I’m writing this letter over the Thanksgiving weekend and feeling grateful for my talented colleagues, including one I want to call out here. Deputy editor Jeff Salamon oversees our print magazine and provides sage advice on much of what we present on our website and other storytelling platforms. He has been working here for ten years and commands the respect of a marvelously headstrong staff. And though he grew up in and around New York City, he is today very much a Texan.
You can feel Jeff’s affection—and gimlet eye—for his adopted state in this issue’s cover package, which he supervised, along with senior editor David Courtney. It features our annual look back at the most outrageous Bum Steers of the past twelve months as well as, for the first time, a roundup of the Best Things in Texas, based on a regular web feature created by associate editor Dan Solomon.
Born in Queens, Jeff studied English at the University of Pennsylvania, then was hired in 1987 as a fact-checker for the Village Voice, where he worked his way up to senior editor. After a decade at the Voice, Jeff became restless to try something new and moved to Austin on a whim. He worked as a freelance writer for Rolling Stone, Spin, and other outlets. “I thought I’d be here for six months or so,” Jeff says. That was in 1996. “After I’d been in Texas about a year, I got a voice mail from a friend in New York, and she sounded crazy to me. She talked fast, in a way that was abrasive and kind of neurotic.” Then he realized she hadn’t changed; he had.
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Jeff fell in love—with Austin, with a University of Texas sociology professor (now his wife and the mother of their two young children), and, eventually, with TM. He came to us in 2009 as a senior editor after ten years at the Austin American-Statesman, whose daily demands didn’t always fit with his perfectionist impulses. “They felt that I over-polished things,” he says. On one of his first days at TM, he watched as a writer, editor, fact-checker, and copy editor huddled over an upright wooden desk and “went over a story about dance halls word by word, tweaking a phrase here and a semicolon there. I knew I had found my tribe.”
About six months later, Jeff was assigned to edit an excerpt from Empire of the Summer Moon, former TM staffer S. C. Gwynne’s magisterial history of the Comanche. “I got deep into the descriptions of battles and pulled out maps,” Jeff says. “That’s when I realized how absorbed I had become in the story of Texas.” That passion served us well in July, when Jeff quarterbacked our special issue on space exploration, and in October, when he edited a cover package on the battle to rewrite our state’s history.
I hope you enjoy Jeff’s work and the rest of this issue of Texas Monthly. Please let me know what you think.