By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Buzz knows all about one kind of belt-tightening. As our gut continually tries to put more distance between itself and our spine, the belt gets snug. Nothing you can do about it.
The other kind--when people start pinching pennies--Buzz knows nothing about. Of all the clichés in these two paragraphs, none is as dear to Buzz as "you gotta spend money to make money." The folks at The Dallas Morning News, though, don't feel the same way.
DMN managers in late August were told that they wouldn't be hiring for any of the 25 or so open positions in editorial. Fine. No one really thought they would, and the paper has been trying to do more with less for a while. But now, as they prepare the budget for next year, top brass is asking managers to make some "suggested cuts" in non-salary areas. Everyone knows that any "suggested" cut most likely will be implemented, so they're trying to make them as painless as possible.
The problem? The amount they "suggest" cutting is so large, some feel they'll have to cut salaries anyway. Add to that the pressure to reduce overtime and freelance payments, and, says one newsroom manager, "It's getting hard just to put the paper out."
Even more than getting the paper out, the people at the Morning News just need to get out more. Their editorial page this week heaped praise on itself for having figured out that things are bad in the Dallas Police Department--a conclusion also reached in a special study released by the city manager this week. "By rights, we should be preening discreetly and whispering, 'We told you so,'" the paper said.
Always unsure of its reporters, the News commissioned a consulting firm to come up with a special section last April, "Dallas at the Tipping Point," revealing that the police department and other city agencies are messed up.
With that breakthrough, the News came in on the police story only a year and three months after our own Thomas Korosec, now with the Houston Chronicle, busted it open the first time ("Dallas' Chief Problem," January 16, 2003), and only a full year after Korosec hit it again with an account of bad morale ("Ticket to Ride," March 13, 2003).
The "Tipping Point" deal was even a year behind a survey of police morale published by D magazine, the cocktail napkin of local journalism. And the sluggers at the News feel like "preening"?