Ten years ago this month, I was invited to camp out at Rackspace by co-founder Graham Weston, one of several community and business leaders who urged me to keep my voice and writing in the public realm after I retired as the editor of the San Antonio Express-News.
The Great Recession years were not kind to daily newspapers as irreversible technology and consumer trends accelerated and for-profit media continued to suffer cyclical setbacks.
I knew my only option, everyone’s only option, was to go online.
Fortunately, my wife, Monika Maeckle, who retired at the same time from her work as a communications executive for Business Wire, had spent several years teaching Fortune 500 companies how to move from a world of fax machines and printed press releases to social media platforms and websites where in-house media staff could create unique content.
In her spare time she launched her own blog, the Texas Butterfly Ranch, and became the founder of the annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival, and all along has contributed frequent articles to the Report.
I would have never launched the Rivard Report blog without her serving as a sort of Wizard of Oz, the woman behind the curtain. She introduced me to WordPress, an open-source publishing platform that made entry into the digital publishing world an affordable proposition.
The Rackspace Castle was a great place to make a transition in my profession and life. The lighting was subdued, the dress super casual, and the many Rackers I met were eager to help.
I still have a closet full of suits and ties with nowhere to go.
As 2011 ended, Weston launched Geekdom at his downtown Weston Centre just as we prepared to go live with the Rivard Report. Monika and I found ourselves working rent-free just off a vast room with a ping pong table, bean bag chairs, and a bunch of young designers, programmers, and others with ambitious ideas and entrepreneurial fervor, the room buzzing with the periodic visits of Rackspace’s founders.
We could have served as the house parents, visitors from another century. Instead we made a lot of new friends who wanted us to succeed. If readership is the measure, we did.
Now, 10 years later, the renamed and reorganized nonprofit San Antonio Report has grown to be a team of 20 talented professionals housed in historic St. Paul Square.
Two well-known community leaders have served as chairmen of our board of directors since we turned nonprofit in 2015, as mentors of mine, and as generous donors: Richard T. Schlosberg III and John “Chico” Newman. We would not have made it this far without them. Texas 2036’s Executive Vice President A.J. Rodriguez serves as our current chairman.
On Monday, we welcome our new editor-in-chief, Leigh Munsil, who has moved here from Washington, D.C., where she worked as an editor at CNN Politics. My time as editor has come to an end.
A new and exciting chapter for the Report opens. Munsil and Angie Mock, our publisher and CEO who joined us nearly one year ago, will together lead the team into its second decade. I am bullish on the Report’s prospects under their watch, just as I am bullish on the future of San Antonio, one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
People need to stay informed and they need to stay connected, and they need to come together for civic engagement events that deepen their participation in democracy at the local level. That’s the work we do here. I will still contribute as a columnist, as an occasional event moderator, and as an officer of the board of directors who will help with fundraising anytime I can be of service.
But my time as the editor is complete. I have had the word “editor” in my job title since 1985 at Newsweek when I became the magazine’s chief of correspondents and a senior editor. Now I look forward to watching Munsil, a next-generation leader whose digital skills are native, bring youth, energy, a fresh perspective, and a wealth of experience to the job.
She inherits a newsroom with a lot of talent. Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick and Photo Editor Scott Ball have been here almost since the very beginning, long before we could pay them fairly or promise them sane work hours and some balance with their personal lives. We would have never survived our first years if they had not stuck with us.
Managing Editor Wendy Lane Cook brings years of experience as a former correspondent for the Associated Press and then rose to become an editor in the Washington Post’s Sports section before returning with her family to her hometown.
The other members of the editing team include Blanca Méndez, who wrote about and edited pop culture stories for leading magazines, and Tracy Idell Hamilton, an experienced journalist who previously worked at the Express-News. Another former Express-News staffer will join the team in one week, bringing us up to budget. Clay Reeves, also an Express-News veteran, worked here until he retired and now works part time. He, too, is family. Senior Reporter Brendan Gibbons and Reporter Lindsey Carnett also are Express-News alumni.
Others have come from near and far. Senior Reporter Shari Biediger joined us from USAA. Arts and Culture Reporter Nicholas Frank moved here from Milwaukee after falling in love with the city and his future wife while working as a visiting artist at ArtPace. Reporter Jackie Wang came from the Dallas Morning News’ Austin bureau.
Photojournalist Bria Woods came from KAVU-TV Newscenter 25 in Victoria. Photojournalist Nick Wagner was a longtime staffer at the Austin American-Statesman. Education Reporter Brooke Crum, a veteran of three daily newspapers, joined from the Waco Tribune-Herald. Business Reporter Waylon Cunningham did a brief stint in Austin, too, after earning his master’s in journalism at the University of Southern California.
And then there is the master columnist, Rick Casey. He has resisted all efforts to coax him out of what I call near-retirement. The former metro columnist at the Houston Chronicle, Express-News, and San Antonio Light contributes a widely read weekly column.
It’s a talented news team, one that we hope continues to grow with your support. Mock leads an equally talented and committed business team: Chief Operating Officer Jenna Mallette, Events and Audience Engagement Manager Director Laura Lopez, and Advertising and Business Membership Coordinator Hannah Rhodes.
That team has two openings as it expands, which I mention in the event you think the Report might be the place for you.
We welcome Munsil to the San Antonio Report, the last major step in a long-planned transition. Please make her feel welcome to the city, and please continue to read my twice-weekly column. Sign up for our daily and weekly newsletters, and, of course, please become a member and support our nonprofit enterprise.