The mail mess
Jan Patterson is an old friend from Texas who now practices law in New York. In a vain effort to keep in touch with each other’s worlds, she and I try to communicate as often as we can, which never seems to be as often as we’d like. So the other day I was happy to see in the morning mail a manila envelope from her office. Happy, that is, until I opened it.
“You’ll either find this amusing or it will ruin your day,” her note read. “Either way, it’s something to take along to your next postal hearing. This is my copy of D Magazine exactly as I received it in the mail today.”
Inside was something that purported to be our June issue. The cover had been torn to shreds, then carefully Scotch-taped back together into an intricate pattern that somewhat resembled the original. The sight made me moan a little, but I wasn’t all that surprised. My magazines at home sometimes arrive the same way. (Harper’s, for reasons known only to the Postal Service, seems to get the worst treatment.)
The surprise came when I gingerly turned aside the front cover to see what remained of the magazine. Painstakingly glued inside our covers was the remnant of a camping equipment catalogue. And inside the catalogue had been glued a few pages from a wholesale book distributor’s spring catalogue. On the last page, an address label identified this material as having been mailed third class to a gentleman in San Francisco.
How did a subscriber in New York receive a magazine cover from Dallas filled with material mailed to someone in San Francisco? Only your Postal Service knows for sure. If it were an isolated case, I might laugh it off. But every month we receive hundreds of phone calls from subscribers complaining of mutilated copies, of late delivery, or of issues not delivered at all. One month we kept track of the zip codes of subscribers complaining about undelivered copies and discovered that a large number lived in the 75231 area. We forwarded this information to our local postal officials; the only reply we received was that our letter had been noted. That was two years ago. The complaints keep pouring in.
With mail costs escalating and service declining, some large publishing companies are experimenting with alternatives to the Postal Service. Time is now testing private delivery in Min-neapolis-St. Paul. Better Homes & Gardens has set up a system to deliver to eight towns in Indiana and Ohio. Business Week recently conducted successful experiments in Boston.
Meanwhile, Jan Patterson’s mutilated copy of D Magazine is in the hands of Postmaster General William Bolger. At least we think it is. It was mailed to him, but so far we haven’t heard whether or not he received it.
Blowing our own horn
D Magazine, along with Time and Newsweek, received the top magazine honors in this year’s Clarion Awards, sponsored by Women in Communications. The first place award went to senior editor Jim Atkinson for “A Case of Rape,” his investigative article about the prosecution of Dallas teacher Willard Bishop Jackson. Jim’s article, which appeared last October, also took us to the finals in the National Magazine Awards.
Meanwhile, we were pleased when the July-August issue of Columbia Journalism Review gave special attention to D Magazine in an editorial marking the growth and vitality of independent city magazines as one of the healthiest trends in the magazine industry .
Kathy and I have almost completed the complex social ritual known as buying a house. This will be our second home, so to furnish it we’ll soon be acquiring things we’ll probably own the rest of our lives. Suddenly I’ve taken more than a proprietary interest in our sister publication, Texas Homes. A lot of other people are interested, too: The magazine’s circulation is now well over 65,000; for a little magazine barely over a year old, that’s a lot of readers. Other people have been attracted to the magazine for the same reason I have. The editors down the hall have done a superior job of spotlighting tasteful, imaginative interiors in a style that shows the flavor and diversity of Texas. They’ve produced a magazine that’s not only interesting, but downright helpful. And that’s why Texas Homes is our region’s newest magazine success story.
Mike Greenberg, our new managing editor, is the man now charged with keeping our editorial house in order. Mike joined us last month after a six-year stint with Chicago magazine, where he was managing editor. He is 31 and a native of San Antonio. Mike took over from Charles Matthews, who switched to senior editor so that he could devote all his efforts to reporting.
From Fort Worth, Rowland Stiteler, 30, is a veteran reporter, having spent seven years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and, more recently, having served on KERA-TV’s “13 Report.” Rowland joins us as associate editor, in charge of “Up Front.”
Production manager Terry Battle,27, is also a recent arrival fromChicago. Her job is to get the magazineinto your hands on time every month.Between the procrastination of ourwriters and the problems of the PostalService, that’s no easy task.
The mail mess