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Paper cut

Even Randy Galloway's 81-year-old mother, herself a lifelong journalism veteran, couldn't believe it when he told her the news. Margaret Galloway didn't come right out and say it, but her 55-year-old son could hear the concern in her voice--feel it, actually, like a slap. It's the way any son feels when his own mother thinks he's made the wrong decision.

"Now, why are you doing this?" she asked when Randy told his mama he was leaving The Dallas Morning News for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She, of course, was not the only person wondering the same thing.

When Galloway went on WBAP-AM (820) on the morning of July 30 to confirm what was even then just a vague rumor, the news-breaker became, in an instant, the news-maker. In some quarters--especially in media circles, where he is revered even among competitors, perhaps because he is a far superior drinker than even Dale Hansen--Galloway's decision to leave his home of the past 32 years was bigger news than the Rangers' deadline trades for Todd Stottlemyre, Todd Zeile, and Royce Clayton.

The idea of Galloway defecting for Fort Worth seemed almost unthinkable: For 32 years, he has been as much a part of the Morning News as the ink itself. Not even his colleagues at the paper believed it could happen--no way in hell was the paper's lead sports columnist heading west, not for all the money in the world.

"Nobody's come right out and said, 'Why did you do that?' but they've come pretty close," Galloway says, in that good ol' Grand Prairie twang of his that reeks of Jose Cuervo and cigars. "I think there was a perception, and I was told there was one at the Morning News when all this came up, 'He'll never do that. He's not leaving the Morning News. Galloway doesn't leave the Morning News for the Star-Telegram.' Anybody who would bring that up to me, I would say, 'Why in the hell they thinkin' that?'"

Galloway is not a fool or a hypocrite; he readily admits money was a major factor in his decision to leave the News for the Star-Telegram. He would even admit as much to his enormous listening audience last Thursday evening at the very top of his "Sports at Six with Randy Galloway" program that airs each weeknight on WBAP. Indeed, when longtime Star-Telegram sports columnist--and Galloway's buddy from way back--Jim Reeves first called Galloway on July 18 to broach the subject of defecting to the Star-Telegram, Galloway asked Reeves whether his bosses knew his salary at the News. "That may end it right there," Galloway told the man known as Revo.

There has been considerable speculation about Galloway's salary at the Star-Telegram, all well into the six figures. Even Galloway says he was among the "top two or three" highest-paid writers at the News, and he was so well compensated for his column, he never went in and asked for a raise. But he also mentions that he recently thought about taking early retirement and doing the radio show full-time, but couldn't make it work financially.

So yes, the move is about money. Of course it is.
But it's also about much more than that. It's about Galloway's need to go to a paper where he'd be appreciated once more, where his bosses--especially Morning News executive sports editor Dave Smith--would no longer treat him like a nuisance they could neither tame nor fire. It's about Galloway's desire to work for bosses who won't give him grief about his radio show, which he's hosted for the last 12 years. It's about his passion for horse racing and his desire to write about a sport the Morning News banished him from around the time Galloway got into the thoroughbred business as an owner. It's about Galloway's sincere belief that the Star-Telegram is indeed a "good paper," in his words, intent on making itself a great one--hell, doesn't his hiring prove as much?

But in the end, it's about Galloway's desire to be Randy Galloway in all his Grand Prairie glory, no longer worried about his editors coming down on him for shooting his mouth off on the air about his horses or his tequila fetish or referring to former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer as "Gunsmoke." In Cowtown, Galloway's brand of journalism--a happy-hour blend of good-ol'-boy aphorisms and a veteran's weary insight--will be right at home.

"It's no secret, some of the things I like to do, the people at the Morning News--the corporate people--some of them didn't like some of those things," says Galloway, the paper's former Rangers writer who became a columnist in 1981, after Skip Bayless jumped to the Dallas Times Herald. "And that was kind of a constant source of irritation with them. They never liked the radio show, and they're sorry they ever gave the OK to do it. They never told me to quit it, but they never liked it, and particularly with Dave Smith, it was a source of irritation."

 

There have long been rumblings from the Morning News about Smith and managing editor Ralph Langer complaining that Galloway was spending far too much time on his radio show while letting his columns slide. At least one writer on Young Street says Galloway relied far too heavily on beat writers to do his reporting for him. Smith, who did not return calls to the Dallas Observer, is also said to have hated the fact that the radio show made Galloway somehow bigger than the paper. No longer was he just a columnist--he was a bona fide personality, the rock star of local sports journalism.

Galloway insists he never put the radio show before his column; indeed, he says, he often asked Smith and Langer if they thought that, and Galloway says their answer was always a steadfast no. Rather, he says, the radio show and the column have long informed each other--the "wimp-free" radio show is just a more corporeal manifestation of the in-print Galloway, bringing to life words on the stark page.

"Blackie Sherrod, my all-time hero in the newspaper business, once said, 'The radio show has helped you grow as a columnist,'" Galloway recalls. "Well, if Blackie Sherrod says it to me, it's the gospel. But I know they didn't believe that in the Belo bunker. There's no way, and I heard that a lot. If you work for Belo, you understand how the game is played. If you don't understand and accept how the game is played, you don't stay there, and you certainly don't stay there 32 years. And it has been over the last 20 that the Belo mentality has really come in...People say, 'Well, Galloway didn't conform.' Bullshit. I conformed, because nobody is bigger than what they [management] want, and you conform to it."

What is perhaps most astonishing about Galloway's departure from the News is the speed with which it happened--32 years came to an end in just 10 days.

Scott Monserud, sports editor at the Star-Telegram, cannot point to a specific incident that led to his paper's desire to go after Galloway; he says it was just a vague idea that metamorphosed, one day, into a tangible plan. But before Monserud, publisher Wes Turner, and editor Jim Witt approached Galloway, they first asked columnists Reeves and Gil LeBreton for their OK--the suits didn't want to alienate their two lead columnists, who would have to share the front page of the sports section with their old friend.

And indeed, it was Reeves who came up with the idea of calling Galloway about coming over. It was on July 18, and Galloway had just gotten out of his swimming pool and was poring over the Daily Racing Form--before leaving for Lone Star Park, of course--when he received the call from Reeves, who was calling from his truck. "He was ramblin' around, talkin' about this and that and talkin' bullshit, then he went, 'Why don't you sit down?'" Galloway recalls. "And then he kind of ran it down. And when he said, 'Are you interested?' I said, 'Yeah. Hell, I'd be damn sure interested in talkin' to them. Damn right.'"

He and Reeves and LeBreton met at the Ballpark in Arlington the next night, Sunday, to discuss what such a move meant for all three men. They spoke for two hours that night about "everything," Galloway says. "No matter what they say, they're gonna have some kind of problem, and I don't blame 'em." Even after they got everything straight, Galloway still thought the idea of his jumping papers was "far-fetched," at best.

The next morning, he met with Witt, Turner, and Monserud, who told Galloway they loved the radio show, didn't mind his writing about horse racing, and were going to keep him on his standard four-columns-a-week rotation. "We want Randy Galloway to be Randy Galloway," Monserud told the Observer last week. "That's what brings readers to the paper--his opinions, and his persona."

By July 30, Galloway was on WBAP-AM breaking the news: Yes, he was jumping ship to the Star-Telegram. Hours later, the Star-Telegram's Internet site featured the Associated Press' story on its front page--"Sports columnist Randy Galloway switches newspapers"--while Galloway's picture was already off the Morning News' own Web site, which made no mention of its star columnist's departure. Only Frank Luksa and Kevin B. Blackistone's mug shots remained (two months ago, Cathy Harasta was quietly moved to Olympics beat writer), blown up to cover the enormous gap where Galloway's smiling, mustached face had been for so very long. His previous columns, including his final piece for the paper, published July 26, were also banished from the Web site, as though Galloway never existed.

 

Early Thursday afternoon, the Morning News top brass held a staff meeting to break the news, and it was also announced that former Cowboys and Stars beat writer Tim Cowlishaw was taking Galloway's spot. The next day, there was a full-page ad in the front section of the paper announcing Cowlishaw's promotion.

Lost in all the furor is the fate of Frank Luksa, the finest writer at the Morning News. He and Galloway made the perfect team: Randy was often merciless toward those who fouled up, and Frank exhibits a rare compassion among sportswriters. (His Tony Tolbert farewell that appeared a few weeks ago ranks among his finest columns.) Indeed, during a conversation at the Ballpark a few months ago, the 60-year-old Luksa imparted the secret to good sports journalism: "Remember," he said, "that no athlete tries to fail."

The Morning News lost a great columnist when Galloway decided to leave, but they still have a great journalist in Frank Luksa. So, Dave Smith, where's his full-page ad?


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