But, See, You Already Knew the Trinity River Toll Road Was a Billion Dollars Over Budget

I guess I read The Dallas Morning News every morning just to make sure my bile ducts are still working. Today we have a story by Michael Lindenberger proving that, with the right editors, you can make even a good reporter look like a fool.

I am talking about Lindenberger's story "revealing" that the Trinity River toll road is a billion dollars over budget, even before they design the thing, and that the North Texas Tollway Authority ain't gonna make up the difference. Problem? Well, what reveal?

Lindenberger knew all of this before the November 2007 referendum on the toll road, as I reported in the paper version of Unfair Park at the time.

The News sat on the story until after the votes were counted. But Lindenberger had been told by top NTTA officials weeks before the election that they were not going to be able to pay for the road, in spite of Mayor Tom Leppert's repeated promises to voters that he had the NTTA's commitment.

As Angela Hunt says way down deep in the jump of Lindeberger's story, none of this is news. All of this has been said over and over again by critics of the project. The only thing that has changed is that now The News can't find a way out of reporting it.

The story in the paper this morning should have been this: Every single thing Angela Hunt told voters before that election is turning out to be true, and every single thing Tom Leppert and The News editorial page said was a lie. Fat chance of ever seeing that story in Izvestia.

But it goes on throughout today's paper. The News has a story on national job losses on Page  One next to a story about a job fair in Dallas where way more people showed up than could find jobs. What isn't in paper today is the amazingly good-news part of this same story that was on WFAA-Channel 8 last night: In the face of all this gloom and doom, the Dallas Inland Port is enjoying phenomenal counter-cyclical success, adding major new tenants and hundreds of jobs in recent months. Why wouldn't a story like that be on Page One?

Well, I have already written way too much about this, but the official party line at The News is anti-inland port and pro-Perot Alliance Airport. Which is in Fort Worth.

Believe me. I've been in the newspaper business a long time. I think I know how story judgment goes. Some editor has got to have said in some meeting, "Jeez, I've got a story that in spite of all this gloom and doom, that inland port thing is going and blowing. They've brought more jobs to Dallas in the middle of this crisis than we were getting in the same time period during good times. What do you think? Do you want it for Page One?" And somebody in that meeting had to say no. Go figure.

My column in the paper next week is a different story about the toll road project -- why the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has turned chilly on it. This thing is not going to happen. When it finally dies, Unfair Park has got to publish a rogue's gallery -- head shots of the people who pushed for it for years. It should run beneath the headline, "Scientists Say Biggest Idiots on Planet Discovered in Texas City."

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