When we started planning this issue, months ago, we had a fun lineup in mind, including a beautiful cover story on sportfishing. Then oil prices crashed and the coronavirus brought much of the state to a standstill. This double whammy poses a huge challenge to all Texans, including Texas Monthly’s staff. We’ve been working remotely to make sense of it all for readers—especially on TexasMonthly.com, where our round-the-clock coverage of the coronavirus crisis is available for free to everyone.
Leading that online effort is our website’s new editorial director, Michelle Williams, who moved to Texas in March and dived immediately into the fray. “I unpacked my boxes, but I don’t remember how,” she says. “It’s all been a blur. I haven’t really thought of anything else besides this story.” A veteran of CNN and the Washington Post, Michelle has been leading a team of staffers to sort through dozens of possible stories each day and pursue the ones where we can add the most value for readers. One example, overseen by executive editor Kathy Blackwell, is Dan Solomon and Paula Forbes’s inspiring tale of how H-E-B diligently planned for the pandemic, which became the most popular story we’ve ever posted.
Michelle’s predecessor, Megan Creydt, has been working just as creatively in her new role as our new story platforms editor, helping plan our live events and multimedia efforts. With most of our events postponed indefinitely, Megan and other staffers are finding novel ways to deliver their content to our audiences. One example is “Texas Monthly Bedtime Stories,” a video series in which our writers read aloud some of our best pieces from their homes. (You never know when a child or pet might wander into the frame.) Megan and colleagues have also arranged for several popular Texas musicians, some of whom were scheduled to perform at an event we’d planned for Austin’s canceled SXSW festival, to perform instead via video from their homes.
Covering a dual crisis as fast-moving as this one presents different challenges for a monthly print magazine. (Pat’s Pick and the Dining Guide, for instance, no longer made sense for this issue.) Our approach has been to go deep. In his cover story, senior editor Eric Benson explains exactly how the coronavirus outpaced Texas’s attempts to get ahead of it. To accompany Eric’s piece, design director Emily Kimbro, art director Victoria Millner, and photo editor Claire Hogan deployed seven photographers to capture arresting images, including ones of Texas locales that resemble ghost towns.
But we know our readers don’t live by COVID-19 updates alone. We’ve included in this issue a selection of Texas-flavored books, movies, streaming series, music, and recipes that you can enjoy while you’re hunkered down. (More recommendations are available at texasmonthly.com.) And that fishing story may have gotten bumped off the cover, but it’s still here, as is a smart profile of the author Paulette Jiles.
I hope you enjoy this issue and that you’ll share with me what you’re experiencing during this crisis, at [email protected].