By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"I have a vision to move the town forward, grow the town both economically and physically. With people," he says. "We have to prepare for five, 10, 25 years from now, and I think it's high time that members of my generation stand up."
Bridge, still armed with his Flip cam, records the announcement for Dauben's YouTube channel. Another team member snaps still photos. It's a subdued performance compared to the theatrics the town's come to expect from Dauben and his crew. Last year, Dauben sent someone in a Dopey costume to a festival at the Fundamental Baptist Church, to campaign for a ballot measure legalizing beer and wine sales. And once, during an ill-fated Congressional bid, Dauben offered to take supporters on a date to the Galaxy Drive-In for a $25 donation. ("It was 98 percent gay men who responded to the ad," he says.)
"Anyone else on citizens forum?" someone asks when Dauben finishes. The room goes quiet. The meeting moves on. Bridge turns his Flip back onto the council.
This isn't an unusual scene these days. In small towns around Dallas, city councils and school boards have increasingly found Dauben's hand-held cameras trained on them, recording their every move for later derision on his blog, the Ellis County Observer, and for a countrified media empire that's grown to include 40 small-town newspapers and a small posse of contributors, including his grandmother.
Dauben is a tireless worker and, seemingly, a true believer in the basic American virtues of open government, free speech and the power of the press. But justice is a curious thing in Dauben's hands, often doled out based solely on anonymous sources, and with the glee of a boy playing battleships in the tub.
Some headlines in his papers are charming, small-town material, about new trucks for the Venus fire department or a farmer ticketed for bringing livestock into downtown Branson. The front-page news is ambitious but worthy government watchdog stuff: a police chief accused of maintaining ticket quotas, a councilwoman of using city workers to clean her sewage pipes.
But the papers are also padded with the remnants of Dauben's journalistic junk drawer: a photo of two fat women in their underwear feeding each other McDonald's, a guide to starting your own "crisis garden," a geography quiz, a one-page biography of Dauben himself and a classified ad for Dauben's $20-an-hour services as a writing tutor. ("I'll even write your papers for you!")
"People say I have a Napoleon complex. Yeah, I do. I'm going into these towns; I'm conquering these towns. I'm putting a newspaper in every single town that the Ellis County Press is in," Dauben says, referring to the traditional newspaper that gave him his first reporting job. He knows the names people call him, the dismissive way people talk because he prints on sheets of 11 by 17 paper instead of newsprint. But Dauben's greatest resource is a rare brand of self-confidence that drowns out even the most logical criticism. "We will supplant the Ellis County Press," he says, "because I believe they've lost their mission." He compares himself to Ron Paul, but with a particular enthusiasm for the First Amendment. His business grows by the month.
"I want to be the Rupert Murdoch of Dallas-Fort Worth," he says. "I want to have it all."
A page in each of Dauben's newspapers is devoted to his Messianic faith, with meditations on his brand of religion — part Christianity, part Judaism, unspoiled by years of church politics — and his calling "to protect the innocent from being harmed or abused." Last fall, Dauben advertised weekly study groups at his house, where they would talk about current events as "birth pains" prophesied in the Bible. He had to quit when the crowds got too big, he says. Ultimately, he would like to start his own congregation.
"Palmer is just — I think it was set aside for me," Dauben says. "I'm a real spiritual guy, too, so I really believe God said, 'This is where you need to be.'"
His attempt to transition from small-town muckraker to elected official may seem unlikely, but there are only 2,000 people in Palmer. The last mayor was re-elected with fewer than 150 votes. It's just the kind of race where an outsider can claw his way into office with hard work and a bold message, Dauben figures. He may be right.
He's definitely right about the shortage of watchdog journalists in towns like Palmer. He doesn't seem fueled purely by narcissism. But there's plenty of it. All the newspapers, all the campaigning — Dauben jokes it goes back to his fourth-grade Halloween when he dressed up like Ross Perot. Since then he's wanted to run for president. "That's my number-one lifetime goal," Dauben says, and he's not joking this time.
Dauben was born in Ovilla, a town south of DeSoto on the Dallas-Ellis county line. He was held back in fourth and sixth grade by his mom, an English teacher who home-schooled him for a while. When he returned to public school, Dauben says, he was bullied for being older and smaller than the other kids.
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.