Bloody Sunday

On April 10, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that -- after more than 100 years -- it will stop publishing its Sunday magazine section. A memo to the troops said the magazine cost about $9 million a year to produce, and in a slow advertising economy it was losing "several million" dollars annually.

The Inquirer thus joins a long list of papers that have shuttered their Sunday magazines -- about ten years ago, papers like The Dallas Morning News, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution all gave up on their inserts. At many of the papers, the magazines were home to some of the staffs' finer writers, and offered the opportunity for eye-catching photography even after color photos became commonplace in the main sections of newspapers.

There are maybe two dozen or so Sunday newspaper magazines left in the country. And there's only one in Texas: the Houston Chronicle's own Texas Magazine. It's been around in one form or another since 1919 (officially becoming Texas Magazine in 1957), and while it's not the first thing anyone rushes for in the Sunday Chron, it'd be a shame to lose it. We wouldn't object to it getting a shot of adrenaline to shake it from its usually torporific ways, but it's always nice when it occasionally surprises you with a well-done feature.

So is a shutdown likely to happen? Have we read our last "State Lines" personal essay about a life lesson learned in the hardscrabble fields that has stood the author in good stead all these years? Are we to about to be deprived of our God-given right to look at swimming pool ads while slogging through yet another bluebonnet-celebration story?

Rest easy. Apparently it's not on the radar right now.

"I haven't given any thought to it at all -- why, have you heard something?" Chron editor Jeff Cohen said when we asked him recently (admittedly out of the blue) about whether Texas Magazine is on a death watch.

It wasn't that he had studied the situation and decided affirmatively to keep the magazine alive, however; it was more a case of other, more pressing priorities being addressed first.

The advertising situation isn't much different in Houston from that in Philly, though. We'll have to wait and see whether the Inquirer's sad announcement gives any ideas to Cohen or his bosses at Hearst.

Ripped from Today's Headlines

There's nothing like a desperate sports columnist reaching for the news section in order to inject some life into his copy. Who could forget the golden age of sportswriting, the fall of 2000, when no football game could be reported on without a reference to a hanging chad?

Those days are not gone, friends, if the Chron's sports section is any indication.

Here's Mickey Herskowitz on April 4: "The Astros were saving their best for last, for their shock-and-awe show in the ninth inning, after they had fallen four runs behind and had seen Colorado's Steve Reed and Todd Jones, an Astro in another lifetime, retire seven batters in a row."

Here's John P. Lopez, a day later from St. Louis: "Shock and awe took on a whole new meaning with the likes of Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent, Richard Hidalgo -- Monsters Inc."

No one so far has written that the Astros lineup "is as explosive as an Iraqi suicide bomber." But there's a lot of baseball left.

On the Home Front

Speaking of the war, does the fall of Baghdad mean that our local meteorologists will no longer be using their gee-whiz computer maps to tell us about every warm front passing through Umm Qasr? Because that's taking precious time from the 18 minutes they need to tell us about the weather right here. And trying to say, in less than 18 minutes, that there isn't much happening weather-wise is like asking Fidel Castro to keep his May Day speech under four hours. It's inhuman.

One thing the war hasn't changed, we're happy to notice, is the Chron's annual Best Dressed list, this year printed on glossy paper.

Determined to deliver the traditional goods even in the face of raging battlefields and Umm Qasr warm fronts, the Chron this year stuck resolutely to its time-honored script. There was the token black winner, who -- well, who moved to Dallas three months ago. (But she still looks great!)

Most important, though, there was this sentence about one of the winners: "She is as comfortable in designer gowns at charity galas as she is in jeans and boots at the ranch."

We believe this marks the 3,456th time the Best Dressed section has told us that despite those Chanels and Christian Diors in the closet, these spunky soccer moms are just like everyone else.

In anxious days like these, such unchanging traditions are a rock to cling to.


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