Continued obliviousness

In the recent Columbia Journalism Review story about the disastrous effects of newspaper staff cutbacks at The Dallas Morning News, book/daddy is quoted as saying that in its pre-cutback meetings with staff, the News' "management was making it plain how little it valued cultural coverage, and how the depressing rounds of cutbacks would only continue."

Yet in the past several months, the Morning News has undertaken something that for years, many writers, book/daddy included, had argued for: promoting the reporters and photographers and columnists in print ads and on billboards. It's not an ego thing -- it's a branding thing. Lots of readership studies indicate readers generally don't recognize bylines. This is a way to help them, to let them see the news as a product of individuals.To give a little credit where the best work is coming from, not from some faceless sausage factory.

In contrast, the News corporate policy and marketing strategy have always been to promote the product, rarely the employees. A journalist sees his face 50-feet-tall on the side of a freeway, he might start thinking he matters and actually ask for a decent wage.

No one's thinking that he matters at the paper these days. Probably as part of a program to boost the staff's sub-basement-level morale (also discussed in the CJR story), the News has put up huge, black-and-white portrait shots all over town and on buses -- photos touting its education columnist, its Metro reporters, etc. All deserving people, about a dozen or so.

And not a single member of the arts staff has ever been featured. Classical music critic, country music critic, nada.

But aha. Now, in the black wake of the CJR story, the News' management has issued another of its always-welcome, cheer-up-the-little-folk memos. The memo, posted online by the Dallas Observer, soundly refutes the CJR story -- not by disputing a single fact or survey cited in it -- but by hailing all the good work by News staff members that CJR authors Craig Flournoy and Tracey Everbach managed to overlook.

Setting aside the blanket praise for departments or special teams (the sports staff, the photo staff, etc.), the memo lists some 60 individuals by name. And yes, not a single arts journalist on the paper is mentioned here, either -- except former architecture critic David Dillon, and that was for a front-page news feature, written with Dave Tarrent, on Dallas' shortage of affordable housing.

In short, no art critics, no music reviewers, no art department editors have done anything worthy of note. Management's near-total blindness to the value of cultural coverage is a wonder to behold. They should be popping corks on the fourth floor. This'll just cheer them up no end.

July 9, 2007 3:58 PM | | Comments (3)



One easily bears moral reproof, but never mockery. CJR's article on Murdoch is enlightening or at least confimed my suspicions on how the press views itself. I wish I knew re: enlightening. As my politics are different I have potentially to make some transformation rule on what they say to arrive at 'truth.' They would have helped me there if they had spoken some of the influence of Murdoch on Michael Powell, then FCC chairman, on the sale of a satellite TV prpoerty. It would have gone for more money to an original bidder but because Powell blocked that sale it went to Murdoch, directTV instead. The article on Peter Kann is sad but illuminating

That is a little odd. Perhaps they misread all of those initials you used and thought you'd accused the News of BDSM -- bondage, discipline and sadomasochism.

Which actually would make the News sound a lot more interesting than it ever has been.

CJR generally does not edit or remove comments, but we reserve the right to do so if a post is obscene,... I submitted a comment July 9 saying that the DMN showed 'breathtaking fealty to the MSM line.' It has not appeared. Bookdaddy, do you suppose I should wash my mouth out with soap and water?


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