By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
On a Wednesday morning in late March, Joey Dauben and his team are gathered at his little blue-trimmed cottage in Palmer, the town where Dauben is running for mayor. The election is about six weeks away, and they're supposed to be gearing up for the first day of door-to-door campaigning. But someone's running late, and inside his house there's always more work to do, for the blog or one of his dozens of newspapers.
Fueled by coffee, cigarettes, energy drinks and Michelob Ultra, Dauben and his crew compare who slept the least the night before. Dauben got four hours, but Brannon Bridge — Dauben's video guy, who earns his living answering tech support calls — says he was up all night editing YouTube clips. Now Bridge, stone-faced under a black knit ski cap and big aviators, is parked on a couch, aiming his Flip cam at the visiting reporter.
Brandy Owen, the editor of a handful of Dauben's newspapers, sits at a card table in the corner, tracking down details about a crime from the night before. Owen owns an "above-organic" health food distributor in Ennis. Like the rest of Dauben's writers, she works for him for free.
Dim window light leaks into Dauben's living room. Maps of Ellis County hang on the wall beside a cardboard stand-up of Sam Adams with a beer. On the far wall hangs a sign that reads "NEWSROOM," which Dauben tucked in with his belongings the day he cleared out his desk at the Ellis County Press almost two years ago. These are the headquarters for his growing empire of small-town newspapers, which he calls the Freedom of the Press Group.
Dauben paces the room, channeling his thoughts in a gravelly voice. He is constantly trying out new material, one-liners he might slip into a campaign speech.
"We are dismantling the power structure," Dauben says. "This is war. If it were not for the keyboard, I would have a gun. I would have a militia."
He laments how one local police chief used to beef up his budget with a speed trap in the middle of town, and only managed to keep a good public image because he moonlighted as an Elvis impersonator. Owen tosses in a complaint about city officials who simply hand out contracts as they like instead of putting them out for bid. And then there's "the gay ag teacher," Owen says.
"The gay ag teacher," Dauben repeats, plotting his quest to take down some allegedly predatory teacher in some small-town school.
"Even the City Council members will say, 'Joey, I know this guy was a pervert, but I'm not going to do anything about it,'" he says. "People say scandal sells, but I think the truth sells even more."
Of course, scandal is exactly what he's talking about, and it's what fuels his rapid expansion into new towns in and around Ellis County.
"The distribution network works like a drug cartel, or the CIA," Dauben says. Political activists or disgruntled citizens in a town call him up, say they've read his stories about Palmer, or Venus, or Italy, and wonder if he can help them too. Their police department is corrupt, they'll say, or the school board's full of perverts.
"I'm the new Matt Drudge," Dauben says. "And I hate to say it that way, but I am the new Matt Drudge."
Dauben and his team write some stories, line up advertisers from among the handful of businesses in town and start showing up at public meetings with cameras. Three mayors have already tried to ban his cameras from meetings, he says. And still his empire grows.
"We're gonna be global," he says, pointing to a shelf across the room. "That's why there's a globe right here."
Dallas fades gently into suburbia in every direction but one: southeast down Interstate 45, where the Trinity River is like a moat to keep development at bay. It's the quickest way to the country from downtown, the stretch of highway the McMansions and the Olive Garden forgot. Sheds and tractor yards line the frontage roads as shipping lots sprawl out between rolling, grassy hills.
A half an hour down the interstate, high atop one of those hills, past a yard full of gazebos and billboards threatening you with hellfire, sits Palmer: a convenience shop, a few churches and some empty downtown storefronts, the kind of town you'd have to be born in to love.
On this evening in early April, the city council is gathered in the town hall, which used to be a funeral parlor. Inside are the Palmer City Council's cozy chambers, with raised seats for the mayor and the five-member council, some of whom don't bother removing their ballcaps to take care of city business.
Dauben, in a T-shirt and gray sports jacket, rises to the podium smoothly and confidently.
"Joey, go ahead," Mayor Lance Anglin says. You get the feeling they've danced this dance before.
"For the record, my name's Joey Dauben," he says. "I'm a resident here. I have a couple of things to address."
He looks younger than his 30 years, but he's at home with a mic and a captive audience. He asks for clarification on some agenda items. Then — as if everyone in the room doesn't know it's coming, hasn't seen the paperwork, heard it around town or read it in Dauben's own newspaper any of the last few weeks — he announces that he's running for mayor.
I am very proud to have known Joey Dauben. Ellis Co. needs him to keep the good old girls and boys in their institutions accountable. As a past resident of Ferris Tx., I was happy to leave this town but miss some nice people and wish them the best. I laughed hard reading this article, thanks. PL
Hmmmmm Karma can be a bitch can't it, poor Joey, looks like he just can't take it when someone investigates HIM. You can't call yourself a journalist when you only take one side of a story or a rumor and post it up as fact. Perhaps this will teach him to have a little empathy for others, but I doubt it. He keeps doing the same reckless things that have got him arrested AGAIN...and then just can't shut up about it, a defense attourney's nightmare!
The dude gets in the Dallas Observer and then police RAID HIS HOUSE.!!!!!!!What the heck did the Dallas Observer do to this guy?!?!?
Fascinating story about someone who has never finished doing what he started and never managed to hold on to a long term job telling others how to run things. Ignorance is bliss.
Joey Dauben is like a character straight out of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I'm thinking Charlie Kelly.
Some guy I used to read on Twitter once said that Idiocracy isn't a comedy. It's a documentary. I feel the same way about It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and no I don't want to be Frank Reynolds.
Why didn't Joey mention his drug use and "teenage experimentation with homosexuality"? Are you cured, Joey? Was it the pedophilia or the hatemongering that did the job?
Fox News has taught an entire generation of derivative right-wing morons that with just a little bit off shitslinging and a dependence on "positive thinking" they too can become Sarah Palin. Absolutely disgusting.
Erik, is this still over the YouTube channel? Get over it...you are a just a jealous, control freak.
Gay ag teacher? Who cares? How is this germane to the issue? That one sentence lost me. I am not gay, but this intolerance of others who are doing no harm is getting old.
Had the pleasure of working aside Joey at the Obama Town Hall of 2009 in NH -- you know the one where ONE guy was singled out for carrying and who appeared on Chris Matthews? What the dopes didn't know is that EVERYONE in NH 'carries'.... there were probably 300 of them there, many women too. Much ado about nothing.
Just be careful OBSERVER, Joey wins,he may battle you guys next and your www.backpage.com that has all the innocent sweet working girls and their adds in it ! " The Oldest Occupation in The World " LOL
The "Rupert Murdoch" of Dallas, including stereotyping and stigmatizing gays ... and being too nutbar for the borderline-racist rantings of the Ellis County Press. That's "our" Joey; at least he's finally fessed up to his cybersquatting and why.
...meanwhile, we just launched The Odessa Observer news Web site, which will eventually become its own newspaper as well.
Who the fuck is this dipshit twat and who the fuck cares about him enough to make it a cover story?
JD is looking old and scared. It's really a shame. He's a smart guy and he seems to be a nice guy most of the time. I truly hope he gets out of this "publishing medical records" scrape and turns over a new leaf. The worst thing would be a conviction and prison time.
What is your point you hateful smug? You know our constitutionis written on hemp. and God gave us free will to learn what was right and wrong. Without experiementation I guess we'd all be shallow, close minded, one liner regurgitating fools like yourself. Hows your beamer doing to pock up chicks you mid life loser.
Whats sad is my fellow liberal won't own up to MSNBC doing the same. I don't think he idolizes Ms. Palin, who never had an electable chance without immediate revolution following. Im pretty progressive...but Ron Paul has VERY valid points. Jesus gave me my courage to follow a path on positivity, not FOX or any other subjugative media outlet. Listen to Thom Hartmann and drop the other side hate. We used to enjoy political debate, dissent, and criticism. It is he who stands firm on hallowed ground who stands for the Lord.
It was more John Rockefeller and the Art of War that helped me :) That quote from Rockefeller summed it up: "Own nothing, control everything." Oh, and Jesus. He definitely got my start.
Keep quacking, Coleman.
It wasn't the ag teacher. Brandy clarified this remark, and so did I (on The Ellis County Observer.) We were discussing an ag teacher, yes, but the thing about the sexual molestation/sex scandal involved an In-School-Suspension teacher at Palmer High School, not the gay ag teacher.
Thanks, man. I do believe we just inked a deal to expand Newspaper No. 42 into the "north-of-Fort-Worth-area."
lol, wow, such a mean person. Steve, I'm in need of very opinionated writers, if you ever wanna jump on my media rocketship ;)
Did you take your pills this morning? Go back to infowars.com.
Way to keep your integrity Dauben. I may not agree completely with you, but I appreciate your courage and willingness to do something, which is a lot more than most. Steve is a jerk who probably never gets laid unless he hits backpage!!!!!!!
"Was it the pedophilia or the hatemongering that did the job?"Do you hear yourself? Mr. h8 h8 h8 h8?Look what you've let yourself act like, just to defend yourself. I don't dislike you, just the hate you've accepted into your life. I have compassion for your existence, unlike yourself. You've resorted to nana-bobo retorts instead of debating. You seem smarter than that, but the evidence is lacking...
Will check it out! You think it suits me? Thanks for the help in findnig fellow like minded Americans! I would love to be part of what you hate...if only to be away from the HATE that you and others who share your view, spew.
Good job. Let's throw comprehension and context completely out the window. Good luck with your Jungian studies. May it make you the most interesting of interns at the Ellis County Gazette or whatever shitrag you aspire to toil your labors at.
It is your reliance on communicating anger to get your point across, using names like fucknut morons. Your anger and ignorance illuminate your unevolved perspective. You don't have to be miserable or discontent...that is your mind's expectations causing you to get angry. Nothing else.I guess I'm a fucknut moron because you disagree with ME, or my viewpoint? I'm confused as to how disagreeing with similar heores of mine and Mr. Dauber's makes me a fucknut moron. You obviously dislike Ron Pauls view and hate Jesus, or the religion that loves him so. Why else would you state your doubt of his existence? How does that help, by trashing Mr. Dauber? Do you have any opinions of your own, or are they just knee-jerk negative reactions to feeling uncomfortable with that which you do not understand?
I emplore you to you use your grey-matter for more than sufficing your subconscious.
My beliefs don't require that you believe them. I don't care if you think he was real, he is an inevitable archetypal outcome of a world society stuggling to evolve from fear to love. If not then...eventually. How happy are you, buddy? How's your perspective workin for ya? Lots of friends and love in your life huh? Some of us are actually trying. I can't wait for the next elections, we'll see how funny he is to you then! Eventually, I will be able to welcome you to the unconditional loving perspective your soul longs for, but your unevolved human mind has yet to discover.
He's right, keep quacking Coleman.
Good job Joey!!! I'm not at all scarrd to stand behind someone that is for the truth. Nreds to be more people that are not afraid in my book.
Yeah, I did. I learned to go after everybody in public office who subscribes to the view that not being honest is a trait to possess. Joseph in Hebrew means "God Shall Increase." And the Combine PD tried to silence Freedom of the Press. My first day in, I said, "I will increase Freedom of the Press that they tried to silence." And thus, Freedom of the Press Group was formed...
I learned quite a deal while locked up for 12 days. Now I'm teaching the lessons.