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Good News Dallas
by Scott Bennett    Sun, Dec 11, 2005, 03:24 PM
mccarthy.jpgWhen I left the Dallas Morning News in 1991 I left behind the happiest years of my life to that point. I have always looked back with pride at that association and have nothing but good things to say about the people I worked with. To the consternation of many friends I have continued to assert that the Dallas News is the best regional daily newspaper in America. Today, I am forced to withdraw that assessment.

Today on the front page of the paper, in what might be considered its main headline, the Dallas News reports the passing of Richard Pryor. Pryor was a very funny, if utterly fowl mouthed, comic who had a marginal impact in helping to coarsen American culture. The story jumps to a half page follow-on within the front section .

On the same front page the News notes the passing of a genuine historic figure: former Senator Eugene McCarthy. McCarthy brought down LBJ with a Democratic insurgency that in turn led to the counter culture riots in Chicago and ultimately the election of Richard Nixon. McCarthy was the catalyst that took America down an entire different path than it would have traveled had he not stepped forward to challenge his own party’s incumbent President. The News deemed McCarthy worthy of 1.5 column inches and a thumbnail on the left column below the fold under “obituaries.”

Personally I could not have been farther removed from the political views of Sen. McCarthy but I know an historic figure when I see one and a man of great courage when I see one and the senator was both. Eugene McCarthy deserved page one above the fold and Americans too young to recall needed to be presented with his story.

Pryor was a genuine talent although I think his greatest contribution came after he filmed a movie at a genuine prison. After having been up close and personal with convicts he came to a worthy conclusion: “Thank God for prisons.” Perhaps he deserved the space in whatever they call the section dealing with popular culture - perhaps not. He might have even deserved the senator’s spot on the obit column – perhaps not.

This is a failure that cuts to the heart of the failing daily newspaper: Poor editorial judgment and a deep dive into a popular culture drenched in obscenity and violence. The Dallas News, like all daily papers, is desperate to attract young readers now focused on the Internet. But do they think people in their twenties and thirties even know who Pryor is? No, they probably don’t know who Eugene McCarthy is either but they should know and they should know his story. To learn it in short form they must search for another section and thumb for the obits and there read a story maybe a quarter of the space dedicated to Pryor.

It was noted here that Dallas Business Journal Publisher Huntley Paton had written a column suggesting the efforts of the News and other daily papers to become People magazine was at the heart of their decline. If so, then the Dallas Morning News took a giant step on the road of decline today. Robert Decherd, Jim Moroney and Bob Mong surely know that.

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