JAKE SILVERSTEIN: Your new book opens with a threat that was made against your life because of your reporting on drug trafficking in Mexico. Why start there?
Yesterday brought news that Texas Monthly has been nominated for four National Magazine Awards. The NMAs, as they are known, are handed out by the American Society of Magazine Editors, and they’re like the Pulitzers or the Oscars of the magazine industry. Needless to say, we’re thrilled.
Yesterday, as North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, it’s hard to forget that the country literally trains its citizens to hate Americans. There is, perhaps, one inexplicable exception to their enmity: the 25-year-old Texan, Jimmy Dushku.
Forty years ago, as the very first issue of Texas Monthly was being put together by Bill Broyles & Co., Life magazine folded. Though it would later resume publication (before finally folding again in 2007), and though it continues on today as a pretty amazing photo site, the coincidence of the legendary magazine’s demise and the new upstart’s birth served to make a point about the way the business was changing at the time. As Mike Levy, Texas Monthly’s founding publisher, wrote in his introductory note to readers:
The trend in magazine journalism away from big, mass circulation, general interest publications such as Life, Post, and Look towards the so-called ‘special market’ magazines, such as Psychology Today, New York, Sports Illustrated, and Road & Track. Americans are becoming more local in their perspectives, their interests are being narrowed and defined, and their magazine reading is being focused on what is going on in their own fields of interest and in their own backyards. Texas Monthly is a special market publication.
I’ve been thinking about this observation as we’ve been building this new website, which debuts today, on our fortieth birthday, at high noon low noon noon El Paso time … (what’s a few hours here or there?). Everyone knows that we’re living through another disruptive time in the journalism business. The web, and social media, and mobile devices, and everything else that you can squeeze under the umbrella of the Digital Age has upended the way readers read and the way journalists reach those readers and the way publishers make a business around the whole proposition. Texas Monthly’s print magazine has been an outlier to these trends. Our print product is a roaring, profitable enterprise that supports a large staff of exceptionally talented and experienced journalists doing exceptionally high-quality work. I’ll admit that this gives the magazine a sort of pleasantly old-fashioned feel at times: This is a place where, for a variety of reasons, the old way still works. But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pressure and see the opportunity presented by the way digital media are transforming our business. This new site is the biggest step we’ve yet taken to grab that opportunity.
The goat on the cover of the June 1974 issue of this magazine was a nice touch. If you wanted to illustrate the descent of the state’s big-city newspapers into a form of journalistic trash, why not an image of a refuse-eating barnyard animal gobbling up a front page unworthy of wrapping fish? Griffin Smith Jr.’s accompanying story was no more subtle. “Texas journalism is, on the whole, strikingly weak and ineffectual,” he wrote, going on to tar his own profession as a “backwater.”
Update: Texas Observer editor Dave Mann has published a response to Koch’s criticisms.
“Strangely, though Koch’s response employs the words “dishonest,” “distorted,” “misleading” and “flawed,” I couldn’t find a single challenge to any of the reported facts in our story,” he wrote.
Some 46 billionaires live in Texas, according to the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual list of the richest Americans. Only California (with 87 billionaires) and New York (with 67) have Texas beat. (And this means that half of the country’s 400 billionaires on the list live in these three states.) The combined wealth of these Texas billionaires tops $174 billion.