Somewhere out there is a sourpuss (there’s always one) who’ll ask, after picking up this special issue, what the fuss is all about. And he’ll have a point, sort of. Thirty-five years? Lots of publications have been around that long or longer. Just last year, one of the most iconic titles of all time, Rolling Stone, lumbered into middle age. (Don’t I remember something about never trusting any magazine over 40?) And the Atlantic—now punchy and provocative, far better than the sober sleep-inducer of a generation ago—turned 150. (Show-offs! Seriously, you don’t look a day over 149.) By that standard, we’re mere whippersnappers. We should blow our noisemakers and get over ourselves.
And yet, at the precise moment I’m typing these words, a cartoon version of Dan Rather is on The Simpsons, rolling his eyes as he introduces a “print journalist from the Washington Post,” at which point the laughing meanie Nelson Muntz sneers, “Ha-ha! Your medium is dying!” The fact is, any dead-tree publication that survives and thrives these days, when the Internet is making an irritatingly energetic run at our readers and advertisers, when postage and paper costs are soaring to the heavens, when no one, we’re repeatedly told, has any time or inclination to read, deserves a lot of credit. This is a tough business to be in. New magazine launches were down 25 percent in 2007, a year that saw the demise of several big-brand books, including Child, Jane, Stuff, Blueprint, and House and Garden. Fortunately Texas Monthly is (a) highly profitable and (b) doing a bang-up job journalistically, so there’s no risk that we’ll suddenly blow away in the wind, but in this economic environment, just being upright and ambulatory, institutionally speaking, has to be seen as