Feb 22, 2019 by

“Texas Monthly Becoming Click Bait”

By Donna Garner


[COMMENTS FROM DONNA GARNER:  Excerpts from the following two articles explain why readers are finding that Texas Monthly is moving ever further away from authentic journalism with each new article. It also explains why subscribers are finding other places to get their news. An outstanding, nationally recognized journalist told me today that she no longer submits her articles to Texas Monthly and has even cancelled her subscription. She believes Texas Monthly under the new Editor in Chief Tim Taliaferro does not practiceserious journalism but is turning the magazine into “click bait.”   

I personally find TM’s coverage of education issues to be particularly faulty, one-sided, and definitely supportive of those who are trying to avoid accountability.  The “education establishment” seems to control the content of almost any article published in TM to the detriment of the students, teachers, Texas State Board of Education members, Tex. Comm. of Education Morath, and the Texas Education Agency staffers who are working hard to raise academic achievement in our Texas schools.

A recent TM article published on 2.20.19 (“Are Texas Kids Failing? Or Are the Tests Rigged?”) is particularly egregious because it tries to make the public doubt the reading levels of the STAAR/EOC test questions themselves.  The article left out the fact that two groups made up of 100 classroom teachers each have been formulating STAAR/EOC reading test questions which then have to pass through 14 different steps before the question is placed on the STAAR/EOC test.  Having classroom teachers heavily involved in creating the content of the STAAR/EOC questions is a much better way to establish what is considered grade-level readability than trusting computer based algorithms and artificial formulas.

FACT:  If readers are taught to read through phonemic awareness and decoding skills (phonics), their reading levels will improve; and students will raise  their STAAR/EOC test scores.  That should be the emphasis in TM articles – not in blaming the readability of the test questions and lowering student expectations.]


2.2.17 – Columbia Journalism Review

“New editor in chief takes Texas Monthly in a ‘lifestyle’ direction”

By Lyz Lenz

Excerpts from this article:

…The new editor in chief of Texas Monthly [Tim Taliaferro] plans to pull back from the kind of longform and political coverage that gave the title a national profile to focus instead on lifestyle coverage, website enhancements, and a live-events business.

Tim Taliaferro, who took over after the sale of the magazine to Genesis Park LP, tells CJR it would be foolish to walk away from the history of the magazine, but he hopes to focus on growing the lifestyle vertical because “lifestyle sells Texas Monthly better.” He added, “Literary circles have a bias against lifestyle, but lifestyle is an important part of the magazine, including travel and food.”

The change has alums and current staffers worried about the potential for layoffs and the future of the magazine as a home for ambitious journalism and celebrated writing. Several top journalists have left, and others are updating resumes.

…Taliaferro spoke with CJR about his plans for Texas Monthly, which are a departure from the magazine’s long history of in-depth political coverage and longform journalism. Of his plans to scale back local political coverage, he says, “Texans don’t care about politics.” As an example of the coverage he plans to cut back on, Taliaferro cited stories on transgender bathrooms.

Taliaferro replaced former editor in chief Brian Sweany, who told D Magazine that he was going to hole up in his office, grow a beard, and work on a book. Since the sale, senior editor Erica Grieder quit with no new immediate employment plans, and web editor Andrea Valdez left to work as a site editor for Wired. Stacy Hollister, director of editorial operations, also left after the sale.

…When asked for comment on Taliaferro’s vision, former Texas Monthly editor in chief Evan Smith, who is now CEO of the Texas Tribune, replied simply, “Nah.”


1.26.18 – Columbia Journalism Review

“Texas Monthly EIC wades into an ethical gray zone”

By Alexandria Neason, CJR

Excerpts from this article:

IT’S NO SECRET THAT ALL MEDIA OUTLETS–print and digital alike–are thirsty for pageviews and subscriptions. Lofty commitments to journalism and the truth aside, this is a business. And businesses require clicks.

But when the prowl for clicks becomes transactional, journalism runs into problems, as Tim Taliaferro, the editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly, is finding.

In an editorial meeting on January 17, staffers at the Austin-based magazine sat in “stunned silence” when Taliaferro, who arrived at the magazine last winter, seemed to suggest that the magazine had entered into a partnership with Bumble, the popular woman-centric dating app. The app’s founder, 28-year-old Texan Whitney Wolfe Herd, would be featured on the cover, and Bumble would use paid social media promotion to boost the story.

In an interview this week, Taliaferro denied such a deal existed, but emails obtained by CJR suggest that some sort of arrangement had been made, or that at the very least, Taliaferro was heavily involved in the social media strategy of a company featured in the pages of his own magazine.

Texas Monthly staffers reached out to CJR after the meeting, shaken by the nonchalant announcement of what they saw as a breach of journalistic ethics. “It was such a clear violation of one of journalism’s most fundamental ethical guidelines. And to hear him brazenly admit this deal in the meeting, bragging about it like it was some sort of major coup, it was like he truly didn’t understand why it was actually bad,” said one staff member, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. “To see this happen at Texas Monthly, which is known for its high standards, made me wonder where the line would eventually be drawn for this kind of thing. What other deals might be made with story subjects in the future and what other perks might Tim be willing to put on the table?”

… members of the Texas Monthly staff say the confusion around the Bumble deal was given added weight by what for Taliaferro clearly are ambitious traffic goals that are guiding his decision-making. Taliaferro confirmed that digital growth, newsletters, “alternative social platforms,” and “more direct connections to the audience” are major priorities at the magazine this year.

Taliaferro is a former vice-president of communications for Texas Exes, the University of Texas’ alumni association and served as editor-in-chief of its magazine, Alcalde, where he focused heavily on digital and multimedia expansion–as all magazines have been forced to do. But while alumni magazines like Alcalde exist in a sphere that is adjacent to journalism, as arms of university communications and public relations departments, they don’t quite follow the same rules or subscribe to the same norms bound by more traditional journalism outlets like Texas Monthly.

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