An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Alumni Spotlight: Austin Chronicle editor looks back on almost four-decade career at alternative weekly paper

Louis Black
Louis Black

In 1981, Louis Black started a job in Austin that he thought would last only a year. He helped launch The Austin Chronicle, which became one of the most successful alternative weeklies in the country.

Black recently announced that he is stepping down from his job of 36 years.

Early on, it was a nightmare. The staff was tiny, the news hole huge, the budget low, the skepticism about its success high.

“We ran out of money after eight months,” Black recalled. “For a very long time, it was a real struggle. We were worried all the time. It was rough.”

But he credits his experience at The Daily Texan as invaluable as he worked out the early kinks. “For me, [working at The Daily Texan] was an amazing incubative period. The Chronicle, in its existence and its great run, is a tribute to the people who earned their chops at The Daily Texan.”

He and friend Nick Barbaro, the Chronicle’s publisher, planned to sell the paper after a year, but it just never happened. “We were doing it for the good of the community. We were going to start it and walk away after a year.” But even in the late ’90s, during the alt-weekly boom, they held on tight.

While at the Chronicle, Black wrote more than 600 articles as well as a popular Page Two column.

Though screenwriter Turk Pipkin once called Black a “tough, quirky rascal,” others might call him a visionary. In 1987 Black, Barbaro and friend Roland Swenson founded South by Southwest, the immensely popular music, film and multimedia festival that draws thousands of visitors to Austin every March.

Now, Black wants to focus on film, the same subject that initially drew him to the University of Texas at Austin from Teaneck, New Jersey, in 1975.

This fall, he and director Ethan Hawke are developing Blaze, a film about Austin singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. And he’s working with his partner Sandy Boone on a documentary about the parody religion Church of the SubGenius. In addition, he hopes to complete his dissertation on director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs).

Last year, Black co-directed Dream Is Destiny, a documentary on filmmaker Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Dazed and Confused) for PBS’s American Masters series.

In 2009, esteemed New York Times media critic David Carr talked with Black at the SXSW festival.

Carr praised The Austin Chronicle as “an engine for innovation.” And then, after taking a walk together and watching as fans greeted Black every few minutes, Carr wrote, “Imagine that: a newspaper man being one of the most popular guys in town.”

Catherine Chriss is a freelance editor, writer and ESL teacher. She was a news reporter and feature writer for The Daily Texan from 1981-1983. Chriss, who grew up in Houston, has worked on three newspapers in Texas and one in Kentucky and one in California. Most recently, she was a columnist for a newspaper in New Jersey where she now lives.