Behind the Lines
ONE OF THE PLEASURES OF WRITING this column is to give our readers some insight into how a magazine is put together and what happens to our writers when they go about gathering the stories that appear on the pages that follow. In other words, here is where you read the story behind the stories.
Gregory Curtis wrote his article on Newsroom, the Public Television news show in Dallas, under hectic circumstances. Curtis was sitting around the Newsroom studio a few weeks ago, watching how the staff put together a routine evening news program. About 45 minutes before the show was to go on the air, one of the technicians watching the Associated Press news ticker shouted out that President Johnson had just died. Under such circumstances the demands of the profession have to override personal shock and loss, and the Newsroom staff headed about their work like firemen sliding down a fire-pole. Curtis’s account of the show, its rocky history and its uncertain future begins on page 44.
Speaking of Newsroom, one of its ex-reporters, Pat Reed, went through several transformations on the way to writing her story on investment land companies, “Should You Buy This Land?”, which begins on page 50. Before she entered training as a land salesman, she had to undergo testing:
“I was given a psychological test, I guess to determine my innate capabilities as a saleswoman. The tests were based on my ability to complete, with an additional word or two, two such phrases as: ‘Selling is _______,”Money is_______’; ‘I will_______’; ‘I won’t_______’; and ‘My father is_______.’
“I was also asked to draw, in three separate spaces, a house, a tree and a person. I had to say if I had trouble doing things like getting up, being on time, and working with people, and if I enjoyed motivating people and playing golf.
“I never found out if the tests were graded, if that is the right word, or how they were used. But I do know someone looked at it. A management trainee said he saw my test and thought I drew nice trees.”
She also did a nice article, one of the most complete looks at this selling phenomenon we have seen anywhere.
The story of those giant radio stations across the Border, “Prostate Trouble? Salvation Worries?” beginning on page 56, was pieced together by Bill Brammer from books, articles, interviews with former and current radio personalities, and discussions with executives and salesmen of the stations. But most of all it came from listening to the stations themselves. For weeks our offices echoed with the ebbs and flows, the shouts and whispers, of radio salesmen and evangelists ranging from Pastor Epley to Brother Human of the Church of the Coincidental Metaphor. Almost all of us who have traveled at night have heard it all before on our car radios, but to have it in such doses almost caused the lot of us to send off for prayer cloths and cure-alls just to get the volume turned down a little. It’s a good story, one that touches a nerve reaching back into our common heritage.
Other highlights of the issue include Al Reinert’s fine story on NASA, an account of where the Texas portion of the space program has been and is going that you won’t read anywhere else. Not only does Reinert trace the story of our spacemen through ten years of triumph, tragedy and salty humor, he reaches back into the dark energies of our state’s past to find some of the less technological sources for NASA’s progress. “So Long, Cosmic Cowboys” (page 38) will give you a ride you may not have expected.
The photographs of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo which appear in Briar Patch are taken from a remarkable book that is worth a special mention. Most photography books are collections of photographs that, with greater or lesser impact, give the reader a sense of the photographer’s eye, and through it, a new look on the world around us. Geoffrey Winningham gives us much more than that in his book, Going Texan. Through a combination of words and photographs he has done a rare and at times exquisite job of reporting, and reporting at a level and of a quality seldom found in either print or photography as separate disciplines. It is hard to lift out a few photographs or snatches of text from such a book, but we did our best to give a feel what it is like as a whole. We think in the book you’ll see something about our state that you haven’t seen before. We did.
One of the problems of putting out the first issue of a magazine is that some of the most important details get overlooked. In our February issue we failed to give credit to some talented artists and photographers whose work appeared on our pages. Judy Gordon took the photographs of Marvin Zindler, the Harris County Deputy Sheriff now turned consumer reporter on a Houston TV station. The shots of Don Meredith were taken by Cy Wagner, a San Antonio architect best known for his award-winning work on the Paseo del Rio, that city’s unique river project.
Charlie Shaw of Austin did the sensitive portrayals of troubled football star Duane Thomas and the woodcuts that appeared throughout the magazine were the work of Austin artist Barbara Whitehead.