The most insightful Morning News coverage of the city's $175 million bond program came not from the paper's on-the-team news coverage, but from veteran columnist Phil Seib.
Seib, an SMU instructor and political consultant who writes for the "Viewpoints" page and has written for the News for 15 years, offered a blunt and incisive summary on April 11 of the deceitful campaign literature being used to sell voters on the bond issue.
Under the headline, "Dallas bond literature is misleading," Seib noted that the bond package before voters on May 6 "contains plenty of worthwhile projects. It is a shame that campaigners for the bond propositions feel they must mislead voters." Seib cited a brochure summarizing each of the propositions. For example, wrote Seib, an entry headlined "LIBRARY AND BUILDING REPAIR," with a listed price tag of $2.9 million, encouraged "any reasonable person" to assume "that much of the $2.9 million would be devoted to the libraries, which are in such sad shape that their original request for bond money for repairs was $16 million." In fact, as Seib noted, "only $237,000 of the money--8 percent--will go to libraries."
"Dallas truly needs the bond projects," concluded Seib. "But bond campaign committee members and their City Hall bosses should not be surprised if a substantial number of people cast 'no' ballots to protest the campaign's deceit."
News launches Hispanic "vehicle"
Dallas' Only Daily has given angry white males one more reason to be angry.
In an unusual and creative act of blatant money-grubbing reverse discrimination, the Morning News has launched a full-color weekly tabloid designed, according to Intercom, the News' in-house magazine, "specifically for the growing Hispanic market in the Dallas area."
The publication is called La Fuente--that's Spanish for the "the source." The name is aptly vague, for it's neither an editorial section of the newspaper nor a magazine. Instead, according to Intercom, it's "an advertiser and marketing vehicle mailed free to more than 100,000 Hispanic households...As a niche publication, it represents one of the new ways The Morning News can identify a specific need in the community, research it, determine that it represents an attractive business opportunity, develop a product and market it to advertisers."
Translation: it's a new way to make money.
Written by News advertising copywriters, with some articles in Spanish and others in English, La Fuente will contain "profiles on local Hispanic role models, a community calendar of events, health topics, entertainment, food and traditional recipes, travel tips, activities for seniors, tips on family activities, even a bilingual crossword puzzle."
News vice president of sales and marketing Rick Starks, in a verbose and patronizing display of marketing-speak published in Intercom, explained that the new product is "an informational vehicle, with advertising, and with all of the flair that's associated with the Hispanic community." (And the first 100 readers will each get a free piata!) "La Fuente is a communication vehicle and an advertising vehicle."
La Fuente begs the question of why the News simply isn't enhancing its newspaper to meet the needs of the Hispanic community--with real articles written by journalists, instead of advertising copywriters
The answer, of course, is money. It's a way for advertisers to tap the Hispanic market--who, by and large, don't pick up the News. Intercom explained that of 100,595 households "targeted for delivery of the new product"--through a complex process of sifting through driver's license files for Hispanic surnames, then weighting surnames "for likelihood of being Hispanic"--only 9,000 were News home-delivery subscribers.
So rather than try to enhance its own paper to serve Hispanics and attract them as readers, the News' business wizards are bypassing their own daily--and providing an opportunity for advertisers to reach Latinos directly, without informative, legitimate journalism to distract them from buying products with "all the flair that's associated with the Hispanic community."
And what about those angry white males?
Well, they have cause to be angry because, unlike those households with a "likelihood of being Hispanic," they won't get La Fuente--or anything like it--free. Readers inside the publication's "defined" circulation area who are not Hispanic can subscribe, Intercom explains, but it'll cost them $19.50 per year.
Wonder if they'd send one free to the Observer, in the name of BeloWatch Ramirez?
After an odd and unfortunate period of silence, the News editorial page on April 19 returned to the issue of the Dallas County commissioners' wrongheaded attempts--most conspicuously, by banning the distribution of condoms--to gut county programs that are helping fight sexually transmitted disease. The editorial, headlined "Public Health--Commissioners' actions bode ill for county health," said what needed to be said. Now if only the loons on the commissioners court will listen.
Welcome to BeloWorld
On the subject of the News' editorial page, BeloWatch must take belated note of the March 11 editorial on the departure of first assistant city manager Cliff Keheley.
The editorial, headlined "Keheley's departure--City manager faces a major decision"--was striking for two reasons. First, its opening paragraphs stated: "After nearly 20 years at City Hall, Mr. Keheley decided that personal health was more important than public service. We can certainly understand. Long hours and the stress of completing plans for a proposed downtown sports arena had taken their toll on the seasoned municipal administrator."
Who are the boys and girls on the News editorial board trying to kid? Or are they simply on a different planet? Call it BeloWorld.
Keheley, as everyone who can read a Dallas weekly (or even a daily) newspaper knows, resigned under a cloud, after orchestrating the now-infamous "secret" arena study. The News editorial, incredibly, pretends the scandal that preceded his resignation never happened.
BeloWatch was also struck by the sense of urgency the News expressed in advising City Manager John Ware to "not limit his search to Dallas City Hall.
"The first assistant should be someone with the background and management skills to assume the city manager's duties when needed," the News opined. Citing Ware's move to revamp city government, the News concluded, "the need for a strong first assistant to serve with Mr. Ware has never been more apparent. That is why the choice should be made from as broad a field as possible."
Ware has a reputation at City Hall for choosing weak subordinates, who don't represent a threat to him.
However, there was another sad, but obvious, subtext to the editorial: because Ware is under treatment for a deadly form of cancer, the individual he picks may well need to fill his spot--on either an interim or permanent basis.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.