D Magazine, Dallas Morning News Squabble Comes Down to Lazy Reporting at DMN

Fairly mediocre: So last week, D magazine executive editor Tim Rogers and The Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow got into a blog squabble over whether the Morning News is being forthcoming enough in its reporting about city plans for a convention center hotel. Belo Corp., owner of WFAA and, until a restructuring this year, the Morning News, owns a lot of property near the proposed hotel site that could increase in value if a hotel materializes. The newspaper should mention that fact when it beats the drum for the hotel, Rogers suggested.

"It's probably a fair criticism that the property's proximity is worth noting in our coverage. Full disclosure and all that," Blow responded. "But, good grief, this notion that nothing gets published here unless it's part of a grand profit-making conspiracy is really getting old."

Rogers didn't say anything about a conspiracy—that's more along the lines of something our own Jim Schutze would say—and even Buzz doesn't believe in such a grand conspiracy. Newspaper publishers and executives don't ask for lowly reporters' help with their business deals for the same reason rich people don't ask their gardeners for stock tips. They don't need the help that badly.

While we may not see a conspiracy at the News, we do see plenty of lazy reporting. See, Blow's response raises a question, which is not "Why is the Morning News biased in its coverage?" Rather, it's "Why isn't the Morning News coverage better?"

The paper's editorialists wrote last fall that the city needs the convention center hotel. That's an assertion that, near as we can tell, wasn't supported by any reporting the paper had produced up to that point.

But that's the Morning News—great at covering the meetings and collecting the quotes, not so great at providing credible answers to tougher questions, such as: Have other city-owned convention center hotels proved profitable or increased visitors to their cities? Have those hotels led to new investment nearby, as Dallas hopes its hotel might? Why have private hoteliers shied away from building a hotel at the site, if the city believes it can be profitable?

Yes, the answers to those questions may be hard to come by. So what? Show a little ambition, Morning News, buy a few plane tickets, get some answers and write the big story. Your readers are being asked to invest a ton of their tax money to get into the hotel business. They can't attend all the city meetings or keep track of random daily news reports.

Why isn't the News doing that sort of work? Dunno. Maybe it is a conspiracy.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams