A Brief Look Back, Then Forward


You hold in your hands the final 2007 issue of The Texas Observer. As is our tradition, we won’t publish in late December, instead using the holidays to enter a silent period of maniacal planning for next year. Before we do, it seems appropriate to pause and reflect on what, by any standard, has been an extraordinary year of triumphs and tragedies befitting these tempestuous times.

Overshadowing everything else is the loss of Molly Ivins. There was no one else like her. (If you haven’t already, we urge you to read our memorial issue, which is filled with the reminiscences of those who knew and loved her. We’ve put the whole thing up on our Web site, where it will forever remain.)

At our Rabble Rouser Roundup in early January, a very frail Molly made one of her last appearances. It was an icy night, and most of those who were watching over Molly thought she should stay home. She wouldn’t hear of it, insisting they get her and her wheelchair into a car and over to the Zona Rosa. Once there, her million-watt smile warmed the room as she joked with old friends and made new ones. Then she insisted that she be wheeled to the stage to address the audience.

She said that investigative reporters are like hunting dogs waiting to be unleashed. They’ll roam wide, sniffing out stories, and biting the occasional deserving miscreant. When they come back, all they need is a pat on the head and a few words of encouragement, and they’ll head back out again. Molly thought the Observer‘s most vital service was to turn loose the dogs on those who deserved it. And we had her trail to follow. She did it with incomparable wit, humor, and insight. We miss her voice each and every day.

The dogs here in the office came back with some choice morsels this year. Nate Blakeslee’s of sexual abuse and cover-up at the Texas Youth Commission compelled lawmakers to dismantle and reshape the agency. Robert Bryce’s moving story about Col. Ted Westhusing’s death shone light into an unexplored corner of the Iraq war. Jake Bernstein revealed a secret database being compiled by Gov. Rick Perry. The governor eventually felt it prudent to turn it over to the Department of Public Safety. Mary Jo McConahay covered border issues with unparalleled depth and perspective. Dave Mann dug out the nuts and bolts of how much money the state wasted trying to privatize social services. Complementing these Observer veterans, we were fortunate to bring to our pages two new, young writers-Emily DePrang and Jesse Bogan-whose promise bodes well for next year. And much, much more. Observer readers also had a front-row seat to one of the strangest and most entertaining legislative sessions in the history of the Texas Legislature-and that’s saying something-as Speaker Tom Craddick pulled out all the stops to maintain his grip on power.

This year the Observer has also experienced a number of changes in key personnel. A few months before the start of the year, David Pasztor, an award-winning journalist and old Texas hand, signed on as managing editor. Having livened up the office and instituted some key innovations-look mom, no jumps!-he will, alas, be leaving us this February to start a custom woodworking business. We also bid farewell to one investigative reporter, Eileen Welsome, and hello to a new one, Melissa del Bosque. After spending five years inside the statehouse as a legislative aide, Melissa returns to the Fourth Estate primed to hunt.

We’ll come roaring back in January with our Winter Books issue. After that, look for a mad plunge into what promises to be an enthralling election year for Texas and the nation. And, of course, more of the quality journalism you’ve come to expect from The Texas Observer.