Publisher Levy gives Texas Monthly a bum steer Austin Not since the Sauerkraut Pizza Episode at the Dallas News \(Obs., have Texas media buffs been treated to such a fine example of front-office paranoia. Credit for the Cockroach Chic Caper goes to Michael R. Levy, publisher of Texas Monthly. The June issue of his magazine inspired Levy to launch a memo in the direction of the entire editorial staff. The memo, dated May 24, primarily concerned two references to Neiman-Marcus which he considered gratuitous insults. One, in Harry Hurt’s piece on cockroaches, said, “All that remains is for Neiman-Marcus to recognize the potential market in cockroach chic.” The second reference to Dallas’ venerable consumer palace was on the contest page. A reader won honorable mention in headline-typo competition for “NeimanMarcup Investigated On Pricing Policy.” Levy’s memo is remarkable, among other things, for its self-pitying tone. “I continue to be stunned at the lack of total regard and due respect on the part of the editorial staff for the real world environment this magazine must operate in,” he began. “The true capper came with the June issue. Absolutely devastating to me, to the extent of ruining the first vacation Becky and I have had alone together since before the twins were born. We were really looking forward to it; after two sleepless nights because of the issue, we decided to scratch it and I came home early. “But enough of the personal for a moment and time for the specifics,” he continued. “Take a look through the June issue. On pages 7, 32, and 53 you will see large ads from Neiman-Marcus. These ads are important to Texas Monthly not just because of the revenue they bring in. They 6 The. Texas Observer also are critical to the advertising look we hope to have for the magazine, a look that is complimentary to the editorial. Perhaps even more important is the fact that Neiman’s is a bellwether account for other retailers, large and small, and for national advertisers such as the fragrances. With Neiman’s in the book, the others have come in. To say that is important is an understatement . . . .” Levy described the offending passages and offered the opinion that “neither item was essential to the integrity of either a piece or the magazine as a whole. Both could have been dropped, and the reader would never have known the difference. But apparently the possibility of eliminating these items would not have even crossed the minds of our high-minded staff. Perhaps it would have meant stooping down to the grubby soil of reality. “In my mind,” Levy continued, “running these lines amounts to an even greater level of gross stupidity and foolish indiscretion than that which allowed the jab at Texas Supreme Court Justice Greenhill to run in the last Bum Steers [Greenhill was shown giving the Hook-’em Horns sign at a swearing-in ceremony] when the benefit to the reader didn’t come close to approximating the risk we took of alienating a critical Texas Monthly comes before that bench on a matter of libel. ” …I am asking that you weigh the potential benefit and importance of an item with the potential risk and costs that might be inherent in its running. You simply cannot be oblivious to these risks, on the assumption that editorial integrity demands such naivete. If your principles cannot tolerate such a harsh reality, I suggest that you leave publishing in general and join a religious order or The Texas Observer.” Levy goes on to point out that he did not object to running Paul Burka’s strong piece on Coastal States Gas, despite the fact that it cost the magazine “between 12 and 18 pages a year from Sakowitz.” \(Oscar Wyatt, Jr., the head of Coastal States, is worth four times that many pages and more, no questions asked,” Levy wrote. ” …But to risk losing Neiman’s for such unnecessary lines would be absurd. Ridiculous.” Levy ends on a personal note: “I think that I’m pretty sensitive regarding your personal and professional goals and needs. What it gets down to is that I give a damn. I’d appreciate it if it was a two-way street. What I want, much more than eventually making a buck or two out of this magazine, is to enjoy life. To be as reasonably happy as a man can expect to be. Lately, this has meant being free of needless aggrafation [emphasis his]. Not pure, simple, ordinary, every-day aggravation which is part of my job and which I get paid for and which I might even enjoy. It’s the needless, senseless aggravation that results from stupidity and insensitivity to realities that is eating me up, that is costing me sleep, that is ruining my life, that negates totally and completely any personal enjoyment I might gain from publishing Texas Monthly, that even leads me to dreaming about trying to dump these aggravations on somebody like McGraw-Hill, Ziff-Davis, or Time, Inc., in exchange for some simple peace and sleep . . . .” The Monthly editorial staffers, to their credit, told Levy to back off. All of the senior editors responded individually to Levy. Editor William Broyles wrote Levy that his memo went “far beyond the accepted limits of business behavior; and it is treating the very people who have made this magazine such a success with contempt and as enemies. It is, in its tone, obscene.”
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