Texans have learned not to expect much from their state government, as senior editor Chris Hooks observes. So in mid-February, when millions lost power for days, Texans did what they do so well. They pitched in to take care of their families, neighbors, and total strangers. Our journalists documented that outpouring of kindness and resilience on TexasMonthly.com, stepping up for our readers and for one another, braving cold and dark like the letter couriers of old.
When the blackout struck on February 15, our website’s editorial director, Michelle Williams, moved bedding into a closet that was the least-frigid room in her Austin apartment, and slept there for two nights. She stayed in touch with writers and editors from her 2005 Volkswagen Jetta, where she was able to keep her cellphone charged. Others also worked from their cars or wherever they could grab a few bars of cell service. Design director Emily Kimbro sought refuge with art director Victoria Millner, whose home had not lost power. Then, when Emily’s electricity was restored, she hosted Michelle, who lives nearby. Other staffers with power took in shivering colleagues. Those with four-wheel-drive vehicles offered rides. Even with burst pipes flooding their homes, our journalists reported incisively on what went wrong with our electric grid and held the powerful to account. I’m proud of their work and hope you’ll check it out on our website.
We offer readers what we hope will be a welcome change of pace from our disaster coverage, in this month’s cover package, on the late Tejana singer Selena, and why she still matters to so many in Texas and beyond. Cat Cardenas, who wrote our main essay, was born a year after Selena’s death in 1995 and grew up in a neighborhood on San Antonio’s West Side suffused with the singer’s music and spirit. For Latinas in Texas, Cat says, Selena, who would have turned fifty this month, served as “a brave inspiration to develop our own style” and “showed how we can be proud of our roots on both sides of the border.” Senior editor Paula Mejía, who shepherded the package, moved with her family to Corpus Christi just two years after Selena was killed there. The singer’s presence was so ubiquitous that “I sort of took her for granted,” Paula says. It was only after she began working for her college radio station in Washington, D.C., that Paula “realized how meaningful Selena was to people from all over the U.S. and the world, not just in Texas.”
About a year ago, as COVID-19 was spreading, more readers than ever turned to TexasMonthly.com for reported analysis of the state’s pandemic response, for Texan recipes and activities for cooped-up kids, and for great storytelling about everything from colorful con men to fishing safaris. We decided at that time to remove the paywall that restricted the number of web stories that could be read by nonsubscribers. Since then, we’ve invested heavily in the hiring of new editorial staffers and contributors and have seen our audience grow 54 percent from pre-COVID levels.
Quality journalism is costly, and now that the economy shows signs of improving, we’re asking our digital readers to help sustain our work. We’re reinstating our paywall, effective March 23. If you’re already a subscriber, I thank you. If you go to TexasMonthly.com/access, you can get a reminder of how to maintain access to our website. If you’re not a subscriber, I hope you’ll become one, at TexasMonthly.com/subscribe. We offer several affordable options, for online access only, print only, or both.