Craig Flournoy and Tracy Everbach's highly critical Dallas Morning News review in the Columbia Journalism Review, first mentioned here Thursday, has prompted a response from the paper's Big Bosses, editor Bob Mong and publisher and chief executive officer Jim Moroney. Unfair Park was forwarded a memo M&M sent to staffers who mighta read the CJR piece and felt a little, ya know, down.
The pair chose not to address some of the criticisms in the story -- bad Web site, out-of-touch management, circ-scandal hangover, among others -- and instead ac-cent-tchu-ate the paper's positives. "We have a good story to tell, and the piece missed most of that," they write in the memo, which follows after the jump. And, yes, you will find within the paper did indeed hire consultants last year "who spent time with our news leaders." --Robert Wilonsky
To: Everyone-TDMN; TDMN-Plano (North Plant)
Subject: Thanks for your great work
To One and All
From: Jim Moroney and Bob Mong
Re: Thanks for your great work
We wanted to give you our take on the recent article about the paper.
First of all, the Founding Fathers had it right when they sought a vibrant, diverse and enterprising press to keep tabs on public life. Debate is the essence of a democracy, and that's how opinion is shaped. The discourse is often messy, which we think describes the piece in question. But the process is important, and we have to be just as accountable as we expect others to be with us.
We have a good story to tell, and the piece missed most of that.
We told the reporters how proud we were of the great leadership George Rodrigue, our managing editor, and Keven Willey, our editorial page editor, have provided our staff and our readers. They have helped unleash a tremendous energy in our news and editorial areas. We think its one reason some consultants who spent time with our news leaders last year called our newsroom the most action-oriented they had ever seen. We agree with that assessment.
The article missed out by not focusing more on the outcome of your work. We're producing more investigative work, with more impact, than ever before. Our editorial page is more alert and more insightful than it has ever been. Most of you know that Texas voters will consider a Constitutional Amendment this fall on recorded votes that came about through the leadership of our editorial department. That is just one of many exceptional efforts by our editorial staff.
This paper is making a difference in this city and in Texas. We invite you to look at some of the high impact news reporting we've produced in the last 12 months. By any standard, it is exceptionally impressive.
Great work since June 30, 2006 TDMN News Management July 6, 2007
Investigative and enterprise reporting Who What Impact
Doug Swanson, Emily Ramshaw, and the Projects Team
Uncovered systemic abuse of children by guards and administrators at the Texas Youth Commission, and signs that top officials there turned a blind eye to the problem.
The governor and the legislature have totally replaced the top layers of leadership at TYC, and have begun to implement long-term reforms of the agency that solve many of the problems we identified.
Continued to follow the young man he first described in "Unequal Justice," who drew life in prison for smoking marijuana.
Brooks wrote about the young man's release, at the request of the trial judge and the district attorney, as well as the defense.
The Austin Bureau
Set the agenda for the entire state in terms of coverage of the most recent legislative session.
The bureau was once again named best in the state, and legislators addressed several issues on which we reported extensively.
The Education Team, especially Josh Benton and Holly Hacker
Used some very sophisticated computer-modeling systems to determine that at least 50,000 kids in Texas cheat on the TAKS.
The State Education Department, which for years denied that cheating, was a serious problem, reversed course and announced plans to reduce the odds of cheating in the future. The state also closed one charter school we'd identified as a grievous cheater.
Described atrocious living conditions suffered by the mentally disabled in Dallas' unlicensed boarding houses.
The city of Dallas is considering a range of measures to improve the lives of these folks.
The Projects Team
Finished the Road Hazards series that described the needless dangers faced by all Texas motorists due to the state's lax regulation of trucks.
The series produced meaningful reform at the state and local level, and won every major investigative award at the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors contest.
Kent Fischer, Tawnell Hobbs and Molly Motley
Discovered widespread abuse of government credit cards by DISD employees.
DISD reformed purchasing practices, launched an internal investigation, fired numerous administrators; some of the most egregious cheaters faced criminal charges.
Jason Trahan, Tawnell Hobbs, and the al dia newsroom
Alerted the entire community to a dangerous new drug known as "cheese" that was killing children in northwest Dallas middle schools. Kim Durnan's videos also helped adults and children alike understand the dangers.
Parents say our coverage has helped them have important conversations with their children.
Dianne Solis, Lawrence Iliff, Arnold Hamilton, Lourdes Cardenas, and Deborah Turner
Discovered a pattern in Cactus, Texas, in which the local beef-packing plant relied on a steady stream of illegal immigrants for dangerous, low-paying jobs. The immigrants, in turn, relied upon a steady stream of fake IDs.
The story made national headlines when federal authorities raided the plant; the flight of illegal workers effectively shut it down for a few days.
Alfredo Corchado and Lonni Iliff
Our Mexico City Bureau continues to lead the national and international press in its coverage of the impact of narco trafficking on Mexican society and on our own community.
When Alfredo Corchado first broke the news about Mexican drug gangs trading gunfire in Mesquite, some local officials tried to dismiss the idea. Now, it's taken as a given.
Elizabeth Sounder, Randy Loftis and Janie Paleschic
Produced the definitive series on TXU's proposed purchase by private equity firms. They found an expert consultant, Roger Gale, then worked through the implications of the purchase with him.
The series has drawn statewide attention and national praise. It's bound to have an influence on the PUC's deliberations this
Jake Batsell and Michael Lindenberger
Covered the debate over who should win the toll road franchise for SH 121.
Their mixture of steady beat reporting and in-depth enterprise work contributed mightily to the debate over this contract, from the discussion of how good a deal Cintra was really offering to the revelation that the auditors hired to review the bids for the state also worked for Cintra.
Described how industry insiders are steering the design of the EPA's research on endocrine disruptors to minimize evidence that those chemicals cause cancer or other ailments.
Sue's work, which was based on a brilliant analysis of public records that others had overlooked, has become a cause celeb among the researchers who want government to produce honest science.
Tawnell Hobbs, Katie Fairbank and Tanya Eiserer
Discovered dozens of people with criminal records working at DISD, including some who'd never been through the district's vetting process for new hires. Also discovered holes in DISD's supervision of current employees.
DISD changed its hiring and oversight practices.
Wrote about Africa's health crisis, including AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Focused on folks from Dallas and how they were wrestling with these problems overseas.
We believe, but probably can't yet say publicly, that this has led to a huge new donation for African health programs.
Narrative writing Who What Impact
Paul Meyer, Stella Chavez and Lara Solt
Alerted the region to the sexual abuse of immigrant children.
Paul and Stella named among the nation's top young reporters.
Dave Tarrant and David Dillon
Dallas housing affordability crisis.
Reminded readers that apartments are a vital part of our future, if we want to remain economically vibrant, and alerted readers to the many things local governments have not yet done to help produce safe, affordable housing.
Katie Fairbank and Terry Maxon
Demise of Dallas' biggest law firm, Jenkens & Gilchrist.
Brilliantly illuminated how the firm's quest for growth led to a legal and ethical disaster.
Wrote a powerful and inspiring behind-the-scenes narrative on how former Cowboys player Everson Walls donated his kidney to former teammate Ron Springs.
Series on Eugene Helm, the man who adopted his nieces and nephews, only to have circumstances go sour.
Described the days leading up to the death of cancer patient Jadon White.
Freelanced a narrative on the letters that Jennifer Sanders received from her husband Ryan, before he died in Iraq.
Gretel freelances for us now, but her work illustrates how well we can do when we work with great freelancers.
Found and wrote about Shonda Palmer Hardy, the Plano woman who is still struggling with the death of her brother and friends in a lightning accident years ago.
Told the tale of June Hunt and her work on a spiritual radio station.
Followed the story of Carolyn Thomas, who rebuilt her life after losing most of her face in a horrific attack.
Described a church that caters to young punks in Hurst.
Wrote a narrative on the Dallas Stars' Philippe Boucher, whose terminally ill father clung to life in order to see his son become an All-Star.
Web work Who What Impact
The Photo Staff
Committed 15 photographers to our video effort, and helped train other videographers in other departments.
Our Web site's video views have increased by a factor of 16 or so since last summer. Rick Gerschon won a state Emmy Award, as did David Leeson.
As "Web Champion" for the Lifestyles Department, she's tirelessly labored to improve our new blogs on shopping and on eating, and to launch new efforts that will build audiences and revenue on the Web.
Her constant experimentation has made the shopping section of our Web site its most popular blog, behind Sports' offerings. On the Fourth of July, our readers got a look at her latest idea: "Two minute expert" video, in this case how to grill a steak. It was a huge hit.
Jeff Weiss, Sam Hodges and Bruce Tomaso
Have built the Religion Blog into a popular daily spot for thousands of our readers.
One of the nation's largest papers recently asked if we would join forces with them for a national blog.
The SportsDay staff
Launched My High School, on a shoestring budget and a tight deadline.
Became immensely popular, drawing maybe 3 million page views within 3 months of its launch.
The Web's multimedia team, and the Photo staff
Produced brilliant work on a range of stories, from Yolanda's Crossing to Lee Hancock's flophouse story.
The mixture of photos, video and original documents bolsters our credibility and gives Web users a far better feel for the story.
Layne, in News Art, has become our specialist in telling stories in new ways on the Web. He's done interactive graphics of the Cowboys stadium, of trends in real estate sales, of population trends and of election results, among other things.
Layne's Web work often draws considerably more page views than do the original stories, which is a sign of success. We want go use each medium in the wisest possible way.
Tom Setzer (with generous help from Jen LaFleur and Co.)
The newsroom is finding new ways to customize news to local audiences, by merging database technology, GIS mapping and social networking.
Some really cool graphics, and a whole new way of looking at information. We can see stories better now, and tell them better.
Innovation in print Who What Impact
Danielle Levkovitz and Oscar Martinez
Redesigned Neighbors as a print publication.
Part of an effort to make more of Neighborsgo online and on paper; the publications are now in the black.
Tracy Hayes, Don Nichols, Kerri Abrams and the Lifestyles team.
Continued to publish F!D Luxe, and added a set of IN magazines to their portfolio.
Revolutionized the look and feel of the IN magazines, to answer readers' needs for a sharper, more sophisticated publication.
Bob Yates, Dennis Fulton and the Business News staff
Have completely rebuilt the inside pages of the Business News section, to offer a more compact report focused on areas readers care most about. Just launched it, but it answers a lot of reader concerns, and we expect great things.
The entire newsroom staff
Adapted smoothly to the departure of 111 of our colleagues in November through December, and began producing a new paper in early January.
We rebuilt the airplane in mid-flight, and stayed aloft. Surveys showed that our readers quickly adapted to the new product, and generally liked it.
Began to write, research and produce half and full page graphic that visual describe such complex topics as world population trends, the ethnic and religious makeup of Iraq and the statistical makeup of DFW's diverse population
Research shows that these sorts of alternative storytelling devices can be much better ways of communicating with readers than text stories alone.
Marilyn designed from scratch, on very short notice, our new Comics & Puzzles section. It's a huge hit with readers.
Special reports in Healthy Living have given readers in-depth local sources for common health issues such as diabetes, men's health and cancer. The special sections have increased advertising revenue and have had a long shelf-life on the web.
Monthly wine tasting panel
By all accounts this has been a huge hit with readers. Some stores feature the wines in displays. Wine advertising in Taste has increased slightly.
Great local coverage Who What Impact
Coverage of DISD elections. Thoroughly vetted all candidates and served as a sounding board for key points of debate over DISD's future.
Coverage of City Hall elections. Brought both candidates and issues to life.
Unprecedented turnout in the runoff election.
Got the whole nation talking with her coverage of the tempestuous McKinney cheerleaders.
McKinney changed its mentoring system for cheerleaders.
The SportsDay staff
Won the "triple crown" for top daily, Sunday and special section, for the 17th time.
We've had the nation's best sports section for decades. We still do.
The religion staff
Won the Wilbur Award for best section, for the 10th time in 11 years.
We've long had the nation's best religion section. It's now part of Metro, but the staff remains, and it's still the best. In fact, it's moving into the Web with a popular daily blog.
The Metro staff, Universal Desk and News Desk
Continue to produce 20 zoned Metro sections a week.
Readers like the new, newsier local report, and revenues continue to rise by roughly 20 percent year over year. The arts and features sections Were named among the nation's top ten in the AASFE/Northwestern University judging in September.
Sports, Lifestyles and Metro
Combined to deliver complete breaking news of Terrell Owens' drug overdose.
Record page views on the Internet, and a complete and very readable morning newspaper. Michael Granberry of Lifestyles was the anchor writer, giving our readers insights nobody else had from Terrell's personal trainer.
Sports, Lifestyles, News Art and Metro
The drama, the architecture and the political intrigue behind construction of the new Cowboys stadium, in words, photos, video and info-graphics.
The Web multimedia report, done largely by Layne Smith, was among our most popular web pages.
Stephanie Sandoval and Dianne Solis
Farmers Branch immigration coverage. This was a non-stop, contentious debate that required great focus and fairness.
Folks on both sides credited us with fair and impartial reporting.
News Art department
The design, graphics and illustration staff was awarded 22 awards from the Society of News Design, the 10th best showing in the world.