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New EarBurner: D’s Peter Simek Talks About His Profile of Mayor Eric Johnson

Kicking off the pandemic podcast rust with a little in-house insight into a big, complicated story.
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Mayor Eric Johnson hasn’t sat down D Magazine since May of 2019, when the then candidate held a mayoral watch party at Smoky Rose as he made the runoff. Tim Rogers, the editor of this magazine, stuck an iPhone in his face and asked a few questions, including whether local political consultant Jay Pritchard ever “lit him up” during a high school football game and why Ray Hunt didn’t show up to the party.

Johnson quickly answered, walked away, and that was that. Outside of press conferences, the last long-ranging, sit-down Q&A interview that Johnson gave for a local or regional news outlet that was not a TV or radio station—or conducted on a stage—was in July of 2019, to Texas Monthly. Our former colleague Jason Heid conducted that interview. Johnson appeared to take umbrage with a question and asked whether Heid had been a consultant with his opponent’s campaign. (Ed. Note: Tristan Hallman, the mayor’s chief of policy and communication, notes that the mayor has also given interviews to the News‘ editorial board, the paper’s beat reporters, “some sports reporters” and the Advocate.) 

I lead with this context to introduce the triumphant return of the EarBurner podcast. Why? Because it’s all about Mayor Eric Johnson, as told by senior editor Peter Simek. His profile of the mayor went online last week. It explores the things that make the mayor so intriguing: his background, his upbringing, his relationships, his political strategy, his career.

The mayor didn’t sit for an interview, so Peter spent months reaching out to people who know him. He made contact with 89 of them, about a third of whom were willing to speak for the piece. He put together the story using what he learned through them. For the first time in over a year, and for the first time since all of our vaccines kicked in, Zac and Tim and I set up the equipment at the Old Monk and recorded a chat with Peter about all this.

With “normal” rushing back, expect more EarBurner in the coming months. We already have some big guests lined up in May. Listen to the chat with Peter after the jump. And, by the way, lunch service starts up again at the Old Monk on Friday, April 30.

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