Recent changes in management and controversy over Texas Monthy’s cover are leading to staff departures and low morale at the magazine, according to reports.
The Daily Beast reports 11 members of the award-winning magazine’s editorial team have quit since 2016 when Paul Hobby came on as owner. Since then, an uneasy atmosphere has developed in the offices of the National Magazine of Texas, with people reportedly worried about their jobs and the magazine’s leadership.
And more people plan on leaving in the near future, according to the Beast.
In January, the magazine was called out for an apparent conflict of interest involving dating app Bumble, in which Texas Monthly Editor-in-Chief Tim Taliaferro appeared to give a spot on the cover to the company’s founder in exchange for paid social media promotion.
Taliaferro denies this, but the magazine has since called in an ombudsman to deal with the resulting fallout once the business dealings between he and Bumble Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd were made public.
Texas Monthly staff members apparently didn’t agree. They reached out to the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) after Taliaferro announced the cover because they were worried about the ethical implications. An unnamed staffer said in an interview with CJR:
It was such a clear violation of one of journalism’s most fundamental ethical guidelines. And to hear him brazenly admit this deal in the meeting, bragging about it like it was some sort of major coup, it was like he truly didn’t understand why it was actually bad.
According to CJR, Taliaferro confirmed Heard agreed to spend $25,000-$30,000 to promote the story on social media if she appeared on the cover.
According to the Beast, Taliaferro, chosen by Hobby as the new editor-in-chief mere months ago, has voiced plans to take the magazine away from its powerhouse political reporting and more in the direction of “lifestyle.”
Taliaferro said in an interview that “Texans don’t care about politics.” When the article came out, he said his words were taken out of context. When CJR published the following, he appeared to change his stance:
After the article came out, Taliaferro said Texas Monthly’s political reporting was there to stay and what he meant to say was “that there is much more to the Texas identity.”
After what some are calling the “Bumble fumble,” Hobby released a statement to the Beast affirming an “ironclad commitment to editorial integrity.”
“The magazine did not and will not sell our covers,” Hobby said. “Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd was the best option for the cover of the newsstand copies of our February issue, and that’s why she’s featured. No money changed hands to promote any story. No editorial or cover considerations were influenced by outside interests.”
One of the Texas Monthly staffers who reached out to CJR had a much different take: “At best, you were in league with the subject of your story,” they said, “At worst, you sold your cover.”
Former editor of the Austin-American Statesman Rich Oppel is currently working with the magazine as an ombudsman to “review our processes and organizational structure,” according to an email by Taliaferro.
Texas Monthly still appears to have talent in house. They’ve been nominated for an Ellie award for general excellence in the special interest category. But how long the talent will stick around may now be in question.
“There’s a lack of trust on both sides,” one former staffer said in an interview with the Beast. “I don’t know that that’s reparable.”