History as Moving Target
If you’ve been following the Chronicle’s online coverage of the SB 5 battle – and judging by our exploding pageview count, a heck of a lot of you have been – then you know we’ve been tracking every high and low, every ebb and flow of this ever-developing story.
That's all happened online – on our blog, our photo galleries, via Twitter and Facebook. But first and foremost, we’re a weekly print organization. Every Thursday, an issue of The Austin Chronicle hits the stands, becomes a tangible something in the hands of our readers. At that point, it is what it is: No updates, no hit refresh, no “this just in.” So how do you decide on a cover image for a story that seems to shift – hell, wildly somersault – minute to minute?
Well, you don’t. Or rather, you decide, again and again, then go back to the drawing board once more. We did that five times in the span of six days. We think the various discarded covers tell a pretty interesting story – just one more angle on an electrifying week in Texas politics.
On Thursday of last week, Art Director Jason Stout presented the editorial staff with what we all assumed would be this week’s cover: a gorgeous portrait (by Todd V. Wolfson) of KUTX DJ Laurie Gallardo. He later added copy that referenced the ongoing and impassioned protests that demonstrated a level of engagement that felt like victory in and of itself.
But as we reflected on Sunday's dramatic events at the House of Representatives during our regular Monday editorial meeting, we concluded that this story – the story of eye-popping political maneuvering and a citizenry galvanized – was the story. Staff photographer Jana Birchum was on the House floor Sunday night and captured this image of Rep. Senfronia Thompson holding a wire coat hanger, a potent symbol of abortion made illegal and a potentially very real harbinger of what might happen should Senate Bill 5’s sweeping abortion legislation go into effect.
Another potential cover, also shot by Jana Birchum, featured Rep. Thompson backed by other House Democrats.
On Tuesday afternoon, as Sen. Wendy Davis held the Senate floor in a heroic and inspiring filibuster, we decided to go with Jason Stout’s stark illustration of a coat hanger twisted into the shape of Texas. We knew that even a successful filibuster would still likely conclude with Gov. Perry calling another special session, as intimated by Republican leadership. The outlook was bleak, and we felt this cover was true to the bigger picture – the persistent and pernicious assault on women’s reproductive rights in Texas.
And then the truly remarkable happened. Due to the phenomenal efforts of a small group of lawmakers and a much, much larger group of activists – some long-time, and many more newly hatched by the furor over SB 5 – the bill was defeated.
Moments before this post was set to go live, Gov. Perry called another special session to start July 1. Once again, SB 5 will see the Senate floor. Reaction is just starting to stream in. The story’s still developing. But our cover is not.
In our three decades in print, we've never released a cover before publication, but we're thrilled to share this cover with readers now. We don’t go to press for another few hours on our print issue, but we are 100% certain that whatever happens next, this is the image we want our readers to take away from the extraordinary events of the past week – an image of triumph, not despair.