You Know What They Say About Small Packages

Well, for one thing, they contain tiny gifts. Or dynamite. Or the new, sleeker model of Dallas' Only Daily.

With Byron Nelson's death and Terrell Owens' accidental non-suicide attempt, this week provided an immediate Litmus test for the post-buyout Dallas Morning News' SportsDay section. And, like we feared, bigger was better.

This is how different the new DMN will be. I remember a time when the Belo bosses prohibited their writers from appearing on an annoying little gnat called KTCK-AM (1310, The Ticket). Earlier this week, according to sources, the DMN sent The Ticket management an e-mail offering up publisher and CEO Jim Moroney, Editor Robert Mong and Sports Editor Bob Yates to go on the station, specifically to answer questions about a paper that recently lost 111 employees and calm fears about a sports section that will surely struggle to replace departed columnists Kevin Blackistone and Gerry Fraley.

"They are willing to talk to us on the air, off the air, whatever," a source said. "They're now trying to use us to put out their spin control. They need us now."

While we anxiously wait for Belo's big boys to swallow their pride and reach out to the P1s, let's review what's left of their product. First off, if you're a newspaper geek like me who's devoured the DMN since he could, well, read, the personnel substitutions are jolting. Golf writer Bill Nichols, whose "Inside the Ropes" is some of the paper's best insight, was not in Ireland last weekend covering the Ryder Cup, but instead at a stinkin' FC Dallas game in Frisco. Not sure what Chuck Carlton covers these days, but I just know he's not supposed to be at Texas Motorplex covering drag racing. David Moore, one of the nation's best NBA beat writers, was shoved into Cowboys duty, producing a feature on punter Mat McBriar. Huh? And, of course, filling the void left by Blackistone are four words that trumpet Apocalypse to anyone who's graduated Journalism 101: Jean-Jacques Taylor, columnist. Oh, forget it.

There are other signs of a stretched-thin staff. Monday's front page included a Ryder Cup story by Los Angeles Times writer Thomas Bonk. Tuesday we were treated to a Saints-Falcons story by Steve Hummer--of the friggin' Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Seriously, Aljazeera sends a writer to the monumental rebirth of the Superdome, but our local daily doesn't? And Monday's Dallas Stars preseason game was covered not by hockey writer Mike Heika, but rather some Tampa Tribune freelancer.

But before we kick dirt on the sports section formerly known as one of the nation's best, let's give SportsDay its due. The Byron Nelson tribute package was fantastic, anchored by columns from Nichols and Tim Cowlishaw. And Michael Granberry, a newcomer to sports unless I've totally been asleep at the wheel, penned an exclusive that likely got as close to the truth about T.O.'s O.D. as we're gonna get.

SportsDay remains good. And, someday, it may again become great. But, like the DMN itself, it will never be the same. --Richie Whitt

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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