Coals to Newcastle
It's not easy to survive on the mean streets, especially in a tough burg like Highland Park, where crime is a way of life and the peace is shattered nightly by the sound of barking gats blazing away in nocturnal leadfests.

Sorry, Buzz is feeling noirish.
Apparently, so is the beleaguered citizenry of Highland Park, a city so crime-ridden that its residents soon will be able to carry their own personal 911 alarms, complete with locators that tell the cops where their owners are. Subscribers to the new service, announced this week, simply push a button on a tiny, portable transmitter, and Highland Park's finest will drop their cappuccinos, spit our their biscotti, and speed to the rescue.

Did some lowlife order a white wine with red meat? Push that button. Spot a domestic car--other than a Suburban--parked on a city street? Push it. See a perp wearing white shoes after Labor Day? Push it, push it, push it.

Somehow, Buzz sleeps easier knowing that the lawlessness in Highland Park soon will be brought under control. Might we suggest that HP police begin applying their nightsticks liberally?

Everything Dixie Chick is new
Now it's official: The Dixie Chicks are a new band! What? Don't believe us? We have the proof right here in our grubby little hands. On Tuesday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences released its list of Grammy nominees, and damned if them little ol' cowgirls from Big D ain't listed in the Best New Artist category. They're right next to Lauryn Hill, Natalie Imbruglia, Andrea Bocelli (who should have been nominated as Best Who? Artist--never heard of her), and the Backstreet Boys, who were still in diapers when the Dixie Chicks got together around a decade ago.

But thank heavens for Dale Evans! The Dixie Chicks--also nominated for Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Country Album--have managed to wipe clean their bios, ditch those old members and pre-Sony records (three in all, but who's counting?), and as a result, they're brand-new all over again. Way to go, Natalie, Emily, and Martie! Amnesia pays! Just one question: When you sold your souls, did you get any change back? Oh, but one more thing: We want all them old Dallas Observer Music Awards back. After all, if the Dixie Chicks didn't exist before 1998's Wide Open Spaces, how could you have won those awards in 1992...and 1993...and...My, we're confused.

While we're at it, Buzz also gives props, shout-outs, whad-ups, and ya-yos to Erykah Badu (nominated for her Live album and the single "Tyrone") and Brave Combo, nominated in the polka category for Polka Party with Brave Combo. Good luck, boys--you deserve it. And we sure would hate to see you lose to a guy named Lenny Gomulka.

Last but never least--God forgive us--is Kirk Franklin, whose "Lean on Me" received nods for Song of the Year, Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal, and Best R&B Song. It's none of those things, but who cares? It's the Grammys!

Setting sun
Good morning, America. Good-bye, Lisa McCree.
On Monday, ABC News executives announced that in order to stop the ratings bloodletting over at Good Morning, America, the network was replacing Kevin Newman and Fort Worth's own Lisa McCree. The "new" faces belong to none other than veterans Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson--the very man fired in April and replaced by Newman, who was McCree's top pick for the gig.

McCree, who served as an anchor at WFAA-Channel 8 from 1989 till 1991, lasted only 16 months in Joan Lunden's old chair. But it was long enough to drag down a television show that once held the top spot in its time slot, beating NBC's Today. But these days, GMA's almost third in a two-show race (CBS' little cable-access show doesn't count).

So now it's back to Los Angeles for McCree, who will be a correspondent in the network's bureau there. Which is probably just as well: Her husband and her house still live in L.A. And no more getting up at 3 a.m. every day.

But still, when we heard of McCree's departure from GMA, we couldn't help but recall something she told the Dallas Morning News in October under the headline "Toughing it out in the fickle field of morning news shows." What was it she said in Thomas Huang's "palsy-walsy" (hey, he used it first) High Profile story? Oh, yes. Buzz never forgets: "The ratings have steadied, and we're looking for growth now."

Layoffs at WFAA?
An employee at WFFA said the posted bulletin was "apologetic in tone." It better have been, given the timing.

On New Year's Eve, the station management put up a sign giving employees at the Belo-owned television station some cheery holiday news: Layoffs were around the corner. The WFAA employee said the memo specifically referred to a buyout plan that had previously been offered to older workers. About a dozen--but apparently too few--of the long-time workers had accepted the invitation to leave, so the company was going to be passing out pink slips, the employee said.

"Morale in here stinks," said the employee.
The same smell is wafting over to the newsroom at the Belo-owned Dallas Morning News, which also was given notice of the buyout offers and where some staffers complain of low morale.

To be fair, saying that some newspaper workers complain of low morale is like saying there is some water in the ocean. We're generally a gloomy bunch--though not so gloomy lately as Belo's stockholders, who have seen the company's share price tumble over the past year.

But Buzz is confident that the mood among Belo's stockholders--if not the poor shlubs who get cut--will be buoyed as the effects of staff reductions take hold.

Happy New Year.

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

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