Recently, Tim Taliaferro, editor of the Alacalde, the magazine of Texas Exes, was named by Texas Monthly’s owner, Paul Hobby, as that magazine’s new editor.
We asked him a few questions about TM’s future.
American-Statesman: What’s the next chapter for the magazine? Are we going to see any big changes soon?
Tim Taliaferro: The next chapter of Texas Monthly will be about replicating the magic the print magazine has long been able to conjure but now spreading it across all media and at live events. It will still be the fearless, irreverent, surprising and unmissable chronicler of the Texas and Texans that it has been for four decades. You’re just going to be able to engage with it more frequently and in more places.
Will the digital presence for TM morph? What part does it play in the future of the publication?
It will morph, and it is central to the publication’s future. I think it is safe to say that the previous owner was slow to respond to the rise of digital publishing, and as a result Texas Monthly is a bit behind digitally. We intend to quickly catch up to the digital norm, then go screaming right up to and begin pushing against the digital frontier. There are tremendous opportunities to support the deeply reported long form Texas Monthly is known for, use location-based tools to augment the travel and food coverage, make better use of the archive, and expand into video, podcasts, and virtual reality.
Despite your award-winning work at the Alcalde and your other training and experiences, you are young at 33 to run a major magazine. Thoughts?
I heard the same concern when I took over the Alcalde at age 26. Like anything else, the proof will be in the pudding.
Does this signal that TM will target new audiences, perhaps younger audiences?
Any business that wants to persist must think about appealing to its current customers and attracting future ones. We are as focused on that as any other forward-looking enterprise.
Do you plan to move TM beyond its traditional topics and personalities? What about more inclusion?
Texas Monthly must represent the people of Texas, and the contributors bearing the Texas Monthly imprimatur must span the social, geographic and political landscape of the state. It can’t be all Austin folks; nor can it be only urban voices. That said, it’s admittedly more art than science. We don’t intend to have any rigid quota system. And I would argue that the magazine does a pretty good job of soliciting a wide range of voices from across the state. All else considered, I’ll take a more interesting voice over a less interesting one, and a more credible reporter than a less reliable one.
At the Alcalde, you notably did not swerve away from controversy. More of the same at TM?
I wouldn’t say that I intend to seek controversy for controversy’s sake. I’m not a shock artist. That said, we will go where enterprising journalism takes us. Sometimes that will be toward issues that are controversial. Safe doesn’t serve our readers.
What strategy will TM adopt to fake news in a post-truth era? How can fact-based media thrive in this environment?
The antidote to fake news is credibility. Texas Monthly has it in spades, and it must protect that credibility at all costs. Many news organizations are using this moment when people aren’t sure what is real and what isn’t to reassert their value. And the results have been heartening.
You interned at TM. What’s different about its culture and position in the state now?
I interned there 12 years ago, when Evan Smith was editor. At his direction, I spent my summer calling around the state collecting recommendations for the best high school football coaches as part of feature story. I was amazed how, whenever I would mention Texas Monthly, people would take the call. That was true then, and it is still true now. Texans know and love Texas Monthly. It is an institution.
TM has always hired some of the best writers in the state. How do you plan to keep them in your stable?
By turning them loose on projects they care about, and by supporting their work with modern digital tools that enrich the storytelling and the reading experience. Then expand the size of the audience, and improve the level of engagement with readers. Texas Monthly is known for writing that leaps off the page. That’s not going to change.
What’s Job No. 1 for you as the new editor in chief?
Job No. 1 is to articulate the vision and empower the team. We are incredibly lucky to have new ownership, who care about this vital Texas institution and are committed to making it succeed, as well as the best team of writers in editors in the state. Now it’s just time to get down to writing the next chapter of the Texas Monthly story. It’s one you won’t want to miss.