Wednesday, September 7, 2011


With succinct finality, Ian McCann tweeted the news that layoffs were in progress at The Dallas Morning News: -30-

He followed up later with "I appreciate the thoughts everybody. Now time to plan the next adventure, almost 12 years after the first one began."

Besides Twitter, the blog DMNcuts seems to be the best place to follow the news from the DMN newsroom. According to a document obtained by that anonymous blogger, the cuts affected 38 people, including reporters, photographers, and editors.

After the jump, my thoughts.

I'm sure many of his readers, like I do, wish Ian McCann good luck in his next adventure. Given that Ian McCann was the only connection the News had with Richardson city government, the chances of Richardson residents getting local news from city hall in that newspaper just became a whole lot less likely.

I feel a twinge of responsibility for the financial pressure at the News that led to the downsizing yesterday. A couple of years ago, I finally quit a lifelong habit of subscribing to the local paper. Or, maybe I should say that The Dallas Morning News quit me. The writers I looked forward to reading, the features I never missed, one by one were cut from the paper. Many didn't disappear altogether, they just moved to other outlets, usually available online. What was left was mostly commodity news available elsewhere, often sooner. And if the News did happen to have must-read news, you could count on other online sources summarizing it. So, over time, the News quit paying attention to me and I quit paying attention to the News, until like a stale marriage, there was nothing left to keep us together. Sadly, like the kids who suffer the most in divorce, it's the newsroom workers who paid the price.

Actually, there was one part of the News that I still continued to read. That was the local news on the Richardson blog on At one time, local, even hyperlocal, was supposedly the future of the News. With the actions yesterday, I'm not sure what the future holds. Cost pressures lead to cutting content which leads to fewer subscribers and advertisers which leads to even more cost pressures. More and more, the News appears to be in a death spiral.

Speaking of hyperlocal, I've always found it ironic that newsrooms are the one location that newspapers declare to be a news free zone. Newsrooms are full of professional journalists dedicated to publishing hundreds of stories every day, yet even when the biggest story of the day is happening right inside that very newsroom, readers have to learn of it elsewhere. If journalists can't even get the story that's right under their noses, why should we trust what they say happens somewhere across the city, state or nation?

The conundrum is an old one:

"When Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London, he occupied himself with writing a history of the world. He had finished the first volume and was at work on the second when there was a scuffle between some workmen beneath the window of his cell, and one of the men was killed. In spite of diligent enquiries, and in spite of the fact that he had actually seen the thing happen, Sir Walter was never able to discover what the quarrel was about; whereupon, so it is said -- and if the story is not true it certainly ought to be -- he burned what he had written and abandoned his project."
-- George Orwell, "Historical Truth"

Maybe it's time for us to burn The Dallas Morning News.

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