Monday, July 27, 2015

Remembering Rodger Jones

According to CultureMap Dallas, soon some big names will be leaving The Dallas Morning News in an employee buyout of the newsroom. The purpose, according to top editor Mike Wilson, is to convert the newspaper into "a website which delivers vital information to North Texas quickly and also curates and produces a great city newspaper." For that, the News is "going to need new skill sets, which are now mostly print and need to be mostly digital." In short, the old guys with ink-stained fingers need to be encouraged to retire.

Who's going? Reportedly, Brooks Egerton, Randy Lee Loftis, Todd Gillman, and columnist Steve Blow for a few. None of them ever had much to say about Richardson, so I won't say much about them, either. Wendy Hundley, who recently has been covering Richardson city government, is an exception. She's been the best thing The Dallas Morning News has done for Richardson readers since Ian McCaan left the paper some years ago. But the big departure as far as Richardson goes is editorial writer Rodger Jones. Jones lives in Richardson. His local experience influenced his opinion on transportation issues like DART and US 75. Over the years I've had a thing or two to say about those opinions.

Going down memory lane, I've collected some the issues on which I didn't always see eye-to-eye with Rodger Jones.
  • Glaring Urban Failure: "When Jones says 'build some sidewalks' he falsely gives the impression that none exist today. He ignores the gem of a hike/bike trail through the Galatyn Woodland Preserve and the Spring Creek Nature Area."
  • DART Is Packing Them In: "Shorter Rodger Jones: Nobody rides DART anymore. It's too crowded."
  • Playing Plano Off Against Richardson: "The last thing Garland and Richardson students and families need is Rodger Jones encouraging Angie Chen Button to think that 'my districts seem to be doing OK,' thus giving her cover to cut the education budget."
  • Pedestrian Access to DART Stations: "I should probably know that when a blogger begins by saying, 'Today I vent about ...', that I should quit reading then and there. But how can I resist when the blogger is a member of The Dallas Morning News editorial board (Rodger Jones), and his subject is pedestrian access to the DART stations in Richardson?"
  • Rodger Jones Knows What Women Think: "I can't tell if Rodger Jones, of The Dallas Morning News, is just obtuse or is stubbornly attempting to mislead readers in his ongoing campaign to disparage Richardson's DART stations."
  • The End of Western Civilization: "According to Jones, not enough women are having babies. Or, at least, not enough women with whom Jones shares a common ancestry. Specifically, Lithuanian women, but, in general, Central and Eastern European women, too."
  • Rodger Jones Accused of Bigotry: "I long ago gave up hoping for objectivity from him about his chronic complaints about the lack of a sidewalk alongside Central Expressway to the PGBT and Galatyn DART stations."
  • Two Roads Diverged on Renner Road: "We all want it all yesterday. Whining about it doesn't add anything to the discussion. Nevertheless, don't just whine privately. Make a video of your whining, upload it to YouTube, and use your job with the big city's only daily newspaper to link to it online, where few readers are Richardson locals who know the full story. Don't let your readers know that you had a choice. Don't tell them about the route you chose to ignore, south where everyone else finds some of the area's best walking trails. Don't tell them that you chose to walk north where no one expects you to walk (yet). Don't tell them the long-range plans for your route. That's the future. Whine like whining will make tomorrow come faster. It won't."
  • How Far Will You Walk to DART?: "On the News's blogs, Jones responded to me calling his complaint that Richardson lacks walkability 'whining.' Basically, he says, 'Guilty as charged.' As Stephen Colbert might say, 'I accept your apology.'"
  • Raises in PISD. Crisis Over?: "Jones assures readers that 'there haven't been the horror stories I imagined.' Then Jones hasn't been paying attention. There have been layoffs, increased class sizes, program cuts and building maintenance deferrals that Jones prefers not to see."
  • Yes, Budget Cuts Hurt Schools: "Jones's source for his sarcastic dismissal of the harm being done to education in Texas? Two assistant principals from Garland who shrugged when Jones asked about the impact of state budget cuts on their schools."
  • Richardson: Suburb or City?: "Last week, Rodger Jones, editorial writer of The Dallas Morning News, wrote about my quixotic dream on the News' transportation blog. He paired my attention to Central Expressway in Richardson with the attention that is being given to tearing out IH-345 in downtown Dallas."
  • I-345 vs US-75: Commute Times: "Rodger Jones of The Dallas Morning News offers his solutions to north Texas' traffic woes. Jones wants US-75 through Richardson to get 'three added pay lanes in each direction, sunken, with sound walls.'"
  • My Turn to Squeal on Rodger Jones: "Instead of learning from this experience, Jones is obsessed with who it was who reported him. He has his 'suspects' as if they are the ones who did something wrong. He calls them 'enemies' as if people who are serious about conserving water in this drought hate him personally."
  • CityLine, Palisades and Strip Shopping Centers: "I pledged to myself that I wasn't going to respond to the straw man argument by Rodger Jones of The Dallas Morning News dismissing criticism of the proposed Trinity tollroad. If I weren't already familiar with Jones's work, I would have guessed that he was merely trolling. 'Don't feed the trolls' is advice I usually try to live by."

Despite our differences of opinion, I wish Rodger Jones well in his future endeavors. And I hope The Dallas Morning News finds a replacement that is savvy digitally, knowledgeable about transportation issues, and, since I'm drawing up the wish list, lives in Richardson.

Note that employees who took the buyout have some amount of time to change their minds. So, it's possible that some of the names above might end up with the News for longer than we think today.

Coincidentally this week, Ezra Klein of Vox predicts "that within three years, it will be normal for news organizations of even modest scale to be publishing to some combination of their own websites, a separate mobile app, Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat, RSS, Facebook Video, Twitter Video, YouTube, Flipboard, and at least one or two major players yet to be named. The biggest publishers will be publishing to all of these simultaneously."

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