This summer, I’ll celebrate 30 years in Galveston.
The late Vince Stiglich took a photo of me on my first day as publisher. The man in Vince’s picture is too young for his job. He’s trying to smile but smirks instead. If you look closely enough, there’s also a touch of fear in his eyes.
Galveston and The Daily News changed me.
That change did not come from the ups and downs of business. It didn’t come from the dramatic shifts in technology. (In 1987 the internet existed, just barely. None of us had ever written an email, and spam was a disgusting form of lunchmeat.)
The change did not come from politics — always a passionate and bloody sport in Galveston.
No. People, flesh and blood human beings, are at the heart of all real change. The Daily News gave my friends and me the opportunity to tell those human stories.
What a strange and challenging trip it’s been, so full of victories and defeats, so filled with remarkable people.
The month I arrived in Galveston, Shearn Moody was on the cover of Texas Monthly under the headline, “The sleaziest man in Texas.” I met him later at The Shrimp Boat, proudly flamboyant.
J.R. McConnell came to me as a disembodied voice from a Houston jail cell. Weeks later, he committed suicide in disgrace.
In Galveston, money, or at least the appearance of it, buys instant acceptance. But, oh, don’t slip. The fall is deep and painful.
Robert Durst came to Galveston pretending — pretending to be mute, pretending to be a woman, pretending to be poor. Who could guess that his truth would turn out to be so much more bizarre?
There were tragedies — lost girls in killing fields, deadly blasts at refineries. There were stories of heroes and villains, of the brilliant and the addled.
And there was Hurricane Ike.
After the storm, some of our staff lost everything they owned. But they showed up in the wake of personal loss, working by lantern light around our conference table, funky and exhausted but inspired.
I think of wonderful, talented colleagues — people like Rosetta Bonnin, Heber Taylor, D’Lorah Collier, Bill Cochrane and many more.
I also think of our owners, Carmage and Martha Ann Walls and today of their daughter, Lissa. No newspaper ever had better or more generous owners than the Walls family.
Galveston is a freewheeling place, unlike any other in Texas. All of you, the people who read the newspaper, grant us a kind of freedom that few small-town newspapers have. You have given my friends and me the opportunity to tell the human stories that give a place its myths, its culture and its identity.
We can tell the truth when it’s pretty and when it’s ugly and every variation in between.
For those of us who write, such freedom is the greatest gift. With it comes a responsibility to be courageous and to be right at least half the time.
My assignment here was to write about what the newspaper has meant to me. The answer is simple. For me, this is a love story.