There are some things you never think you’d end up missing until you do, and for me deadline day at The Texas Observer is one of them. Since I left the Observer last year, I’ve missed it. Every other Wednesday, when it came time to make final corrections to the layout version of the magazine before sending it off to the printer, a sudden sense of strain and urgency descended upon the sleepy little Observer headquarters, zeroing in on the tallest swivel chair in the office and its occupant, the smartest man in the office. This was Michael King, the only one of us who knew how to operate the relevant computer program. While the others of us pored over the articles and read off the corrections to him, Michael entered all the changes into the computer. Sometimes, as he typed them in, Lou Dubose would say, “Okay, big guy” and lean over and squeeze Michael’s shoulders like a boxing coach prepping his man for the next round. Michael would worry that we weren’t going to make it, that the issue would go out late, but because of him we always did make it. In those moments, as in so many others, it was very clear on whose (well-massaged) shoulders the publication rested.
Of course, to read Michael’s brilliant criticism or his trenchant reporting, you wouldn’t figure him for the guy entering corrections on deadline day, but that’s life at the Observer. Michael is probably the most knowledgeable and most passionate editor the Observer has ever known. (At least, he is the most knowledgeable and passionate editor that I have known.) He is also a true polymath: the only editor I have known who could drive to Houston, see a play at the Alley Theater, do two interviews, and sit down and write an Edward Albee exegesis — then turn around and fire off on an informed editorial on the death penalty the night before deadline. His dedication was evident every day that I worked with him, as much in his careful editing and wonderful prose as in his willingness to haul bundles of issues to a campus event or do anything else that might promote the magazine.
Contributors know Michael and Assistant Editor Mimi Bardagjy as two writers’ editors who elevated the standard of the Observer’s editorial content. In the end, writers’ editors are always readers’ editors. Over the past year it has come as no surprise to me that I’ve missed working with them. Their absence from The Texas Observer will be keenly felt.
— Karen Olsson
I quite frankly can’t remember the first day I set foot in the door at 307 West Seventh Street, the offices of The Texas Observer. I do remember the first thing Lou and Mike told me, when they realized I was fishing around for a job. I could submit some stuff, maybe become a stringer — but don’t quit your day job (serving coffee), they told me, “because none of us may be here tomorrow.” It took more than three years, but that unhappy tomorrow finally came, first for Karen, then for Lou, and finally for Mike and Mimi. Yet the institution remains. The Observer is very much the people who write it, but it is also a tradition, one that transcends personalities.
I apologize in advance to both our readers and our writers for the inevitable bumps in the road ahead, as we make the transition to a new editorial staff. I’d like to say it will be the same T.O., but of course it won’t be the same. It never is. One thing hasn’t changed, for me at least. It’s an honor to be on the masthead of this publication.
— Nate Blakeslee