Been Good to Know You

I guess I normally read the paper with two hats on. One is the sort of media critic hat, because I'm in the business, and I'm here at the Dallas Observer where we beat up on the mainstream media a lot. And they deserve it. But the other one is my just-a-reader hat.

I just read the paper. I'm of a certain generation. I gotta have it. My wife and I devote at least an hour every morning to reading The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times. Even on the weekend. Especially on weekends. I don't argue that it makes us virtuous. It might make her virtuous. I haven't noticed any effects on me personally in that department.

I used to read the paper as a kid. Home from grade school I sprawled on the living room floor with the Ann Arbor News, which I found entertaining. I now think that's probably a comment on the kind of sad, bleak, sensory-deprived 1950s childhood I must have had. But there you have it.

So in the last few days I've been preparing myself for Friday when up to 20 percent of the staff of The Dallas Morning News will disappear from its pages as part of the paper's radical downsizing. I have no idea if the layoffs are right or wrong, good or bad, done the right way or the wrong way. Someday I want somebody to tell me what the right way is for having your job disappear.

I just have my reader hat on. Jerome Weeks is going to disappear--a voice of erudition and wit, a writer who for decades has helped elicit the better side of the city's character. Bryan Woolley and Bill Marvel, who both wrote with finesse and literary power about the city and about Texas. Randy Bishop's art direction and graphics told me the story as much as anybody's words or photography.

Doug Swanson is one of those reporters who write so well you'd read their story if it were about an oversupply of toilet paper. And I don't think Swanson ever did write about that, specifically. Allen Pusey and Bob Dodge: With them gone from the Washington bureau there's stuff in Washington I will never understand as well again. Jean Nash Johnson: She wrote about everything with great felicity.

There are many more names of people that are on my mind because I've heard from the rumor mill that they're leaving, but their names haven't appeared on any lists yet. There are more names than I can list here, each one a source of pain and loss for me.

I'm just speaking as a reader. This is a huge loss to the city, to what it means to be here and be a part of Dallas. Scott Burns, Ed Bark. Man, oh man.

Somebody asked me if I weren't feeling just a touch of schadenfreude--you know, where you confront the suffering of others and feel a certain guilty pleasure. I said no, I never feel schadenfreude. I really don't. I'm too busy feeling schutzenfreude. That's where you confront the misery of others and assume you must be next. --Jim Schutze

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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