Rhode Outta Town

Rhode outta town: To quote Bart Simpson, these are "crazy, topsy-turvy times" in which we live. The NASDAQ swings like Dennis Rodman after 10 cocktails, more people are interested in the Mavericks than in the Cowboys, dogs and cats are sleeping together--it's mass hysteria. Luckily for Buzz, there's one thing that never changes, one constant in the universe, one truth more pure and immutable than Anna Nicole's greed: Belo are stupid.

We know, we know. Half of you are thinking, "duh"; the other half believes Buzz to be spiteful, hateful, and jealous of the mighty Belo Corp. and all that it controls. In fact, a loyal Dallas Morning News staffer not long ago let his criticism be known, saying that, in effect, we're a bunch of mean ol' bastards with nothing better to do than take cheap shots at the Southwest's largest newspaper.

Again: "duh."

That said, even loyal Belo-ites (Belovers?) can't argue that the company makes it really, really easy for us. Latest case in point: Last week we mentioned that Wall Street Journal personal tech columnist Walter Mossberg ripped the new Belo-backed device, the CueCat, in his October 12 column. Turns out that Belo exacted its own little bit of revenge through one of its other newspapers, The Providence Journal.

Little bit of history, here. The ProJo, as it's known in Rhode Island (well, the Web site is, anyway), has a long and distinguished journalistic history. It has won four Pulitzer Prizes. It is well respected, despite its small circulation. In other words, we ain't talkin' 'bout The Daily Oklahoman here.

But in 1996, Belo acquired The Providence Journal Co., and it began doing what it does best--interfering with the day-to-day work of good, smart journalists.

See, Mossberg's column runs every Sunday in the ProJo. Has for a long time. It usually includes a little biographical note, since Mossberg--a respected 30-year Journal writer--is also a hometown boy (native of Warwick, Rhode Island). So when his CueCat column didn't run in that week's paper, he noticed.

Mossberg--whom Newsweek once called "the most powerful arbiter of consumer tastes in the computer world today"--was careful to say he was not upset that the column didn't run, and that he has a lot of respect for folks at the ProJo. But...

"I was surprised to learn that they did this," he told Buzz, "and I thought it was sad. I haven't spoken to them, but the Providence Journal I remember always had high standards and didn't ever allow the appearance that its journalism was influenced by its business interests."

According to the Providence paper's union newsletter (, the higher-ups at the ProJo said that, since many people don't have the CueCat there, folks would be confused by the column. The logic being, Buzz guesses, that once the entire world has accepted that CueCat resistance is futile, that they will be arriving at your door whether you want the friggin' little CueKitten or not, well, then we'll trot out that column--the one that says how stupid and useless the device is.

Oh, yeah, that makes sense.

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Eric Celeste
Contact: Eric Celeste

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