The Same, but Different

Plus: Panic Button; Ready, Aim...

Like we told you last month (Buzz, July 29), the always jittery newsroom folks at The Dallas Morning News have been concerned about various financial ailments affecting the paper--and that's before a circulation scandal involving falsely inflated numbers drained $26 million from the coffers. (Well, from the budget sheet, at least.)

The concern was--and now is, even more--that the string of expensive DMN startups (Quick, Al Dia) coupled with behind-projection revenue growth added to the circ scandal could mean layoffs.

The fear among those in the know is real. "There's great and increasing panic over revenue and what that means for the '05 budget," says one DMN manager. "I believe the 'plan' was for 5 percent revenue growth; we're said to not be close. Increasingly, the worry is headcount."

In this mix comes last Friday's news that department heads on the biz side of the paper were asked to submit organizational charts to human resources, which lays out neatly all the names that could be moved, shuffled or, yes, scratched out by the suit wielding the big corporate Magic Marker, if he so desired.

For now, at least, DMN bosses say calm down, nothing is happening. Dallas Morning News Editor Bob Mong referred questions about what that means to Publisher Jim Moroney III. But Mong said he wasn't asked to submit charts, and neither was anyone in editorial to his knowledge. Moroney says, "We're in the middle of our budgetary cycle for the next year, which happens at this same time every year." Standard operating procedure, in other words. So chill.

Which means it's probably panic over nothing. Just some sales people and biz-side types reshuffling the deck. Shouldn't matter to writers and editors, huh? Nothing that happens on the sales side of a publication affects editorial. We all learned that long ago, right? --Eric Celeste

Ready, Aim...

Gun owners who feel that sometimes having only 10 rounds in their weapons is just not enough--maybe they're poor shots or have a lot of enemies--should take heart. Come September 13, the federal "assault weapon ban" is set to expire unless Congress acts to extend it.

The law, which prohibited the production and sale of 19 kinds of specific guns, outlawed the sale of detachable magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and loosely restricted certain features such as bayonet lugs and flash suppressors, was passed in 1994 with a built-in 10-year expiration date. President Bush says he supports renewing it, but gun-control advocates complain that the White House has done little to push Congress to pass an extension.

With the ban set to fade into the sunset, are Dallas gun shops anticipating a rush for customers hungry to get their hands on an Uzi? Not really, says Steve Melton, owner of B&S Guns on Belt Line Road.

"It'll probably create a little stir in business" if the ban expires, Melton says. That will come chiefly from the sale of 15- and 18-round magazines for pistols, he expects. Already, 10-round magazines for high-capacity pistols are getting scarce, as manufacturers hold off on making 10-round magazines in anticipation of the ban's end. Some makers are offering new gun purchasers coupons that buyers can redeem for higher-capacity magazines after September 13, Melton says. "Anything that'll stir business helps us."

That help may not be a sure thing. Eric Howard, associate communications director for The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says the group still holds out hope the ban will live. He cites polls that suggest 80 percent of the public--as well as most law-enforcement groups--support the ban. "Reason can trump the muscle of the gun lobby," he adds.

But it's questionable what effect the ban might have on crime. Weapons built before 1994--there were millions of them--were exempted. The law is riddled with loopholes, critics say, and it mainly required cosmetic changes that don't affect how a gun shoots. Besides, assault-type weapons are used in only a tiny fraction of gun crimes, according to federal studies.

"We're not aware of any legitimate study on this issue that shows this measure has had any impact on crime," says Kelly Hobbs, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.

(For an example of the ban's limitations, check out www.ont.com/users/kolya/.) --Patrick Williams

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