Paper tiger

Here's a quick question for you regular readers of this column -- both of you. If Buzz were to get in a fight with our boss and wind up suspended or sacked, would you organize to save our skin?

You can stop laughing now. Obviously Buzz needs to be nicer to our boss or cultivate a more loyal class of fans, like those of Dallas Morning News staff writer Norma Adams-Wade.

Adams-Wade, whose column on Dallas' black communities normally appears on Tuesdays in the News, has been missing in action following a paper-throwing incident with an editor earlier this month.

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If "paper-throwing incident" sounds a bit vague, that's because the people willing to talk about it would only do so off the record, and their stories come across like a newsroom Rashomon -- the versions don't quite jibe. This much they agree on, though: Adams-Wade chucked a bundle of paper in the newspaper's library; said paper struck her editor, Jennifer Juarez Robles, in the head; Adams-Wade was suspended without pay for three weeks.

Now, generally speaking, whacking an editor with anything less than a 2-by-4 is not a good idea. So a three-week suspension wouldn't seem out of line, except for this: Adams-Wade's friends consider her one of the deans of African-American journalists in this region, and she has way more friends than Buzz ever will. They've rallied to support her and confront News management over the suspension.

Cheryl Smith, a talk-show host with radio station KKDA and regional director of the National Association of Black Journalists, says she has received at least 100 e-mails supporting Adams-Wade, who reportedly was the first black journalist hired full-time at the News 26 years ago. Smith says Adams-Wade is a gentle, unassuming, levelheaded grandmother -- the last person on earth likely to turn violent.

"There are people who told her not to go back, and I'm talking about friends," says Smith, who discussed the incident at length on her show Sunday. "They feel she's paid her dues."

Buzz isn't exactly sure what sort of dues you have to pay to get one free paper-chuck at an editor, but we believe that somewhere down the line we should have been collecting receipts.

Other sources say, however, that Adams-Wade has been feuding with various editors other than Robles for months and, for unknown personal reasons, lately has become nigh impossible to work with. Robles, who suffered cuts from the "ream" of papers tossed her way, began editing her only very recently, and reportedly did nothing to provoke the attack.

For the record, Robles, who has worked for the paper less than a year, would say only that the issue was a private personnel matter. News Executive Editor Gilbert Bailon did not return our phone call, and Adams-Wade declined to comment. Perhaps when she returns to column writing in early February, she'll explain the whole ordeal in print.

OK, you can start laughing again.

Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

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