Dallas Morning News publisher James Moroney III wants to know why the morale among his Metro reporters is low, sources at the News tell Buzz.
Good question. What, oh what, could the answer be? Perhaps they’re less than happy that the paper’s covering more board meetings out in Lewisville, thanks to the daily’s effort to focus attention on the northern suburbs. Wanna destroy reporters’ morale? Make them write stories even they find boring.
That’s just Buzz’s guess, but Moroney, not being a fool, didn’t ask us. Instead, he called a meeting last week with 15 or so of his Metro staff reporters to try to learn why morale is low and why the paper has not won a Pulitzer Prize in nearly 10 years, sources say. (Asking reporters to complain? Maybe he is a fool.)
Surprisingly, Moroney wasn’t eaten alive. Instead, he heard complaints about an absence of clear leadership—that’s reporter-speak for “my editor stinks.”
Still, Moroney must be feeling pleased with at least some of the paper’s leadership, at least that part of it that was quickly able to produce—er—Quick, the paper’s new free tabloid aimed at young readers who are too busy to read a full-size newspaper. Instead, they get the CliffsNotes version in Quick, which offers 30 percent of all the news fit to print.
(A side question: What are twentysomethings so busy doing that they don’t have time to read a paper? Oh, right. Video games and screwing. Never mind.)
Quick debuted Monday, largely in response to plans by local media company American Consolidated Media to produce its own free “commuter” tabloid in Dallas, called A.M. Journal Express, beginning this month. (See Buzz, October 30.) When word broke that AMJE was coming, the Morning News went into full holy-crap mode, dusted off some old prototypes and rolled out Quick, which appears to be a package of context-free news briefs and trimmed-down stories from the regular edition; it’s hawked on the street by black-clad vendors.
“I’m so proud of these people,” Moroney says. “Everyone sees us as this huge warship that can’t react quickly. We proved them wrong. They’ve put together a damn good-looking paper.”
Yet it’s not, generally speaking, the sort of product likely to boost morale among serious reporters, though it might cheer the homeless. The bound bundles of untouched copies of Quick we saw lying near downtown buildings will make nice toasty fires under overpasses this winter, assuming the paper lasts that long.
Unhinged: Of course, that also assumes there’ll be any homeless left, which there won’t be if Mayor Laura Miller has her way. An anonymous writer pulled this quote from a News story about the city’s new anti-panhandling ordinance and e-mailed it to Buzz: “‘For a while I would roll down the window and yell and scream at them [panhandlers] to get off the streets,’ Mayor Laura Miller said...”
“Is this a sane woman?” the letter writer asked. “Who does that sort of thing? Most of us just ignore them and try not to meet their eye.”
Buzz is not qualified to comment on anyone’s sanity—pots and kettles, ya know?—but like our correspondent, we were a little perturbed at the image of the mayor of a major city screaming like a fishwife at beggars. So we have a suggestion: Laura, next time the rage hits you, just repeat the following until the mood passes: “There but for the grace of God go I...”