This morning Ross Ramsey, our beloved executive editor and co-founder, told his Texas Tribune colleagues that he plans to retire on May 1. It would be inaccurate to say I thought this day would never come. I knew it would. Ross and I have been talking about it for the better part of a year. I confess I hoped it would come much later. Even with a lot of advance warning, I’m broken up.
I’ve never had a more trustworthy, more loyal, more decent and more generous friend and colleague than Ross, and I know everyone at the Trib feels the same way. He’s enriched my life over the last 13 years — he’s made me a better CEO and a better journalist and a better person by his example. There’s no one I rely on more — no one whose judgment, counsel or blessing I seek more or heed more.
In untold ways he’s made the Tribune better. Without his contributions as a writer, editor, mentor, steady hand, diplomat, historian, backstop, puncher of sacred cows, resolver of moral quandaries, calmer of waters and sayer of sooth, we surely would not be what we are today. No him, no this. No him, no us. Our success is his legacy.
Ross did not have to join our founder John Thornton and me at the start of this crazy ride. He had a long, lucrative career as a reporter and Capitol wise man. But he had the same voices in his head that we did. He was bothered by what journalism was becoming, or un-becoming, and he wanted to be part of a solution. He helped us refine our idea, persuaded young smarties at the biggest news orgs to enter the transfer portal and smoothed the way with the inside crowd.
By attaching himself to us as co-founder, he bestowed his credibility — the profound respect every elected official, lobbyist, issue activist and political consultant had for him. We were legit because Ross was on the team.
And then he got to work. Not a day has passed since Nov. 3, 2009, when Ross didn’t show up in the most literal sense. He’s always been fully and enthusiastically engaged in the exercise of fulfilling our public-service mission.
Whatever was called for, he stepped up. Edit this story. Write this column. Break this news. Put this thing that just happened into context. Explain how this system works. Call this person we need something from. Call this person who’s mad at us. Introduce us to this person you’ve known for decades. Share this phone number that only you have. Write this poll question. Interpret this poll result. Give this speech. Interview this big dog. Moderate this panel. Lead our newsroom.
As much as I hate the thought of Ross exiting, I understand why it’s time. After four-plus decades in the business, he’s earned the right to downshift; to hang with his wife, Becky; and to watch the St. Louis Cardinals without work to distract him. I also know, as he does, that we’re more ready than ever for what comes next. He’s part of the reason: He’s prepared us so well. His fingerprints will be all over our future.
One of the most admirable things about Ross is his modesty. He never gives himself enough credit — in fact, he works like a dog to avoid getting any. Nonetheless, over the next few months I’m going to make sure everyone inside and outside the Tribune appreciates the magnitude of our debt to him. And then, close to his last day, we’ll toast him and his accomplishments.
Lots of love and respect and best wishes to our hero. We thank you so much, and Texas does, too.