability

AUSTIN, TX – The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization, today announced the selection of Sonal Shah to serve as its second chief executive officer. Shah will take over for co-founder and founding CEO Evan Smith beginning in January 2023. At the Tribune, Shah will lead the organization into its next phase of growth, overseeing strategy, fundraising and operations, while editor in chief Sewell Chan will continue to run all news operations. Smith will transition into a new role as senior adviser, effective early next year.


Founded in 2009, The Texas Tribune’s mission is to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide interest. With nearly 4 million monthly unique visitors and more than 175,000 newsletter subscribers, The Texas Tribune is an established leader in digital-first journalism, devoted to informing Texans through in-depth investigations and rigorous enterprise, breaking news and beat reporting backed by data and statewide events. Since its inception, the Tribune has raised more than $112 million and now boasts more than 10,000 paying members.


“Over my more than 25-year career, the throughline tying together all of my nonprofit, public and private sector experience has been one word: impact. My passion for civic engagement, innovation and the intersection of policy and technology is what drives everything I do, and I am thrilled to bring my experience and expertise to The Texas Tribune. This news organization is truly second to none. With a world-class journalism staff, unmatched reporting and a critical mission, I know that the sky is the limit in terms of what we can continue to build and achieve here for Texans and beyond. Texas is my home, it is where I grew up and I can’t imagine a more important place to be,” said Sonal Shah, incoming chief executive officer of The Texas Tribune.


“Starting and leading this incredible organization has been the honor of a lifetime. We have created a new model for public service journalism, building a newsroom that consistently holds powerful people and institutions in Texas to account while mentoring an incredible corps of skilled writers producing serious and impactful journalism. As we look toward the Trib’s next phase of growth, I more than anyone recognize the vital importance of having the right leader in place for this time. I have no doubt that Sonal Shah is that leader. With decades of experience across the nonprofit, public and private sectors, a proven track record as a fundraiser and experience evolving business models, I know that Sonal will be a champion for The Trib’s mission, its business and its people each and every day,” said Evan Smith, co-founder and outgoing chief executive officer of The Texas Tribune.


“Since 2009, Evan has built the Trib from the ground up into the world-class news organization that it is today. The Trib would not exist without him, full stop. As we undertook this search process, our objective was to identify a leader with deep Texas roots who could build on the successes of the past 13 years, set the Trib up for success in its next decade and far beyond and be the perfect complement to Sewell’s leadership of the newsroom. A first-generation immigrant, Sonal grew up in Houston and has spent a part of her career in Texas, including starting The Asian American Foundation from Houston and in her work for the United Way Worldwide. With her combination of nonprofit, public and private sector experience, deep understanding of policy and technology, and her passion for building a stronger future for her home state of Texas and our country, Sonal Shah is the perfect leader to carry The Texas Tribune into the future,” said Jim Schachter, board chair, The Texas Tribune.


“I first met Sonal in 2008 and in the years since have admired her brilliant career in nonprofits, government and academia. Sonal understands the critical importance of nonprofit news and of the editorial independence that has allowed the Tribune to thrive. She is the perfect leader to oversee the operations, strategy and finances of the Tribune in this next phase of our growth and evolution. We share a vision of a Tribune that is an indispensable source of news, strengthens democracy by engaging citizens and continues to innovate to get our journalism in front of new and diverse audiences,” said Sewell Chan, Editor in Chief of the Texas Tribune.


One of the foremost global leaders on social impact and innovation, Shah has started and led social impact efforts in academia, government, and the private and philanthropic sectors for over 25 years. Currently, she serves as interim executive vice president, worldwide network advancement, at United Way Worldwide. Previously, Shah founded The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) in Houston, and also founded and led Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. She served as director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Obama administration, as an international economist at the Department of the Treasury, and as national policy director for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. In the private sector, Shah led technology initiatives and impact investing globally at Google and Goldman Sachs. Shah grew up in Houston, where she graduated from Alief Hastings High School, and went on to earn a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in economics from Duke University.


The Texas Tribune shares its journalism and resources widely and freely with other state and national news organizations, and in 2021 more than 400 of its original stories appeared on the front pages of 20 newspapers across Texas. The organization produces robust nonpartisan journalism in a range of formats, including podcasts, original video, data visualizations, easily searchable databases and editorial events. The 2022 Texas Tribune Festival featured more than 350 speakers and welcomed more than 9,000 Fest participants in-person and online. Learn more at texastribune.org.