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CultureShock! Why Ken Hoffman left the Chronicle for CultureMap — in his own words

CultureShock! Why Ken Hoffman left the Chronicle for CultureMap

Ken Hoffman
Ken Hoffman is a CultureMap kind of guy. Photo courtesy of MikeMcGuff.com

Here's why I quit the Houston Chronicle after 22 years at "Houston's leading information source" and joined CultureMap.

A long time ago, a good friend, whose advice I trust, said to me ... "Go where they want you."

That applies to jobs, people, relationships, schools, where you live ... everything. I see so many people knocking their heads against the wall, trying to make things work, when there's no chance of it ever happening.

"Don't want nobody who don't want me, 'cause there's too many fish in the sea." - the Marvelettes.

Plus I'm up for a new challenge.

I was not unhappy at the Chronicle. I liked it there. Best job I ever had. Some co-workers thought I was "Teacher's Pet" even. They let me do what I wanted, I had freedom to write what I wanted. I had a close friendship with the managing editor, Vernon Loeb. We used to go to the tennis matches at River Oaks Country Club and Astros games at Minute Maid Park. We're still going to do that. More "Ken Hoffman New York Hot Dogs" at the ballpark!

The Houston Chronicle was my dream job.

Until something dreamier came along. At least better for me: the offer to join CultureMap.

Obviously CultureMap is not as big or mighty or influential as the established Houston Chronicle. It will take some time to stop thinking of myself as "... from the Houston Chronicle."

But I'm thinking of the advantages of working for CultureMap now. I am bringing my column over intact — with some added nonsense. I have some ideas that will fit CultureMap's personality better than the Chronicle.

I'm still going to do weekly fast food reviews and the homeless pet feature. Still going to review concerts and write silly columns about life in Houston. Maybe bring back my Sunday letters column.

Nothing is going to change ... except more.

It's not like I'm diving into unchartered waters. The editor-in-chief of CultureMap is Clifford Pugh. I know him. For several years, I sat next to Clifford at the Houston Post before it closed. I don't like to brag, but the Post was the biggest newspaper ever to fold in the U.S. I like to think I was a big part of that.

Clifford and I used to answer each other's phones. I think both of our ears are still ringing from that. CultureMap? CultureShock!

Clifford and his husband, John, often eat Thanksgiving dinner at my house. When my son was born, they brought two gifts to the baby shower: a copy of Playboy Magazine and a copy of Blue Boy magazine. Clifford said, "It depends which way it turns out for the kid."

The ladies of West U just loved that. One day their blood pressure will return to normal.

I also know David Gow, the owner of CultureMap and radio stations ESPN 97.5 FM and KGOW SB Nation 1560 AM. Ten years ago, to put money in my son's college fund, I hosted a show on 1560. I think the FCC is still listening to tapes and figuring out the fines.

So I'll be around people I know, the CultureMap people, the radio guys, and I'll still be writing about Houston. It's funny, when you grow up in New Jersey, Houston and Texas are so exotic, like a whole other planet.

Now I have Houston in my heart. I love visiting schools on Career Day. I loved when Katie Couric came here to do a feature on Houston and asked to interview me, of all people. I loved hosting the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree. I look forward to eating everything on a stick at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. One of these days, I'm going to get cowboy boots.

This appeals to me: people will be able to read my column online at culturemap.com for free. No paywall, no subscription necessary, no minimum stories per month, no jumping through hoops.

I don't write columns for my health. I would like people to read them. At CultureMap, it will be easier and cheaper for readers. I just have to get the word out. I'll figure something.

So that's why I left the Chronicle for CultureMap. There were no hard feelings at the Chronicle. I'm not a disgruntled former employee. In fact, I am probably the most gruntled ex-Chron person in Houston. I will miss working there.

I just saw a better opportunity and took it.


Ken Hoffman is unpacking his bags and sharpening his social media skills the rest of this week. His next column and other features will appear in CultureMap beginning Monday, May 22. 

Ken Hoffman can be reached at ken@culturemap.com or on Twitter: @KenCultureMap. To have all CultureMap stories, including Ken's columns, delivered to your inbox in one Daily Digest every morning, sign up here