Please welcome back for a return engagement, Joe Pappalardo, who takes over as the Observer's editor on December 7.
Longtime readers with good memories — we're pretty sure they exist — will remember Joe from his time as a staff writer here 15 years ago. He recalled us fondly, as he wrote in a letter when he applied for the gig:
“I walked into the office in Dallas in 1999 thinking I was ready to change the city. I was green but no rookie, already having experience as an expatriate newspaper reporter in Mexico, an area reporter in Corpus Christi and a private investigator in New York City. But exposure to the Observer showed me new vistas in reporting, and taught me to avoid the valleys.
“I met staff writers with total leeway and aggressive ambitions. I saw a City Hall in a one-newspaper town reeling from the scathing reporting handed out for free every week. I worked with editors who prized storytelling and could help me build complex, authoritative features with enough reporting. I covered con artist cheats, incompetent city officials, Branch Davidians and teachers. The DA subpoenaed me. I was nominated for a science writing award. The word counts were long and the deadlines never-ending.
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“It was great.”
He broke our hearts that time by heading off to jobs in New York City and Washington, D.C. He was an associate editor for National Defense magazine and associate editor for Smithsonian Air & Space magazine. He spent seven years as the senior editor for news at Popular Mechanics, traveling to Afghanistan, Moscow and French Guiana on assignment and being described by editor-in-chief Jim Meigs as “a powerhouse.” He also authored the nonfiction book Sunflowers: The Secret History, which was described by Entertainment Weekly as a “compulsively readable” account of how sunflowers — yes, sunflowers — have shaped human history.
He came back to Dallas last year to take a job running internal communications for American Airlines, but he's a news-guy to the bone, and now he has come back to us.
So, to add it all up: knows and digs Dallas, reporting/writing/editing fiend who enjoys stirring things up. Yeah, this is going to be good.