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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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D Magazine’s Zac Crain climbs the journalism ladder

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Zac Crain working at his desk at D Magazine.
Dylan Drury
Zac Crain working at his desk at D Magazine.

Zac Crain has written a lot of stories during 17 years as a writer and editor at D Magazine. His favorite — and one of the most difficult to research — was a profile on DJ Sober published in February of this year.

Will Rhoten, aka DJ Sober, is exactly what he sounds like — a sober Dallas DJ. Crain followed DJ Sober around to multiple gigs, staying out until early in the mornings to get just the story he wanted.

“It was a lot of leg work, I had to hang out at the bar from 7 p.m. to 2 or 3 in the morning. But the writing came really easy, so I knew I had something there.”

When Crain feels good about a piece, he is very confident when turning it in to his editors.

“Usually, a story that long would take me about four days, but this one was really quick to write, only about two and a half days,” Crain said. “I felt good when it was done, I knew I didn’t have to change anything. I was really confident when I turned it into my editor.”

A current executive senior editor at D Magazine, Crain has worked his way up the journalism ladder. Crain has been pivotal at D Magazine, where he is responsible for serious, in-depth features, while also writing and editing the features and columns section of the magazine.

Aileen Jimenez, the research editor for D Magazine who works under Crain, is appreciative of his leadership.

“Under his [Zac’s] leadership, our team is in a healthy, collaborative environment where everyone is equally a part of the machine,” Jimenez said.

Crain is a two time finalist for Writer of the Year by the City and Regional Magazine Association. He was also the winner in Best Profile category in 2020. Not only that, but he is an author of three books, Black Tooth Grin, A Pedestrian’s Recent History of Dallas, and I See You, Big German. Crain is a Dallas local, and a journalism pro.

The 2020 award came from Crain’s article titled, “Ernest McMillan Continues His Life Long Fight.” This article is focused on civil rights activist Ernest McMillan, who caught the attention of many in Dallas and beyond.

Crain writes about everything: from Dallas’s best pizza to book recommendations to his “Leading Off” sports column. When asked how Crain comes up with his story ideas, he emphasized how his ideas come from reading other things.

“Reading the paper or paying attention to what is going on, you know. I have been doing it for a long time so some of it comes from either sources I have met along the way, or if people bring up something to me. A lot of times it’s stuff that I am interested in,” Crain said. “I do a lot of profiles, so I take a bigger thing and kind of look at it through someone else’s perspective.”

A regular piece usually takes Crain up to four days to write, but could most definitely take longer if he is “struggling” on that specific piece.

Crain is a native of West, Texas, which ironically is located in central Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1996, where he spent two years. Crain moved to Dallas in 1998, and has not left since.

He has worked at D Magazine for 17 years, but before starting there, he was a music editor and staff writer for the Dallas Observer, and an associate editor for American Way Magazine, before it ceased publication in 2021.

Micaih Thomas, an editorial intern at D Magazine feels inspired while working with Crain.

“Working with Zac and the editors at D Magazine has helped me hone in on my niche in my craft,” Thomas said. “Working in the heart of Dallas with the editors is inspiring. It has been a process of refining my voice as well.”

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