CRMA’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award

CRMA’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award

LSC Communications

Milton W. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award

Wick Allison 

D Magazine

It is difficult to imagine Dallas with out D Magazine. Or more specifically, the red and white “D” that dominates the downtown skyline, restaurants, doctors’ offices, smartphones, and newsstands all over town. Recently a third grade teacher in Dallas asked her class to draw pictures of their hometown. Seven of the children drew the D logo.

Wick founded D Magazine in 1974. He was 24 years old when he hit the streets to raise capitol and only after 68 failed sales presentations did he convince a few young monied entrepreneurs to back him in his endeavor. And, then there was Stanley Marcus. Wick convinced Mr. Stanley (as he was universally known) to send a personal letter to 200,000 Neiman Marcus charge-card holders with an invitation to subscribe to an as-yet-unpublished city magazine. 20,000 responded at $20 each, charged to their card, and D Magazine was born.

In 1980, he and then-girlfriend Christine Peterson moved to New York City to pursue national titles; he purchased SPORT Magazine and later bought and re-vamped Arts & Antiques Magazine into a sophisticated, over-sized publication, shocking the art world by publishing commentary by non-academics, such as John Cheever, John Updike, James Michener, and William F. Buckley. In 1988, after serving on William F. Buckley’s board, Wick accepted his offer to become publisher of his deficit-ridden National Review. Wick took the publication into the black, a first in the history of American political journals. He subsequently wrote multiple nonfiction books including the re-release of The Bible as Living Literature, joining the very exclusive ranks of people who have actually edited the Bible, and the only non-theologian who had the temerity to do so.

In 1995, Wick and Christine, now married with four young daughters, returned to the city he loved, and reclaimed the magazine he founded. D Magazine had turned to mush under the corporate ownership of American Express, and the brand was nearly worthless. A few attention-getting cover stories changed that, most memorably, at least to the Allison family who were trying to make new friends in their new neighborhood of Highland Park, was the cover boldly headlined, “Who Ruined Highland Park?” Large photos of their neighbors’ homes were published as examples of bad taste in new construction. For a few years following that the carpool line and PTA meetings were uncomfortable places for an Allison to be.

Of course, Wick’s lack of the pleaser gene was not reserved for neighbors. Over the years, the company has forfeited millions of advertising dollars because he backed his editors on stories that stepped on toes or ridiculed hypocrisy and condemned waste. It was Wick’s willingness to stake a position, popular or not, that rebuilt the D brand and restored it as the dominant leader in the city’s civic conversation. In 2000, the company was up on its feet, and invested in the founding of D Home followed by D Weddings, DCEO and other ancillary publications, broadening the company’s reach and market share.

In 2003, D was the first Dallas media outlet – at Wick’s insistence – to launch a daily blog, FrontBurner, which still generates traffic. D Magazine Partners now own two award-winning local community newspapers, Park Cities People, and Preston Hollow People, and D Custom, a custom content agency that services Fortune 1000 companies across the country with print and digital services. D had 5 million page view per month, and a dedicated audience who rely on it for informative, trusted, and bold editorial both online and off. But the company’s greatest asset is and has always been its staff and culture, each employee knows why they come to work each day – to make Dallas an even better place. Whether it is to celebrate the best hamburger, or help an advertiser build his business, or call out corruption at City Hall, the D team is there to make our city better.

To that end, Wick, who just turned 70, two years ago stepped down as D’s editor-in-chief so he could operate as a more hands-on civic player. In 2015, to his editor’s raised eyebrows he founded Super PAC, The Coalition for a New Dallas, which promotes bold thinking about urbanism and development and is housed in D’s offices. The Coalition has reshaped Dallas’ City Council and Dallas’ conference rooms are now scenes of policy debates and decisions being made among highway agencies, local officials, business leaders, and urban studies experts. The editors avert their eyes and cover their ears, and just as often as not, unwittingly write scathing critiques of what is happening several feet from their cubicles. Wick wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wick on the Forming of CRMA

“Before we launched D Magazine, my invertors pointed out one flaw: I did not know the slightest thing about running a magazine. So I went to the people who did. The founders of our industry ­– Clay Felker of New York, Herb Lipson of Philadelphia, Ed Self of San Diego – were generous enough, and perhaps amused enough, to lead me through the steps of starting a city magazine.

Later I would benefit enormously from the counsel of the likes of Phil Merrill of Washingtonian, Pat Matthews of Mpls.-St.Paul, Milt Jones of Palm Springs, John Carroll of Chicago, and David Lipson of Philadelphia and Boston.

It seemed to me that we could all benefit from more than the occasional visit and phone call. In the late 70’s, I proposed to Herb Lipson that since we were non-competitors we should share our financial information, not to learn each other’s numbers but to compare ourselves against each other’s metrics. He laughed at me, as he tended to do, but a few years later we tried it. It turned out to be useful. Afterwards, somebody suggested we should all meet somewhere. I recall a surprising turnout of twenty people. The first meeting was so productive that we decided to meet again. The CRMA was born.” – Wick Allison