The Dallas Morning News has waxed holier than thou yet again.
It happened on Wednesday, February 7, when Dallas' Only Daily became one of just five papers in the country--out of 210 nationwide that run it daily--to censor an installment of the "Non Sequitur" comic strip.
The comic, captioned "The True Function of Board Meetings," was yanked because "it was in poor taste," a staffer for the News' "Today" section told a caller. "Because of the contents, our management decided not to run it."
The one-panel comic depicted a group of corporate directors arriving for a 10 a.m. board meeting to discover the chairman, fully dressed in suit and tie, standing on top of the boardroom table. He is bent over, with his rear end facing the group, next to a sign reading "PUCKERUP."
(The strip obviously loses a lot in the telling, but BeloWatch was unable to let readers judge it for themselves because the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates "Non Sequitur," refused to allow the Observer to run the strip.)
But Suzanne Whelton, comics editor for the syndicate, did tell BeloWatch that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Pennsylvania's Erie Times, and Virginia's Winchester Star are the only other dailies she knows of that pulled the strip.
It even ran in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the only Texas newspaper now certified as good and decent by the American Family Association.
Cartoonist Wiley Miller "received a ton of positive e-mail about that strip, people saying, 'This is exactly the way board meetings are,'" Whelton says. She adds: "I thought it was hilarious."
Not so the management at The Dallas Morning News, unwavering guardians of community virtue.
But are they truly so stalwart?
Could this really be the same paper whose investment is keeping alive The Met, which late last month published a cover story on the Internet with a helpful section headlined: "Where can I find all that porno?"
Advised writer Scott Kelton Jones: "Well, just between you, me, and the fence post, within the privacy (and relative anonymity) of your computer connection, you can explore every avenue of sexuality--straight, gay, bi, fetishes of all flavors, from fellatio to fisting, peccadilloes from pantyhose to punishment. And that doesn't even include the many faces of cybersex."
The copy that followed cheerfully listed specific World Wide Web addresses for "bestiality and teenage-girl pics...porn-star homepages...Java-scripted nudity."
"If you're interested in downloading pornographic images and videos, a newsgroup is the place to turn," the story adds. And the Morning News' puppet weekly clearly is the paper to tell you how to do it.
BeloWatch can only wonder what News publisher Burl Osborne and Belo CEO Robert Decherd think of that.
Martin Luther King Jr., he's not
Wonder why the political rhetoric in Dallas so often lies somewhere between pedestrian and in the gutter?
Consider the eloquence of Mayor Ron Kirk, during his official "not-a-field-trip" junket to South Africa, where the biggest story was that he didn't get to meet President Nelson Mandela.
In what is perhaps Dallas journalism's poorest excuse for inducing jet lag, the News sent City Hall reporter Todd J. Gillman along with Kirk & Co. On February 5, Gillman reported that of all the changes he'd found in South Africa, Kirk was most moved by a single speaker's words "during a luncheon of crayfish and lamb" in "an elegant dining room."
More moving than the deprivation of the Soweto ghetto?
For Kirk, yes.
And in truth, the words were indeed stirring, coming from former political prisoner Isaac Mugase, assuring the Dallas delegation of the black majority's commitment to peaceful coexistence with whites.
"The white people in this country must not run away," Mugase declared. "We need them. We are all South African, and we need to live together. We have liberated those who were racist. We have freed all of our souls."
"Hours later," wrote Gillman, "Mr. Kirk was still marveling at the sentiments."
Marveled Hizzoner, in his role as silver-tongued international diplomat: "If anybody has a reason in this world to go down the street swinging a club, saying we're ready to kick some butt, it's these black people."
"FW man hurt after wife shoots him in groin, police say."
--Headline, "Metro Report" brief,
February 6, Dallas Morning News
A page-one installment in a Dallas Morning News series on the Texas congressional delegation marveled that U.S. Rep. Pete Geren, a Fort Worth Democrat, reported raising just $75 in 1995.
"I haven't made a single fund-raising call," Mr. Geren told Washington reporter Susan Feeney in the story's third paragraph. "It's my least-favorite part of the job."
It was also quite unnecessary. Just days after the story appeared, Geren announced he wasn't running for reelection.
The newsprint crisis did it.
Once again, Dallas' Only Daily has trotted out the escalating price of newsprint to justify socking it to readers.
This time, home-delivery rates went up a buck per month, effective February 1. That's a 9.5-percent jump over the previous seven-day subscription price--and an 11.8-percent bump over the weekend-only cost.
Explained News president Jeremy Halbreich (yet again), in a January 20 story: "The reason is what is now the well-publicized, rapid increase in the price of newsprint. Today we're paying over 80 percent more for a ton of newsprint than we were about 16 months ago."
That explanation, of course, ignores that newsprint represents only a fraction of the cost of putting out a daily newspaper; that newspapers never lower prices when newsprint prices fall; and that the News--newsprint prices notwithstanding--is enjoying record profits.
(In a December 8 story in his own paper, Belo CEO Robert Decherd was quoted predicting a nearly double-digit increase in operating profit for the daily in 1996.)
The jump in the price of newsprint is "well-publicized" indeed, and that's no accident: It provides newspaper publishers a cover to stick readers with a stiffer tab.