Letters, Week of November 22

Pants on Fire, Belo Death Star

Pants on Fire

The real lesson: While I appreciate the fact that the Dallas Observer did not choose to ignore the trial of Herbert Lee Madison (Buzz, November 15), I have a few comments to make. I take exception to the following: "Lesson No. 2 for Madison: There's a big difference--jail time, mostly--between being innocent and not guilty in court. When a decorated cop dies, not guilty verdicts are hard to come by."

Madison was not convicted because my husband died. Senior Corporal Hal Baird was not the complainant in this indictment; his partner was. Madison was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, based on witness accounts.

I am assuming your reporter was not actually in the courtroom. Witnesses placed Madison parking his car on Lamar Street, not in the parking lot of Crybaby's as he has always claimed. So, he not only did not look both ways before stepping into the street to retrieve his bumper (as he claimed), he was also in the street for some time afterward, wrestling a heavy bumper into his car.

Yes, Madison apparently passed two polygraph tests. However, any accomplished liar can do the same. And Herbert Lee Madison has proven, beyond a doubt, that he is an accomplished liar.

If Madison had done the right thing on August 19, 2000, and stayed at the scene until he had given his statement to police, he never would have been charged, never had to spend the past year on electronic monitoring and never been sentenced to jail.

Will he ever realize that? I doubt it.

As for the Dallas Observer and attorney John Key, I have a suggestion: In the future, don't assume because the police are involved that someone's rights are being trampled. You'll just end up with mud on your face. The police officers who testified in this case, as well as the many witnesses, proved what honorable, responsible men and women are.

There are lessons to be learned here, but not exactly as outlined by Patrick Williams.

Kelly J. Baird
Mesquite

Belo Death Star

Getting canned: Normally Eric Celeste is pretty much on target with his observations, but he missed the boat on a few points related to the recent layoffs at The Dallas Morning News ("Meow," October 18, and Buzz, November 1). Contrary to his statement that most layoffs did not hit longtime staffers, many of those affected had worked for Belo papers for numerous years. One had put in 29 years at Belo, and how was such loyalty rewarded by the company? By getting tossed out and replaced by younger reporters who don't really care about the communities they cover. Corporate executives are always whining about employees not having loyalty; it's a two-way street. If companies aren't loyal to, and don't respect, longtime employees, why should any employee be loyal to a company?

It's true many layoffs targeted suburban reporters and editors, but Celeste infers that's not so bad. A major problem with the way these layoffs were handled is that management lied to the rank-and-file. In prior meetings, we were told the positions needed the least would be cut, thus whoever happened to be in that position would get the ax. Those of us laid off were directly told by our bosses that our positions were being eliminated when we were canned. Yet, we learned that management transferred--or is in the process of transferring--staffers from other positions, including at least one downtown Metro reporter, to many of these suburban positions that were supposedly eliminated.

The people replaced were generally longtime suburban staffers who lived in those communities, cared about those cities and built up years of contacts and credibility. Their replacements are generally young suck-up types who don't live in the cities they cover and just see the suburban gig as a stepping-stone to downtown. In those bullshit management meetings, we were told the News' circulation growth was coming mostly in the suburbs. Yet, News management showed it cares little about the suburbs in canning the people who can do the best job covering those cities.

Celeste says the fund set up by Steve Blow and Howard Swindle softened the blow "a lot." Those of us affected really appreciate the contributions, and they will definitely help. But even $1,000 only goes so far when you have a family to support and you're facing a tightening job market. That will not even pay the cost of moving to find another job in the journalism field.

Celeste made an excellent point in bringing up what the News paid outgoing executive Burl Osborne. You can also point to the $40 million or so wasted on the CueCat. How much did Belo save by making these layoffs? I argue it was not as much as management thinks, when you add up severance and unemployment pay and lost productivity because of lower morale and green reporters taking over veterans' positions. Besides the job cuts, morale is being affected by a nonsensical reorganization that includes moving several top investigative reporters to jobs that waste their talents. All this was done in a year when Belo will pretty much break even financially. If Belo stockholders demand a better bottom line, they could have saved as much money, or more, in the long run by implementing an across-the-board 1 percent pay cut than by cutting people.

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