Composite / Scott Ball and Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
To Our Readers:
As we work to sharpen and deepen our coverage of San Antonio in its Tricentennial year and beyond, we are excited to announce three new hires who start this month to help us do that.
– Rick Casey, an acclaimed former newspaper columnist and KLRN-TV public affairs talk show host in San Antonio, will join the Rivard Report as a contributing editor with the launch of a weekly podcast offering analysis and insights on local news stories and the players behind the news.
– Brendan Gibbons, a prize-winning environmental reporter formerly at the San Antonio Express-News and the Scranton Times-Tribune, will cover the environment, energy, and water issues.
– Emily Donaldson, a former Community Impact correspondent in Houston and Austin, will report on the area’s Pre-K-12 schools and students, with a focus on schools in underserved areas of the city, education trends, and the city’s institutions of higher education.
Casey, Gibbons, and Donaldson together bring a rich mix of experience, talent, expertise, and enthusiasm to our editorial team. We expect you will quickly notice and benefit from their contributions. We are delighted to have them on board.
They join a smart and committed staff of editors and reporters devoted not only to breaking news, but, more importantly, to providing thoughtful and judicious analysis and profiles of the dominant players, policies, and politics behind the news.
We will continue to focus on core issues that define San Antonio’s present and will determine its future – city and county politics and management; education; the environment; health; business, with a special focus on tech; urban development; neighborhoods; and arts and culture.
We aim to explain how developments in those core coverage areas affect the city’s residents now, and how they might enhance or harm their futures. And, as always, we invite and depend upon Rivard Report readers to weigh in with their observations and commentary, so we can fully and accurately represent community views, discourse, and debate.
"One measure of growth as the Report turns six years old next month is that some of our journalists have moved on to pursue other opportunities, while others, some familiar, some new to San Antonio, take their place and help us evolve along with the city we serve," said Robert Rivard, co-founder and publisher. "I know Beth and her team will have more such news to report in the coming months. We deeply appreciate our many individual and business donors who make this growth and service to community possible."
Casey will help us do that by deconstructing the city’s news and developments via a weekly podcast. An award-winning veteran journalist, Casey brings a wealth of knowledge about San Antonio from four decades of reporting on the city, including as a metro columnist both for the former San Antonio Light and, later, the San Antonio Express-News. (He also served a 10-year stint as a columnist at the Houston Chronicle.)
Casey returned to San Antonio – a city from which, as he recently put it, he “can’t seem to stay away” – to host Texas Week With Rick Casey from 2011-2017 on KLRN-TV, the local PBS affiliate. The show was canceled in September. (Earlier last year, Casey made national news when a commentary he wrote was pulled by station management until public outcry led to its eventual broadcast.)
“At a time when local news institutions are under considerable stress, the Rivard Report is offering a new, web-based approach to covering the exciting developments and crucial challenges of a changing San Antonio,” Casey said about becoming a contributing editor to the Rivard Report. “I’m excited to join the Report’s talented and growing team.
“I especially look forward to doing a weekly podcast with Editor Beth Frerking in which we will assess and analyze the week’s news,” he said, adding, “Don’t miss it.”
Casey has won numerous journalism awards, including the Molly, named after the late columnist Molly Ivins, for his columns on immigration while at the Houston Chronicle, and, twice, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors award as best general columnist in the state. A resident of the King William neighborhood with his wife, Kristen, Casey is currently working on a memoir about his career covering San Antonio.
Gibbons joins us from the Express-News, where he spent the last two years covering environmental issues, including the Vista Ridge pipeline project, the largest water transfer project in Texas history; the effects of extreme heat in San Antonio; and groundwater pollution, among other issues. He was part of an Express-News team honored last year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors for community service reporting.
Previously, Gibbons covered environmental issues for two years at The Scranton Times-Tribune in Pennsylvania, where he exposed a botched investigation of toxic gases entering homes near a local landfill, and where he routinely covered coal mine fires, mine collapses, and acid mine drainage.
"San Antonio is right in the center of big environmental tug-of-wars over clean air, clean water, and changing wildlife habitats,” Gibbons said. “I'm excited to share my reporting on these issues with the Rivard Report’s engaged readers."
A 2013 University of Missouri graduate in science and agricultural journalism, Gibbons earned some practical knowledge of his beat through college internships studying birds for the U.S. Forest Service, and as an office assistant in a plant science lab in Missouri.
He is a Texas Master Naturalist pledge, a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, and an avid hiker, skier, and mountain biker. And he plays the tenor sax. Gibbons is married to Westyn Hinchey Gibbons, director of digital marketing and public relations for the Institute for Women’s Health and its affiliated Advanced Fertility Center in San Antonio.
Donaldson made her mark covering education for Community Impact newspapers, first in the Houston area, reporting on the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, and, more recently in Austin, providing statehouse coverage of public education, local governmental control, and health care issues.
Donaldson, a Houston native, also worked with the company’s digital editors to implement a digital strategy that increased social media following and engagement in the Cy-Fair edition by 200 percent.
“Local journalism provides the most important tool for readers who want to affect change in their communities,” Donaldson said about her move to the Rivard Report. “I’m excited to be part of a team that is equipping readers with the knowledge to engage in relevant local discussions and to better San Antonio.”
A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri with bachelor degrees in political science and in journalism, Donaldson said she was drawn to education reporting after an internship with a news wire service in the Missouri statehouse.
“I loved seeing individuals with incredibly different backgrounds — at the time, the deputy commissioner had attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse while the commissioner was a product of an inner-city district — come together to improve education for the state’s children,” she wrote in an email about her experiences there.
Donaldson is a runner who completed her first half-marathon in September. She was also part of a trivia team in Austin that met weekly to compete.
Casey, Gibbons, and Donaldson join a team of three business team staffers, led by chief operating officer Jenna Mallette, and more than a dozen editors, full-time reporters, and freelance contributors at the Rivard Report. Rivard and his wife, Monika Maeckle, launched the publication as an online news and analysis blog nearly six years ago, on February 13, 2012.
Within a year, the publication boasted two other employees, reporter Iris Dimmick, now managing editor, and photographer Scott Ball, now the photo editor. The Rivard Report officially became a nonprofit news organization in August 2015.