Pre-emptive Spin

AJR article has News crew feeling apprehensive

Occasionally, Buzz is called upon to answer questions from and provide quotes to reporters from other media. We do it--would be hypocrites otherwise--but we hate it, for a couple of reasons. First, you never know what another reporter is going to do with your words. Second, in more than 20 years in the news biz, we've worked with our share of nitwits, so we know that reporters--big drum roll here--don't always get everything right. (The Dallas Observer staff is, of course, the exception.)

So we empathize with Dallas Morning News Publisher James Moroney III, whose newspaper is the subject of an upcoming 5,000-word article in the American Journalism Review. Judging by an e-mail message Moroney sent to News staff, he's feeling apprehensive about what that story will say. Between an embarrassing and costly scandal in which the News admitted faking circulationnumbers, to layoffs of 150 staffers last fall, the News has not had a great year. You might suppose that the AJRwould delve into some of that.

"From the questions which were asked of [Belo CEO] Robert Decherd, [Editor] Bob Mong and me in a joint interview session, it would appear that this story will focus on our layoffs, particularly in the newsroom and the editorial department," Moroney wrote.

"I will conjecture that the story will try to make the case that these layoffs have damaged our ability to consistently publish superior journalism."

Lori Robertson, AJR's managing editor, wouldn't give us a sneak peek at the article, written by freelance reporter Charles Layton, but said it is about the layoffs. "I know they're nervous," Robertson says. "[But] I think it's a fair story...He interviewed a lot of people who were laid off and still there." (The article will be posted at www.ajr.org either Friday or Monday.)

In his message, Moroney recounts some of the good work the paper has done since the layoffs, including series on Child Protective Services and poor medical care in the Dallas County jail, among others.

"We are using the scale of our 550 person strong newsroom effectively," Moroney writes.

Moroney's words aren't exactly Churchillian in their ability to inspire, but we get his point. Here's another point: Imagine the stories Texas' leading daily might do if it had been managed well enough to avoid the layoffs.

 
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