For most of its 46 years, Texas Monthly has focused on telling the story of our state in our print magazine, and we’re grateful that 2.5 million people enjoy reading our work in that way. Today, however, more and more of our audience wants to experience our storytelling on our website, through podcasts and videos, and at live events. The ranks of our readers and listeners are growing rapidly on these platforms, and to take on so many challenges at once, we’re going to need a few more troops.
To that end, I’m pleased to introduce you to the twelve new editorial staffers that we’ve hired this year, virtually all of them in the past few months. They’re a talented bunch. Most worked for TM as freelance contributors or interns before coming on full-time—though we’ve also rescued one homesick Houstonian who had strayed to New York City, and recruited a brand-new Texas resident away from a first-class journalistic entity up north.
Amal Ahmed is joining our fact-checking department as an assistant editor. A former TM intern, Amal hails from Dallas and earned her journalism degree from Northwestern University. She has worked for the Atlantic, Popular Science, and the Texas Observer and written, edited, and fact-checked stories on topics ranging from science, energy, and the environment to congressional campaigns and football.
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Another North Texas native, Arielle Avila, is our new editorial coordinator. She moved to Austin seven years ago to pursue a degree in creative writing at St. Edward’s University. Arielle started at TM as an intern in 2015, when she was still in school, and then became our office assistant last year—a role that also launched the career of Emily McCullar, a fact-checker whom we recently promoted to a full-time writing role as associate editor. Arielle, while juggling scores of vital administrative tasks, frequently fact-checks, edits, and writes for our website. For a taste, check out her recent stories on movies with Texas ties and an eleven-year-old fashion designer from Houston.
Cat Cardenas, from San Antonio, has joined us as a writer, with the title of associate editor. We first got to know Cat when she worked here as an intern three years ago. After graduating from the University of Texas, she continued writing for us as a freelancer, and has been one of the stars of our Texas Monthly Live stage show, telling a story about her grandfather entitled “The Lion Tamer.” (You’ll be able to read it soon on our website and in print.) Cat has also written for Remezcla, the Texas Tribune, and the Washington Post.
Wes Ferguson, a Kilgore native, has signed on with us as a senior editor to write feature stories and cover hunting, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits. Wes, who has written for us as a freelancer for years, joined us full-time after a turn as managing editor of Texas Highways. He is the author of two books about Texas rivers, Running the River: Secrets of the Sabine and The Blanco River. In this issue, he shares a highly personal story about the controversy that attended the staging of the LGBTQ play Angels in America in Kilgore twenty years ago.
Paula Mejía, who grew up in Houston, is our new culture editor, directing our coverage of the arts, film, and music, among other topics. She helped launch Atlas Obscura’s food and drink vertical, Gastro Obscura; is a founding editor of NPR Music’s series “Turning the Tables”; and has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone. She is the author of a book-length exploration of the Scottish band the Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 debut album, Psychocandy.
Bolora Munkhbold grew up in Harris County too—specifically in Cypress, though she was born in Mongolia and didn’t arrive in Texas until she was in fifth grade. After graduating from the University of Texas, she worked as a junior art director at the WONGDOODY ad agency in Los Angeles before returning to Texas and taking a job as the art assistant at TM in January. Her favorite part of the job is creating illustrations for texasmonthly.com.
Doyin Oyeniyi, yet another former TM intern, has been a contributing writer since 2015 and has now joined us as an assistant editor in the fact-checking department. Doyin, who moved with her family from Nigeria to the U.S. in 1996, lived in Mesquite before landing in Austin to study multimedia journalism at UT. She writes frequently about music, books, and film.
José Ralat, our first-ever taco editor, generously defines that delicacy as “almost anything you can fold into a tortilla.” The Puerto Rico native will cover Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants and food trucks and the people and stories behind them. His hiring reflects our commitment to report in-depth on Texas’s unique and dynamic food culture. In April, UT Press will publish José’s first book, American Tacos: A History and Guide. José lives in Dallas with his wife, their son, and their two dogs, Beans and Cheese.
Leif Reigstad, a Buffalo, New York, native, began writing for TM in 2016 as a freelance contributor, covering everything from Hurricane Harvey to the dark saga of roadside zoo impresario Joe Exotic. He now writes for us as an associate editor. Leif, who earlier worked as a staff writing fellow at the Houston Press, earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Dan Solomon, who has written hundreds of stories for our website and the print magazine over the past six years—making him almost certainly the most prolific contributor in Texas Monthly’s history—is now a full-time associate editor. Dan, whose interests range from film and sports to music and politics, lives in Austin with his wife.
Anna Walsh has been appointed our new managing editor, overseeing the workflow and deadlines for the print magazine. She joins us from the Washington Post, where she copyedited, fact-checked, and wrote for the publication’s popular opinion section. Before joining the Post, Anna had previously served as managing editor of Baltimore’s City Paper, in her native Maryland, where she wrote about numerous topics, including beer and classical music.
Forrest Wilder has recently joined us as news and politics editor. A South Texas native, he previously served as the editor in chief of the Texas Observer for four years, where he led the publication to numerous awards and scoops and doubled its web traffic. An avid fisherman, rock climber, and kayaker, Forrest will also oversee our coverage of the great outdoors.
I hope you’ll enjoy the work of these new colleagues on whichever of our platforms you visit. Please write me to let me know which of our stories you like and dislike and what you think we should write about next.