Austin Chronicle co-founding editor Louis Black retires after 36 years

Aug 08, 2017
American-Statesman Staff
Richard Linklater, left, and Louis Black in “Dream Is Destiny.” Black/Bernstein Productions

Austin Chronicle co-founder Louis Black is retiring from the weekly newspaper after 36 years as its co-editor and co-publisher, the Chronicle announced Tuesday.

Black, 66, said in a letter to staff that he’s leaving immediately, according to a report on the Chronicle’s website. “It has been a 36-year adventure, a remarkable experience, producing and editing a paper I am proud of beyond reason,” Black wrote in the letter.

Black was not available for comment on Tuesday.

Black’s role at the Chronicle had gradually diminished in recent years. Though he and co-founder Nick Barbaro continued to be listed as co-editors/co-publishers in the paper’s staff box, former managing editor Kimberley Jones had assumed the title of editor-in-chief in the past couple of years.

The Chronicle’s report made no mention of Black divesting any ownership stake he has in the paper. Black is also a co-founder of South by Southwest, but there’s no indication of any plan for changes in his role with SXSW.

Much of Black’s time in recent years has been devoted to increasing ventures in the film industry. He co-directed and co-produced “Dream Is Destiny,” a documentary about Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater that first showed at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival and will air Sept. 1 on PBS as part of its “American Masters” series.

“Dream is Destiny” was Black’s debut as a director. He’s also served as a producer or executive producer for several other documentaries, including 2016’s acclaimed “Tower” and films about musicians Doug Sahm and Townes Van Zandt. He had on-camera roles in the 2005 documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” and in several of Linklater’s films, including his 1991 debut “Slacker.”

The film website IMDb lists his involvement as a producer in several films tentatively set to be released in 2018, including “Blaze,” actor/director Ethan Hawke’s film about the late Austin troubadour Blaze Foley.

Even as he became more involved with film projects, Black continued to have a voice in the Chronicle’s pages with his “Page Two” column, which frequently explored subjects that ranged from personal to cultural to political. His final column is scheduled to run in the paper’s Sept. 1 edition, which marks the Chronicle’s 36th anniversary.

A New Jersey native who moved to Austin in the 1970s and earned a film degree from the University of Texas in 1980, Black launched the Chronicle with Barbaro in September 1981. Originally a biweekly, it switched to weekly publication in 1988.

Black’s presence at the Chronicle had long been an anchor akin to football coach Tom Landry walking the sidelines with the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988. Commentator Pat Summerall always worked in a reference to Landry as “the only coach the Cowboys have ever had” during telecasts of Dallas games, and it was no small feat that Black was the only editor the Chronicle ever had for more than three decades.

In the 21st century, most major alternative-weeklies across the nation have been bought by chains as industry consolidation and digital platforms have transformed the print-media marketplace. But the Chronicle has remained independently owned.

Black’s farewell letter to staff specified that he would continue to work with Barbaro through the end of the year to help with transition issues and also that he would remain involved in the paper’s annual Austin Music Awards show. No announcement has been made as to whether anyone will replace Black as co-editor/co-publisher, or if someone will succeed Black in writing the “Page Two” column.