We have heard many stories coming from 508 Young Street about impending changes at Dallas' Only Daily. So we did what we always do when we hear rumors concerning The Dallas Morning News: We went hot-tubbing and strip-bar-hopping with Bobby Decherd, got him tits-up drunk and had him spill the beans, along with the rest of his usual Taco Bell dinner. But when that didn't work -- The Triple-Decherd, as he likes to be called when sandwiched between two Lodge lovelies, has resolved to sober up in the new year -- we called Dallas Morning News editor Bob Mong. He called right back, as always.
When he phoned yesterday evening, he didn't mention his editor's note on page two of today's paper. That's cool. He didn't say much in there anyway, except there were some changes a-comin' next week. Like a "new Comics & Puzzles section" (that's the lead-off item, not a good sign). And "expanded content in your favorite lifestyle sections, like Healthy Living, Taste and Home." And stock tables. And "new content" in the Sunday Classified sections, penned by the staff (which is gonna be thrilled about that, no doubt).
About the most notable thing in that letter to you, valued Dallas Morning News reader, is Mong's mugshot. My, he looks...uh...hmm...pretty? Yeah. That's it. Pretty. We're stickin' with that.
So, just what did he tell Unfair Park last night? Well, if you saw the headline you probably have some idea. But the entirety of the interview is after the jump.
Mong was far more specific in his conversation with us than in his letter to the readers. For instance, he did acknowledge some of the things we've been hearing about -- like how Dallas' Only Daily will indeed be axing its Religion section next week. Short answer why: Advertisers aren't true believers. So there goes the section, Raptured into the rest of the paper.
"Our emphasis on religion's going to be strong," Mong insists. "It'll be different, but it'll be good. We just didn't get any advertising support for it. The core writers we have for it will continue to be there, and the amount of space we devote will be adequate for what we need, and it will let us do more Page One stories. As far as the devotion to the topic, it's important to me, and we're going to take it very seriously. It'll just be in a slightly different format."
Also biting the dust: Solutions, Fashion Dallas, Shops, Taste, Family and the other tabs -- whatever they're all called. Mong doesn't cop to this outright. He says he'd be happy to talk tabloid specifics next week. But in his letter, he does mention those "expanded lifestyle sections." And in his conversation with Unfair Park, he does acknowledge that advertising in the tabs ain't what it oughta be. And he does talk about how the monthly F!D luxe supplement has been a big hit for the paper -- "one of the most successful things we've done," is how he puts it.
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Regarding the fate of the tabs, at the moment all Mong will say is: "You'd like that to have a better balance than we have." He says ask him again next week.
But he does insist these changes aren't being made willy-nilly. No, these come right from the top -- which is to say, from that infamous character Core Reader, who dictates content from the comfy confines of the breakfast table over which he or she gums his or her Cream of Wheat and drinks his or her prune juice every morning.
"We've done a lot of talking with people who really care about the paper," Mong says. "I would call 'em core readers. We have hundreds of thousands of 'em, and to those folks what we do is really important. We talked to a scientific sampling of them, and there are some changes I feel comfortable making as we continue to put more emphasis on local and regional news and investigations and enterprise pieces. You can't do everything we once did, and we're gonna be really good at the stuff we focus on. There are some things we'll do a little less of and things we'll do more of. There are some tough trade-offs, and we've been looking at this stuff for many, many months. I think the good news is the paper we're going to be publishing is one I think that will be more attractive to the people who care about serious journalism and the stuff we do best."
And if not, they'll always have more puzzles and comics. We'll see what Mong has to say next week, if he's still talking to Unfair Park by then. Really, Bob, it's a nice new mugshot. Swear. --Robert Wilonsky