Careful readers of our print edition might have noticed a curious something in the staff box of this week’s issue. It was an inelegant solution to the very best kind of problem, which is that for a brief moment in time, we’ve had not one but two excellent editors running the news desk.
That’s because Chase Hoffberger, who’s served as the Chronicle’s News Editor for the past two years, will be leaving the paper at the end of November to return with his wife Lily to the Northeast, their native stomping grounds. Chase was good enough to give us a long lead time to find and train his successor, but turns out we didn’t need that much time after all; when we heard Mike Clark-Madison, a Chronicle alum, was on the market, we pounced. And so we’ve all been enjoying that most rare thing in alt-weekly journalism – the luxury of time, and an unhurried, unharried transition.[image-1-right]
As Chase hands over editing duties one by one, that means we’ll be seeing more of his own reporting in his final weeks at the paper, bringing this thing full circle. His first byline at the Chronicle was way back in 2007, a 4-star review for a double album from Houston hip-hop crew UGK; like so many of the talents at our paper, he was one of music editor Raoul Hernandez’s finds. Chase came on as a staff writer in 2013, at first filing mostly music stories and the occasional first-person “I did this!” bit of immersive journalism (that time he learned how to play dead from film’s most famous corpse, Weekend at Bernie’s Terry Kiser; that time he turned to apps for all his transit needs, in a 2015 piece that now reads as charmingly quaint). Eventually, he found a permanent home in our News department, settling in his own words into the “cops, criminal justice, and city politics” beats, producing one memorable cover story after another: investigating stressful work conditions at Austin-Travis County EMS; probing a still-unsolved double murder in Kyle; profiling the Austin man behind manufacturing the first fully functional 3-D-printed firearm, Cody Wilson (infamous now in more ways than one); re-examining the evidence in a murky death row case. In 2016, Chase was promoted to News editor, bringing stability in a rocky period, and his essential work became less visible to the naked eye. There weren’t as many cover stories, but his influence and his instincts for what is not just a good story, but an important story, have defined our news coverage for the past two years. This may sound like a lazy compliment, but anyone who’s ever been an editor, or a manager, will recognize it as the highest praise: With Chase at the helm, I knew I didn’t need to fret, or micro-manage. I knew he knew what he was doing. And he has done it exceptionally well.[image-2-left]
A tough act to follow, but we’re confident Mike Clark-Madison is up to the challenge. Mike already has one tour of duty at the Chronicle under his belt; from the late Nineties to mid-Aughts, he covered city politics and transportation as a reporter, "Austin@Large" columnist, and editor. Mike has immersed himself in city governance from all angles – as an award-winning journalist; a citizen activist serving on the Task Force on Community Engagement, the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Urban Renewal Board; and a public relations VP specializing in civic projects. In late winter, he swung back to journalism full-time for a brief stint as publisher of City Hall watchdog Austin Monitor. When the Chronicle reported back in June about Mike’s amicable departure from the Austin Monitor, he told Michael King that he intended to catch his breath, do some freelancing, and “look for a permanent position come the fall.”
That permanent position turned out to be with us. But in one way, at least, he never left: An award Mike won back in 1995 for a four-part series on urban planning has been hanging proudly in our news office for a couple decades now. We probably should have let him take the award home with him, but we're pleased he's come back to claim it.
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