Dear Morning News: We Hope This Finds You Well. Where Have You Been All These Years?

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Dallas Morning News managing editor George Rodrigue has lambasted me in his most recent "Ask the Editor" column for having lambasted the News in a column here two weeks ago.

Now I have to lambaste him back. Whole lotta lambastin' goin' on. Anyway, I share with you this open letter I am sending him in response:

George: I read your missive to me yesterday with mixed emotions. I will get to your usual laundry list of accusations in a moment. But before we go at it, let me say this. I have this eerie feeling that you and I have become odd Internet pen pals over the years, firing off letters across the electronic ether as if we were bitter cousins separated by the tides of war and time, sending letters to each other by sea in the 19th century. Maybe the 18th century even.

Now, let's get down to business. At the top of your letter, you describe me as a liar. You provide two links as evidence. One is to an old contretemps we had four years ago in which I claimed your newspaper had never provided readers with coverage about a certain academic who had certain theories about the Katrina flood in New Orleans. My assertion was that you didn't want Dallas readers to know about this guy, because his theories might have had a certain impact on the Trinity River Project debate.

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Hi, George.
I based my accusation on a private database search of Morning News coverage. You pointed out that your newspaper had re-published a number of stories from other newspapers mentioning this academic, and that those re-published stories did not appear in my private database search because you only send your own stories to that database.

Let's settle this one now and I hope for all time. You are right. I was wrong. It was stupid of me to search that one database and then make a categorical accusation based on what I found. I want to come back to this point in a moment, but not to dispute you on the core issue.

The next link you provide to prove me a liar leads into a swamp of bad Internet links, mainly about things you say you have said in the past. Please allow me me spot you one on this: You claim that your newspaper over the years has published stories containing criticism of the Trinity River Project and the plan to build a major high-speed highway out in the flood zone between the levees.

I'll give you that one too. I am sure that by carefully combing through all of the stories ever published by The News over the years, one can find a quote here, an interview there, the occasional paragraph containing criticism of or caution about the project.

But here is the problem, George: You're sort of up against it. The larger shape of what your newspaper has done with several of these big stories -- the Inland Port, for example -- is there for everyone to see, carved in stone. This isn't a game of technical gotcha.

You want to argue that The News has always been even-handed in its treatment of the SALT Group story, in which a group of associates of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price's asked Richard Allen, main developer of a vast new shipping and warehouse complex, for $1.5 million and a 15-percent ownership in his privately held company. After Allen refused, Price launched a campaign of opposition to the project. We all know now that the FBI is looking into the SALT Group imbroglio and probably has been for some years.

Your newspaper continues to report as fact that the SALT Group asked to purchase its 15 percent equity. But Allen has never supported that story. The language of SALT's own proposal and subsequent statements by Price can be interpreted to mean that they wanted the 15-percent share given to them for free in exchange for political peace.

It's a point in contention, George. We really don't know the answer, do we? But reporting as fact in your news columns that the SALT people were willing to pay for a 15-percent equity is a considerable gift of credibility that you bestow on them every time your news columns repeat it.

Your editorial page has been around and around the block on this, and I know that you can go back and glean instances where the page has said things supportive of Allen. But this is the one I remember best, taken from an editorial that ran October 27, 2008. Speaking of Allen, The News editorial said, "Harder to grasp is his significant trust issue with everyone at every level of government who wants to make sure sound public policy supports private enterprise.

"Mr. Allen might see enemies behind every tree, but it's time he realized that the city of Dallas, among others, already has invested significant public funds in the inland port."

In other words, you painted Allen as paranoid.

This is a man who brought his own money to town, bought more than 5,000 acres of land and offered to create 60,000 well paid, environmentally friendly jobs in Southern Dallas. Any other city in this nation would have rolled out the red carpet, called out the buglers and done a Blue Angels fly-over for him. But you supported Price and called Allen paranoid because he was tired of getting the arm put on him.

You know, George, as I re-read my little sheaf of letters from you over the years, I pick up a tone. For example, you always call me a liar. In one epistle, you used the cliché about wrestling with a pig (you get dirty, pig likes it).

I don't feel that way about you. I know you to be a person of honor, a man of your word and a fine journalist. But the tone I hear when I scan what you've written about me and my newspaper over the years is shrill, bordering on manic.

It's because you are making a claim that is absurd, George. Everyone can see where your newspaper has been and where it has not been on these major local stories. You are offering paragraphs -- scraps of paper -- to argue against the plain evidence of our eyes. It's strange, almost like someone who sees enemies behind every tree, George.

Tell me this. Why didn't your newspaper get out front of the SALT Group/Inland Port story? Don't give me technical instances of objectivity. This has always been a huge story for Dallas. Why didn't you put together a team, break out the armaments and kick some ass on it?

Don't give me wire stories to prove that you quoted the Katrina professor a few times. Why didn't out get out front of the flood-control story in Dallas? The underlying criticism of the Trinity River Tollway has always been that it flies in the face of state-of-the-art global knowledge of flood control. Why are you publishing wire stories inside the A section about it? Why not attack this story yourself, head-on?

And what about Commissioner Price? In the last two years his bullying and greed have been apparent for all to see, and especially to anyone reading the Observer. But your readers, on the day of the raid, based on what you last told them about Price in your news columns, were still remembering the words of reporter Scott Parks: "What most people don't see is his day-to-day dedication to improving county government."

This isn't a game of trivia, George. It doesn't matter that you got some answers right a while back, that you can unearth a handful of scraps when you decide it's once again time to quibble. This is about one thing: Where were you?

Rodrigue's comments about me were bundled with some things he had to say in defense of The News's Parkland coverage, which has been stellar beyond compare. It goes to show what knock-out work the paper can do when it wants to ... and what happens when it doesn't want to.

OK, you owe me a letter now. As always, I will be watching for the mail ship to arrive in the harbor, wondering if it brings word from you. Oh, it's so romantic, isn't it?


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40 comments
richard schumacher
richard schumacher

Dallas needs a daily newspaper.  Who wants to pay money to read a house organ?

nailemup
nailemup

Excellent point!   Where were they?  In fact, where are they now?  And where are YOU now?  You know way more than you're reporting and it is stuff that DFW desperately needs to know.  If people really want to know what's going on in our state, they need to read the blogs and papers in the UK.  The sell-out of the press is almost as big a scandal as what the perpetrators have done.  But you know that ;-)  

DMNhasbeen
DMNhasbeen

Dallas Morning News needs to go. Deckard and his cronies are part of the problem. I havent read the DMN for months now, since they started this pay-wall thing. They are becoming irrelevant while trying to create a pay system. Wow, great business model. 

I will stick with the DO, for the real stories, I can trust.

W W
W W

__________ONE WORD CHALLENGE______________.Last week, I racked my brain tying to find something that would describethe way TDMN  " is".I couldn't quite pinpoint it. I also had a strange urge to go read what Mr. Dealey had scribbled on the front of TDMN downtown building as a "mission statement"..So, I went and looked.. And there, low and behold.. was the ONE WORD  I had sought..

The problem is, with their day to day dealings.. ( deciding what is, and what isn't important to this city.. manipulating the public to  suit their agenda..etc.)the path of  "Righteousness" is getting dimmer, instead of brighter..

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

Everyone knows DMN covers and sugar coat Price and Co.Price and Co.caused the Jail problem refusing to budget money for Bowles to do improvements,they hired UTMB for jail health against Bowles objection DMN made Bowles the bad guy,look what happen UTMB ruin jail health and charged 3x more money.Price and Co.controlled IT department look what happen when he and Cantrell would not follow recommendation of Expert Million in damage.I could go on and on not enough space.DMN helped this Monster grow by not informing the Public of what they knew was going on a Dallas County. 

Laura
Laura

As a new transplant to Dallas, this just decided where I'll get my news.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

 I was an every day subscriber to the DMN until the New York Times put up a pay wall. Almost every bit of international and national news in the DMN was a two day later reprint from the NYT, so I figured my money should go to the paper that actually reported the news as opposed to the one that just belatedly printed it.  

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Watch out Jim, giving all this attention to George, you're going to make Tim Rogers jealous.

He might just,  .  .  .oh, stamp his feet, hold his breath, or even say something mean about you on his blog.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

"Hit dog howls."

It's a real sore spot with them, remember when The DMN pulled and trashed an entire early edition because it had a picture of a opponent of the Trinity Project on the front page?

They, at The DMN don't, but I do.

Likeicare
Likeicare

I haven't read the Dallas Morning News in years, because it doesn't have any news.

Ed D.
Ed D.

Reading this, all I can hear is Dan Hill singing "Sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much..."

Ellen
Ellen

Fantastic rebuttal, Jim!

My vote counts !!
My vote counts !!

 I won't waste my time with DMN.. It's certainly not worth paying for..

Mountain Creek
Mountain Creek

...and these are just the 'big' issues.  Multiply it by a hundred to cover the 'little' issues that affect small communities within the big city.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Here Here! Damn fine job Jim. I still want to know why the DMN back in 2007, 2008, never published one story about the city getting into the gas business by accepting $34 million without discussion. Mayor Skelotor handled that one with George's boss. Then what about the $880 million water pipeline that is being built from Lake Palestine to Joe Pool then hooked up to Bachman Treatment Plant. This is a huge story and only the Star Telegram reported it. Funny how with recent events, DMN gets all sanctimonious about our environment, Parkland, and South Dallas. All low hanging fruit. That's HP People newspaper stuff. They have the staff to do the job, but somehow it just never gets done. Oh for the days of the Dallas Times Herald.Whatever happened to that paper?

mightcan
mightcan

I think you are very very wrong. For any of this to be true, the DMN would have to be considered a journalistic enterprise steeped with an investigative mission. Now, say you wrote this about journalists higher up the professional food chain than DMN, say like those at TMZ.

lorlee
lorlee

As someone who helped lead the opposition on the Trinity 13 years ago, Belo never was willing to report the whole thing -- reporters took their names off stories because they were distorted, TV reporters told me that there stories were closely monitored. 

And the real crux of the Trinity is "who benefits?"  The DMN was never willing to tackle that story.  So in my mind, their were the sins of commission, but more damning, the sins of omission for not really digging into a major story that has now plagued us for 13 years costing us untold political capital and hundreds of millions of dollars.  I just came upon the one mail piece we, the opposition, sent out.  The facts on it are still so correct and prescient, it is scary.  The sad thing was that we led in the early vote, and were defeated on election day -- and I have my ideas of how that happened but will just wait for the FBI to complete their investigation.

What is sad about George is that he was such a darn fine reporter who actually got his teeth into things -- my first hand experience was during the Lori Palmer campaign when he investigated the campaign shenanigans of Paul Fielding.  And on that historical note.....

JimS
JimS

The thing I did not say above was this: Rodrigue's comments about me were bundled with some things he had to say in defense of the Morning News' Parkland coverage, which has been stellar beyond compare. It goes to show what knock-out work the Morning News can do when it wants to ... and what happens when it doesn't want to.

James Damron
James Damron

Nothing could be more truthful. A liberal can do no wrong in the eyes of the Dallas Morning News, regardless of the evidence.

Phelps
Phelps

From the linked article:

  On this one, I can’t tell whether Jim’s complaint stems from different facts or from different concepts of mission.

Different concepts of mission, I assure you.  Jim thinks the mission of the News is to report significant facts and events, and George's concept is to protect the interests of Belo.

rubbercow
rubbercow

Jim, why are you wasting your breath on that rag?  They think Tony Romo's wedding is front page news.  I guess if I were a completely vapid celebrity chasing dill-weed I would like the News.....  I never see anything of value in that paper; especially with their pay-wall or dental damn or whatever; they even treat stories that are widely reported elsewhere as their own "special" content.  Let it go, man!

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

I believe they call that a trip to the woodshed.

LisaL
LisaL

Funny, when I read his column on dallasnews.com my thoughts were "manic and paranoid."

engmofo
engmofo

(sits down gets popcorn waits for reply…)

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

Don't buy it.  Steal the DMN off your neighbor's lawn.  This creates problems for DMN because the person calls them to get replacement.  Repeat the action often enough and the neighbor will tire of the inconvenience and cancel their subscription.

Try it--it works!

Heavy Metal Church Lady
Heavy Metal Church Lady

I agree with what you say, but it is always easier to go after middle-level bureaucrats and government money than private wealth and big players. I doubt we'll ever see the same investigative savvy applied to the Trinity River Corridor Project. 

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Please tell me this was supposed to be irony.  But if it wasn't you really must be off your meds.

Lance Rentzel
Lance Rentzel

What?!  How is this partisan politics?  Your insinuation that DMN supports liberal policies and politicians in general is laughable.  Go back to redstate, powerline, brietfart, et al, where the low-information readers can all get their backwards chuckles together.

JimS
JimS

... and this leaves me ...?

Renegade
Renegade

Reminds me of when Jon Stewart went on Crossfire to plead with them to actually report news rather than inciting zealous opposition on issues.  If DMN weren't the only daily paper in town, I would be less concerned about their bias and omissions.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

Kent Boyer
Kent Boyer

Rubbercow - with you 100%. DMN has made themselves irrelevant.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Don't forget The DMN's favorite targeted demographic in Collin County and further north. Where they hate the idea of a public hospital, they don't have one, and dump their sick citizens on Dallas County.

Last time I checked Collin owes Dallas millions and hasn't paid,  wonder why that's not news  at The DMN?

JimS
JimS

So true, so true.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Gotta remember to the Winger Fringe in Dallas anything to the left of John Birch and Jesse Helms is "liberal".

In their mind since the DMN doesn't support capital punishment for Gays and illegals it's "liberal".

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Oh come on JimS, you know the answer.  If the DMN is liberal, you're a card carrying Pinko.

Jay
Jay

 Mexico hasn't paid for its citizens treatment either. Let's nuke both the bastards.

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