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i I Clatuf.1 Arts Dirimion Texas Thanksgiving hen Molly Ivins parked her Mercury “that would only go forward” in front of the offices of The Texas Observer in 1970, she was young, tough, tall, and brilliant, an incredible work in progress. Molly and Kaye Northcott inaugurated the second generation of Observer era of the Observer’s founding fathers, whom LBJ feared and derided as “the boys down at the Observer”Dugger, Morris, Brammer, Goodwyn, Sherrillhad given way to two women who had come of age in the ’60s. Pairing Molly Ivins with Texas politics was an inspired act. Molly found her voice at the Observer. She found it in beer joints and private clubs where the state’s business was done after hours. Where she could go toe-to-toe with Bob Bullock and wake up the following morning and file her story. Like Samuel Clemens listening to riverboat pilots and deckhands running the Mississippi, she listened to the good old boys and corporate gargoyles running the state. Out of their voices, she created her idiom. She used that idiom, that unique voice that would become a brand, to expose the bloviating, bloated, and corrupt politicians and corporate bosses who shaped what passed for public policythe people Jim Hightower would later describe as “the bullies, bankers, and bastards in charge.” She reinvigorated the journalism for public good that had defined Ronnie Dugger’s “journal of free voices.” At her center, Molly cared deeply about her fellow humans and how they were being treated by their gummint. Now you can be all that and end up a character in a Billy Brammer novel. But the plain truth wasMolly could write circles around everybody else. When she latched onto a story that revealed how poorly our government was serving regular folk and how well it was serving big bidness, she could wrap her arms around her readers and escort them all the way through hell and back to explain what was being done to them and how to better stand up to make it right. And you didn’t feel browbeaten or lectured to. You felt invigorated, empowered, and highly entertained. You knew there was hope for change because Molly had you laughing at the ridiculous world of politics. You can’t laugh if you don’t see a little light around the edges. Unlike most political humorists, Molly’s humor wasn’t snide or closed or clever. It was open and generous. She only picked on the powerful. And there were no inside jokes. She brought the reader inside so we could laugh together at the foolishness and power in this laboratory of bad government. And together, we could collaborate to make this a better world. After half a dozen years of raising the ante for journalism in Texashelping us and others see our better and worse selves Molly moved on to The New York Times, where she ended up as the paper’s Rocky Mountain Bureau, covering the West. But her heart remained with the Observer. She had found more than her voice here. She found what she described as “the best deal in American journalism”a place where a reporter could do uncensored, unbridled reporting. Molly had filed more than 300 stories at the Times but proved too exuberant for the staid newspaper of record. She better-dealed them and went to the Dallas Times Herald, where she was promised the freedom to write what she wanted. She had ituntil the Belo Corp. bought the Times Herald and shut it down the day after the purchase, leaving the Dallas Morning News the only game in town. The shuttering of the scrappy Times Herald haunted Mollynot because she was out of work, but because of what THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 99, NO. 3 I A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Managing Editor David Pasztor Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Lara George Tucker Art Director/Webmaster Matt Omohundro Investigative Reporter Eileen Welsome Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editors Rusty Todd, Laurie Baker Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Blogger Matt Wright Administrative Assistant Stephanie Holmes Editorial Interns Jun Wang, A.J. Bauer, Kelly Sharp Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Mary Nell Mathis, Gilberto Ocaffas, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Sharron Rush, Kelly White, In Memoriam Molly Ivins, 1944-2007 Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ righted 132007, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break between non-profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 pre paid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. FEBRUARY 9, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3