Picking Apart The Dallas Morning News' Smug Sense of Its Own Virtue

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Quite a bit of chest-puffing harrumphing holier-than-thou going on over at The Dallas Morning News editorial page today, with a self-congratulatory ditty about that dirty Rupert Murdoch, about those nasty dirty Brit tabloids and about how happy the News is with itself for being ... well ... you know ... just better than all that.

Our city's only daily newspaper tells us today: "Big tabloid headlines, paid-for scandals and page-three photos of semi-nude women might sell newspapers for Murdoch. But if that's what it takes to survive, we'll pass, thank you."

Oh, you're so welcome, you goody-goody two-shoed thing, you.

I'm not actually going to defend hacking the cell phones of murdered children, although I do have to admit that The News' unctuous tone inspires a certain evil temptation in me. Almost.

No, the phone hacking business, not to mention bribing cops and conspiring with politicians, goes too far in the direction of getting the story and getting your way at any cost, but what bothers me is the journalistic sin of going too far in the opposite direction -- deliberately not getting the story and not putting it in front of the readers.

And it strikes me that not getting the story can bring a newspaper to the same slimy slot Murdoch occupies, conspiring with politicians by fooling the readers.

One small example: this huge highway project we still seem to be stuck with called the Trinity River toll road.

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Via.
Covering, sure. Or burying it. Whatever.
When we ignorant slut citizens were allowed to vote on it in 2007, The Dallas Morning News joined the former mayor and a chorus of public works construction moguls in promising us that most of the cost of this wonderful new downtown highway would be covered by the regional toll road agency, not us.

It turned out to be a close election. The highway won. Now four years later the city is waking up to the fact that the highway is disastrously over budget and nobody's around to pay for the billion-dollar over-run, especially not the North Texas Tollway Authority. Nobody but us.

None of this needed to happen. We could have and would have voted the stupid thing down, had we known before the election that the story about the toll road people paying for it was untrue.

Here is my point. Old Mrs. Goody-Goody Dallas Morning News did know. Weeks before the election. She just didn't feel like sharing that knowledge with us ignorant sluts. Until after the election.

The head of the agency had told Michael Lindenberger, The News' toll road reporter, some weeks before the election that the NTTA was not going to come up with the extra money. But The News, a gung-ho news-bending all-out advocate for the road, sat on that story until the day after the election.

I outted them on it at the time, of course.

Two weeks later Morning News managing editor George Rodrigue offered a long, tangled, lawyerly defense of The News' handling of story, blaming it all on Lindenberger but coming to his defense anyway: "... Michael wanted to ensure that readers could put the quotation in proper context, and I respect that. Journalists often must balance speed with thoroughness and self-restraint, as Michael did here."

So there's where your goody-two-shoes no-naked-broads thing actually brings you. They're not just good. They are too good to tell you the truth, especially when that truth might have powerful relevance to ongoing politics and events.

The News acts the way it does as an expression of a deep-running culture within the paper. It has always believed that silence is better than truth when the truth might make trouble. It's motto should be, "All the news we feel like telling you."

The difference is that I have to read a Murdoch Brit tabloid with my eyes half-averted and a big grain of salt in my mouth. To read The Dallas Morning News, I have to put magic disappearing ink powder on it, hold it up to a mirror and maybe call in a cryptologist. Do I like Murdoch's papers better? Maybe not. But at least getting to the truth in them is a whole lot less work than with The News.


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26 comments
DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

And come reelection time, watch the DMN endorse Edwin Flores and the rest of the bunch who were on the DISD school board when the $57 million was spent on hotels/food and when unqualified administrators were paid excessive salaries even though teachers were fired and class counts raised.  

It's so predictable.  Old people show up to vote with the DMN's list of endorsements; no wonder we can't escape corruption and scandal and short-changed kids in spite of the BILLION--with a b--that DISD takes in.

RevB
RevB

But without the DMN, where would I read week-old condensed versions of New York Times stories?

There ya go
There ya go

Timing is everything. Belo shuttered their own version of a news-free tabloid weekly just this afternoon.

TheOtherShoe
TheOtherShoe

You are too kind by alleging they only failed to report. In my opinion they have been bought and conspired to cover up truth that would have protected the public and spewed propaganda intended to further the personal interests of politicians, them and the Star Telegram. If you only knew what else they have helped them do. Maybe you do know. Follow that money. It's always the money. Never the innocent victims who trusted them.

Alan
Alan

To get a non-Trinitarian example of DMN smugness, read yesterday's story on District Attorney Craig Watkins' unwillingness to communicate with the DMN.  I'm not defending his silence--though it might be defensible--but I also don't concur with the DMN's self-identification as the public that elected Watkins.  They have interests, and they reflect those interests.  Sometimes it's a Belo business matter (e.g., pushing a downtown park plan that improves their real estate); other times it's Pulitzer chasing (e.g., trying to destroy Parkland for the prize, without regard to what the hell the unwealthy public does if they succeed).  Journalism may (should!) benefit the public interest, but it isn't the same as the public interest.  And stop whining, DMN!  Half the officials in town don't talk to Schutze, and it doesn't stop him from writing.

Catbird
Catbird

I'm a fan of both DMN and WFAA and have pals who still work at Belo but like any big operation, it can get sort of foggy sometimes. I remember them partnering with Radio Shack to manufacture and market something called "Cue Cat" that was supposed to "converge" print and internet, making the internet accessible to computer illiterates like me and then there was a plan to erect a giant vault over the esplanade at Fair Park to celebrate the New Millennium. Neither of these ideas worked out but the Belo guys took their lumps and kept on swinging.Over the very long run though you'd have to admit that Decherd, Moroney and their management and operating team do a better than average job of offering a high quality, reliable news and entertainment product for a lot of people and they do it every day, not just once a week.And hey, that Gloria Campos is pretty easy on the eyes...

lorlee
lorlee

It wasn't just in 2007 that Belo was complicit in the Trinity matter.  The first time around in 1998 when the vote was even closer, reporters were pulling their bylines because of editorial interference and TV reporters told me that their stories were being edited.  And D Magazine was just as complicit with a special full color section that resembled a campaign piece as their contribution.  At the time, we (the opposition) kept saying it was a $246M boondoggle and that it was a road project.  Well, we were right, but we have wasted 13 years of political capital and untold millions of dollars. 

plfarmer
plfarmer

Jim,Not so hard on the DMN.Dealey ran the Klan out of the city government in 1924.Stood up to Bishop Grahmann, and showed Grahmann and Tscoepe gross negligence in 2002.So lets give them to 2080 to see if they might help thier community once again.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Again, the DMN shows its self-righteous "we know more than you" smugness online and on the printed page, its the same kind of attitude that got the DMN tossed from obamas press corp contingent during the 2008 election and will likely repeat itsself in 2012. I've said this quite a few times concerning the DMN, but they're always behind the curve reporting stories that appear to hit the DO blogs(Unfair Park, Sportatorium) by about a day and a half. Its why people are either leaving or have left for greener pastures at more respectable organizations across the country, not to mention the fact the papers distribution has dropped over the recent past.

Guest
Guest

DMN might want to remember that they've got a few years more to print before they can act like their "clean" brand of news lasted longer than that of News of the World's long stint.

Darren
Darren

I've always thought of the DMN editorial staff as animatronic cyborgs of the Chuck E. Cheese variety that the monster sprouts from its tongue like mushrooms, to lure you closer and deeper into the cave, like those exotic deep sea fish with the wiggly-worm fish pole thingies attached to their jaws. Look! There's a chubby moon-faced one, and a blackish one, and an angular one with an overseas smell, and one that looks just like Mom! Hi, Mom! Hi, Mo(CHOMP!)

Mountain Creek
Mountain Creek

I WISH a local paper would have tapped some local politicians' phones...

Teacher in the OC
Teacher in the OC

It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. Since the News put up the paywall, I've found a new game that amuses me more than reading that piece-of-crap paper ever did: I read the headline and the free paragraph they give you before you hit paywall land, then hope down to read the comments. Within a couple of minutes, I'm usually ablle to piece together a story that a) is as accurate as most of what I have ever gleaned from the News and b) is usually fairly consistent with their snotty, financially-secure, conservative, Christian, white-folk tonality. Fun for the whole family!

Bob
Bob

Speaking of holiier-than-thou, check out out Bob Mong's note on p. 2A of Sunday's newspaper. It was a short missive on how DMN is being Johnny-on-the-spot regarding government corruption.

JimS - I hope you had a chance to read the new D Magazine for Wick's - I mean, Micheal's - sorta mea culpa for selling us the Trinity River Tollway. Of course, he notes that the larger Trinity Project was always meant to be a transportation project.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

JimS, I know you've stated before that Dallas would be better off with the DMN than without it, maybe it's a generational thing or a fellow journalist thing but I just can't come to the same conclusion. At best it's yesterdays news when news today is delivered by the minute and at worst it's an accessory and enabler of the worst lies and deceptions perpetrated by Dallas's bought and paid for politicians against the people of Dallas to the tune of hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars.

SteveT
SteveT

The DMN, instead of this self-righteous posturing, should be admitting fault and asking our forgiveness for their blatant and not-so-blind support of the Trinity Toll Road.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

I always love your posts. I'm glad you're still in the district, which must be a darn hard job. I take slight issue with you about the Board. When do we get real candidates willing to ruin for school board, which is after all, unpaid. I know I wouldn't put up with this thankless job.

JimS
JimS

Cat: the context you offer is not without value (is that back-handed enough for you?). Whenever I travel, I look at regional major daily newpapers, and the News is head and shoulders above most of them.  They do great work. That's why it pains me, as a lifelong newspaper person, to see them chuck all of that overboard and sacrifice their hard-fought credibiity for these local real estate stories.

TinaJ
TinaJ

One can't say enough about Wick Allison's complicity in the Trinity Project Boondoggle. What, did he owe his master, Harlan Crow, a big favor?

Montemalone
Montemalone

But now you can go brown-water rafting on a death defying standing wave.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

If you're gonna talk The DMN's history :

-The DMN's editorial attacking Kennedy before his assassination stained the city's reputations for decades.

-The DMN sat on the "Dollar" Bill Clements SMU "pay-for-play" scandal until he was elected Governor. They had the info and had interviewed Clements well before election day and sat on the story.

-Dallas Police Chief Bolton: Covered up massive incompetence and self dealing. Waited until after he was fired to run a series of well researched stories that had clearly been sitting of the shelf. They detailed incompetence and mismanagement that had been going on for months. They just couldn't bring themselves to admit Mayor Miller was right.

-Mayor Laura Miller: To read the paper while she was Mayor was to think Dallas had no Mayor. Coverage of her was clearly black listed.

-The DMN promoted voter approval of a new arena for the Mavericks while Belo held a 15%, undisclosed, ownership stake.

-The DMN continues even today, to over-look and enable the "tax-exempt" Whites only, no jews, Dallas Country.

Not a particularly proud history.

Darren
Darren

Bill, Jay Hawk, I agree! The DMN editorial columnists don't write what JimS is accusing them of writing, that would make them guilty of writing what JimS is accusing them of writing! The bad stuff JimS is talking about is written by the mysterious monster nobody sees, not those columnists. They don't write anything wrong. They're just nice, thoughtful, approachable and competent holograms, not real people constantly working to mislead their reading public in exchange for a pay check. See? It's all good!

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Although I've disagreed with their positions on the toll road as well as other things, I've always found the individuals on the editorial staff to be very thoughtful, approachable and competent people.

Catbird
Catbird

Yeah Jim, I've never figured that one out except maybe what Grumpy Demo said may be closer to the truth than he knows...about the Kennedy editorial with the thick black border the day before the killing in Dealey Plaza of all places.

Since Mr. Decherd is the grand son of G.B. Dealey, I see him as going out of his way to do what he can to personally make it up to Dallas and the world by doing what we do: Keep The Dirt Flying.

Also, rich people on a mission think differently than the rest of us....   

TheOtherShoe
TheOtherShoe

Is that what you think they are chucking it aside for? Local real estate stories? They chucked aside our free press out of loyalty to the powerful and for money. There are reports this week about another Mexican journalist who was just found decapitated and she was killed because she had been determined to report the truth to the public. DMN and FWST would serve us all much better if they just shut down.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

The fun game to play is to spot the editorials that were written by a board member (98 percent of them) and those sent directly from the Belo Death Star across Young Street. The 2008 "recommendation" of McCain for President immediately comes to mind.

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