By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Is there a good, cheap criminal mouthpiece in the house?
Brian Loncar needs you to keep him out of the tank. No, not that tank. This time we mean the jug, the hoosegow, the pokey, or whatever you call the slammer.
It seems that the exuberant plaintiffs' lawyer--who trolls for auto accident cases with ads featuring him in a panzer rolling over or blasting cars--has gotten himself in a pickle.
Apparently, Loncar was so taken with a January 9 Observer cover story about him that he couldn't resist picking up a few extra copies to distribute to his friends, colleagues, and, presumably, several generations of the extended Loncar family. Did we say that was a few hundred copies?
Some people, including the Observer circulation department and the Dallas police, somehow got the idea that Loncar might have been emptying newspaper racks in a misguided attempt to reduce the downtown circulation of the "Smash 'em and Smile" article, which portrayed Loncar as a foul-mouthed, sexually harassing, greedy, and somewhat incompetent attorney. Oh yeah, the article also reminisced over a bigamy charge in Loncar's colorful past.
Dallas police first probed The Case of The Disappearing Observers as theft. But being that it's hard to steal something that is already freely distributed, they issued Loncar a citation for criminal mischief, a class-C misdemeanor for messing with someone else's property.
Now, Loncar, who says he didn't take the papers, can tell it to a judge--or fork over a $240 fine.
In its neverending effort to meld journalism and community service (and, not incidentally, nauseate Buzz), WFAA-TV, Channel 8, is hitching up the welcome wagon. Masquerading as the chamber of commerce--always a healthy role for a news medium--Channel 8 has produced a 30-minute video, This is Dallas/Fort Worth, "your personal resource to the North Texas area."
Buzz shudders. It was this same spirit of cynical community service that prompted WFAA to rent its logo (for approximately $30,000) to alleged North Texas megapolluter TXI in one of the station's notorious "Companies Who Care".
The promotional video is hosted by beloved glad-handler Gloria Campos and (say it ain't so!) John McCaa, who are introduced on the tape by nationally recognized lightweights Joan Lunden and Charles Gibson. The promo allegedly will give newcomers valuable local information on recreation, laws, dining and entertainment, history and culture.
Buzz wonders if, regarding recreation, new arrivals will learn about the years of "quality time" they'll spend marveling at the engineering wonders of the North Central Expressway and Interstate 30 in Arlington? In the video's law section, will Dallas' school desegregation order and its less-than-signal success be explained? And, under entertainment, will new families see scenes from the ongoing carnival at the DISD school board meetings and, now, at the mayor's house?
Not bloody likely.
Not incidentally, as part of its smarmy "Family First" project, Channel 8 is publishing another edition of its Helping Handbook, which lists resources and activities for--you guessed it--families. It's a clever promotional idea, but, of course, the publicity wizzes at WFAA had to push it deep into the sickly sweet pander zone by asking folks to send in inspirational sayings for inclusion in the handbook.
Here's an inspirational proverb from Buzz: "Blessed is the TV station that covers the community aggressively and sucketh not up to big business, nor advertisers, nor even the dominant religious faith. Yea, it is written (here) that it verily will be the best friend a family could have."
Can we get an amen?
Raising the bar
In an unpleasant parallel to the breaking of the unbreakable three-minute mile record, a journalism milestone set by A. H. Belo has fallen.
But take heart--it took the mighty Dow Jones & Co. to do it.
When a federal jury in Houston awarded $222.7 million to a bond brokerage firm last week in a libel suit over a 1993 Wall Street Journal article, it resoundingly broke the existing national libel award record set by none other than the WFAA-TV, Channel 8.
In 1991, Belo's flagship television operation was socked for $58 million when a jury found that WFAA had slandered Vic Feazell, a former McClennan County District Attorney. The award was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The award against Dow Jones marked a sad day, since Channel 8's bell-ringing libel award was one of Belo's best-known accomplishments in national journalism circles. That is, before Pete Slover's controversial Timothy McVeigh confession story.
Hmmm. If only for homer pride, maybe we all ought to close our eyes and wish really hard that Slover's story falls through--and that McVeigh is acquitted of the courthouse bombing. Together that would set the stage for the News maybe, just maybe, regaining that national libel crown!
As much as Buzz loves Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, we had to wonder if there's been a sudden blood-supply shortage to the ol' cerebral cortex.
Recently at the Legislature, Bullock was bitch-slapping the Dallas fat cats, including Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks, who want Texas taxpayers to bankroll their sports arenas. It was obvious the Lite Guv was on a roll. He delighted us with hot-button phrases like "blackmail," "something for nothing," "Big Daddy Texas," and a curiously personal comment that the hat-in-hand crowd had not "missed a meal." (OK, so Mayor Ron Kirk has put on a few pounds.)
Then, Bob rolled right on over the top. His own suggested auto property tax, he said, "would raise more money than Hitler had."
Hey, maybe Dallas could tap into that Swiss bank cash.