It’s Been Fun

I’ll be seeing you.

July 2000By Comments

I became the editor of Texas Monthly in January 1981. Since then I have written 203.5 Behind the Lines columns. (Paul Burka and I were co-authors of one column.) This one is my last. I am stepping down as editor on June 30 to return to a career as a writer. I will remain on the staff of Texas Monthly as a writer-at-large, and I intend to write articles for other magazines and books as well.

Over the years I’ve had ideas for things I wanted to write, but they passed after a while. Lately, though, the ideas have taken a tenacious hold. I have found myself thinking about them often. I knew I would never complete a single one if I remained the editor of Texas Monthly, but I didn’t want to leave behind a job that still excited me and staff members who are not only colleagues but also friends. But at 55 years of age, I realized that if I didn’t change my work now, I might never change. I would regret it and wonder why I hadn’t. So, happily and sadly, I’m here to say good-bye.

The new editor will be Evan Smith, who is currently the deputy editor. He came to Texas Monthly in 1991. He left in February 1994 to be the deputy editor of The New Republic but returned in September of the same year. Evan is a supremely talented editor, who has been a fountain of ideas. He has sought out and developed new writers. And he has improved, even transformed, stories with his editing touch. On July 1 he will become only the third editor in Texas Monthly’s 28-year history. He is the right person for the job, and I’m sure Texas Monthly will improve in every way under his guidance.

Very few editors have served continuously at one publication for as long as I have. I want to thank the many readers of Texas Monthly for your loyalty and support over the years. Without it, nothing else would have mattered. After all, it is you we are working for.

The reason I have been able to stay here for so long is that many talented people have worked with me. Making a magazine is a huge collaborative effort, and the editor is only part of that process. I owe so much to so many people that I want to acknowledge them now, however inadequate or incomplete or just plain late it may be.

Mike Levy founded Texas Monthly. It was his idea. As the publisher and as my boss and as a friend, he has always been there. He wanted Texas Monthly to be an excellent magazine and has never wavered from that no matter what pressures he and the magazine were under. No editor could ask for more.

Bill Broyles, my close friend for almost forty years, was the first editor of Texas Monthly. He created the basic architecture of the magazine, and it remains in place to this day. If he had not believed in me and hired me in 1972, my life would have been less in every way.

John Broders has been my assistant for fifteen years. In all that time he has never made a mistake or a wrong move. A great mimic, a great wit, and a great pal, he’s made everything about being in the office easier, better, and a lot more fun. We have the best foundation for a friendship—we think we’re both hilarious. John, this isn’t good-bye, but I do bid you good day, sir. (A private joke.)

I give my endless gratitude to everyone on the staff of Texas Monthly and especially to those who work for me in the art and editorial departments. I wish there were room here to write about every one of you individually. Without your talent and dedication, there would be no magazine. But there are several people whom I’ve worked with so long and so happily that they must be singled out.

I’ve already mentioned Evan Smith’s great contribution.

Paul Burka used to grade my history tests when we were at Rice together. He still knows and understands more than I do. He is the editor I turn to for editing, and whatever I know about politics I’ve learned from him.

Skip Hollandsworth, Gary Cartwright, and Joe Nick Patoski are such good writers that working with them has been nothing but a pleasure.

Jane Dure makes the magazine go out the door when it is supposed to. She does it with humor most of the time and with toughness when she has to.

Pat Sharpe and Anne Dingus are stalwart writers and editors who have never let me down no matter what grim task they got stuck with.

Kathy Marcus and Hope Rodriguez have worked in the art department for a combined 45 years. Even under the pressure of the tightest deadlines, neither one has ever been anything but calm and completely in control of her work. Their poise smothered many dangerous fires.

Chester Rosson and David Moorman have checked facts since the mid- seventies. Their diligent research has saved us from countless errors and made our accuracy a source of pride.

David Anderson, a former reporter and now a legal scholar, has read every issue of the magazine before it goes to the printer and given us his acute judgment based on both disciplines. And it has been a comfort knowing that Jim George and Julie Ford, defenders of the First Amendment, have been in our corner.

Two very important people recently left the magazine. D. J. Stout was the art director of Texas Monthly for thirteen years before leaving last January. The relationship between an art director and an editor is often a stormy one, but that wasn’t the case with the two of us. And like all great art directors, D. J. was a talented journalist who was filled with ideas about the stories we should do and who had a real gift for writing headlines and cover type. Nancy McMillen was our associate art director and worked here for 22 years. She has a wonderful design sense and the best mind for detail of anyone I have ever known. She, too, was a talented journalist, and I always wanted her involved whenever there was a major decision to make. There will always be a place in my heart for Nancy.

Jim Atkinson, Michael Ennis, Don Graham, John Morthland, Prudence Mackintosh, and Jan Reid are close friends who, although freelance writers, have written so much for Texas Monthly for so many years that theirs are among the defining voices of the magazine.

In Austin two former colleagues at the magazine—Steve Harrigan and Larry Wright—are especially close friends. They have both been generous with their time and their wise counsel for many years. Their friendship is among the most valuable things I have.

There are other alumni of Texas Monthly who are good friends and whose work here was so impressive and whose standards were so high that I always think of the magazine as their legacy. They include Dan Okrent, who founded New England Monthly and is now editor-at-large for Time Inc.; there is no better friend and no better fellow. Jim Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly, Nick Lemann of The New Yorker, and Joe Nocera of Fortune wrote some of the finest stories we have ever published. Their many books and articles are a testament to their talent. Richard West is an internationally known travel writer whose intimate knowledge of Texas informed every article he wrote for us. Griffin Smith, jr., the executive editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Harry Hurt III, now the author of books and articles about golf; and Al Reinert, a two-time Academy award nominee, began writing for Texas Monthly in its infancy. Katy Chadwick Flato, a community volunteer in San Antonio, proved while she was here that she is an editor with impeccable taste. Jan Jarboe Russell, a biographer of Lady Bird Johnson, always does everything with her whole heart. Robert Draper, now of GQ, is that rare combination—a tough reporter and a graceful writer. Emily Yoffe, who now writes for Slate and other publications, is a brave, stand-up woman. And Mimi Swartz of Talk is as elegant and compassionate in person as she is in her prose.

Larry McMurtry, first as a teacher at Rice and later as a friend, revealed a world of books and writers to me that I would never have known otherwise. Bill Wiegand of San Francisco State University, by trying to teach me how to write, actually taught me how to read.

For escape I was able to throw myself into enthusiasms outside the magazine. Richard Lord taught me how to throw a left hook. Betty Maxwell and Beverly Manroe are still trying to get my leg in the right position on a horse. And Denise Schulze is all patience even though I always mispronounce femme.

Liza, Quen, Vivian, and Ben—I love you all. They grew up thinking that every family had intense deadline problems once a month. Imagine their surprise and relief when they found out that wasn’t the case. They are my joy and my pride. And without my wife, Tracy, I would know nothing of importance about life or love.

There are parts of this job I will not miss. Budget meetings come immediately to mind. But all the parts of journalism that sound so taxing—the story that falls through at the last moment, the pressure of deadlines, and the like—are actually, later, after they’re over, the most memorable. That is when the team is working at high speed, and you see inchoate pieces forced together into a magazine. I will miss seeing a new issue on the newsstand and knowing all it took to get it there. And I will miss walking into the office and seeing Mike and John and everyone else. Thank you again to one and all.

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