The Houston Chronicle’s loss is CultureMap’s gain—Shelby Hodge.
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There is a lot going on in the world of Texas women these days: a stamp commemorating Oveta Culp Hobby, former head of the Women’s Army Corps, not to mention one-woman shows in the offing celebrating both legendary journalist Molly Ivins and former Texas Governor Ann Richards. But the big news around Houston for a certain crowd—the society crowd, the one that likes to read (nice things) about themselves—is that the Houston Chronicle’s longtime social chronicler Shelby Hodge is departing for a new Web site, CultureMap. The new site is the brainchild of Lonnie and Candace Schiller, co-creators of Café Annie and Café Express, and backed by natural gas muckety-muck John Thrash and his wife, Becca Cason Thrash. CultureMap is starting small—as a local site with see-and-be-seen party pictures and a places to go/things to do mandate—but has ambitions to go national (CultureMapLA, CultureMapNY, etc.). Hodge has been much beloved by Houston’s upper crust because she rarely attacks her subjects—she’s a “just the facts ma’am” kind of society reporter, which makes her a natural favorite of techy Houston society.
The big loser in this dramatic (for some) move is the Chronicle, as Hodge’s readers were loyal, and will now, perhaps, take their readership elsewhere—like online. (On the other hand, if no one else can SEE your party pictures, how can you know how popular you really are??) But the job will be a boon to Hodge’s replacement, as a new round of social obsequiousness will undoubtedly begin, great entertainment for the hoi polloi. Who will get to dine with the movers and shakers on their yachts? Attend their benefits? Eat out every night of the week, if that’s your idea of fun? It was suggested that the Chronicle might replace Hodge with Clifford Pugh, the estimable fashion writer who lost his job during one of the paper’s major layoffs. But that won’t work—Pugh is now the editor of CultureMap.