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Staff

Joe Cutbirth, Editor

Joe Cutbirth, a native Texan with three decades of state, national and international experience in news, politics, and journalism education, is editor of the Observer. He is a former capital reporter and political writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a longtime contributor to the Huffington Post and a graduate and former professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. During the 2008 presidential campaign he was a recurring analyst for Politics Live with Sam Donaldson and Rick Klein on ABC News NOW. He was a contributor to the politics section of The Lonely Planet Phrase Book and a co-editor of Beaches, Bureaucrats and Big Oil: One Man’s Fight for Texas. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Education Weekly and Northwest Magazine. Cutbirth can quote the bill from any of the original Sondheim plays as easily as he can name the roster of Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas, a master’s degree in communication, culture and technology Georgetown University, and a doctorate in communications from Columbia University.

Emily Williams, Publisher

A native of Fort Worth and a graduate of the University of Texas, Emily Williams has worked with government agencies, nonprofits, and political campaigns focusing on fund development before coming to the Observer in 2014. She has served as the Development Director for a statewide environmental organization, Finance Director on a nationally targeted congressional race, and as a consultant to a number of campaigns and organizations across the state.

Brad Tyer, Managing Editor

Houston native, 7th-generation Texan and Rice University graduate Brad Tyer has contributed to the Observer under five editors since the mid-1990s, including stints as freelance critic, contributing writer, interim editor, and two rounds as managing editor, from early 2008 to late 2009 and late 2012 to present. In the interim he’s served as the Observer‘s long-distance copy editor. A former staffer at the Houston Press, former editor of the Missoula, Montana Independent, and widely published freelance (High Country News, New York Times Book Review, Public NewsTexas Monthly, The Drake, Thora-Zine, etc.), Brad has been awarded a 2010 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a 2011 Fishtrap Writing Residency, and a 2011 grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to support research for his first book, Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape, published by Beacon Press in 2013. Brad oversees the Observer‘s cultural coverage. You can contact him at [email protected]

Jen Reel, Multimedia Editor

Jen Reel was an Observer intern before joining the staff in July 2010 as Web Editor. She received a Masters in Journalism with a concentration in Photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was co-chair for the student chapter of the National Press Photographers Association.  She has worked in the non-profit sector for the Peruvian-American Medical Society and has been published in Utne Reader magazine, the Village Voice and Pitchfork Music. You can contact her at [email protected]

Forrest Wilder, Associate Editor

Forrest Wilder joined the Observer as staff writer in April 2005 after working as an intern. Forrest graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2003 with a major in Anthropology. While a student, he wrote music reviews, op-eds, and news stories for the Daily Texan and co-founded a student watchdog group. He has worked in the non-profit sector and has published in the Austin ChronicleSanta Barbara News-PressZNet, and the NACLA Report on the Americas. You can contact him at [email protected]

Melissa del Bosque, Staff Writer

Melissa del Bosque is a staff reporter and a Lannan reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Del Bosque’s work has been featured in various national and international media outlets, including the Guardian, and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Her work has also been featured on Democracy Now!, PBS, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and NPR. In 2015, del Bosque’s 4-part series on migrant deaths in South Texas won a National Magazine Award in the multimedia category and an award from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Her 2012 investigative feature about massacres in the Juarez Valley, Mexico, was a National Magazine Award finalist in the reporting category, and won awards from both the Association of Alternative News Media and the Pan American Health Organization. Del Bosque holds a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Texas-Austin and a Master’s in Public Health from the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health. You can contact her at [email protected]

Patrick Michels, Staff Writer

Patrick Michels is a reporter for the Texas Observer and a former legislative intern. He has been a staff writer and web editor at the Dallas Observer, and a former editor of the Texas Independent. He has a bachelor’s in journalism from Northwestern University, a master’s in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and a healthy appreciation for competitive eating. You can contact him at [email protected]

Christopher Hooks, Staff Writer

Christopher Hooks joined the Observer in 2014. Previously, he was a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in history. You can contact him at [email protected]

Alexa Garcia-Ditta, Staff Writer

Alexa Garcia-Ditta is an Observer reporter (and former intern) covering women’s health, reproductive health and health care access across the Lone Star State. Before joining the Observer, she was a staff news writer at the San Antonio Current. She holds an MA in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and BA in journalism and Spanish from UT-Arlington, where she worked for three years on her college newspaper. After graduate school, she dipped her toe in public policy communications at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. When she’s not at work, she’s probably training for her next marathon. You can contact her at [email protected]

Jacqueline Galvan, Membership Manager

Jacqueline joined The Texas Observer as membership manager in May 2014. Prior to joining the Observer, she worked in both the government and nonprofit sectors, focusing on social justice as a constituent services and field representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and assisting with administrative and development tasks at Creative Action, a youth development nonprofit based in Austin. Jacqueline graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in linguistics. Among her favorite things are spending time with her 60-pound lab/chow mix, reading Amazon product reviews and keeping up with the fake Twitter profiles of characters from The West Wing.

Michael Schrantz, Audience Development Manager

Michael Schrantz did stints at newspapers in Alaska and Colorado before joining The Texas Observer in 2015 as the audience development manager. He has bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Missouri at Columbia. In his free time, he dreams (and sometimes writes) about skiing as a way to beat the heat.

Tess Bonn, Digital Associate

A Texas Hill Country native, Tess has lived all over the country, including New York, where she gained experience at Simon & Schuster, Forbes and Condé Nast. Having worked on the production and editorial side, she has a wide range of skills across the ever-changing digital landscape. Tess has a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, and a master’s degree from New York University in Digital and Print Media.

Mandy Estepp, Bookkeeper and Office Manager

Mandy Estepp is a San Antonio native and is currently enrolled in the New College program at St. Edward’s University. She joined the Observer in June 2015 as the bookkeeper and office manager after working for several years in the finance and investment industry. In her free time, Mandy enjoys making profane cross-stitch and embroidery art, reading sad novels and binge-watching television shows on Netflix. She lives in the middle of nowhere east of Austin with her husband, son, two dogs and cat.

Naomi Shihab Nye, Poetry Editor

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, essayist, and novelist, living in San Antonio. She has edited eight anthologies of poetry, including Is This Forever or What? Poems & Paintings from Texas. Her collection 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is the author of two acclaimed novels for teens, Habibi and Going Going, and a recent novel for children, The Turtle of Oman.

David Duhr, Copy Editor

David Duhr is co-founder of WriteByNight, a writers’ service dedicated to helping authors achieve their goals. He lives in New York City and writes about books for The Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

Chad Tomlinson, Art Director

Chad Tomlinson has designed for the Dallas Observer, Details, Real Simple, Saveur, Worth, T Magazine and the National Geographic Society.