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Remembering Arts Editor Mike Maza


by Anne Bothwell 25 Nov 2008

As an editor at the Dallas Morning News, Mike Maza probably wouldn’t have called himself an advocate for the arts. My guess is he’d say Journalists only advocate for stories and readers. And when there were conflicts between the two – a few memorable calls from influential readers complaining about a restaurant or theater review […]

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As an editor at the Dallas Morning News, Mike Maza probably wouldn’t have called himself an advocate for the arts. My guess is he’d say Journalists only advocate for stories and readers. And when there were conflicts between the two – a few memorable calls from influential readers complaining about a restaurant or theater review come to mind – his priority was clear. He had a backbone and good ideas. He nurtured writers and fought for stories, ultimately giving us all a clearer picture of cultural life in North Texas.

Critic Scott Cantrell put it well in the DMN’s obituary today:

“He was every writer’s dream no-nonsense editor, and, as a human being, radiated unflappable decency

Mike’s career was one of service to our community. Those of us who knew his work miss him.

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  • Stephen Becker

    There are more good things to say about Mike than there is space on the Web, but besides his generally being a great guy, he was a master of storytelling. I was fortunate enough to work with him early in my editing days, and I can tell you that he could edit a long, narrative feature as well as anyone. So in the past 20 years or so, if you enjoyed reading a really well-written, in-depth feature on the arts in The Dallas Morning News, there’s a good chance that Mike’s fingerprints were all over it.

  • One thing not mentioned in the obit was that Mike actually wrote a lot for the News’ arts coverage — for years he regularly contributed very succinct, pithy reviews of “self help” and “business advice” books for the Sunday pages. As you might imagine, many of these books are repetitive, self-evident, redundant, naive, pompous, flimsily argued or supported, etc. I would have started tearing the books with my teeth after only a few weeks of covering them. Uncomplainingly but with dry humor, Mike managed to summarize book after book, convey a little of its flavor and manage to treat them honestly but also indicate his own disdain for many of the worst. And all of this in only a few lines.

    I thought his work was tremendously under-appreciated. it was just filler; it certainly didn’t get the play or attention that, say, many self-important op-ed columnists regularly do. But week after week, Mike actually made this stuff entertaining, sometimes deadpan-funny. I rarely cared about any of the books he wrote about; I read the column for Mike’s writing.

    The publishing industry certainly knew what they had. When I was book critic, I’d occasionally get a call from a publicist who was looking for Mike — because he was the only newspaper critic in the country who covered most of these things.

    As a result of all this, he was one of the very few editors (or, really, anyone) at the News whose judgment I truly respected — on ways to improve my own writing, on the quality of books or stage shows we’d be arguing about. An added bonus: We had both started out in Detroit papers at the exact same time (along the Dallas Observer’s Jim Schutze) and knew many of the same veterans — yet we had never run into each other back then. It gave us a storehouse of shared names and stories to swap.

  • Bruce Tomaso

    Most of us who’ve been in the news business a while have tales of heroic editors.

    Most of the time (at least in our telling of the tales) , these editors are larger-than-life characters with overblown personalities — ranters and screamers and madmen, chair-throwers, bellicose blasphemers and runaway drinkers who somehow manage, at the last possible second, to pull it together, roll up their sleeves and set about turning our mush into sparkling prose.

    Mike was the furthest thing one could imagine from that passe stereotype (except for the part about repairing our mush). I don’t know that I ever heard him raise his voice. I don’t know that I ever saw him angry.

    I don’t know that I ever met a gentler, kinder soul — certainly, not in a newsroom.

  • Jean Maza

    Fabulous remembrances and words of comfort from you all. This is appreciated right now more than you can imagine! No wonder he liked working with you so much!

  • Teresa Kerzner

    I never knew Mike professionally. I only knew him as my neighbor. The guy who would come and go quietly, who took pride in his home, his yard, his life, and always seemed glad to wave and say hi. My favorite memory of him was when I asked him to help me reassemble the pumps for my very large fish tank. I could tell it was the LAST thing he wanted to do. I can only imagine what thoughts entered his mind as he wrinkled his nose, but he then smiled and said “Sure”. As far as I was concerned, he could do no wrong from that day forward. Jean…..I am so sorry…I know this was not what the two of you had planned.