Displaying its characteristic gumption in the fight against ignorance, the News on March 14 reported the Richardson Public Library's refusal to display an oil painting of a bare-breasted Eve.
The painting, titled Eden, was included in the selections by the Richardson Civic Art Society for an annual exhibit of work by artists who are at least 50 years old.
But Richardson library director Julieanne Lovelace refused to hang it, explaining, according to reporter Kim North's story, that frontal nudity made the painting "inappropriate to hang in a public library."
Offering an extraordinarily convoluted bit of logic, librarian Lovelace commented: "I believe the artist feels there is censorship going on here. Because we're a library, we do defend intellectual freedom, but not at the expense of others." Lovelace also said the library had an understanding with the civic art society not to hang work "that is controversial or inappropriate."
There was, of course, a time when librarians had the courage and sophistication to defend truly daring forms of expression--much less a bit of nudity in a painting. (Would the Richardson Public Library consider a Picasso nude unworthy?) One might think open-mindedness is what a public library's all about.
In Richardson, one would think wrong.
BeloWatch also might reasonably have expected better from the Dallas Morning News--which had a chance to display its own, wiser standards about such matters (and let readers judge the art for themselves, to boot) by simply reproducing the painting.
It didn't happen. To accompany North's metro-page story, Dallas' Only Daily chose a photograph conspicuously placing artist Shirley Hosmer several feet in front of her work, leaving the painting itself in such soft focus that only Eve's au naturel outline was clearly discernible.
Unlike the Richardson Public Library and the Dallas Morning News, BeloWatch will let its gentle readers judge Eden for themselves.
War is heck
Lest you think Dallas' Only Daily is the Metroplex leader in unsophisticated editorial judgment, BeloWatch must take a rare peek into doings west, where Fort Worth's Only Daily has come out in favor of book banning.
An unusual position for a newspaper, you say? Yes, indeed. So unusual that even the newspaper sounds, well, a tad defensive about its stance.
The editorial was prompted by demands from a right-wing group of parents in the mid-cities Carroll school district to yank a celebrated novel about World War II from the shelves of the middle school library.
The reason? According to a news story in the March 2 Star-Telegram, the parents are upset because the book, The Last Mission, contains profanity and "inappropriate themes."
Never mind that profanity is fairly common in times of war. And never mind, as the news story noted, that the book is critically acclaimed, historically accurate, and had already passed muster with school librarians, teachers, and administrators.
The cranky moms and dads, part of a Southlake chapter of a group called Parents Advocating Great Education (talk about a misnomer), persuaded the Carroll school board to vote 4-3 to yank the book.
Encouraged by the board's decision, the book-banning idiots are going after other acclaimed (but obviously "inappropriate") volumes on the shelves--such as I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by poet Maya Angelou, who read her work at President Clinton's inauguration. Catcher in the Rye is surely next.
Into this mess waded the Star-Telegram editorial page, standing strong for purging the shelves. Its March 3 editorial praised the school board for having taken "a bold stand."
"Although the decision smacks of censorship on the surface...a book with repeated use of the F-word should not be in a middle school," the paper opined. "Age has to be a factor in this consideration."
"Oh, we're not so naive to think that kids today don't know the word, hear the word or even use the word. That doesn't make it correct to promote its legitimacy by having it in a book on the school's library shelves."
Let's see: Any book with "repeated use of the F-word" is automatically, categorically beyond the pale for middle schoolers.
Such a sophisticated view! What a thoughtful standard!
This is, of course, not a book that's required reading; it's merely available on the library shelves--or, at least, it was.
The harsh reality of the world is that a realistic account of certain events requires some harsh language. As a 17-year-old Carroll High School senior put it: "What are you supposed to say when a rocket is aimed at your head, 'Oh, shoot?'"
One would think the editorial board of a major American newspaper--whose reporters deal with reality on a daily basis--would possess similar insight and wisdom.
Olive Talley, one of the News' top investigative-reporting guns, is leaving the paper for television.
Talley, 39, is taking a job as an off-air producer with the ABC newsmagazine show, "PrimeTime Live." She will work with Diane Sawyer.
Talley, who worked at the News for more than eight years, helped break fresh ground on the Walker Railey investigation, and completed high-profile projects on the Inter-national Craniofacial Foundation and spending abuses at Texas A&M. The A&M stories this year won her the prestigious George Polk Award.
"I've got a lot of television to learn," Talley, who began her career in radio, told BeloWatch. "I feel like I've done good work here, but when this came around, it was a great challenge. I know how much fun broadcasting can be, and I thought it was a great opportunity and one I wouldn't get too many cracks at.
"I'm leaving here on a very positive note," added Talley, a native Texan who will make the move to New York City next month. "I'm very troubled by industry-wide cutbacks in investigative journalism. The Morning News has supported me in that realm, and I'm very grateful for that.
"I hope the Morning News will continue to improve," she added. "They've certainly got the resources to do it.