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The Editors of D Wrap Up 2017 With Their Favorite Stories

The editorial staff shares some words about their favorite pieces of journalism to come out of the office last year.
Elizabeth Lavin

Subscribers to our weekly newsletter D Brief got this in their inboxes on Sunday, but for all those who didn’t, (Ed. Note: subscribe here, under D Weekly! It’s very good!) I asked our editorial staff to write a bit about their favorite journalism published in one of the D properties last year. I say it’s worth your time. You won’t find rich service features that explore Indian and Japanese culture anywhere else. There are narratives about murder and drownings and more uplifting things like an imam fighting for social justice and the state’s first openly transgender mayor. There’s weird stuff, too, like a 6,000-word treatise written by a famous artist about the bar at the Lakewood Whole Foods that you never knew you’d need. Anyway. We’re proud of it. Here is everyone telling you why.

Tim Rogers.

Tim Rogers, editor, D Magazine

Initially, I had a hard time picking my favorite story of 2017. I loved Jamie Thompson’s story about a judge who was romantically involved with a lawyer who had a case in his court. It was filled with great cinematic detail, and it drew the sort of attention that may yet produce positive change. Our summer reading package, a collection of micro fiction, each story set in Dallas and written by a local author, was the kind of thing you’ll only find in a magazine. It’s one of the reasons you should subscribe to D Magazine. Richard Patterson’s essay about the Lakewood Whole Foods (and cheese and life and Dallas and art and real estate) was a real gas because it started out as a 300-word assignment that Richard decided required 6,000 words. I challenge you to show me something smarter and funnier that was written in Dallas this year. And Laray Polk’s investigation into the pre-history of the land that Dallas now occupies was the embodiment of our magazine’s slogan: let’s make Dallas even better. It has gotten some traction that we may be able to tell you about in the coming months. As I say, tough to choose a favorite.

But then I learned that Zac Crain’s favorite story of the year was his own dang story, a profile of Erykah Badu. What a cocky, egotistical whoreson that Zac Crain is. By the way, he’d never use a thesaurus to find a word like that. He’s too lazy.

In light of Zac’s pick, then, mine became obvious. I hereby choose as my favorite story of 2017 — the best thing this magazine published all year, a narrative that very well may change the practice of journalism in our post-truth era, a piece of writing that future journalists will study in the best institutions of higher learning, a triple hashtag longform — this artisanal, handcrafted, American-made profile of Krys Boyd. I wrote it.

(Also, our staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin, shot the portrait of Boyd, which is awesome.)

Kathy Wise, executive editor, D Magazine

It’s like bourbons. I can’t pick one. I’m leaving so many out. But here are five of my favorite moments of 2017:

1.Erykah Badu Is My Homegirl” (February) ended up being an incredible collaboration between Zac Crain and Elizabeth Lavin. Zac provided a master class on how to write an insightful profile of an elusive artist with nominal participation, and Elizabeth took one of the greatest photographs I have ever seen of Erykah eating blueberries in her a kitchen full of peacock feathers. They both captured her essence perfectly.

2.What to Think About When You Think About Krys Boyd” (April) was not only a great profile by Tim Rogers of a personal hero, but I got to meet Krys and have a beer with her and we are now Facebook friends. Plus, there’s that photo Elizabeth took through Krys’ study window with the dog propped up on the sill, held by an assistant whose hand has been Photoshopped out. Genius.

3.A Meditation on the Proper Care of Good Cheese and the Soul of Dallas” (July) by Richard Patterson has to be my favorite piece of writing for the year. There’s a leg of lamb. There’s Picadilly Circus. There’s Arthur Miller. All in a Whole Foods bar in Lakewood.

4. Holland Murphy is one of the funniest, best, and most controversial (did you read her Ender about taking her son to the movies? Or her subsequent note to all those mommy shamers?) writers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. During the course of the year, she managed to spend the day with Vogue cover model Sarah Grace while she was getting ready for prom, got vintage fashion tips from Rihanna’s stylist at Weekend Coffee, hung out with the Black Dandies at the French Room Bar, and attempted a workout with the trainer for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (one which I bailed on). But my favorite Holland-initiated encounter was with Regina Merson, founder of the Reina Rebelde makeup line. Elizabeth shot Regina in an Adam Lippes floral dress in front of a Moooi floral rug wearing a custom floral headpiece by Bows and Arrows, creating a stunning Frida Kahlo-esque image for the April issue. Then we all went to El Bolero for a tequila tasting, during which Regina shared tales of her world travels and dating life. #girlboss

5. If you had told me a year and a half ago that if I took this job I would end up on The Ticket talking about Zeke Elliott, I might have turned it down. But you didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. In a pre-Weinstein, pre-#metoo world, I wrote about domestic violence (“On the Zeke Elliott Suspension: Even a Liar Can Be Beaten and Choked”) and was trolled for it. But I’m proud of providing a different perspective to what was, at the time, a very one-sided account.

Elizabeth Lavin’s gorgeous photo of Erykah Badu in her home.

Matt Goodman, online editorial director: The professional portion of my 2017 started in a courtroom. In November of 2016, I wrote a cover story about the neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, who had a habit of harming his patients. He’d be sentenced to life in prison, the first physician to be convicted for aggravated assault related to his patient outcomes. I’d spent months researching that story, and covering his trial seemed like the follow-through that all those families deserved. They got their voices out there, over his.

When I look back on 2017 and the work we did online and in print at D Magazine, I think about that sort of follow-through. I think about standing in a cemetery in Oak Cliff on a steamy August morning, watching a backhoe tear into the earth. We were there to dig up the remains of Venice Parker, a woman raped and killed in 1953, to prove that the man our former district attorney had ordered killed for the act did not do it. I think about the incredible Jamie Thompson, who fought tooth and nail to tell the story of Ira Tobolowsky, the prominent attorney who was burned to death in his North Dallas home. Her piece is as gripping as it is empathetic, giving a voice to a family that had taken the investigation of who killed their father into their own hands.

I think of food critic Eve Hill-Agnus’ remarkable service features on Indian and Japanese food. The stale format of a list gets tossed out the window and replaced with something more robust; because of this, the reader gets a deeper analysis that winds up illuminating a culture through its food. I think of Zac Crain’s incredible profile of Erykah Badu, which he wrote through others’ eyes—because she didn’t talk to him in time for publication. I think of Peter Simek’s thoughtful coverage of the way this city lives and breathes, through everything from the Trinity River to poverty to Confederate statues and public transportation. I think of Kathy Wise’s brave reporting on Zeke Elliott, becoming the first writer to nail down all of the domestic abuse allegations against him. And I think of our coverage of the $1.05 billion bond package, which was, as far as I can tell, the most thorough detailing of its contents available ahead of the vote.

Alex Macon, online managing editor: I have almost zero interest in fashion or shopping, and the concept of a brand partnership makes me think the Amish may be on to something. So I was happily surprised by how compelling I found this September feature on the 10 most stylish people in Dallas, even if I am mostly repulsed by the suggestion that “personal aesthetic is identity.” I appreciate seeing how it makes the most of the digital medium, with short videos (.gifs?) and creative web design. (A version of the feature later ran in print, where it was fine, but diminished.) I like reading about fascinating people, and this has 10 (11, really) of them, from Leon Bridges to Justine Ludwig. I love feeling aghast and slightly outraged at how much a white shirt can cost. Writing about the most stylish people in Dallas requires a most stylish presentation, and this has it.

Justine Ludwig. Photo by Elizabeth Lavin.

Zac Crain, senior editor, D MagazineI have two favorite pieces this year, the first and last features I wrote. The former was something I’d wanted to do for a long time — a profile of Erykah Badu — and the timing was perfect. February marked 20 years since her landmark debut, Baduizm, was released. I intended for it to be a straightforward profile: your standard “hang out for a few hours” type of thing. What ended up happening — not talking to her until well after my deadline had passed — forced me to completely change what I was thinking, and the result was way better than I would have done otherwise. It proved that you can’t ever get too attached to an idea.

The latter — a sort of long-form obituary of Conrad Callicoatte, a mysterious old sailor who died at White Rock Lake in June — was strangely similar to the Erykah story, in that the lead character was absent throughout the process. I had to reconstruct a life based on other people’s words. And, again, what seemed initially like it would be a straight-ahead piece changed (and changed and changed and changed) throughout the reporting and even the writing. But because I had written the Erykah story, I knew how to go about it: talk to as many people as you can and let whatever happens happens. (And a special note to Elizabeth Lavin, who absolutely nailed the photos of Erykah.)

Peter Simek, arts editor, D Magazine: I was a big fan of Eve’s Indian food package. It was smartly written, well-researched, and brought to life a vibrant culinary culture in Dallas that can be intimidating to navigate for the unfamiliar outsider. I hope to work my way through the whole list.

Heavy Lifting:
Suleiman complains that photos of Muslims usually show them unsmiling. It was hard to find one from our shoot in which he wasn’t.

Christiana Nielson, managing editor, D MagazineFor me, it’s a tie between Jamie Thompson’s feature on the murder of prominent lawyer Ira Tobolowsky in the May issue of D and Zac’s profile on Imam Omar Suleiman in D’s July issue. I fact checked both of them, which gave me an insight into how well they were reported and written. Jamie handled writing about the murder of prominent Dallas lawyer Ira Tobolowsky in a compassionate and respectful way. She had to balance getting a lot of details out of difficult, rude people (to say the least) while being sensitive when coaxing information out of the family. I got a sense of this while talking to family members who probably wouldn’t have told such personal details to anyone else. The feature was written in a digestible way and was probably my favorite piece I’ve ever fact checked, even though it required a ton of time and energy. And Zac also handled reporting on Imam Suleiman in a similarly gracious way. The story discussed sensitive subjects like the downtown police shooting and navigated how Suleiman was trying to change the way people think of Islam simply by being himself—inclusive and kind. While talking to Suleiman for fact checking, it was nice to hear how comfortable he was sharing all these details, which made for a powerful story.

Eve Hill-Agnus, food critic, D Magazine:  I have to say that a highlight of the year for me was the work I did on the Japanese food feature, and particularly the profile of Teiichi Sakurai, a chef I’ve admired for a long time. The depth to which I was privy—seeing that his knowledge touched ceramics, aviation, the historical intricacies of the endlessly fascinating Edo period that is the basis of so much Japanese cuisine, besides the intricately involved mastering of soba—was fascinating.

But this was Zac’s year of profiles for me, in particular his piece on Imam Omar Suleiman, in which, with insight and grace, he shed light on a community leader in a personal, intimate way. His profile of Erykah Badu, with its deft solution that turned her absence in the piece into the piece’s very structure (much in the same way the incantational repetitions of the Suleiman profile became a defining part of the structure). And his piece on Jess Herbst, the transgender mayor of the tiny town of New Hope. The visual scenes—the opening scene with the daughter’s first “true” vision of her father—and work with chronology were terrific.

Caitlin Clark, online managing editor: I couldn’t put down the story about the investigation into the murder of Ira Tobolowsky, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I read it. (Now I’m going to be obsessing over it all over again). Jamie Thompson did such an incredible job writing a piece that was both engrossing and terrifying, while remaining reverent to the Tobolowskys. I’m not generally drawn to true crime stories, but there was something so heart-wrenching and infuriating about what happened to Ira and the investigation that followed. I felt proud to work at the publication that published that story.

S. Holland Murphy, associate editor, D MagazineGetting an interview

Sara Grace Wellerstedt. (Photo by Elizabeth Lavin)

with one of the buzziest models in the world was one thing. Getting into her house was another. But getting to interview and photograph Sara Grace Wallerstedt in her Bedford house as she got ready for her senior prom was a pretty rare opportunity. Also, I got a lot of feedback from my response to mommy shamers—one mother even donated to Planned Parenthood in my name. So, you know, lemons and lemonade and all that.

Ryan Conner, executive editor, D Home: My favorite story of 2018 is “Welcome Home, Charlie” from the Nov/Dec issue of D Home. Christine Allison penned a beautiful piece about a couple who teamed up with local designers Bill Cates and Russ Peters to create a very special space for their family. Their son Charlie has Down syndrome, and the family and designers took care with very detail, including creating a professional art studio for Charlie. At D Home, we showcase many beautiful interiors, but this story truly embodies what makes a house a home.

Sarah Bennett, managing editor, D Home: My favorite piece this year was my home feature on Joe Minton’s Fort Worth abode. Not only was this my first feature for D Home, but Mr. Minton—who owns both a design firm and an antiques store—has curated a style of English and Old World antiques that I personally love. On our D Home editorial staff, we all have different styles. Editorial director Jamie Laubhan-Oliver loves a modern, clean-lined, black-and-white aesthetic, while I favor English and French tones of blue and cream (she likes to call it “lady”). The U.K. is a place near and dear to my heart, and it is to Joe Minton as well—he served there as a lieutenant in the Air Force during the Cold War. That love is reflected in the pieces throughout his home, which made this feature so much fun to write.

Joe Minton hosting a party. (Photo: Cody Ulrich)





Lyndsay Knecht, online arts editor: I share Kathy Wise’s affinities for Rolling Rock and poetry (and the use of those details), but that common ground wouldn’t qualify “Congratulations on Your … Whatever”  as my favorite response to news this year on D’s website. The thing about having a WordPress login for an outlet and getting paid to use it in the service of humans while human rights are under duress in the United States is this: you too, are human, and your whole existence is testimony to the case. For this piece, what marriage meant to Kathy and her now wife and partner of more than 20 years – both agnostic lawyers – changed color with legal recognition. Each moment is vivid and plainly told. As she attempts to make ceremony of their trip the Office of The City Clerk in NYC in her practical voice and cries on the phone with her wife when the Obergefell decision made marriage legal in every state (even theirs, which is ours) the reality of constant vigilance LGBTQ+ couples sustain between the social and legal implications of their love in a flawed system becomes real and exhausting. Readers learn that when Ken Paxton wanted to make null the same-sex partner benefits Dallas offered since 2004, he was threatening the very benefit that brought Kathy and Melissa to Dallas in the first place.

Glenn Hunter, editor, D CEO: My favorite this year was writer Kerry Curry’s feature article in the May issue of D CEO called “Reclaiming the Past.” Kerry told the story of Jim Lake Jr. and Amanda Moreno, a husband-and-wife property-development team that preserves and refurbishes historic buildings in North Texas. From transforming old gems like Jefferson Tower and the former Ambassador Hotel to helping redevelop Bishop Arts and the Design District, the Jim Lake Cos.’ “adaptive reuse” projects have contributed to making Dallas a more interesting place to live. “We are not just a real estate company,” Lake told Kerry. “We are developing a brand to develop historically important properties for Dallas that we will not sell, so that future generations can continue to enjoy them.”

Danielle Abril, managing editor, D CEO: In D CEO’s May issue, Joe Guinto recounted the genesis of Southwest Airline’s culture as an ode to its 50th anniversary in business. He brings to life the story of a once-scrappy startup founded by the spirited Herb Kelleher that has become a major player in the airline industry, boasting 44 consecutive years of profits and never experiencing a single layoff. Although the airline no longer parades go-go boots, hot pants, and whiskey giveaways, even through its toughest days of competition and the Wright Amendment battle it has managed to maintain a quirky, friendly culture that encourages fun. Employees still tell jokes over flight PA systems and participate in one-day, pep-rally-esque events. The airline continues to grow but current CEO Gary Kelly has maintained a strong connection to the company’s freewheeling roots.