Nate Blakeslee '92
Editor, The Texas Observer
As editor of The Texas Observer, an influential progressive magazine published in Austin, Nate Blakeslee '92 helps continue a tradition with a periodical where young editors get their start.
The magazine was founded in 1954 by a 26-year-old and has helped establish such writers as Willie Morris, Molly Ivins and Lawrence Goodwyn. After freelancing for the Observer after graduate school in 1997 and becoming an associate editor in 1999, Blakeslee was named editor in 2000, taking on such responsibilities as editing and assigning while also writing and reporting.
Working with a small staff leaves a lot to do for a small number of people; however, the freedom of being an editor in such an intimate environment also leads to the most fulfilling part of his job, which he says is the "chance to write about things you want to write about."
Blakeslee also says he feels fortunate to be at the Observer "at a time when good things are happening." During the presidential election he was constantly doing interviews expressing his opinion.
He also takes on the role as a voice of progressive Texas as he says many people, "look to the Observer to help shape opinions of policy." Last spring, the magazine was a finalist for a National Magazine Award for a story Blakeslee wrote about a law enforcement scandal in the Panhandle. The National Magazine Awards are the Pulitzers of the magazine industry. The Observer's competition in the reporting category was Esquire, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Wired, a large feat considering the Observer's limited budget.
The story, which detailed an undercover cocaine bust in the small town of Tulia, uncovered serious allegations about the credibility of the officer involved and the accountability of drug enforcement in Texas in general. It led to the passage of several reforms in the last Texas legislature.
For their work in rejuvenating the Observer, Blakeslee and former co-editor Karen Olsson were profiled in the New York Times and Texas Monthly last year.
Blakeslee grew up in Arlington, Texas, "the largest suburb in America with no public transportation." Between them, his parents held a variety of jobs, including social worker, waitress, therapist, bartender, nightclub manager, parole officer and private investigator.
"My dad once tended bar at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth, the world's largest honky-tonk, and my mother once hosted Michael Irvin at her South Dallas drug rehab clinic."
He and his spouse Karen Poff married last year. They live in South Austin with their dog, Peanut, "the world's largest Chihuahua-mix." Blakeslee enjoys kayaking and bike riding in his spare time. "I have not forgotten my roots although I have been known to ride the bus from time to time, I have never purchased a monthly pass."
Melissa Miller '03
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