News gives brief play to ex-staffer's kiddie-porn case
In a 20-minute court appearance, with a soft voice, former Morning News assistant sports editor George Woods last Thursday formally entered his guilty plea to the felony charge of possessing kiddie-porn videotapes.

The official action stirred Dallas' paper of record to acknowledge--months late and only briefly--the existence of this embarrassing story. The Woods saga--in which the man once touted in print as among the award-winning sports section's "most valuable players" became, instead, a key player in an interstate kiddie-porn sting--was deemed worthy of but nine carefully worded paragraphs at the bottom of an inside page in the News metro section. Bill Lodge's article distanced the paper from the episode by referring to Woods, 42, as "a former sports copy editor" and cryptically reporting that he had been "fired by the News in July"--as though his dismissal had nothing to do with the charge Wood was facing.

What the paper didn't say: Woods had been fired after the News inadvertently discovered his connection to the undercover child-pornography operation, which stemmed from an April raid on his Mesquite home. Federal prosecutors say the sting has ensnared three suspected child molesters.

Woods has yet to be sentenced. Though his offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Woods has struck a plea-bargain agreement to assure his continuing cooperation--which BeloWatch is told will include testifying in the criminal prosecution of others. If Woods continues to be helpful, prosecutors will recommend leniency to U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders, who could grant Woods probation.

But because Woods' sentence depends on his involvement in other trials, he is unlikely to learn his fate for several months. In the meantime, George Woods, who has been unable to find another job, will remain in limbo.

And you thought the newspaper was overpriced
Think Dallas' Only Daily, with its recent 100 percent street-price increase, is too expensive? Then you'll be interested in some of the Dallas Morning News merchandise offered for sale in a new catalogue of media memorabilia.

The 22-page mail-order catalogue from the Indiana-based Society for Professional Journalists, titled "IMPRESSIONS," contains six items from the Dallas Morning News.

First, of course, there's the News ballcap, complete with red and blue "D" logo in front and The Dallas Morning News embroidered on back. According to the sales blurb, the cap combines "the universal appeal of denim and a great fit for a look that's original and fun."

Its price is original too--$16.95, plus shipping. That's more expensive than any other newspaper cap, besting the Providence Journal-Bulletin ($13.50, plus shipping), the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel ($9.95), the Chicago Tribune ($15) and even the White House Press Corps ballcap ($15).

At $29.95, the red "Outer Banks" golf shirt with the News logo and the twitty Early Bird mascot on the sleeve is both pricy and annoying.

But it's the "Texas-sized" umbrella with the lightning-safe "non-metal shaft" and "black section titles from The Dallas Morning News and red logo" that could really break the bank.

At $52.95 (plus another $6 shipping), it's more than twice as much as any other umbrella in the catalogue, including ones bearing the imprint of the Chicago Tribune ($19.95), CNN ($24.95), and National Press Club ($12.95).

The catalogue's been out a few weeks, but SPJ--which has sold several of the other News items--has yet to receive any orders for the Dallas paper's rain shield. "It is bigger than any of our umbrellas, but it is kind of expensive," SPJ merchandise coordinator JoLayne Green told BeloWatch. Green pointed out that suppliers--in this case, the News--set the basic price for items, and SPJ then added a standard markup.

Why do these Morning News goodies cost so much--and so much more?
Perhaps it's the rising price of newsprint. (It's responsible for everything else.) Or maybe the folks at the News simply forget they don't have a monopoly on everything.

We didn't ask
A recent issue of the Dallas Morning News in-house newsletter gave employees "Your questions about the Met answered."

Well, sort of.
In a brief Q&A, News president and general manager Jeremy "Hole-in-One" Halbreich offered the company line: The "arrangement" will not involve "the editorial direction" of the Met; we will not distribute the Met inside the News; we are "not in an ownership position and don't plan to be"; we simply "saw it as an attractive business opportunity."

Not disclosed--here or in any of Halbreich's comments on the deal for publication elsewhere--are any financial specifics: How is the cash-strapped, unprofitable Met "compensating" the News? Has the News, as is widely rumored, provided a major cash infusion to the Met or its publisher, Ray Washburne?

Most amusing is Halbreich's answer to the final question in the house-organ Q&A: "Some see this as a way to drive business toward the Met at the expense of the market's other free-distribution tabloid, the Dallas Observer, which has been critical of The Morning News. Is it?

States Halbreich: "The Observer never came up in our conversations with the Met, or in our own internal discussions as to whether we should pursue the arrangement with the Met. We have even said that had the Observer contacted us with the same ideas, we would have explored them in the very same fashion."

And if you believe that, you can accept Burl Osborne's employee freedom of speech award.