Empire of Culture

AT THE END OF JANUARY IT WAS announced that Texas Monthly had been purchased by Emmis Broadcasting of Indianapolis. Although Emmis owns primarily radio stations, it also owns three magazines in addition to Texas Monthly and may buy more. The company is changing its name to Emmis Communications to reflect the broadening of its interests.

Our new owners are not Texan and do not profess to know anything about the state except that they believe in this magazine. They intend to let Texas Monthly continue on the path it is following. The current staff of the magazine remains unchanged. For readers, any changes that come from the new ownership will fall somewhere between negligible and nonexistent.

At the same time, after operating independently for 25 years, Texas Monthly now joins the long list of Texas companies that are owned outside the state. Many a Texas banking empire has disappeared into the folds of a national bank. Local department stores long ago became part of national chains. The newspapers in our major cities are all owned by outside interests except for the Dallas Morning News. And even such indigenous products as Pace picante sauce are no longer locally owned.

There were various reasons for selling the magazine, but the main one was that companies that own and publish a single magazine have mostly fallen by the wayside. The magazine is as healthy financially as it has ever been, but becoming part of a larger organization was the surest way to guarantee survival in the long run. Since there were no magazine companies in Texas large enough, selling Texas Monthly meant selling to outside owners. All of which has made me ask once again the question the magazine tries to answer with each issue: What is Texas?

Time changes everything, so it’s no surprise that Texas has changed in the 25 years and two months that has been the life of the magazine. It would be foolish to deny that in some ways Texas is becoming more like every place else. We embrace Starbucks and Barnes and Noble and Sam’s Club as eagerly as the rest of the country. Such cultural levelers have been invading Texas since the beginning in one form or another, and we have always resisted total surrender. But there have also been internal changes. We think about Texas differently than we used to. While Texans still travel about the state almost obsessively, we are less interested in local politics and business in other parts of the state than we once were. In my neighborhood I see copies of the Austin American-Statesman and the New York Times on lawns in the morning rather than the Statesman and, say, the Dallas Morning News or the Houston Chronicle, as used to be common. I can see the effects

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