Best Reason to Keep Reading The Dallas Morning News

Beatriz Terrazas

There is a formula to writing for publications, and each one is unique. If you want to write for D Magazine, sound breezy and scolding at the same time. ("North Dallas' courage is apparent in the winning smiles of Highland Village shoppers whose Saturday-afternoon purchases prove wrong the liberal naysayers on the City Council.") If you want to write for the Dallas Observer, learn the art of the dramatic one-sentence ender. ("James thought the good times would go on forever, his power and wealth and fame accruing year after year, until the heavens opened and he ascended to his rightful place as king of all he surveyed. [New paragraph.] He could not have been more wrong.") And if you want to write for The Dallas Morning News, learn how to combine a random lead anecdote with a forced transition in fewer than 25 words. This is most apparent in sports stories ("For luck, Dirk Nowitzki always wears three pairs of socks during games. Against the Chicago Bulls, three was indeed his lucky number."), but you can find it in any section ("Mayor Ron Kirk says he likes to swim. But yesterday, he recoiled after sticking his toe in political hot water."). Finding good writers, then, means finding the ones who buck the trend, who avoid clichés like the plague, who sound not like their publication but like themselves. Beatriz Terrazas, the photographer-turned-feature writer at the News, is perhaps the best writer the paper has ever employed. She writes in pictures, creating stark images that linger and affect. For proof, you need look no further than her story "The Voice of Memory," from June 11, 2000. It's still one of the most moving essays we've ever read in that newspaper. For a more recent example, last month's story on Esther and Leoncio Puentes and how they helped redefine their northwest Dallas neighborhood was wonderful, the sort of simple, touching tale the paper too often fails to bring to life. No such problem for Terrazas, though.

She just does good stuff, and she does it quietly and effectively. Lill was the reason the stupid Dallas City Council ultimately restored funding to the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Film Commission. She fought to protect the city's historic preservation law when some dude tried to gut the law so he could add a 400-square-foot closet to the front of his Swiss Avenue mansion. All over District 14, from East Dallas to the northwest corner of the city, her constituents regularly see Lill patrolling the streets to make sure the city is picking up the garbage. And because of that, the city picks up the garbage in her district! Amazing.
Remember when D Magazine pissed off mightily former Dallas Morning News columnist John Anders by reporting that he'd been fired instead of opting to take early retirement? Well, guess who wrote a lengthy piece on the wonders of a world beyond journalism in D's June 2001 issue? The magazine even let Anders take a roundhouse swing at the folks publishing the piece ("It would have been nice if someone had bothered to call..."). And then, at the end of the article, D offers an apology for getting John's Austin-based retirement off on the wrong foot ("D Magazine was obviously wrong..."). Nothing like a freelance paycheck to make folks act like they're best friends.

Meadows Museum
King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain came to town last March for the opening. So what's your excuse? For decades, one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside of Spain languished in little-known, unprepossessing quarters on the Southern Methodist University campus. The new museum is a tad boring on the outside--generic SMU brick-and-columns pompous--but it's grand, the interiors provide a stunning setting for a world-class collection...and lots of beautiful young guys and gals are strolling the campus. What's keeping you?

Award-winning journalist Bill Sloan, former Dallas Times Herald reporter and author of a shelf full of nonfiction books (and a couple of novels), seems to have hit the Big Time with his colorful and applauded reflection on the supermarket tabloid newspaper industry. The title, natch, comes straight off the cover of one of the publications he edited back in the late '60s. The book's gotten Sloan attention from everybody from Entertainment Tonight to C-SPAN's Book TV.

Impresario Kay Cattarulla's brilliant series at the Dallas Museum of Art puts famous writers on stage to talk to you about their work. The theater at the Dallas Museum of Art is just intimate enough that some of these productions turn into private confabs between the authors and the audience. It's a great chance to stick writers with all of those questions you carry around after reading a good book, like, "What in the world did you mean by...?" Tickets for the writers programs are $15-$17 a pop. The next season's lineup will be announced in January.

For a decade now, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has conducted a series of free outdoor concerts in the city's parks. The season traditionally gets under way with the annual Easter program in Lee Park--that one's been going on for 20 years--and doesn't wrap up until June after stops at Kiest Park, Campbell Green Park, Mountain View College and Flagpole Hill. Family picnics are welcome, so bring your own blanket or lawn chairs. Additionally, two free "festival concerts" are held each year at the Meyerson Symphony Center--one celebrating the contributions of Hispanic composers and another highlighting African-American conductors and composers.

Jubilee Theatre
Being distinctly carnivorous ourselves, we have no problem with other members of the animal kingdom getting their meat fix--especially if they're lions and big African birds in captivity at the Dallas Zoo. The only reason we became a little apprehensive was the apparent discomfort of zoo officials, who sent out an internal memo that stresses sensitivity on the topic of what happens to the baby chicks at the Lacerte Family Children's Zoo. Just as these cute little spring chickens begin to turn big and autumn, they're snatched from their super-tactile petting environment and gassed in an apparently painless microwave-sized cell. They're then fed to hungry animals or tossed in the bin. Warning to employees: When referring to the "CO2 Unit," NEVER use words like "gas chamber" and "execution."

Individuals destined to become victims of natural selection managed to stay in the lines when they painted a very professional sign over Farm-to-Market Road 455 and FM 2164 in Sanger. It read "James Earl Ray Day." It was put up just in time for January 15, the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated by Ray. The sheriff's department quickly ordered the sign removed, and The Dallas Morning News declined to mention it, fearing readers--very possibly the same ones who fill their rabid Sunday "Letters" page--might be encouraged to do something similar.

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