Four decades ago, in February 1973, this magazine published its first issue, an 84-page volume with a cover story about Don Meredith. The inaugural Texas Monthly came with a letter of introduction from founding publisher Mike Levy in which he declared that the state was “ready for a really first class magazine that will appeal directly to the sophisticated, cosmopolitan folks that Texans have become.”
That cosmopolitan Texas that Mike was betting on is the theme of the special issue we assembled for our fortieth birthday. In 1973 it was only beginning to emerge; today it is a dominant force. Eighty-five percent of the state’s population now lives in urban (and suburban) areas. Our rural population, though still the nation’s largest, is basically stagnant, while the cities are on rapid growth trajectories.
The cover of our Cities Issue is meant to shock: Few people think of Texas as being so urban, but more importantly, few people want to think of the state that way. Despite the rural-urban population shift over the past fifty years, Texas remains, in the minds of many (including, fromtime to time, this magazine!) a frontier, a land of wide-open spaces and long horizons. For that reason it can be difficult to get people to see Texas as it actually is (this is particularly true of non-Texans, who persist in the belief that the state is essentially one giant ranch). So although we love our small towns and wide-open spaces, and although we dislike urban sprawl as much as the next person, we imagined a cover that would aggressively make the point that Texas is now, and forever will be, a definitively urban state.
The issue, which will be on newsstands next week, is a celebration of cosmopolitan Texas. To capture the bustling, kaleidoscopic sense of life in our six biggest cities, we brought together a very large, all-star cast of writers, from big names to newcomers and everyone in between. The three previous editors of Texas Monthly—founding editor William Broyles, his successor Greg Curtis, and my predecessor Evan Smith—all appear in the issue, as do Dagoberto Gilb, Ben Fountain, and Sandra Cisneros. Larry McMurtry has returned to our pages for the first time in several decades. Regulars like Pat Sharpe, Michael Ennis, John Spong, Cecilia Balli, Skip Hollandsworth, Mimi Swartz, Michael Hall, Jason Sheeler, Sterry Butcher, David Romo, and the Texanist have all contributed pieces. And an unusual number of first-time Texas Monthlywriters appear as well: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Christine Granados, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Sarah Hepola, Bud Kennedy, John Nova Lomax, Tim Rogers, Debbie Nathan, Regina Taylor, and Jazmine Ulloa. As rosters of Texas writers go, this is the ‘27 Yankees. (Did I mention the issue will be on newsstands next Thursday?)
As remarkable as this special issue is, it is only part of how we’re marking our fortieth anniversary. We’re also using the occasion to roll out a brand-new, completely overhauled texasmonthly.com. This project has been under way for about a year, and it’s even more extensive than the print redesign we rolled out five months ago. We’ve changed everything about our website—the design, the content management system, the content itself. The first iteration of our current site was designed and built in 1995—several lifetimes ago in Internet time (it was known initially as the WWW Ranch). It has served us well, but the new site will enable us to do much more. It is nothing less than a rebirth of the magazine’s digital presence.
The new site goes live two weeks from today, on February 1. There are way too many improvements, upgrades, changes, and big ideas to list here (though don’t worry, I’ll be returning to tell you about every last one of them when we launch), but one is worth pointing out: This site, the TM Daily Post, which has surpassed all our expectations during the year that it’s been in operation, will merge with texasmonthly.com on February 1.
It’s a time of changes, but it’s not the first one. As we’ve been putting the finishing touches on all this—the special issue and the site—I’ve been frequently returning to that February 1973 issue. As Mike noted in his introductory letter, that issue was published just as Life magazine was folding, a coincidence that illustrated the “trend in magazine journalism away from big, mass circulation, general interest publications such as Life, Post, and Look, toward the so-called ‘special market’ magazines, such as … Texas Monthly.” Four decades later another disruptive trend is reshaping the business. This magazine, to put it simply, is no longer only a magazine. It is a sensibility that finds expression through a variety of modes—a first-class monthly magazine, daily online journalism of all shapes and sizes, social media, mobile apps, events, partnerships, and more. It is no one format but an idea, conceived four decades ago, about Texas—what it once was, what it is, what it may yet become. Our new site will be in essence the headquarters of that idea. It launches on February 1 (did I mention that?), or as I like to call it, the first day of our next forty years.