Passing off someone else's words or ideas as your own is a basic taboo among writers, yet it's amazing how casually transgressions are tolerated at newspapers, including, apparently, The Dallas Morning News.
An allegation of intellectual theft has been brought to the attention of the Observer by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, authors of If You Love Me You Will Do My Will, a 1990 book chronicling the controversy surrounding the Kenedy Foundation of South Texas.
The authors claim that DMN writer Victoria Loe appropriated their work without attribution in a lengthy May 17 front-page article on the continuing courtroom saga surrounding the foundation, which was set up by ranching and oil heiress Sarita Kenedy East. Loe offers no attribution for the section in question, which gives a colorful historical overview of the case.
Aynesworth and Michaud say she lifted it almost directly from their book. "Loe at least knows where to go for comprehensive and reliable background information, and we think she did a workmanlike job of compressing our hundreds of pages into a lucid summary of the story," they wrote in a letter to the Observer.
They point out as a glaring example Loe's line, "Mrs. East was a lonely widow, brooding over the fate of her fortune and nursing tumblers of scotch," comparing it to their's: "The servants reported that the widow often remained in the tower well past dark, sipping her tumblers of scotch."
"There is nowhere else on earth that anyone talks about scotch and tumblers except in that book," says Michaud, who is now a Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff writer and has written for the Observer.
"I saw a lot of my reporting rearranged without attribution," Michaud says. "It's not that I'm going to sue or anything, but she clearly made extensive use of my book without my permission."
Loe refused to comment to the Observer, referring all questions to Executive Editor Ralph Langer, who did not return our call. She did, however, say she "wasn't aware" she had misappropriated someone else's work. "I know they've written a book on the subject and I've written a story on it," Loe says. "I just really can't talk."
Land of disenchantment
Dallas' elite have made it into the national news again. As usual, not in a particularly favorable light. It seems, according to a recent article in The New York Times, that rich Texans (Are there any other kind?) are practicing their special brand of imperialism in New Mexico--you know, buying up all the spare real estate and holding those obnoxious charity balls, complete with barbecue, party tents, and designer "Western" clothing.
Santa Fe's indigenous rich--the opera crowd, for instance--prefer to raise money at tastefully restrained dinner parties. They refer to Texas, the NYT reports, as "Baja Oklahoma."
The worst impact of this Texas plague upon New Mexico, of course, is on lower-income folks. After the Texans build their $500,000 houses, complained one resident to the NYT, "then they get bored and look around the neighborhood. They don't like the way their neighbors pile wood out front, or the old refrigerator, or a little old car. They don't want to assimilate with the people here."
Or in South Dallas, for that matter.
Buzz received a six-page letter from former mayoral candidate and ongoing gadfly Billy Jack Ludwig, praising us for encouraging Mayor Ron Kirk to take a stand on something--anything. (Buzz correspondence tip: Writing in red ink on yellow legal paper and using lots of Wite-Out conveys a certain cranklike feel.)
We're flattered, we think, that Billy Jack considers himself a Buzz fellow traveler. And we have to admit he seems to have all the makings of a memorable Dallas Solon. But frankly, Billy Jack, there's got to be a better place than Buzz from which to glean political theory--say Machiavelli's The Prince or Marx's Das Kapital, perhaps? Failing that, Sinatra's "My Way"? --Glen Warchol