Dented reputation

Last week, in one of his final columns at the San Antonio Express-News, former Dallas sports writer Jim Dent asked the following question: How will we remember Michael Irvin--as the ultimate team player, or as a seedy cat? His answer: "In truth, his life has been a succession of radical swings."

The same could be said for Dent, who resigned from his daily job last week, reportedly to concentrate on a book project. Dent, 47, an SMU grad who worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Times Herald before turning to sports talk radio and then book writing, is once again the topic of the media rumor mill after his recent departure. That's partly because Dent was arrested in San Antonio last week on outstanding warrants related to old DWI charges. But it's more because Dent suffers from a reputation of good-ol'-boy partying taken to the extreme. Says one writer who knows him well, "He's always been his own worst enemy." In fact, word spread that Dent was actually canned because of his off-hours antics during coverage of the Kentucky Derby.

"Absolutely not true," says Express-News sports editor Mitch Krugel. "There has never been a performance issue with Jim. He was worried that he couldn't work on his current book and do the column justice, so he resigned. It's something we've been talking about for a while."

Two sources confirm that Dent had long been worried that he couldn't continue to work on his book and write his four-times-a-week column. But one of those sources characterized his departure as a "mutual, but forced, resignation."

Dent's first book was a Jerry Jones tell-all that detailed Jones' alleged womanizing and partying. His second book, The Junction Boys, was a local best-seller and has been optioned for a screenplay. His current project, Oklahoma Rain, is a look at the OU Sooners' 47-game winning streak in the 1950s.

Dent, on vacation in Arkansas, left a voice-mail message just before deadline in which he said this: "I've completely fallen in love with the book-writing business, and it's actually become lucrative. I'm very unhappy that I've had to give up the newspaper business. But it's time to focus on the book, and Oklahoma Rain is great subject matter."

Please, stop calling. Please.

How to say this delicately? The Muslims, they aren't happy with me. After I suggested that a Muslim group's targeting of The Dallas Morning News was "ridiculous," I spent the better part of a week answering e-mails and debating my reasoning with concerned readers. After much discussion, I agreed to clarify one point: I said that the group's counting of insensitive terms in old Morning News articles was proof of something, just not Morning News bias. What was it proof of? I was asked. Since many of the stories cited were not written by Morning News writers, it was perhaps proof of a longtime general insensitivity in the American media in the way Muslims are characterized, but not proof that the News is biased.

Dot-dot-dot stuff

One scientist recently told Media Week that the Morning News "has the best science page [Discoveries] in the country right now." If only we could find a Dallas resident who thinks its Metro coverage is worth reading...Robb Walsh, by the way, is no longer editor of the Fort Worth-based Chile Pepper magazine. He's now at the Houston Chronicle...The Morning News is nearing a war with its freelancers, many of whom are antsy about the paper's increasing insistence that it own the rights to anything written for it, forever and always, meaning it could continue to reprint and make money on their words without compensating them...Mavericks beat guy Marc Stein, meanwhile, is now freelancing for espn.com.

Eric Celeste

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Eric Celeste
Contact: Eric Celeste