By now you’ve probably seen some of the content from our just-published special issue titled “Dallas and the New Urbanism.” We’ve been rolling it out online for a week or so. You can check it out here. And if this is the sort of thing that gets your juices flowing, consider attending our symposium on July 11 at the Dallas Museum of Art.
OK, that said, I wanted to share with you a letter we got from a reader. This arrived yesterday and was written on actual paper. My annotations are in italics, inside brackets.
Congratulations on your special edition of D Magazine. [So far so good. Sounds like we’ve got a fan.] A well-written and presented piece. [Yes!] Sadly I do not agree with your ideas of making four-lane streets into two-lane streets. [Dangit! At least, though, it sounds like we’ve got a civil exchange here. So, tell us, why do you disagree?] Slowing traffic doesn’t make it go away but just increases air pollution. People still need to get from point A to point B, and bikes won’t do it for most people. Mockingbird and Lovers Lane through the Park Cities are good examples of two-lane congestion.
[Fair enough. But we argued that calming traffic can enliven a commercial district. Turn those other lanes into front-in diagonal parking or protected bike lanes. Roads designed to move cars quickly kill city blocks. That was our point. We weren’t talking about residential areas like Mockingbird. And, by the way, do you think those residents along Mockingbird would prefer a faster, four-lane road? I think not.]
I do feel that at least this special edition had some relevance, unlike most of the regular editions that you put out. [See? That hurts.] I receive your magazine for free and I have tried to get your publisher to stop sending it to me. I really don’t want the _____ thing in my mailbox and then recycle bin. Is there any way you can tell someone to take my name off your mailing list?
[The blank underscore was his work, by the way. So he likes our special urbanism issue, even though he disagrees with it. But he hates regular D Magazine. Hard to call this guy a fan. We don’t make a practice of sending free magazines to people, as that can’t legally be counted in our circulation numbers. Though we do maintain a small comp list for certain people. Like my mom, for example. I’m not sure how this fellow made his way onto that list, but he has been removed.]
Despite a last-ditch effort by alumni to preserve the SMU student newspaper’s independence, The Daily Campus will end its print edition and become a part of the university’s journalism department. Friends of Student Media, the alumni group that had raised concerns about the potential for university censorship, was able to raise about $40,000 in a week to try and keep the independent Student Media Company in business.
In a letter sent to SMU President Gerald Turner and journalism faculty at the school, the group says that it was told by members of the company’s board that it was “too late.” The money, and any future donations, will instead “be used to fund annual scholarships for Dallas-area students who plan to study journalism at colleges and universities with independent student presses,” according to the letter.
SMU’s student newspaper will soon become a part of the school’s journalism department—and, some alumni fear, more susceptible to university censorship—unless a campaign to preserve The Daily Campus’ independence is successful.
In January, the university’s student media board voted to shutter the Student Media Company, citing the flagging print readership and declining ad revenue that’s doomed other newspapers across the country. The company, which runs The Daily Campus, a fashion magazine, and the yearbook, also suffered financially from a 2003 decision that made student fees supporting the company optional. As of now, the paper will end its print edition as part of the move under the wing of the journalism department.
A group of alumni, calling itself the Friends of Student Media, is trying to raise $125,000 to fund the paper independently. Jessica Huseman, a spokeswoman for the group and former editor of The Daily Campus, says concerns that the university has a loose definition of freedom of the press are well-founded.
“(The university) has a history of attempting to stifle student voices on that campus,” she says. “If the school is allowed to have financial control over the paper I think that we’ll see that happen more and more often.”
Huseman, now a reporter for ProPublica, says that in the summer of 2011, she worked on an edition of the paper sent to incoming freshmen. The university had oversight of the summer edition, effectively turning it into a “PR tool for the campus.” Administrators rejected Huseman’s editorial, a call for more transparency from the university’s board of trustees. Her replacement editorial, about a lack of financial aid offered to transfer students, was also rejected, she says. A publication on the “100 Things You Should Know About SMU” was shortened to 99 things before it was put in the hands of incoming freshmen.
She also cites a 2013 update to the student handbook, which removed all references to “freedom of speech and the freedom of uncensored student press.”
David Sedman, a member of the student media board, says the school’s journalism department will likely set up an independent board to be a voice for the paper, and to address any potential issues of censorship. The current journalism staff at the university would stand up for the freedom of The Daily Campus, Sedman says. That does depend on the current journalism staff, however.
“There is a legitimate concern that you don’t know who will be there in x number of years from now,” he says, part of the reason an independent board would be crucial.
While acknowledging that much of the work in The Daily Campus is guided by journalism professors working with the journalism students who write for it, Huseman is more skeptical about current faculty support for the paper’s independence. “The journalism professors I’ve spoken with have this really bizarre idea that if the paper is independent, the journalism school can’t help it at all,” she says. And any censorship wouldn’t come from the professors.
Huseman does question why journalism professors haven’t been more outspoken about the paper being absorbed by the university. She thinks it’s connected to what she says has been the paper’s declining quality in recent years.
“I think the journalism school has been openly hostile to The Daily Campus for decades now, and that has infiltrated the student body,” she says. “Journalism students don’t care.”
At one point, the journalism department started an online-only student-run publication, The Daily Mustang, to compete with the student paper, Huseman says. “Nobody censored The Daily Mustang because they weren’t covering any hard-hitting news,” she says, and the online publication merged with The Daily Campus in 2011.
Jake Batsell, an associate professor of journalism at SMU and former faculty adviser to The Daily Mustang, disputes the notion that the Mustang avoided hard news or watchdog journalism. He points to stories that were not favorable to the university, such as news on fraternity suspensions, and to recognition of The Daily Mustang from the Society of Professional Journalists, which awarded students writing for the publication for work that was far from fluff.
A 2012 “First Amendment Award” from SPJ’s Fort Worth chapter, for a series on campus crime and SMU’s compliance with the Clery Act, was shared between The Daily Mustang and The Daily Campus, hardly a sign of an “openly hostile” relationship, Batsell says. There was something of a competition when SMU was a two-newspaper campus, but SMU faculty members are concerned with making sure every student is prepared to be a professional journalist.
“The idea that we don’t care about teaching the students about watchdog journalism and journalistic independence is not accurate,” Batsell says. “All of us have worked in journalism in one form or another over the years.”
There was never any pressure from the university to “steer or spike” coverage while he was advising student publications, Batsell says. Whatever happens with The Daily Campus, student journalists will still be making the calls.
“There’s a real ingrained sense of belief that I have that those students should be making those editorial decisions,” he says.
In an opinion column in The Daily Campus, Tony Pederson, the chair of SMU’s journalism department, waxes poetic about the free press and speech at SMU, and makes a carefully worded assurance:
Economic realities have, sadly, affected virtually every news media organization in the U.S. Student media operations at many universities have been forced to change. Every member of our journalism faculty has at one point worked in professional news media. We are disheartened by the changes but committed to preserving freedom of the press in every facet of the classroom and newsroom.
Huseman says that, with the online GoFund Me and individual donations pledged to a foundation supporting the alumni effort, her group has raised about $40,000. With the last print edition of The Daily Campus due out in May, time is short.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comment from Jake Batsell, associate professor of journalism at SMU.
OK, yesterday, as I do, I used the opportunity that arose when the Dallas Morning News more or less lost all of its Metro columnists (save Robert Wilonsky, with an asterisk) to do my head-fake, wait-it’s-just-dog-names thing. But I felt like we probably should really talk about whom the paper should hire to fill that void, because it is actually, in a way, a great chance to remake the paper.
I don’t have a specific name. If you do, feel free to drop it in the comments. I do have a type of writer I would like to see. To begin with, an actual writer. Someone who doesn’t use one-sentence paragraphs, who leaves me with a line that sticks in my head, who can think and express those thoughts with an economy of language. It is kind of sad this needs to be said, but it does.
It’s OK if that person is an occasional talking head. That’s the nature of the media landscape these days. But the column should be the focus. I want someone who does real reporting. That doesn’t mean one phone call, although that maybe is a step up. Someone with sources. Someone who leaves their desk and goes to see what they’re writing about. That did happen on occasion — when I ran for mayor, for example, Steve Blow came over to my house to interview me — but not nearly often enough. If Wilonsky is handling City Hall business, OK, fine, but there is plenty of other territory left to explore. I want someone who has a take, but a take that is informed by their first-hand reporting. Not just to be contrary or for a good headline.
Ideally, this person would not be white and/or a man. I guess I would settle for just hitting one of those marks. Under 40 would be nice, too. Someone from here or who has lived here more than a few years. Someone who loves the city, but not blindly. Would it kill them to have a sense of humor, too? I hope not.
Maybe the paper will just forego columnists and let their reporters write the occasional column. It seems like they have been exploring that, and if that’s the case, it’s a bad idea based on the small sample size. Mike Wilson has a chance to make a great hire here and reshape his newspaper. I hope he doesn’t blow it.
The Dallas Morning News’ Jacquielynn Floydand James Ragland have left the paper, following a round of layoffs that hit five other employees late last month and the promotion of longtime staffer Keith Campbell to managing editor on March 15.
With the departure of Steve Blow a few years ago, that leaves Dallas County’s paper of record with zero employees identified with the nebulously defined job title of “Metro columnist,” although Robert Wilonsky seems to often get the similar “city columnist” billing. And I suppose anyone remaining on the editorial board, introduced in a March 27 piece that now needs to be updated, could probably start calling themselves “Metro columnists” without getting too much pushback. Just two words that look nice on a business card.
Floyd got to wave farewell this week with an “I’m retiring at 59” column, while Ragland was apparently kept to a Facebook post that makes note, his “last day was March 23, 2018, although the official last day is April 16.” He opted for a “time…to part ways” euphemism, and is “mulling over some interesting opportunities,” both phrases I have heard used to justify bad breakups.
Connect all the above dots—and the Jan. 17 hire of Brendan Miniter as the paper’s new editor of editorials, and the promotion of Grant Moise to be the paper’s well-compensatednew publisher, and the paper’s downsizing move into new offices at the old Dallas library, and the ongoing decline of the newspaper industry—as you will. Onward and upward into the brave new era of digital content.
Brantley Hargrove is a handsome man. As others have noted, he is “muscled, clean-shaven, with Greco-Romanesque locks.” He looks really good in Carhartt. I imagine he looks really good out of it, too.
Maybe that sounds like I’m objectifying him. Let’s start over.
Brantley Hargrove, the sometime D Magazine contributor and former Dallas Observer writer, will publish his first book this month. It is The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras (Simon & Schuster). It’s a really good book. Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Brantley Hargrove is a dreamy hunk of a man who really turns our pages, if you get our meaning.”
That’s not true. I made that up. Here’s the Kirkus review. They called the book “enthralling,” and I agree. I’m not a big meteorology freak, and I don’t care about storm chasing. But Brantley had me hooked the whole way. I was especially impressed with how he was able to describe many storms, and lethal tornadoes in particular, without going purple or getting redundant. Kidding aside, Brantley is a great writer.
That’s why we excerpted his book in the April issue of D Magazine. Have yourself a taste, then go for the full meal. He’s delicious. I mean it’s delicious! The book!
More than likely, Jason Witten is coming back to Cowboys for the 2018 season, once again setting aside for a few months his duties at the Farmers Insurance branch that he manages in Mesquite. Back to breaking open defenses with seam routes while keeping an eye on the grill where he’s “got a little something special for y’all” (it’s corn on the cob) on the sideline.
But should the man who’s been a father of three since he was 8 years old decide to hang it up, Fox is apparently ready to make him part of its Thursday Night Football team. As a longtime Witten observer, I really doubt he will retire, even though he and Tony Romo tend to do things together. But if — big if, like B_G-things-happen-here-sign if — Witten decides to hang it up and become a broadcaster, would he be good at it?
As a male with only a passing interest in cars but a healthy curiosity about television shows produced in and about Dallas, I sometimes find myself watching Fast N’ Loud. If you’ve never heard of it, you probably live a richer, fuller life than I do. But it’s a very popular car show on the Discovery Channel, and it centers on Gas Monkey Garage, which is over near I-35E and Walnut Hill, not too far from SpeedZone. So when one of the show’s main characters, the magnificently bearded Aaron Kaufman, left Fast N’ Loud and started his own Discovery show, to be filmed in a garage not far from the Design District, I decided to commit journalism. The story went online today, and you can get you some of that right here. But here’s a super bonus FrontBurner-only piece of artisanal content for you:
The picture you see above was taken by yours truly. To the left of the frame, you see D Magazine’s staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin. As is her wont, she made the photo shoot much harder than it needed to be (and got a result much better than it would have been). If a subject is prepared to sit for a portrait in her workplace, for example, Elizabeth might instead convince her to climb into a jon boat and motor out to the center of White Rock Lake, which actually happened once. I was there.
So it went with Aaron Kaufman. After I interviewed him at his Arclight Fabrication, Elizabeth was supposed to shoot him there. She instead talked him into dragging one of his hotrods out to the levees for an al fresco shoot at sunset. Getting permission to do this from two departments at Dallas City Hall was, as you might imagine, a slightly complicated process. But Kaufman was kind to go along with the idea, and everything went off without a hitch (except for the part where a gust of wind blew over a huge light, which I caught with one hand while holding a $1,000 lens in the other).
Anyway, read the story. If you aren’t one of those people who lead rich, full lives, it’s worth your time.
Mark Davis is a right-wing radio host and frequent contributor to the Dallas Morning News’ op-ed page. When it comes to local Trump supporters, only First Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress could challenge Davis’ media footprint. His gross missteps bear scrutiny.
Here’s the piece that was printed in today’s paper. Davis went on a humanitarian mission to Haiti and wrote about what he experienced. All well and fine. He’s to be commended for his good works. But I’d like you to pay attention to how Davis frames his travelogue. It begins:
The most important thing about Haiti is not what President Donald Trump may or may not have said about it. The most important thing is that it is a suffering island nation of 11 million, with vast landscapes of people who need the help of nations as blessed as ours.
So Davis is saying that Trump might not have called Haiti a shithole and also asked, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” He might have said that. But he might not have.
To be clear: Trump said it. Even Republicans agree that he said it. In the past, there is reason to believe, Trump has said Haitians “all have AIDS.” It is clear that Trump, for whatever reason, does not want Haitians coming to America. I would suggest that reason is racism.
As I say, the bulk of Davis’ piece is about his trip to Haiti. He writes about the poor conditions he saw and notes that he didn’t experience any animosity from the Haitians, all of whom exhibit an indomitable spirit. He concludes:
Once I returned, yes, everybody wanted to know whether the president or anyone else would be justified in that infamously coarse characterization of Haiti.
The short answer is: absolutely. But far from a slight against the inhabitants, the recognition of alarming conditions anywhere is a proper call to action to do what we can for them.
Ah! So Davis clears up the confusion he introduced about what the president may or may not have said. Now Davis is saying yes. Trump called Haiti a shithole. And now that Davis has allowed that Trump indeed called Haiti a shithole, he raises a question: was Trump justified in calling Haiti a shithole? And the answer to that question is absolutely. But, Davis contends, calling Haiti a shithole was not an insult. Trump wasn’t denigrating an entire nation as he tried to keep its people out of our blessed country. No, what he was doing was pointing out how badly Haiti needs our help. Trump was calling people to action.
Davis was sloppy to contradict himself. And his interpretation of Trump’s remarks is either sincere idiocy or a transparent lie.
The News has a new boss for its editorial board, the person who oversees the editorials and the op-ed page. His name is Brendan Miniter. Each time Davis writes something like this, he demonstrates Miniter’s lack of courage and that of Miniter’s boss, Mike Wilson. Both men are catering to the basest natures of some of their readers. The paper has a proud history of standing up to the Ku Klux Klan. No matter the financial repercussions, it published stories that assailed racists. Now, it seems, the paper prints stories that defend them.
According to the date on this, the DMN launched its Curious Texas feature on December 18 of last year. They call it a “project,” but I feel like that’s a little grand for something described by the paper as follows: “The idea is simple: You have questions, and our journalists are trained to track down answers.” But, whatever. Call it a project.
The whole thing, to me, is just a bad idea to begin with and chisels away at the paper’s authority. I’m not glass-housing this — we have bad ideas, too. (I came up with that cover shot.) And maybe I’m making too much of it. Most of the questions are harmless, if kind of pointless. But the item about Chief Renee Hall really bugs me. At best, it was a way to lightly editorialize the situation without taking ownership; the actual question, from Elizabeth Ehrsam of Plano, was “I keep seeing the new police chief without a uniform. Is becoming a Dallas police chief that hard?” At worst, none of the city hall/police reporters thought to ask it.
Anyway, Curious Texas seems like a pretty thankless task for reporters to take on. Which leads me to my question: how are these items assigned? Is there a chore wheel or something, and whoever’s name comes up has to google the pants off whatever question is up next or what?
Two things about SUCCESS that always bugged me: first, the all-caps title. Obviously. Second, the multilevel-marketing firm that underpinned its circulation. But whatever. It was a national magazine, based in Plano, that paid good money to real writers to do their thing. It was a part of our magazine ecosystem. And so I mourn its demise. The print and digital teams were both canned last night. It looks like the March issue will be the last of a magazine that was established in 1897. I’ve asked former employees for details of the closure. If I hear anything more, I’ll update this post.
UPDATE (1/17/18) To get a sense of how SUCCESS’ parent company does business, read this. (UPDATE 1/18/18 Somehow the people from the facial cream concern Nerium got the preceding article taken down yesterday. Actually, it looks like the entire site was taken down. Luckily Google has a cached version. You can read it here.) And here’s what a former SUCCESS staffer tells me: “The parent company just reached very dire financial straits over the last year and a half or so, which kept getting worse and worse. The magazine itself was always a vanity piece. It never made much money at all, and lost it more often than not. Finally things came to a point where the company couldn’t afford any losses at all. Almost 20 people from the Success (I don’t have to use the all-caps anymore!) media group were canned, and I don’t even know how many from the custom publishing side of the business. At least that many, I’m certain.”
Subscribers to our weekly newsletter D Brief got this in their inboxes on Sunday, but for all those who didn’t, (Ed. Note: subscribe here, under D Weekly! It’s very good!) I asked our editorial staff to write a bit about their favorite journalism published in one of the D properties last year. I say it’s worth your time. You won’t find rich service features that explore Indian and Japanese culture anywhere else. There are narratives about murder and drownings and more uplifting things like an imam fighting for social justice and the state’s first openly transgender mayor. There’s weird stuff, too, like a 6,000-word treatise written by a famous artist about the bar at the Lakewood Whole Foods that you never knew you’d need. Anyway. We’re proud of it. Here is everyone telling you why.
Tim Rogers, editor, D Magazine:
Initially, I had a hard time picking my favorite story of 2017. I loved Jamie Thompson’s story about a judge who was romantically involved with a lawyer who had a case in his court. It was filled with great cinematic detail, and it drew the sort of attention that may yet produce positive change. Our summer reading package, a collection of micro fiction, each story set in Dallas and written by a local author, was the kind of thing you’ll only find in a magazine. It’s one of the reasons you should subscribe to D Magazine. Richard Patterson’s essay about the Lakewood Whole Foods (and cheese and life and Dallas and art and real estate) was a real gas because it started out as a 300-word assignment that Richard decided required 6,000 words. I challenge you to show me something smarter and funnier that was written in Dallas this year. And Laray Polk’s investigation into the pre-history of the land that Dallas now occupies was the embodiment of our magazine’s slogan: let’s make Dallas even better. It has gotten some traction that we may be able to tell you about in the coming months. As I say, tough to choose a favorite.
But then I learned that Zac Crain’s favorite story of the year was his own dang story, a profile of Erykah Badu. What a cocky, egotistical whoreson that Zac Crain is. By the way, he’d never use a thesaurus to find a word like that. He’s too lazy.
In light of Zac’s pick, then, mine became obvious. I hereby choose as my favorite story of 2017 — the best thing this magazine published all year, a narrative that very well may change the practice of journalism in our post-truth era, a piece of writing that future journalists will study in the best institutions of higher learning, a triple hashtag longform — this artisanal, handcrafted, American-made profile of Krys Boyd. I wrote it.
(Also, our staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin, shot the portrait of Boyd, which is awesome.)
Kathy Wise, executive editor, D Magazine:
It’s like bourbons. I can’t pick one. I’m leaving so many out. But here are five of my favorite moments of 2017:
1. “Erykah Badu Is My Homegirl” (February) ended up being an incredible collaboration between Zac Crain and Elizabeth Lavin. Zac provided a master class on how to write an insightful profile of an elusive artist with nominal participation, and Elizabeth took one of the greatest photographs I have ever seen of Erykah eating blueberries in her a kitchen full of peacock feathers. They both captured her essence perfectly.
2. “What to Think About When You Think About Krys Boyd” (April) was not only a great profile by Tim Rogers of a personal hero, but I got to meet Krys and have a beer with her and we are now Facebook friends. Plus, there’s that photo Elizabeth took through Krys’ study window with the dog propped up on the sill, held by an assistant whose hand has been Photoshopped out. Genius.
4. Holland Murphy is one of the funniest, best, and most controversial (did you read her Ender about taking her son to the movies? Or her subsequent note to all those mommy shamers?) writers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. During the course of the year, she managed to spend the day with Vogue cover model Sarah Grace while she was getting ready for prom, got vintage fashion tips from Rihanna’s stylist at Weekend Coffee, hung out with the Black Dandies at the French Room Bar, and attempted a workout with the trainer for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (one which I bailed on). But my favorite Holland-initiated encounter was with Regina Merson, founder of the Reina Rebelde makeup line. Elizabeth shot Regina in an Adam Lippes floral dress in front of a Moooi floral rug wearing a custom floral headpiece by Bows and Arrows, creating a stunning Frida Kahlo-esque image for the April issue. Then we all went to El Bolero for a tequila tasting, during which Regina shared tales of her world travels and dating life. #girlboss
5. If you had told me a year and a half ago that if I took this job I would end up on The Ticket talking about Zeke Elliott, I might have turned it down. But you didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. In a pre-Weinstein, pre-#metoo world, I wrote about domestic violence (“On the Zeke Elliott Suspension: Even a Liar Can Be Beaten and Choked”) and was trolled for it. But I’m proud of providing a different perspective to what was, at the time, a very one-sided account.
Matt Goodman, online editorial director: The professional portion of my 2017 started in a courtroom. In November of 2016, I wrote a cover story about the neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, who had a habit of harming his patients. He’d be sentenced to life in prison, the first physician to be convicted for aggravated assault related to his patient outcomes. I’d spent months researching that story, and covering his trial seemed like the follow-through that all those families deserved. They got their voices out there, over his.
When I look back on 2017 and the work we did online and in print at D Magazine, I think about that sort of follow-through. I think about standing in a cemetery in Oak Cliff on a steamy August morning, watching a backhoe tear into the earth. We were there to dig up the remains of Venice Parker, a woman raped and killed in 1953, to prove that the man our former district attorney had ordered killed for the act did not do it. I think about the incredible Jamie Thompson, who fought tooth and nail to tell the story of Ira Tobolowsky, the prominent attorney who was burned to death in his North Dallas home. Her piece is as gripping as it is empathetic, giving a voice to a family that had taken the investigation of who killed their father into their own hands.
I think of food critic Eve Hill-Agnus’ remarkable service features on Indian and Japanese food. The stale format of a list gets tossed out the window and replaced with something more robust; because of this, the reader gets a deeper analysis that winds up illuminating a culture through its food. I think of Zac Crain’s incredible profile of Erykah Badu, which he wrote through others’ eyes—because she didn’t talk to him in time for publication. I think of Peter Simek’s thoughtful coverage of the way this city lives and breathes, through everything from the Trinity River to poverty to Confederate statues and public transportation. I think of Kathy Wise’s brave reporting on Zeke Elliott, becoming the first writer to nail down all of the domestic abuse allegations against him. And I think of our coverage of the $1.05 billion bond package, which was, as far as I can tell, the most thorough detailing of its contents available ahead of the vote.
Alex Macon, online managing editor: I have almost zero interest in fashion or shopping, and the concept of a brand partnership makes me think the Amish may be on to something. So I was happily surprised by how compelling I found this September feature on the 10 most stylish people in Dallas, even if I am mostly repulsed by the suggestion that “personal aesthetic is identity.” I appreciate seeing how it makes the most of the digital medium, with short videos (.gifs?) and creative web design. (A version of the feature later ran in print, where it was fine, but diminished.) I like reading about fascinating people, and this has 10 (11, really) of them, from Leon Bridges to Justine Ludwig. I love feeling aghast and slightly outraged at how much a white shirt can cost. Writing about the most stylish people in Dallas requires a most stylish presentation, and this has it.
Zac Crain, senior editor, D Magazine: I have two favorite pieces this year, the first and last features I wrote. The former was something I’d wanted to do for a long time — a profile of Erykah Badu — and the timing was perfect. February marked 20 years since her landmark debut, Baduizm, was released. I intended for it to be a straightforward profile: your standard “hang out for a few hours” type of thing. What ended up happening — not talking to her until well after my deadline had passed — forced me to completely change what I was thinking, and the result was way better than I would have done otherwise. It proved that you can’t ever get too attached to an idea.
The latter — a sort of long-form obituary of Conrad Callicoatte, a mysterious old sailor who died at White Rock Lake in June — was strangely similar to the Erykah story, in that the lead character was absent throughout the process. I had to reconstruct a life based on other people’s words. And, again, what seemed initially like it would be a straight-ahead piece changed (and changed and changed and changed) throughout the reporting and even the writing. But because I had written the Erykah story, I knew how to go about it: talk to as many people as you can and let whatever happens happens. (And a special note to Elizabeth Lavin, who absolutely nailed the photos of Erykah.)
Peter Simek, arts editor, D Magazine: I was a big fan of Eve’s Indian food package. It was smartly written, well-researched, and brought to life a vibrant culinary culture in Dallas that can be intimidating to navigate for the unfamiliar outsider. I hope to work my way through the whole list.
Christiana Nielson, managing editor, D Magazine: For me, it’s a tie between Jamie Thompson’s feature on the murder of prominent lawyer Ira Tobolowsky in the May issue of D and Zac’s profile on Imam Omar Suleiman in D’s July issue. I fact checked both of them, which gave me an insight into how well they were reported and written. Jamie handled writing about the murder of prominent Dallas lawyer Ira Tobolowsky in a compassionate and respectful way. She had to balance getting a lot of details out of difficult, rude people (to say the least) while being sensitive when coaxing information out of the family. I got a sense of this while talking to family members who probably wouldn’t have told such personal details to anyone else. The feature was written in a digestible way and was probably my favorite piece I’ve ever fact checked, even though it required a ton of time and energy. And Zac also handled reporting on Imam Suleiman in a similarly gracious way. The story discussed sensitive subjects like the downtown police shooting and navigated how Suleiman was trying to change the way people think of Islam simply by being himself—inclusive and kind. While talking to Suleiman for fact checking, it was nice to hear how comfortable he was sharing all these details, which made for a powerful story.
Eve Hill-Agnus, food critic, D Magazine: I have to say that a highlight of the year for me was the work I did on the Japanese food feature, and particularly the profile of Teiichi Sakurai, a chef I’ve admired for a long time. The depth to which I was privy—seeing that his knowledge touched ceramics, aviation, the historical intricacies of the endlessly fascinating Edo period that is the basis of so much Japanese cuisine, besides the intricately involved mastering of soba—was fascinating.
But this was Zac’s year of profiles for me, in particular his piece on Imam Omar Suleiman, in which, with insight and grace, he shed light on a community leader in a personal, intimate way. His profile of Erykah Badu, with its deft solution that turned her absence in the piece into the piece’s very structure (much in the same way the incantational repetitions of the Suleiman profile became a defining part of the structure). And his piece on Jess Herbst, the transgender mayor of the tiny town of New Hope. The visual scenes—the opening scene with the daughter’s first “true” vision of her father—and work with chronology were terrific.
Caitlin Clark, online managing editor: I couldn’t put down the story about the investigation into the murder of Ira Tobolowsky, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I read it. (Now I’m going to be obsessing over it all over again). Jamie Thompson did such an incredible job writing a piece that was both engrossing and terrifying, while remaining reverent to the Tobolowskys. I’m not generally drawn to true crime stories, but there was something so heart-wrenching and infuriating about what happened to Ira and the investigation that followed. I felt proud to work at the publication that published that story.
S. Holland Murphy, associate editor, D Magazine: Getting an interview
with one of the buzziest models in the world was one thing. Getting into her house was another. But getting to interview and photograph Sara Grace Wallerstedt in her Bedford house as she got ready for her senior prom was a pretty rare opportunity. Also, I got a lot of feedback from my response to mommy shamers—one mother even donated to Planned Parenthood in my name. So, you know, lemons and lemonade and all that.
Ryan Conner, executive editor, D Home: My favorite story of 2018 is “Welcome Home, Charlie” from the Nov/Dec issue of D Home. Christine Allison penned a beautiful piece about a couple who teamed up with local designers Bill Cates and Russ Peters to create a very special space for their family. Their son Charlie has Down syndrome, and the family and designers took care with very detail, including creating a professional art studio for Charlie. At D Home, we showcase many beautiful interiors, but this story truly embodies what makes a house a home.
Sarah Bennett, managing editor, D Home: My favorite piece this year was my home feature on Joe Minton’s Fort Worth abode. Not only was this my first feature for D Home, but Mr. Minton—who owns both a design firm and an antiques store—has curated a style of English and Old World antiques that I personally love. On our D Home editorial staff, we all have different styles. Editorial director Jamie Laubhan-Oliver loves a modern, clean-lined, black-and-white aesthetic, while I favor English and French tones of blue and cream (she likes to call it “lady”). The U.K. is a place near and dear to my heart, and it is to Joe Minton as well—he served there as a lieutenant in the Air Force during the Cold War. That love is reflected in the pieces throughout his home, which made this feature so much fun to write.
Lyndsay Knecht, online arts editor: I share Kathy Wise’s affinities for Rolling Rock and poetry (and the use of those details), but that common ground wouldn’t qualify “Congratulations on Your … Whatever” as my favorite response to news this year on D’s website. The thing about having a WordPress login for an outlet and getting paid to use it in the service of humans while human rights are under duress in the United States is this: you too, are human, and your whole existence is testimony to the case. For this piece, what marriage meant to Kathy and her now wife and partner of more than 20 years – both agnostic lawyers – changed color with legal recognition. Each moment is vivid and plainly told. As she attempts to make ceremony of their trip the Office of The City Clerk in NYC in her practical voice and cries on the phone with her wife when the Obergefell decision made marriage legal in every state (even theirs, which is ours) the reality of constant vigilance LGBTQ+ couples sustain between the social and legal implications of their love in a flawed system becomes real and exhausting. Readers learn that when Ken Paxton wanted to make null the same-sex partner benefits Dallas offered since 2004, he was threatening the very benefit that brought Kathy and Melissa to Dallas in the first place.
Glenn Hunter, editor, D CEO: My favorite this year was writer Kerry Curry’s feature article in the May issue of D CEO called “Reclaiming the Past.” Kerry told the story of Jim Lake Jr. and Amanda Moreno, a husband-and-wife property-development team that preserves and refurbishes historic buildings in North Texas. From transforming old gems like Jefferson Tower and the former Ambassador Hotel to helping redevelop Bishop Arts and the Design District, the Jim Lake Cos.’ “adaptive reuse” projects have contributed to making Dallas a more interesting place to live. “We are not just a real estate company,” Lake told Kerry. “We are developing a brand to develop historically important properties for Dallas that we will not sell, so that future generations can continue to enjoy them.”
Danielle Abril, managing editor, D CEO: In D CEO’s May issue, Joe Guinto recounted the genesis of Southwest Airline’s culture as an ode to its 50th anniversary in business. He brings to life the story of a once-scrappy startup founded by the spirited Herb Kelleher that has become a major player in the airline industry, boasting 44 consecutive years of profits and never experiencing a single layoff. Although the airline no longer parades go-go boots, hot pants, and whiskey giveaways, even through its toughest days of competition and the Wright Amendment battle it has managed to maintain a quirky, friendly culture that encourages fun. Employees still tell jokes over flight PA systems and participate in one-day, pep-rally-esque events. The airline continues to grow but current CEO Gary Kelly has maintained a strong connection to the company’s freewheeling roots.
Have you had time yet to read Jim Schutze’s latest banger about Museum Tower and Mike Snyder, or are you still recovering from the New York Timesstory about the alien invasion? Schutze is good at his job. If you looked at the issues he’s taken a side on, he’s probably batting .800. The whole West Dallas, Khraish Khraish-versus-Mayor Mike Rawlings thing comes to mind. So that’s probably why, when Schutze is wrong, his boneheadedness is so striking. It’s so rarely on display.
Today, Schutze wrote a piece for the Observer about Mike Snyder and the Dallas Morning News and how the paper has it out for him because it was always in the bag for the Nasher in its fight with Museum Tower. It’s complicated. Read Schutze’s post if you haven’t already. Here’s the part that really jumped out at me:
It wasn’t that I thought the pension fund was right or that Museum Tower may not have been too shiny. I’m not a shiny expert. It just pissed me off enormously that nobody in town wanted to let the pension fund talk.
The powers that be were handling the shiny debate the same way they always want to handle anybody who crosses them, by shoving a pillow in the other guy’s face. So it was great to see someone [Snyder, working as a sock puppet] allowing the pension to grab a gasp of air now and then.
Excuse me? Nobody in town wanted to let the pension talk? Schutze means Richard Tettamant, who used to run the pension, before it was raided by the FBI. I let him talk. Steve Thompson at the Newslet him talk. KERA gave him his space. Those are just the links that jumped to the top of my Google search. The reason the pension was gasping for air is that it had buried itself under a mountain of risky real estate investments. And because the FBI was breathing down their necks. And because it had to eat crow over the sock puppetry stuff. Don’t cry for Mike Snyder.
On Tuesday, we published a post about the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Theater Center’s issuance of the phrase “inappropriate behavior” in the recent resignation and firing, respectively, of two high-profile employees. Especially in the case of the DTC, where the employee worked with minors and SMU students, we felt the public was owed more specificity. And we still feel that way. We stand behind the essential point of the post.
But in making that point, we let our passion blind us to a line beneath our feet as we crossed it. We — editors and writer — made an error in judgment in calling out by name the two women who run the PR departments of the DTC and the DMA. We apologize to them and to our readers for doing so. The original post has been altered.
If you’re familiar with the Longreads platform, you know they mostly aggregate great stories. But they also commission original work. This is an example that deserves your time. Author Shawn Shinneman (a name so alliterative that I feel compelled to profile him) does a great job with a topic that, sadly, is too familiar. His story is about a wrongfully convicted man who now lives in Duncanville. Save it. Give it a read when you can.
This is bad news for the Star-Telegram and for the city of Fort Worth. The paper has just been decimated, and much of the editorial control has been ceded to McClatchy editors who don’t live in Fort Worth — some of whom think that Fort Worth is part of the Midwest. I am hearing that of the eight newsroom editors, three were laid off yesterday. Here is the bonkers doublespeak memo issued late yesterday from Mike Fannin, editor of McClatchy’s Midwest region, and Steve Coffman, editor of the Star-T:
Over the last month, the top editors in Kansas City, Fort Worth, Belleville [Ed: where is Belleville?], and Wichita have been meeting to figure out how to work together better in McClatchy’s Midwest Region. [Ed: hang on. Are these folks trying to work together better, or are they trying to save money? And, as stated before, Fort Worth ain’t in the Midwest, people!]
More than 200 journalists in the region are working very hard every day, committed to doing journalism that is essential to our communities. Individually, there are many success stories. [Ed: collectively, there are none.] And collectively, there is so much potential. [Ed: oh, sorry.]
As a region, we have powerful resources to call upon to meet the challenges we face. [Ed: so powerful that those resources must be dialed back a skosh.] It’s also clear that we can do more to realize the future faster. [Ed: shuttering all the papers or just the Star-T?]
Today, we are announcing the formation of several regional teams in the Midwest [Ed: Fort Worth: “Where the Midwest now begins in the minds of corporate overlords tasked with slashing costs.”] that will work across markets:
Audience growth. This team will focus on growing our reach and finding innovative ways to help build deep engagement and loyalty around our journalism. The team will work to improve social engagement, headline and search optimization, homepage management, alerts, newsletters, and analytics. [Ed: what about “stickiness” and “blue ocean” opportunities?] They will be scheduled to work across all four Midwest newsrooms seven days a week, giving us greater coverage and flexibility. This team will be led by Eric Nelson, Kansas City’s audience editor and a veteran of newsrooms like Politico, the Dallas Morning News, and the Wichita Eagle. [Ed: quick, Eric, what was the last thing Bud Kennedy wrote?]
High impact journalism. No work is more essential to our mission than investigative and accountability reporting. To ensure that we consistently and effectively produce this important journalism across the region, we have asked Belleville’s Gary Dotson to ensure that investigative reporters and editors in all four newsrooms are communicating and looking for opportunities to collaborate. [Ed: that is a lot of ensuring. I feel ensured.] Gary has been editing award-winning projects for the News-Democrat for 25 years, including stories that won a McClatchy’s President’s Award each of the last three years as well as the Polk Award, IRE awards, the RFK, and others. [Ed: Gary is basically the Steph Curry of Belleville.]
Real-time news. We are separating the work of aggregation and breaking local news. A regional real-time news team will work closely with the national real-time team to tell the most interesting stories happening right now in the Midwest and to serve a wider range of readers more consistently. [Ed: got it. Clickbait.] This team will include many current real-time reporters working in their home newsrooms and will be led by Adam Darby, the regional real-time editor based in Kansas City. Breaking local news will continue to be covered in each newsroom by reporters supervised by local editors.
Video production. With our visual journalists focused on generating original local content, it has become clear that we need a team aimed solely on aggregating interesting videos in our communities, producing social and informational videos and helping to ensure that we are capitalizing on spikes that come with breaking news. [Ed: from The Atlantic: “So many media companies in 2017 have reoriented their budgets around the production of videos that the so-called ‘pivot to video’ has become an industry joke. Today, the pivot seems less like a business strategy and more like end-of-life estate planning.”] In the Midwest, this small team of producers will be led by regional video lead Todd Feeback, who has worked with all the markets in the region for some time now and helped all of us.
What’s ahead? [Ed: a fucking disaster! Oh, sorry. That wasn’t fair. Go ahead.] Local reporters, columnists, and visual journalists working with local editors is one of the most critical relationships in our company, and those will continue to operate at the market level. We are, however, examining other areas of opportunity for regional cooperation. [Ed: dude. “Regional cooperation” is the most b.s. euphemism ever for “more layoffs.”]
These changes will mean new or revised roles for staff members in every Midwest newsroom. [Ed: “Revised,” as in “working in PR.” And there’s nothing wrong with that!] Some will be joining new regional teams and will work closely with editors and staffers in other locations. We will be hiring a few new team members to fill critical roles. The changes also mean that we are parting ways with some terrific employees, and that is incredibly difficult for all of us. Everyone affected has been notified. [Ed: have the readers been notified?]
We know many of you might have questions. Steve and Sean will host two meetings — at 4 p.m. today and 10 a.m. tomorrow — in the newsroom conference room.
Progress is hardly ever easy, but every day we see a lot of compelling evidence of the impact we are having on the communities we serve. We have a responsibility to readers and to the business that we all love to keep it moving forward.
Thanks and let’s keep fighting for what matters.
Mike and Steve
Snarky comments aside, in situations like these, a little candor goes a long way. I see no candor in this memo. These moves are not “progress.”
Here’s the truth: McClatchy announced its first quarter results on April 27. The company reported a net loss in that period of $38.9 million, compared to $95.6 million in the first quarter of 2017. Not all the news is bad. But it’s hard to see how McClatchy’s ownership of the Star-T has been or will be good for the city of Fort Worth.
The Bass brothers have famously poured much of their fortune into that town, making it in some ways the envy of those of us who live to the east. Why not buy the Star-Telegram? Better yet: why not hire away the seven people remaining at the paper and start a nonprofit news organization? I don’t know. Something. Anything is better than what McClatchy is doing.
I’ve emailed and called Steve Coffman, the Star-T editor. I will update this post if I hear from him.
Before we went in, my friend and I made a wager. The bet was about how many times Tomi Lahren would reference Kanye West’s newly proclaimed affinity for President Donald Trump. My friend, knowing Lahren’s hip-hop proclivities, figured she would mention it at least three times. But we had no idea what kind of event we were going to.
I had signed up for the event, billed as a sort of seminar “about helping you learn how to start achieving the freedom you want and deserve,” a few days before, and received approximately a thousand text messages and emails from organizers. Some of the texts included gifs, including one of Lahren wearing a baseball cap in a car with a caption that read, “Heading back to Texas got me feeling like Texyassss.”
Thursday night at about 6 p.m., we walked into the Sheraton in downtown Dallas and were greeted by two signs. One said, “NFL FANS” (presumably related to the NFL draft). The other said, “TOMI LAHREN LIVE FREE & WEALTHY.” We followed a few well-dressed Dallas Republicans to a ballroom downstairs. At the escalator, I watched two men stop to pose for a photo with a banner that prominently featured Lahren’s face.
Everyone had to fill out and sign a form saying that we understood this was not a political event, that we wouldn’t disrupt it with our political opinions, that we understood this was not a “get rich quick” program, and that we wouldn’t record or videotape it—though I saw several people doing those last two.
We were seated in front of three giant screens playing a series of inspirational videos, mostly of people running up bleachers, sinking three-pointers, and hitting 300-yard drives in slow-motion. These were interspersed with motivational quotes from the likes of Jim Carrey, Jack Black, and Tony Robbins.
If you’re somehow reading this on the internet and still don’t know who Tomi Lahren is, congratulations. She’s the 25-year-old platinum blonde conservative firebrand whose video commentaries—on topics like kneeling NFL players and Black Lives Matter—have racked up hundreds of millions of views on social media. Until last year, she worked at Glenn Beck’s Irving-based TV network, The Blaze. The people who came out to see her last night were a mix of North Texas conservatives: some in suits with colorful socks and designer shoes, some in hiking boots and hoodies, some wearing T-shirts and hats declaring their political affiliations, and quite a few young bottle-blonde Tomi lookalikes.
When the event began, a quick video of Lahren blasted across the big screens. She congratulated the audience on being “great Americans” and mentioned we’d be seeing some experts who “think right,” though she mentioned no names. She did manage to tell us that we’d be hearing information that “the mainstream media won’t tell you.”
It was 6:30, and that’s when it began to occur to most of the audience, including the middle-aged woman directly behind me, that we would not be seeing Lahren in person for quite some time.
“I think she’s the name to get us in here,” the woman said to her husband.
Next, there was a series of speakers offering what they referred to as “financial education.” There were stories of dead relatives and hardship and a few elementary lessons on the basic concepts of stocks and options. Each speaker teased Lahren’s forthcoming appearance. At one point, a man named Eric Frady took off his blue suit jacket and asked the crowd why they thought America, the richest country in the world, had so many poor people. One man in the back, apparently misunderstanding the question, yelled out, “the Constitution!” Another time, Frady mentioned that McDonalds used to be a place where teenagers work. Referring to the fact that so many elderly people have taken jobs there to make ends meet, he asked who works there now. A man a few rows behind me yelled out, “Illegal aliens!”
At the end of his speech, Frady invited the audience to come to the front of the room to sign up (and pay) for a company called Interactive Trader’s $997 three-day investment workshop. (That price, we were told, covers two people, and parents can bring one adult child for free.) There were several hundred people in the room, and after a few minutes, about 50 or so of them had walked to the front.
All of that took more than two hours.
After a short break, Lahren finally came on stage to a standing ovation. She was dressed in all black, and as she talked at the podium, she had two large security guards sitting in front of her. She told the audience she lives in Los Angeles now, but that it’s good to be back in Texas. She asked any members or family members of the military and police to stand up, and thanked them. She said she promised the organizer of the event, listed on the program as Wealth Retreat Events, that she wouldn’t get political.
Then she told the audience that she wanted everyone to leave remembering three things. First: “You live in the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.” She said she had a hard time prioritizing the second and third things, saying they could have gone in any order. But she decided the second thing we needed to remember is that “Donald Trump is president.” And the third thing: “Hillary Clinton is not.” That got another standing ovation.
Lahren said she had settled her lawsuit with The Blaze nearly a year ago to the day—Lahren left Glenn Beck’s North Texas media empire in a cloud of acrimony and legal threats after she told the hosts of ABC’s The View she supported abortion rights. Now a Fox News contributor who can fill a ballroom with her conservative fans, Lahren said she’s never been happier than she is now. She gave a few general be-a-better-you bits of self-help advice, like “If you sell yourself out, you’re not going to sleep well at the end of the day,” and “Being a victim isn’t a cute look.”
Despite the promise not to be political, she threw a few scraps to her fan base, calling California, where she lives now, “the land of fruits and nuts and illegal immigrants.” She also said she would like to see David Hogg, one of the student leaders from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, dropped off in Venezuela unarmed. She quipped: “’Never again’ is going to have a whole new meaning.”
Lahren told a story about a time a year and a half ago when she was at Citizen, a cocktail lounge in Dallas. Jay-Z had just dropped her name in a rap song, and, as she puts it, “I thought I was pretty cool.” She tried to skip the line, telling the bouncers, “Do you know who I am? I’m in a Jay-Z song.” The bouncers promptly moved her to the back of the line. She said her friends still tease her about it to this day.
There were times when Lahren showed what seemed to be genuine warmth. She encouraged everyone, including liberals, to be who they are inside and fight for what they believe in. She specified that no political party is better than the other. She mentioned that one of her best friends, sitting in the front row, voted for Hillary Clinton. Lahren joked that people thinks she hates Democrats, but she worked retail in college, and the people she actually hates are the ones who come into the store five minutes before closing to rummage through clothing.
After 20 minutes at the podium, she took audience questions, reading off slips of paper that had been submitted during the break. She answered a question about the current state of the media by clarifying that she is not a news anchor—she does commentary. Someone asked her where she gets her hair done in Texas, and she said she has an appointment tomorrow and that she’ll never tell. When asked how she manages her time, she said she’d be a liar if she said she didn’t check social media every four to six hours, even in the middle of the night. “It’s a habit I need to break,” Lahren lamented. Her last question was whether she thought the Democrats will take over in November, which she answered with an emphatic, cheer-inducing “no.”
Reading coverage of the Dallas Art Fair this week, I was pleased to see that the old saying remains true. “New York writers writing about Dallas absolutely cannot stop themselves from using the single most trite cliché about Texas.” So they say the saying goes.
Here’s the opening—the lead, or lede, in the biz—of the Dallas Art Fair report from Artsy.net:
Is everything bigger in Texas?
And here’s the lead from Forbes, in a piece about art riffing on the American flag at the Dallas Art Fair:
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that also includes pride for the United States of America.
Fair enough. How else are out-of-state readers going to understand that they are reading about something in the state of Texas, where things are big?
As Alex noted earlier, the Dallas Morning News no longer employs Jacquielynn Floyd and James Ragland, and since Steve Blow is now confining his thoughts to the family holiday newsletter, the paper doesn’t really have a true metro columnist. It’s sort of semantics, since Robert Wilonsky does the same job but I assume got to pick his job title and “city columnist” has more press-card-tucked-in-hatband-of-fedora panache than “metro columnist,’ I suppose. Or does it? (I will also remind you that when Robert’s first column appeared, it was billed as something like “one in an occasional series” and lolololol.)
There is an opening, since Robert can’t or at least shouldn’t try to fill all the remaining space left behind, all those column inches that used to be filled by Jackie finding a local-ish angle of a national story and James never taking a side on anything. Who should the DMN hire?
(I should also say right now that this is not going to be dog names.)
I’m kidding. It’s dog names, because as far as I know Mike Wilson still has a dog named Story or, if that beautiful dog has gone to God’s Kennel, he did at one point name a dog Story, and that is only because Reported Essay was a little much. I can’t let that happen again. I won’t. Oh also the Morning News should hire a columnist who is 1) not white, 2) not old, and 3) likes to write, not to be on TV or radio.
You’ve got to hand it to Erin Brockovich. The environmental activist who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in an eponymous movie 18 years ago is developing a knack for ginning up scary headlines that are linked—coincidentally?—to her previously booked speaking gigs. We’ve just seen a great example here in North Texas, where a recent Facebook post by Brockovich got a bunch of Plano residents up in arms about the local water supply.
At a meeting Thursday night, according to a page 1 report in The Dallas Morning News, the activist addressed 500 people “clamoring for more information” about water quality here. (Never mind that water officials called her information “hype.”) Wrote the DMN: “Brockovich said she and her colleague Bob Bowcock, a water quality expert, hadn’t come to Texas to pursue litigation over water quality. Rather, she said, they came after residents filled her inbox with emailed concerns about their water …”
Uh, not exactly. Brockovich actually came to Texas to be the keynote speaker at today’s third annual Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon at the Dallas Country Club—an appearance that was announced last fall. Then again, alarming posts before a speech have happened before with Brockovich, who’s been touted as earning as much as $50,000 per keynote talk. (Nothing wrong with that; free enterprise and all.)
On March 10, 12 days before Brockovich was set to be keynote speaker at the Memphis Women’s Summit, she wrote another Facebook post blasting the city of Memphis for “disgusting, illegal, and wrong” dumping of wastewater into the Mississippi River. Some commenters noted that the incident was an accident, and that the city was already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on systemic improvements. But the post probably didn’t hurt ticket sales to see the consumer advocate—and unparalleled marketing maestro—keynote the March 22 summit.
D Magazine readers know Jamie Thompson’s byline. For the last six years or so, she has written for the magazine as a freelancer. A few highlights: the death of Kidd Kraddick (the first big story that she and I worked on together), the Susan Hawk saga, the unethical judge (who, as a result of Jamie’s story, had to step down from the bench). She did a bunch of smaller pieces for us, too, the sort of work every full-time freelancer has to take on to pay the bills.
What most readers don’t know is that Jamie is married to Steve Thompson, an investigative reporter for the Dallas Morning News. The couple moved to Dallas in 2007, when Steve took a job at the paper. It was his health insurance, really, that kept Jamie in freelancing shape. Not just for D Magazine. This Texas Monthlystory about the Wimberley flood was, to my mind, the best magazine story written in 2015 (though it appeared online only, which is a mystery that confounds me still).
Well, actually, Steve was an investigative reporter for the News. His last day at the paper was March 1. He left to take a job at the Washington Post, where he will be a general assignment reporter covering local government. It’s a brilliant hire. Not only does the Post get Steve but, as management there surely knows, the Post gets a great new steady freelancer in Jamie. She has written for that paper before. Just as she has written for the News (most recently with this monster of a story about the SWAT standoff in downtown).
Bottom line is this: Dallas is left a poorer city for the Thompsons’ departure. Socially, for sure. They are two of the most cordial, delightful people you could hope to meet. But, more important, when it comes to journalism about the city and the people who live here, two of the best storytellers seated at the campfire just got up and left the circle.
Mike Wilson is the editor of the News and Steve’s former boss. I told Jamie that I blame Wilson for letting her husband take a job at the Post, just like he allowed Avi Selk to leave for the Post. Jamie is wiser and kinder than I. She set my head right. The Post is every newspaperperson’s goal (or the Times). Wilson can’t be blamed for two people taking their dream jobs.
But right now I’m not in the mood for wisdom and equanimity. I feel nothing but white-hot rage and the lust for blood. Dear Curious Texas, why did Mike Wilson let this happen?
What you see here is the March issue of D Magazine next to its sticky note-filled inspiration. In 2012, Mark Doty, the historic preservation officer for the city of Dallas, published Lost Dallas. It’s part of the Images of America series from Charleston, South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing. Our own Peter Simek, while doing research for our cover story (on newsstands this weekend), turned to Doty for advice and counsel. A tip of the cap to him for his help. As well, we’d like to thank the following for their assistance: Paula Bosse from Flashback Dallas, Misty Maberry from the Dallas Public Library, Dreanna Belden from the Portal to Texas History, amateur historian Mark Rice, and the folks at the DeGolyer Library at SMU. But especially Doty, because we stole his book cover.
After looking through hundreds of old pictures of Dallas, we came to the same conclusion that Doty had six years ago. That image of the boy sitting on the roof of the Baker Hotel makes a perfect cover. We never would have found it on our own, because it is owned by the California Museum of Photography. That’s how lost some of our history has become. You have to go to Riverside, California, to find it.
No doubt by now you have seen the piece by D Magazine contributing editor and [squints] Dallas Morning News staff writer Jamie Thompson about the July 7 police ambush and how the SWAT team took down the shooter. It’s called “Standoff” or maybe “STANDOFF” and it’s worth your time to read all almost 13,000 words of it. It has been online for a week or so, and on Sunday the Morning News published it on actual newsprint, giving it its own section in the paper.
Tim and I have been discussing it off and on since the story first went live, and I thought I would take a few moments out of my busy schedule of taking insanely good photos of downtown buildings to put a few of our talking points on our blog, FrontBurner, colloquially known as FB. I’m a bit worried I might step on a few toes, I believe the expression is, but I’m gonna go ahead and do it anyway. Are you ready? You sure? OK, cool. Wait, you are definitely ready? Alright. Here they are:
How does this keep happening? Early last year, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a story about how the new editor of Texas Monthly,Tim Taliaferro, planned to take the magazine in a direction aimed more toward lifestyle coverage. Then he complained that his remarks had been taken out of context. Then he said he’d been misunderstood. Now it’s happened again.
Today the CJR published another story about a Taliaferro-generated misunderstanding. This one involves an apparent quid pro quo wherein Taliaferro put the CEO of Bumble on the cover, and Bumble promised to spend $25,000 to promote the story on social media. TxMo staffers told CJR that Taliaferro told them about the deal in an editorial meeting. But after at least one of those staffers leaked to CJR and the magazine called Taliaferro to ask about the deal, he held another meeting at which he told the staff that he’d been misunderstood. All very unfortunate.
A few thoughts:
I feel bad for Sarah Hepola, the Dallas writer and sometime D Magazine contributor. Sarah wrote the cover story in question. I’m afraid her work gets unfairly besmirched as Taliaferro communicates poorly and is misunderstood.
The CJR got ahold of some of Taliaferro’s emails to Bumble. In one of them, he wrote: “I can’t stress enough how much is on the line for me with this deal. I must have this story perform and earn lots of eyeballs.” This deal is all about him, not the magazine. His bonus and/or his job must depend on increasing online traffic (my speculation). Given how often he is misunderstood, this doesn’t seem like a good arrangement.
The only way that the CJR could have gotten those emails is if a TxMo staffer handed them over. Obviously this means at least one person on his staff is having a hard time understanding the boss, and that misunderstanding is leading to disgruntlement. Further, the CJR reports that when Taliaferro communicated poorly with his staff, misleading them to believe that he’d struck a deal with Bumble, they sat in “stunned silence.” A media organization can’t operate (for long) that way. When the people at the top have really bad, unethical ideas, or when they simply get misunderstood, the mood in the room needs to be such that everyone feels comfortable raising a hand and saying, “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. Because it sounds to me like you just said something that worries me.” Actually, this is true of all businesses. Silence in meetings doesn’t produce good results.
And then the last thing I’d like to say: the Bumble cover is lousy. Either put the woman on the cover or don’t. That goofy background was a bad idea.
In 1991, a young Tim Rogers landed an internship at D Magazine by posting a record score on the copy editing test and by offering to bribe the then editor (a scheme involving her daughter’s artwork and the preferred placement thereof in the halls of Preston Hollow Elementary, where my mother taught). You? If you want to be an intern here, all you have to do is send an email to our managing editor, Christiana Nielson ([email protected]).
Due to circumstances entirely within someone’s control, we had an intern back out of a commitment to join us this spring. That’s your spot! We love late-applying procrastinators! The gig starts next week(ish) and runs through May 8. Is it unpaid? It is very much unpaid. But in lieu of compensation, you will get to participate in editorial meetings, fact check award-winning stories, write for the web and print, and drink as much free coffee as your spleen can handle.
In all seriousness, we’re looking for college-aged kids who are brilliant (or at least sentient) and have about 20 hours per week to spare. We’ll show you how the sausage gets made and teach you a thing or two along the way.
Paul Kix once worked at D Magazine. I may have fired him. It’s unclear. In this episode of EarBurner, we discuss his departure from our staff and subsequent rise to stardom as a senior editor at ESPN the Magazine. Oh, plus his new book, The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando. We talk about that, too. Tonight at Wild Detectives, sometime D Magazine contributor Sarah Hepola will conduct a Q&A with Paul that is sure to be illuminating, though I doubt it will include as much teasing as Paul suffered in this podcast. Have a listen.
The Dallas Observer has a new editor. Earlier this week, Voice Media sacked Joe Pappalardo, who’d led the paper for two years. The new guy in charge isn’t exactly a new guy. Patrick Williams had been the managing editor for two decades. Here’s what he says about the transition:
Joe is no longer the editor of the Dallas Observer as of Wednesday. He’s still a friend — at least I hope he is — and a smart and talented journalist and author. He has a new book out, Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight, which I think would make a great Christmas present for anyone. I wish him nothing but the best.
As for me, after 20 years of safely hiding behind editors in chief, it’s time to step up and show what I’m worth. (Timing was never my strong suit.) I’ve got Schutze and a small but extremely skilled group of editors and writers behind me and support from VVM above, so how badly can I screw things up? Start your timer … now.
It should be a fun ride, anyway. The Observer still has plenty to contribute to the conversation in Dallas, and I’m almost certain there are at least a dozen people in town we haven’t managed to piss off. We’ll find them, though.
If you follow any Morning News employee on social media, you’ve likely seen shots of them setting up camp at their new office in downtown, next to the refurbished Statler. Maybe, say, a photo of a guy in a vest, hands sassily on hips. I don’t know who you follow. While doing my usual perambulating around the CBD, I passed by the new joint. Pretty cool. Anyway, I’m no architectural or workplace expert, but I do have a few thoughts.
About dog names. Because, as far as I know, DMN editor Mike Wilson still has a dog named Story, and that is still not as bad as Inverted Pyramid or Compelling Narrative Lede or Pulitzer Finalist or whatever, but it is still not a great name for a dog. “Come here, Story!” “Story, sit. Story? Siiiit.” You get it. What about:
From 1960 to 1977, WFAA shot its news footage on 16 mm film. Unlike much of the video the TV news affiliate has subsequently used to record Dallas news, that 16 mm film was never deleted, corrupted, or recorded over. Instead, it sat in storage for years until it was recently donated to SMU’s G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. The university library has since undergone the painstaking effort of identifying, cataloging, and digitizing 17 years of images of Dallas’ history.
This evening, on VideoFest and KERA’s Frame of Mind program, you can see some of that footage. As part of the show’s 25th anniversary season, Frame of Mind producer and VideoFest director Bart Weiss handed over access of the WFAA footage — all 1.3 terabytes of it — to 10 area filmmakers, who have each taken the fragments of history and reconstructed it into 10 new short films.
The results aren’t so much historical documents as they are interpretations and conversations with the past, as well as considerations of the way that film captures, preserves, and distorts the historical record. In fact, most of the filmmakers choose to focus on footage and themes that resonate with our current moment — race, policing, violence, equality, sexism — exploring how some of these themes percolate through the historic footage.
Perhaps what is most interesting about all of the films is the way the disconnect between the filmmakers’ individual visions and the perspective or original intent of the WFAA footage reveals latent attitudes and cultural assumptions. For example, parts of Carmen Menza’s “Beyond 10” focus not on the newsworthy footage, but on the cameramen’s lapses — moments in which the camera strays from the assignment to zoom in and leer at the bodies of young women in crowds. Similarly, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts student Madison McMakin montages footage to juxtapose the way men and women are frequently portrayed, showing men in positions of power and authority, while women often appear confined to beauty pageants or domestic spaces.
In other pieces, images of young men in Confederate uniforms; Western film trailers; crime scenes; fires; and interviews with police, politicians, businessmen, and activists re-contextualize the once-news in a way that reveals unconscious perspectives about race, gender, power, business, and politics. The Dallas of the 1960s and 1970s can appear in these films as a somewhat alien place. However, reading between the lines — or between the frames, so to speak — it becomes clear that much of Dallas today is still rooted in the lost historical city captured by WFAA’s cameramen.
The strongest films in the series take a departure from the footage as mere historical artifact. Christian Vasquez uses the film to stitch together a fictional account of a woman named Jane X, conflating document and fantasy to tell the story of a bandit on the run who leaves in her trail a litany of real-life images of death and destruction. Michael Alexander Morris’ inspired, surrealistic apocalyptic parable finds in the WFAA footage images of a calf running down a Dallas highway, a shotgun-wielding grandma, reports on mysterious monsters lurking near Lake Worth, a crashed doughnut truck, and clips of George H.W. Bush, whose voice Morris has manipulated so that it sounds like a backward tape loop similar to the dwarf in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
The film’s ambiguity works on multiple levels, registering the paranoia and fear that seems to be the common emotional denominator that links the late-1960s and the present day, as well as, perhaps, the common, underlying tone that defines the way the news captures and tells the stories of all times.
Where to watch it: Frame of Mind airs on KERA November 16 at 10:30 p.m.