This Just In: Morning News Sucks Up to Mayor!

Categories: Schutze

RawlingsGrowSouthDARt.JPG
Mayor Mike Rawlings could be driving the train. Or he could be under the train. We don't know that yet.
Scott Goldstein, who's still new at covering City Hall for The Dallas Morning News, had a piece in the paper a week ago that expressed the longstanding Morning News strategy for new beat reporters, which is pretty much the opposite of the strategy at places where I have worked. He wrote a glowingly kissy-face portrayal of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, calling him maybe the city's "most transformative mayor" since the late J. Erik Jonsson, who was elected in 1964.

The story provided almost no argument for why Rawlings is so great and seemed to be based mainly on all the attention Rawlings was about to garner from two big national conventions here, one for urbanologists (there's a big constituency) and the other for mayors (often otherwise known as "persons of interest").

The term of art here is hagiography. A story like this is supposed to lull the subject into a sense of security with the new reporter on the beat, presumably so the reporter can slip in close to him later and come up with the good stuff. It's based on the belief that people tell reporters things because they like them.

At places where I have plied the trade, the assumption has always been the opposite, that nobody really likes a good reporter, even their editors, and that there is no good stuff to be gotten by being liked. That approach has always been to hit the subject in the gut early with the toughest honest story you can get on him and hope it teaches teach him some respect. The different approaches are a cultural matter within the business. I don't pretend to know who's right.

But since Goldstein has already entered the hagiographic version into the record, I do feel compelled to offer the counter-balance, not because I have anything against Rawlings but merely because I think there's way too much sugar in that cup and somebody needs to pour in a bit more tea.

First of all, J. Erik Jonsson was one of the great failures in Dallas history, a rich simpleton who thought history was about airports and highways, utterly failing to notice race, class, inclusiveness, open doors or the level playing field. The best Jonsson story is about the night the Reverend Peter Johnson and a small band of civil rights activists bluffed out bomb threats in the basement of Mark Herbener's Mount Olive Lutheran Church, emerged the next morning and forced Jonsson to put their biggest rabble-rouser in a convertible with him in the Cotton Bowl Parade. It was such a dramatic victory because Jonsson had been so stubbornly arrogant in refusing to meet with black property-owners getting eminent domained off their land (sound familiar?).

The city's deepest and most difficult problems today come directly from the belief of shallow arrogant men like Jonsson that highways and airports made a city, not people. He may have been a business genius, but politically, socially and morally he was a fool, and we continue to pay a price for his foolishness.

As for Rawlings, before we count the balance entirely in his favor, we do need to add up some of his more signal failures since taking office, a list that begins shortly after his election with so-called "flow control." Flow control, a trash-hauling scheme Rawlings pushed hard for, was ultimately exposed in court to be an enormous scam built on what a judge called lies, not to mention a million-dollar payoff in city funds that Rawlings directed to a helpful clergyman.

We should mention also the issue of gas drilling in parks, an imbroglio in which Rawlings and former City Manager Mary Suhm tried to cover up a secret deal to turn the city's parks over to the frackers. Or we could talk about his utter failure to get to the bottom of the Yellow Cab/Uber scandal, even though he spent $50,000 in city money paying somebody else to get to the bottom of it for him.

What about the succession of A.C. Gonzalez, a City Hall insider, as city manager after Rawlings let it be known he wanted new blood in the post? Is there more? What about the failed charter review effort? The failed redistricting reform effort? The public school "home rule" effort, which looks more like a "Three Stooges" episode with every passing day?

I'm not anti-Rawlings. He has enormous strong points. He's not at all the kind of remote arrogant jerk we used to have for mayors around here, and I do not buy the criticism that his tough public postures on things like domestic violence are self-serving. I sense the same thing I think most people get from him at those moments -- that he's a strong, smart man and a good guy saying things that need to be said. I agree he may have a political future beyond this burg if he wants it.

This is more about the News. When it comes to coverage of the power structure in Dallas, that place is always going to be the sugar shack. I just wanted to help you clear your palate.

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28 comments
DallasGal
DallasGal

And why didn't they report on the Mayor's latest fub of giving known pedophile and violent child abuser defender, Barbara Van Duyne, an award - issued by her law firm's founder no less?  Love how Republicans are getting into pro-pedophile and violent child abuse now.  I guess basic rape isn't enough.

blevy6
blevy6

The DMN has always been the "in-house" newletter of the Citizen's Council and Chamber of Commerce, etc.  But over the past few years it has gotten to the point where the paper is all but unreadable.  It's not about journalism with these folks, it's about "branding." There are very few real journalists working for the paper these days.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

I read Goldstein's article as part of a planned, full court press by the business community to convince an unenthused Mayor to run for re-election. Other recent articles in DMN and elsewhere are using the "legacy" carrot.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Think you're selling Ole Erik short; airports and highways are important and it was 1964 after all.   You do remember 1964 don't you; the age of enlightenment was just beginning.  As mayors and cities go, seems he was doing better than a lot others.


paulbwilliams
paulbwilliams

like Chad said I am dazzled that some people can make $5115 in 1 month on the internet . look at this now



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> WWW.Jℴbs75.ℂOM

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

There was a punctuation error, now corrected:


This Just In: Morning News Sucks. Up to Mayor!

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

For anybody new to the city who has read a few of Jim's more thoughtful pieces and wonder why he is working for a rag one step above the Greensheet...


Read the article above and wonder no more...

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I don't know how the city can have a great mayor under the current system.  The mayor is simply a public relations figure "raising issues".  He doesn't do anything except get medieval on South Side car washes.  The old system really had a corporate type running a council staffed by the Citizens Council, another group of corporate types.  If the CC agreed, then the discussion was done.  Mr. Jonsson worked the CC, not the city.  Today, Mr. Jonsson  would not be any better mayor than Mr. Leppert was, i.e., pretty bad.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

In summation: Tolerable mayor, better chance at higher office than the last guy - what was his name, again?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

If Jerry Jones owned a newspaper, it would be run like the Dallas Morning News.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RobertStinson

That sounds pretty smart to me. I bet you're right. Tell you what, if he really won't do it, tell the business guys I might be available. I'm going to need quite a bit of incentive under the table, including maybe  a membership in the Dallas Country Club with a major paid up tab in the dining room. Of course I will want to spend a good deal of time visiting with them in their own homes. I might even be willing to conduct some political reeducation seminars for their children, no parents invited. Think that will build a fire? 

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com This reminds me that contrary to popular belief Rawlings has never held a "CEO" job. His largest job was Pizza Hut where he was the head of a business unit, not the head of the company. It should also be noted that most his "employees" actually worked for franchises. Rawlings' focus and expertise are marketing and balance sheets, not running operations or interacting with shareholders.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

@PlanoDave Because of Jim were are at least two steps above the Greensheet.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@MikeWestEast I view a Dallas mayor's success on three things: intent, how they use the bully pulpit and balancing the demands of the business establishment and voters. All-in-all, Rawlings has done a pretty good job on the first two with mixed results on the third. 


Using this criteria on Leppert one would identify the worst mayor in Dallas' recent history; especially the "intent" criteria.

brock81
brock81

@TheCredibleHulk


True, Rawlings is a Mayor that has accomplished very very little. The best thing about Rawling's is he hasn't been caught in some illegal scandal. That is pretty good for Dallas Texas, but isnt saying much for Mayors of Top Ten Cities in the U.S. But seriously, should we expect much more from an Executive of an Ad company and a Pizza Company that paid off blacks in the South to make him the Mayor?  

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@holmantx

Corollary: If the DMN had a football team, it would be run very much like the NFL's Cowboys.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

I hope that facile plaint is NOT an exhortation to quit complaining and giving a shit about official wrongheadedness.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

The DCC food sucks. Taco Cabana is better.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@JimSX @Sotiredofitall  Just think you should consider things in the context of the time they occurred 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@joe.tone @PlanoDave apples and taquitos, I'd say.  I don't look for an apartment in the Observer, and wouldn't think of looking for a hoo--- er, escort, in the Greensheet.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@joe.tone @PlanoDave

I think when the Greensheet is judged according to its mission, it's a pretty damn fine publication. They just don't happen to need a negative columnist who offends even his neighbors. At least that's what they tell me every time I call over there.

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