I actually love the way news pops up in The Dallas Morning News. I pick up the paper every single morning and feel as though I'm visiting a foreign city for the first time. Every story, even the most mundane, is a forehead-slapper, because I have no idea what they're talking about.
Today, for example. A story tells me that something called the Dawson State Jail on Commerce Street by the Trinity River is "standing in the way" of something called "Trinity River entertainment plans." Wait a minute. What "Trinity River entertainment plans?" Did you have Trinity River entertainment plans?
This story says a man named Brian Caine from San Diego has Trinity River entertainment plans. Apparently Mr. Caine wants to build a "sky-scraping Ferris wheel" down by the river, but he can't do it because there's a jail next to his property. The story never delves into the question why he can't build a Ferris wheel next to the jail. I have no idea. Would the prisoners be able to escape that way? Now that would be exciting.
But let's not go there, because there are so many other questions to answer first.
Like: What Ferris wheel?
For years now, city officials have been touting something called the "Trinity River Balanced Vision Plan," which was all about bird-watching trails, forested areas and playing fields. When the Trinity River project was first proposed to voters a decade ago, former Mayor Ron Kirk boasted it would give Dallas an urban jewel to rival Manhattan's Central Park.
I was always a little worried that they never hired a real park planner to design it. But when did it become Coney Island?
I have done a little poking around on Mr. Caine today, and he seems to be a legit fellow. I think he's the same Brian Caine who did a Hilton Hotel in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. It got good reviews. But he wants to build a bowling alley, hotel and carnival of some sort on Commerce Street down by the river, and The News is suddenly presenting this as "just one piece of the long-awaited Trinity River Project."
Were you long awaiting a Ferris wheel?
No, I think this is a case of what we in the newspaper business call "burying the lede." Sorry for the spelling of lede. It's an old hot-type printing term. Anyway, burying the lede is writing a story so that the real news is buried down so deep in the lower paragraphs of the story that even a careful reader might not easily figure it out.
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The News has developed burying the lede into an art form. Here at the Dallas Observer, our lede for this story would have been something like, "The pastoral park plan sold to voters 10 years ago for the Trinity River project has morphed into something more like a carnival with Ferris wheels and bowling alleys."
I see that Mr. Caine has been appearing before obscure city council committees for some months and that those committees have been discussing ways they could use architectural standards to screw up the state's Dawson jail on Commerce. I know from my own attendance at some of these meetings that they're worried about luring people to the area if there are scary jail buildings nearby.
Somehow in all of that, I think there is bigger news -- information that would be of greater interest to readers -- than theoretical delays in possible ferris wheel construction. I looked at the Dawson jail. I think it looks better than a Ferris wheel. If I were the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, I would come to those obscure city council meetings and complain that putting a Ferris wheel down there will lower the property value of the jail.
Reading The News. It's fun sometimes, like working a coffee-table puzzle. --Jim Schutze