From concept to publication, converting raw data into award-winning prose – and redefining Texas

 

  • Conceived, researched and wrote a series of national award-winning columns that challenged the conventional wisdom about Texas’s past, present and future.
  • Original demographic, economic, and historical research based on new internet resources, as well as traditional archival records and face-to-face interviews.
  • Pioneering model of computer-assisted journalism.
  • Reached as audience of one million in the state’s iconic publication, Texas Monthly.

 

January 2005 no hat, no cattle

No Hat, No Cattle

Texas’s venerable myth, rooted in our rugged, wide-open spaces, is seriously in need of a big-city makeover.

by Michael Ennis

Retro Texas, meet metro Texas. For generations the history-redolent mythology supposedly hardwired into every Texan’s brain has hallowed our rural wide-open spaces, even as the eastern third of the state has experienced an unprecedented explosion of urban culture. But retro Texas’s claim on our collective psyche is finally being challenged by its metropolitan alter ego. A sleeping demographic giant that has long considered itself an old cowhand is waking up to discover that it is really a city slicker.

This identity crisis is long overdue. After all, Texas has boasted three of the nation’s ten largest cities for nearly two decades…. read article

 

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The Mighty Metroplex

Dissed for decades as a colorless, conformist jumble of cities and suburbs, it has become a roaring engine of economic growth—and is reigniting Dallas’s fading star.

by Michael Ennis

There was a time when no sober-minded Dallasite could utter the word “Metroplex” without an ironic smirk. A catchall for Dallas, Fort Worth, and the dozens of lesser municipalities around and between them, the term was coined in the seventies to boost the region’s new centerpiece, the sprawling Dallas—Fort Worth International Airport. But DFW was the progeny of a forced marriage (the federal government, weary from maintaining separate airports for the bickering burgs, held the shotgun), and its arrival hardly augured a big happy regional family. On the one hand you had booming Big D, which by the early eighties had become the glittering star of the world’s most popular television series, and on the other the rest of the Metroplex, home to a lot of envious goobers who didn’t know Anne Klein from Calvin Klein. As recently as 2000, federal officials tried to classify the entire twelve-county Metroplex as nothing more than a giant statistical suburb of Big D; only the howls of pain from Fort Worth and nearby Arlington (a city with a population of more than 350,000) persuaded the feds to back off calling the whole thing the “Dallas combined area.”   read article

 

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North Toward Home

Nothing will stop illegal immigrants from pouring into this country. So instead of pushing useless legislation, politicians in Washington should look at what Texas has done to turn the problem into a blessing.

by Michael Ennis

THE WHITE-HOT IMMIGRATION DEBATE may well become one of the most combustible issues in this year’s midterm elections, but here in Texas, it’s really, really old news. Thought you could invigorate the economy by letting in all those foreigners, and now you’re concerned that the newcomers aren’t obeying the laws or assimilating into your culture? Fearful that a porous border threatens your national security? That’s what worried Mexicans back in the 1820’s, as Anglo immigrants poured into Tejas, bringing their rambunctious American ways and suspect values (including a penchant for slavery, which had been outlawed in the interior of Mexico). State officials of Coahuila y Tejas welcomed immigration from the United States, but the hard-liners in Mexico City banned it, Texans revolted, and the rest is our history.

And it’s a history we should keep in mind as our leaders in Washington try to tackle the half a million or so immigrants, most of them Mexicans, who enter this country without authorization each year, swelling a population of about 11 million illegal residents….   read article

 

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T.R. Fehrenbach Is History

His classic book Lone Star has reigned supreme for nearly forty years, but two new challengers are hoping to ascend the throne.

by Michael Ennis

“THE GREAT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TEXAS and every other American state in the twentieth century was that Texas had a history.” So wrote T. R. Fehrenbach in Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans, first published in 1968 and now widely regarded as the canonical version of our state’s singular history. At more than seven hundred pages, Fehrenbach’s classic tome has nearly the heft of the Old Testament, along with the equal certainty that it describes the travails and triumphs of a chosen people.

For decades, academic historians have blasted away at the scriptural authority of Lone Star. But these “revisionists” (read “heretics” if you’re a Texas history traditionalist) have scarcely dented Fehrenbach’s appeal to readers outside the ivory tower, and for more than a generation, no writer even attempted a similarly panoramic, popular treatment. Only in the new century have challengers arisen, first with Randolph B. Campbell’s Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State, written in 2003 by an esteemed scholar but with sufficient narrative drive to engage casual readers. Aimed even more directly at a general audience is Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas, which was published in April by novelist and award-winning biographer James L. Haley. Now looking like a trend after years of unopposed Fehrenbachian orthodoxy, these two books suggest how we’re thinking about Texas—and how we’re going to have to rethink Texas—in the twenty-first century.   read article

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