It was strange to pick up The Dallas Morning News today and learn that Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price has impugned the integrity of Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze. The commish accuses Schutze of reporting comments made by two public officials -- U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson and Dallas County Judge Jim Foster -- who, Price maintains, accused him of allegedly trying to "shake down" The Allen Group, a major developer of the inland port project in southern Dallas.
Buzz uses the word "allegedly" because Price has filed petitions to take the deposition of Johnson and Foster in anticipation of filing suit against the two, and possibly the Observer, for defaming him -- a suit that, jurisprudentially speaking, would be a giant crock.
We use the word "strange" because we at the Observer are used to being ignored by The News, which rarely credits us for stories we have broken, much less accurately reported. True to form, News reporters Kevin Krause and Gromer Jeffers ignored Schutze, claiming that he couldn't be reached for comment. In journalese that usually means they tried to reach him, which they didn't -- Schutze says he received no phone, e-mail or text messages at work, home or cell.
If they had bothered to reach him, he says, he would have played his tape of a phone conversation he recorded with Johnson and read them the notes of his conversation with Foster. Oh, well. Better late than never: We've included excerpts from those conversations after the jump.
And if they had bothered to reach him, they would have learned that, contrary to an interview Johnson gave The News in which she said she never used the term "'shakedown' in relation to Price," she plainly uses the term as a characterization of Price's history in the community: "I see all of these different deals that he's trying to do over the years, shaking people down and all that kind of stuff." It's Part 3 of Jim's interview with Johnson below.
Because Price is a high-visibility public official, Johnson measured her words carefully, and Schutze was careful in repeating them. Too bad The News didn't take the same care in its reporting.
Price alleges that he needs to take Johnson's deposition to determine if certain statements regarding shakedowns were actually made. Now he can hear for himself. Price also alleges that his reputation has been damaged, but if the numerous comments (42 to date) posted to the story on The News's Web site are any indication of that reputation, he might want to rethink his legal strategy.
Eddie Bernice Johnson interview with Jim Schutze, Part 1:
Eddie Bernice Johnson interview with Jim Schutze, Part 2:
Eddie Bernice Johnson interview with Jim Schutze, Part 3:
Eddie Bernice Johnson interview with Jim Schutze, Part 4:
Eddie Bernice Johnson interview with Jim Schutze, Part 5:
Eddie Bernice Johnson interview with Jim Schutze, Part 6: