Ha-ha! We’re 35!
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 an accomplishment.
So 35 is a consequential milestone—not as sexy as 10 or 25, I’ll grant you, let alone 40 or 150—but consequential nonetheless, and we were determined to do something befitting the celebratory vibe. History was instructive (it always is) as we debated our options. Twice during my long life at Texas Monthly, we’ve elected to mark anniversaries by publishing a version of our greatest hits. In 1993, twenty years after our founding, we asked our favorite writers to revisit stories they’d written on bread-and-butter subjects like politics, business, and culture, and we excerpted notable quotes and passages from other bygone articles. In 1998, our twenty-fifth anniversary, we reprinted one hundred photos we’d previously published and told the stories behind them. Both of these issues were fun to produce and fun to read, but they were more about Texas Monthly than Texas, and readers responded with a low level of enthusiasm.
For our thirtieth birthday, we decided to go the theme route again, but that time the single topic was Texas women (which, not coincidentally, had been the subject of the cover story of our prototype issue). That worked well enough that we returned to a Texas-centric approach for this month’s issue, which was put together with wit and verve and smarts by senior editor Jake Silverstein. “The future” is massive terrain to cover—as we quickly discovered, you can’t possibly cover all of it—so we chose carefully among story ideas that dealt with the most important issues of today and tomorrow (oil, water, changing demographics) and highlighted the people most likely to have a material impact on all of our lives, beginning with Lance Armstrong, who may yet lead us down the path to a cure for cancer (see “35 People Who Will Shape Our Future,”).
Another reason for choosing the future as our focus is that it’s inherently hopeful, as we all should be. The implied message is that there will be a future, a happy one—for this state, for our readers, and for Texas Monthly. The magazine started back in 1973 by the rightly legendary Mike Levy, with the backing of his equally legendary parents, has much more life left in it, no matter what becomes of the rest of print journalism. Here’s to the next 35.
A preacher accused, a 59-year-old football player, Antonya Nelson’s Mexican nanny, Wyatt McSpadden’s lens, Kinky Friedman’s cigars, and the best new restaurants of the year.