Behind the bylines

Enough has been written about writers (by writers) that there’s little I can add of a generic nature, except to say that most of their faults have been exaggerated and most of their virtues have yet to be discovered. As a group the only characteristic I find shared by the people who work here, in contrast to their dissimilar backgrounds and interests, is a sincere curiosity about life. Their curiosity propels them in some mysterious way that escapes the rest of us. Most of us spend our days trying to do things. They spend theirs trying to find out things. From my taste of it I can tell you that the latter is the harder work.

Leading our senior editors is Jim Atkinson, 30, who has been at the center of our editorial staff since we started. Readers may have seen his investigative work in other places, notably Readers Digest and Texas Monthly, but mostly he has kept his sights trained on Dallas, trying month after month to make sense out of the mysteries that a growing city produces. Whether it’s a black schoolteacher who may have been unjustly accused, a murder that’s unsolved, or a pattern of juvenile crime newly discovered, Jim spends his days in the frustrating work of putting together pieces of puzzles fashioned out of real life.

Closest to Jim in tenure is David Bauer, 29, who joined us straight out of Dartmouth. A native of Dallas, David is not only a fine reporter in his own right (his “Akin vs. Dahl” was named this year’s best print feature by the Dallas Press Club), but he also is the stylist for most staff-produced work. For example, David does the final editing of our annual Best and Worst awards (but doesn’t, he hastens to add, make the final decisions). In lower-budget days, when David was our sole anonymous food critic, one restaurateur called to brag that our critic’s cover had been blown. He had received a call from another restaurant owner, he said, who told him to watch out for “a guy who looks just like Jesus.” I wished him the best of luck.

Rowland Stiteler, 32, came to us after seven years with the Star-Telegram, where his columns had the kind of bite only good legwork produces. It was clear that Rowland knew his subject, and that his subject was politics. “But not politics,” he told me then, “in the sense of who will win the next election. I’m interested in politics in the broad sense: In a world of limited resources, who has the technique and the gall to maneuver to get more of a share than the other guy?” With that kind of attitude, Rowland quite naturally picks up a lot of enemies. He also picks up a lot of respect, as evidenced by his colleagues’ nominating him last year for more awards in the Dallas press competition than any other journalist in Dallas and Fort Worth.

The most recent addition to our writing staff is David Dillon, 37, who covered the arts for us for so many years with such insight that it suddenly dawned on us that unless we grabbed him for a full-time job somebody else would. David’s principal interest is still the arts, again in the broadest sense, although more and more he’s found himself drawn to the little stories that otherwise would be forgotten in this city’s headlong rush to be bigger at any price. His recent investigation of the damage done to White Rock Creek by uncontrolled development marked his first turn into this neglected territory, followed last month by his report on the county’s oldest black church and the struggle between the ancient values of a community and the newly discovered values of its real estate.

But writers don’t make a magazine; their work is what we publish, but there’s a lot more that goes into it before it reaches the reader’s hands. Sadly, the two people who have been most responsible for shaping unformed manuscripts into a coherent and appealing whole, that is, into a magazine, have decided to leave us this spring. This issue markes their last month together producing the magazine.

Wade Leftwich, 25, joined us a little over two years ago as an editorial assistant, which is the lowest of low rungs on the editorial ladder. In a year he was managing editor, responsible for the entire process of putting the magazine to bed each month. It wasn’t long before he became more; Wade’s intelligence and judgment months ago made him the key editor in the content decisions that decide what kind of magazine we publish. Wade’s hard work, good humor, and unfailing demand for quality have been instrumental in producing some of the finest issues in our history.

A magazine is not only a product of the intellect, but also of the eye. Our eye for the last three years has been Carol Burke, 27, our art director. Never has any one human being devoted so many hours – often late, late hours – to making other people’s work look good in print. And rarely has anyone succeeded so well. Carol’s recent appearance on the cover of Graphics Today, in its tribute to Texas, is only one more testament to the fact that D Magazine is regarded in the industry as one of the best visually directed magazines in the country.

Wade is leaving to conquer other worlds, which, he says, could be anything from writing in New York to playing in a rock band. Carol, always more practically inclined, intends to do graduate work in design. We wish both of them the best. It has been a rare opportunity to work with people of such character and grace.


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