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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

The Unlikely Editor

Brian Sweany MA ’02

Texas Monthly’s new editor in chief, Brian Sweany, never planned on becoming a journalist. He saw himself as an English professor teaching Milton: “It seemed to me, Milton was overlooked.” And if not for the advice of UTSA professor Linda Woodson, he may have missed out on the job that changed the course of his career. During his first year at the university, Woodson encouraged Sweany to apply for an internship at Texas Monthly. A full-time job offer as a copy editor followed. Now, 20 years later, as he manages his new role at the magazine’s helm, Sweany is also finishing up his first book, The Kingdom of the Saddle, a biography of famed Texas cattle rancher Charles Goodnight. The book is scheduled to be published by Penguin in the spring.

How did UTSA’s English literature program affect you?
I learned to take my writing seriously at UTSA. That is where I learned to write well and in my own style. Later in the program, my papers for classes became a much more casual magazine style, a style that was more enjoyable to read. That was well-received by my professors.

How did you decide on UTSA?
The university was very good about responding to my application right away, and I won a scholarship. Funding graduate school was going to be very tricky. I’d borrowed most of what I needed for undergraduate school [at the University of North Texas], and I didn’t want to take on too much more debt. It was an unexpected choice -- and one that worked out very well.

Were you already in a career or did you go straight to earn your master’s after undergraduate school?
[Laughs] I was on the 100-year plan. I enrolled in 1995 and finally graduated in spring 2002. We’re talking about a master’s degree! It was very important for me to get the degree. It took me a long time to finish [because of taking the role at Texas Monthly] and pass the comprehensives, but I did it. I was always incredibly proud of that.

I really struggled with it, though -- whether I should take the internship. I went back to Dr. Woodson to discuss if the position at Texas Monthly was a good career move. She encouraged me to go for it, even if it meant putting my studies on hold. I worked full time and finished my degree with night classes. I started my master’s program as an intern [with the magazine] and by the time I got the degree I was an editor. Everyone at the magazine was enormously supportive of it.

What advice do you have for student journalists?
It’s almost so simple as to not be true. It’s very simple: Writers write. It is absolutely true and has been very true in my experience.

Do you have a favorite interview?
It’s tough to say without sounding like I’m hedging my bets. One of my favorite days, I reported a story on [San Antonio Spurs legend] David Robinson and I came down to Trinity University, where the team was practicing. The idea for the story was that I was driving around with him. He invited me to get in his car. He drove an Avalanche; I wasn’t expecting that. And when he turned on the car, I smiled because he had NPR on. But then I recently did an interview with Rick Perry, and I had never been in the governor’s private office before. I’ve had the chance to talk to athletes and writers and businessmen and politicians and average Texans.

Last question. Best journalism movie?
I’ve got to say All the President’s Men.


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