Page Two

Page Two
At 8am Wednesday morn- ing the building is empty save for Nick Barbaro, who is checking over the issue layout, and myself. It is the eye of the storm. But now it is quiet.

This issue is our annual "Best of Austin" issue, as usual one of our biggest issues of the year. The Best of Austin is a monster project that is started months out. There are two processes that work simultaneously. The first is running the ballot in the Chronicle and online and then compiling and annotating all the results. This in itself is a huge task, involving numerous people operating under the watchful eye of Kate Messer. Messer also coordinates the critics' poll. This is even more complicated.

First, there are meetings where topics and writers are suggested. When the list is ready (and it is always in flux), assignments are made. After some coaxing and a few deadlines, entries come in -- handwritten on wrapping paper and e-mailed, nicely typed and lost in the system -- a mass of annotated choices in a couple of dozen different formats. These are collected and compiled and edited for form and style; they are then distributed to the individual editors to work on their sections. There is a period, after most of the entries are in, when the entire Best of Austin list is passed around for thoughts, suggestions, and edits to the editorial staff.

Next, Messer edits the entries again, this time in the context of the whole list, formatted, run-out, proofed, corrected, re-run out, and re-proofed. Somewhere in the flow there, art director Taylor Holland steps in, assigns photos, and then formats and designs the section. Last comes the hard part, the nit-picking at the end when Messer, working closely with Holland and other editors, work over the whole section, looking for any mistakes. Mistakes, even stupid ones, will still have been made -- you can almost count on it. But what is amazing is how much we get right.

For weeks now, this work has been going on, the office abuzz at all hours with people tabulating, writing, proofing, fact-checking, designing, discussing, and planning. The number of people who put in time working on this section is impressive and we thank both staff and freelancers, regulars, and interns.

But at this moment in the morning, it is still quiet. No one is here yet. Soon, the staff will arrive to finish this year's Best of Austin issue. We look at each new edition of this issue as another volume in a series of reference works, guides to some of the people, places, businesses, services, shops, and things that make Austin great. We believe one year complements the next, not supplants it. Reader comments, suggestions, and notes of omissions, etc. are more than encouraged and we welcome them.

Last week's cover, for those who asked, was Michael Moorcock, the great science fiction/fantasy writer. An unfortunate choice of colors and the way the title was placed has lead some people to ask me why we had Santa Claus on the cover in September. That cover, a drawing by the multi-talented Robert Faires -- himself a critic, artist, actor, director, and editor -- was a wonderful rendering of Moorcock's many facets. (Myself, I was lucky to discover Moorcock, especially the Stormbringer series, at just the right age; what a powerful world of the imagination to enter into and what a moral education for one in post-puberty.)

Finally, a belated congratulations to Roseana Auten for winning a Distinguished Achievement Award for feature writing from The Educational Press Association of America. Auten was cited for her story on AISD Superintendent Jim Fox, which ran in our December 13, 1996 issue. It's just one more reason we're proud the Chronicle brings you the Best of Austin.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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