Texas Monthly famously employs full-time experts to cover barbecue and tacos, but what’s less well-known is that we also retain a critter editor. That’s not her formal title, because she works on a wide variety of stories about the outdoors and other topics. But if you see us publish an article about a woman who punched a shark in the nose or about the elusive wild cat known as a jaguarundi or the scorpion-spider hybrid that’s been called a “land lobster from hell,” odds are that Rose Cahalan had a hand in it. Texans seem to share her passion for the state’s wildlife, as these stories attract an avid readership.

Rose grew up in Pennsylvania but earned a degree in literature at Rice University and never looked back. She worked at the University of Texas alumni magazine, and then at the Texas Observer as its managing editor. She joined TM in 2020 and recently took on two big new roles—the most important being a mom to her first child, the healthy and handsome August Henry Cahalan.

Around the same time, she earned a promotion to senior editor. Among her recent triumphs, she shepherded the Tex-Mexplainer series, written by taco editor José R. Ralat, which in June won an award from the James Beard Foundation, which oversees the nation’s most prestigious prizes for food writing. Rose also edited her first cover story for TM, in our June issue, about a South Texas woman who broke a record for the most species of birds spotted in a single year.

Also earning a recent promotion to senior editor is Ben Rowen, who
helps fellow senior editor Bob Moser direct our coverage of news and politics. Ben and Bob have had their hands full this year with midterm elections, various Supreme Court thunderbolts, and the tragic mass shooting in Uvalde. For our June print issue, Ben deftly edited Sonia Smith’s investigation of a fundamentalist church group that has used child labor in its dangerous East Texas sawmill. But Ben specializes in relatively quick-turn stories for our website, which is an especially difficult balancing act at TM.

We’re not in the business of straightforward news reporting about, say, a press conference by the governor or the discovery of migrants left to die in an overheated truck. The Texas Tribune and the daily papers do an admirable job on those breaking events. Our challenge is to report timely stories in a manner that gives readers more than what they’re getting elsewhere. We do so by delivering exclusive reporting, telling the story through a key character or scene, or adding analysis and context that draws on deep expertise and sourcing. Meeting that challenge is where Ben excels, along with the seven other members of our news and politics team.

As a former Californian, Ben also excels as an interpreter of the sometimes-curious folkways of the hordes who have rushed here from the Golden State, in search of cheaper housing, lower taxes, and superior Mexican food. He mainly assigns and edits stories, but he also writes occasionally, primarily about politics but also about, say, his enthusiasm for kayak polo or his “skiing” trip to Mount Aggie, on the campus of Texas A&M. Ben is a font of interesting ideas, but we do occasionally have to drop a lasso on him. (He recently pitched a ridiculous screed in favor of moving my San Antonio Spurs to Austin.)

Ben previously worked at the Pacific Standard, where he collaborated with a writer named Jack Herrera, who was then a freelancer based in California but had South Texas roots. Jack specialized in coverage of immigration and Hispanic politics and culture, and Ben enlisted him to write our cover story last October, examining why more Tejanos are voting Republican. We admired Jack’s work so much we hired him on staff.

You won’t see Rose’s work for a few months while she focuses on her newborn son, but I hope you get the chance to read the news and politics coverage that Ben, Jack, and the rest of our team produce, in print and online. 

This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Critters and Californians.”  Subscribe today.

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