Tag Archives: Dallas Morning News

Pandemic coverage = failed prevention policy

Something occurred to me this week when I began reading the Dallas Morning News that my carrier tossed onto my driveway.

The newspaper’s front page story count was devoted totally to the coronavirus pandemic. Then I looked at some of the inside pages. Multiple pages contained full coverage of the pandemic. The editorial page also had many letters to the editor and opinion columns devoted to the pandemic.

Then the light bulb flashed on: When have we ever witnessed such wall-to-wall, 24/7, nonstop, relentless coverage of a single issue? I guess the last issue that did that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. That’s how big this pandemic has become.

Why mention this? Well, I also remember earlier this year when Donald Trump was downplaying the onset of the virus that he was highly critical of previous administrations’ efforts at handling earlier health crises. He mentioned the Ebola virus and the H1N1 outbreaks that dogged the Obama administration. He exerted a bit of effort to tell us that in his view President Obama did a lousy job of corralling those crises.

OK, but … did those crises dominate the media coverage — not to mention the top of everyone’s awareness — the way this pandemic has done? No. They didn’t.

What does that tell me? It tells me that those crises either weren’t as widespread as the coronavirus pandemic has become and that the Obama administration did a good job of stemming their impact on the population.

It also symbolizes and illustrates one of the fundamental points that Trump critics — such as yours truly — have made all along, which is that Donald Trump has fumbled bigly in organizing his administration’s response to the crisis.

I have to circle back to something Dr. Anthony Fauci said, which was that had there been a concerted early effort to “mitigate” the effects of the disease that we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in at this moment.

So, here we are … with a disease overwhelming the media’s daily coverage of the news of the day. That, I submit, is a consequence of an inept governmental response.

Get over yourselves, Judge Jenkins and Gov. Abbott!

I want to make a request on this blog of two leading politicians who appear to be locking horns over the use of a “pop up hospital” erected to handle an expected surge in coronavirus cases in Dallas County.

It is this: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott need to set their past disputes aside and work together on behalf of stricken and anxious North Texans.

Jenkins is a Democrat, while Abbott is a Republican. That difference right there seems to suggest a starting point in the two men’s apparent tension. The major parties don’t work well at times in Texas.

They have erected a temporary hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Jenkins, according to the Dallas Morning News, has been a bit reluctant to open the center for patients. Abbott wants Jenkins to move more quickly. Their staffs aren’t working too well together at the moment.

The Morning News article I’ve attached to this blog post suggests a lengthy history of tension between the men. Jenkins is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act; Abbott is not and they have clashed over whether the state should expand benefits for those enrolled in the ACA. Jenkins doesn’t like the state’s usurping of local control over certain matters; Abbott has gone along with the Legislature’s moves to consolidate power in Austin.

Meanwhile, thousands of Dallas County residents have been stricken by the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus. My wife and I, along with one of our sons and his family, live in next-door Collin County. I happen, therefore, to detest politicians who let personal history get in the way of their need to work together to deal with a crisis.

Earth to Jenkins and Abbott: We’ve got a beaut of a crisis right now!

Get over yourselves, gentlemen! For the sake of those of us who might depend on that temporary hospital, not to mention the services provided by our state and local counties!

Newspaper gets it right with its non-endorsement

I questioned the New York Times’ decision to endorse two candidates for president in the Democratic Party primary.

Also, I cast aspersions on the Dallas Morning News’ decision to recommend two candidates for the U.S. Senate in Texas, also in the Democratic Party primary.

However, I see where the DMN is coming from in announcing Sunday that it will not endorse anyone in the race for president in 2020. Instead, the paper said it plans to focus on the issues that it deems important for voters to consider.

The paper is planning a series of articles titled “What’s at Stake 2020.” It will examine issues such as climate change, education reform, energy policy, war and peace, taxation, federal budgeting, defense policy … a whole host of issues that it believes should be the focus of the presidential campaign.

The paper didn’t say so, but my strong hunch is that the editorial board at the Dallas Morning News might have made a critical determination about the candidates seeking to win election. One is that the incumbent, Donald Trump, has not earned — nor will he ever earn — the paper’s endorsement based on his term in office. The other is none of the Democrats running to succeed him excite the paper enough to win its endorsement.

Near the end of its lengthy editorial, the paper appears to long for a return to civil discourse and declares that its turning to the issues is an avenue toward that noble goal. The Morning News cites President Lincoln’s second inaugural, given as the Civil War was drawing to a close. The president declared his intention to govern “with charity for all and malice toward none.” An assassin, tragically, prevented President Lincoln from fulfilling that noble pledge.

The paper says the election is bigger than Donald Trump or bigger than any of the men and women running to succeed him. It wants to turn its focus on the issues that matter, and away from the personalities who seek to outshout each other.

To that end, the Dallas Morning News has set a constructive path forward as we move more deeply into a contentious election year.

Two-fer endorsements: Idea is catching on?

This must be a new thing, more or less, in the world of newspaper editorial endorsements.

Editorial boards face a lengthy list of candidates for a specific office; they interview the contenders; they can’t settle on a single candidate to endorse … so they go with two of ’em!

Hmm. The New York Times did so when it endorsed U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic Party presidential primary contest.

Now it’s the Dallas Morning News doing the same thing regarding the Democratic primary contest for the U.S. Senate now occupied by Republican John Cornyn. The DMN couldn’t decide on a single candidate, so they offered up Texas state Sen. Royce West and former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards for readers to consider.

I believe that’s a bit of a cop-out on the part of the newspaper.

I get the paper’s semi-endorsement of West. He hails from Dallas. He has represented the city in the Legislature for a long time. He is a powerhouse legislator. He’s a hometown guy, sort of a “favorite son.” 

Edwards also impressed the Morning News editorial board. She’s well-educated and well-grounded in public policy.

However, shouldn’t newspapers that seek to lead a community make the same tough call that their readers will have to make when they enter the voting booth to cast their ballots for political candidates?

I am in the process of making up my own mind on who gets my vote in the upcoming Super Tuesday primary election. We’ll get to select someone to run for president along with a whole lengthy array of candidates on all manner of public offices up and down the political food chain.

We have to pick just one for each race. I had been kinda hoping for a bit of guidance from my newspaper on who to ponder in this race for U.S. Senate. I guess I’m on my own.

City, FEMA haggle over disaster aid

(AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Parrish Velasco) 

Dallas got clobbered on Oct. 20 by a tornado that tore through the city, causing considerable damage totaling something well north of $35 million.

The city is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal help as the city seeks to rebuild from Mother Nature’s wrath.

FEMA is balking. The feds are insisting that the damage level doesn’t rise to the level of a presidential disaster declaration. Local officials argue that, au contraire, it certainly does reach that level.

The feds say the city must suffer at least $38.5 million in damage for FEMA to seek a disaster declaration. According to the Dallas Morning News, Elizabeth Reich, the city’s chief financial officer, said the disaster totals have surpassed $45 million.

Good grief, FEMA. The city needs help. Schools have been forced to close because the tornado destroyed their structures; children have been uprooted and sent to other schools far from their neighborhoods; their families have been traumatized.

Isn’t the federal government supposed to respond to communities such as Dallas that have been ravaged by forces well beyond human control?

One issue appears to be the city’s street signal system, which reportedly is outdated. The storm knocked many of the signals out. FEMA doesn’t want to help the city cover the deductible costs it would incur by trying to restore service to the signals as well as begin work on repair all the damage that the storm inflicted.

In my view, FEMA is quibbling with a stricken major American city’s public officials.

As the DMN reported: “It seems as if this should be declared a disaster,” said Reich. “It clearly has been for the community, and it will take a long time to recover. We need all the help from our federal partners we can get.”

Well, FEMA, are you there for the city … or not?

It pays — bigly! — to be an elected official in this county

I stumbled upon an item in the Dallas Morning News online edition that, to be honest, made my jaw drop damn near into my lap.

Dave Lieber writes a feature for the DMN called “The Watchdog” and he reports that the Rockwall County Commissioners Court voted themselves a 23 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Moreover, the county judge — who presides over the entire Commissioners Court — received a 24 percent increase.

That, my friends, is one hell of a nice increase in pay.

Did the commissioners deserve it? Hah! I’d be willing to wager they didn’t deserve that kind of pay raise. But they granted themselves the huge increase anyhow.

What in the name of fiscal responsibility gives in Rockwall County?

The raises were steep across the board as they relate to other elected officials. All of them got gigantic raises. I am left to wonder: Did the sheriff’s deputy, or the county road maintenance employee, or the custodian get that kind of pay raise? Ohhhh, probably not!

Here’s some more news: Elected officials in neighboring counties received raises totaling a fraction of the amount of what was handed out in Rockwall County.

Oh, by the way, there is one elected official who emerges as a hero, according to The Watchdog. Commissioner Cliff Sevier voted against the pay increase.

If only there were more of them serving the people of Rockwall County.

Were the officials in Rockwall County underpaid? Did commissioners seek only to bring their salaries more competitive? Leiber writes: I hate to bring this up, but according to a salary survey by the Texas Association of Counties, when you compare Rockwall to counties of a similar size, your county was already in the top tier of salaries.

Well, at least Rockwall County residents who likely didn’t get raises that come close to what commissioners granted themselves, have an option they can pursue. They can vote these commissioners out of office.

Retirement journey takes me farther than I thought

I want to acknowledge something I realized during a recent foray across the western portion of North America.

It is that my retirement from a craft I pursued with great joy has taken me farther away from it than I could have imagined.

I worked in print journalism for nearly 37 years. My career ended in August 2012. I dabbled a bit here and there part time writing for other media outlets: public TV, commercial TV and editing a weekly newspaper. I kept my head in the game and my hand on the mechanics of the craft.

Then I entered full retirement mode.

In the old days, travels with my wife usually meant picking up newspapers in every community we would visit or pass through. I would bring home an armload of newspapers from which I might glean ideas about layout, or presentation.

This time, after spending more than a month on the road through the western United States and Canada? Nothin’. I didn’t bring home a single newspaper. Indeed, I read only one newspaper during our time on the road … and it was a freebie distributed to all the visitors of a Eugene, Ore., RV park. The newspaper was the Register-Guard of Eugene, which in the old days was considered one of the better newspapers in the Pacific Northwest. It was family owned and was considered a leader in graphic design and presentation of news and commentary.

The Baker family sold the R-G not long ago to GateHouse Media, the outfit that has purchased dozens of newspapers around the country, becoming a media titan in an age of dwindling newspaper influence and importance.

My wife and I spent several nights up the highway from Eugene in Portland, my hometown and where I first fell in love with newspapers. I never laid eyes on The Oregonian newspaper during our visit there.

Oh, the end of an era for me personally!

We visited many cities that used to boast solid newspaper tradition: Colorado Springs; Bend, Ore.; Wenatchee, Wash.; Calgary, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Grand Forks, N.D.; Topeka, Kan.; Tulsa, Okla.

I didn’t read a single word printed in newspapers distributed in those communities.

What does this mean? Hmm. I’ll have to ponder it. I still cherish my memories of toiling at newspapers in Oregon and Texas. I continue to harbor many fond memories of those years. I recall them with glee. However, I no longer am wedded to newspapers as my primary information source … or so it has become obvious, given what I have just reported about our recent journey.

Gosh, am I now dependent on “The Internet” for all my information? To some extent, yes. Although I want to rely solely on “legitimate news sources” that are spread throughout cyberspace.

There remains a glimmer of hope that I haven’t gone totally to the dark side. I do subscribe to the Dallas Morning News. I restarted my subscription upon our return home. It arrived this Sunday morning. I will consume its contents with great gusto.

Here is the ‘enemy of the people’

Take a look at this picture. What you see in this image is the enemy of the people. This is an example of the actual enemy of decent Americans who fear for their lives when faced with monsters such as this.

However, in the mind of Donald Trump, the fellow who snapped this picture — a Dallas Morning News photojournalist named Tom Fox — is the “enemy” he detests.

I won’t identify the shooter. He is dead, killed by federal security officers who answered the call when shots rang out Monday morning at the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse in downtown Dallas.

Fox was there, too. He hid behind a wall while this madman was pouring bullets into the courthouse. He managed to poke himself and his camera out long enough to snap this memorable image of the gunman.

I just feel compelled to point out that Tom Fox is a hero. He did his job of chronicling the news of the moment with cool professionalism; his picture now will be logged into the nation’s historical archive.

As for the shooter, he represented the worst in our society. He is the enemy we should fear. The fellow who snapped the image should be hailed as a hero.

This conservative stands on principle … how about that?

Jeff Leach calls himself a true-blue political conservative, an avid pro-life politician who opposes abortion fervently.

The Plano, Texas, state representative, though, does see the wall that separates conviction from political fanaticism.

Such is the case when he withdrew his support for a piece of legislation that was considered in the 2017 Texas Legislature. Leach co-authored a bill two years ago that would have made abortion a crime, it would have made women who obtained them criminals and would have subjected them potentially to the death penalty for terminating a pregnancy.

He pulled his support for the bill in the just-concluded 2019 Legislature. As he told the Dallas Morning News:

“Very candidly, when I signed onto that bill … I did not understand the criminal implications on the woman and the possibility of that woman being convicted of homicide and subjecting her to the death penalty … I think it’s the wrong direction for the pro-life movement in Texas to be criminalizing women and I decided very strongly not to support it this session. And I’m pro-life through and through and will not apologize for that, but this is the wrong direction for the pro-life movement.”

Well. How about that?

The Morning News asked Leach this question: What would you say to purists or idealists who might call that kind of flexibility cowardice instead of compromise?

“It’s not cowardice or compromise, it’s conviction. I am a conservative through and through … My values are deeply rooted. It’s who I am and political strategy and legislation changes, but my core convictions, my core values do not.”

Read the DMN interview here.

I believe Rep. Leach represents one of the struggles occurring within the Republican Party and the conservative movement over this abortion matter.

Several states have enacted strict laws banning abortion. Some of them have criminalized the act, subjecting women who have to make the most difficult decision imaginable to prosecution. And, yes, the death penalty is in play in some of those instances.

Does a politician who proclaims himself to be fervently pro-life then stand by while a woman who — for whatever reason — cannot carry a pregnancy to full term? Does that politician then want to punish that woman by killing her in the name of the state where she ended the pregnancy?

This kind of legislation has drawn considerable reluctance among some GOP politicians who, like Leach, say they are reaching too far.

State Rep. Leach tilts too far to the right to suit my political tastes. On this matter, though, he is demonstrating a commitment to reason and to a higher principle than legislating punishment for women who face decisions that not a single male human being can ever imagine having to face.

Once more about hiring Briles at Mount Vernon HS

I got raked over the coals for an earlier blog post critical of a hiring decision at Mount Vernon High School in East Texas.

A fellow who criticized my blog post stood behind the hiring of former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles as the head coach at Mount Vernon HS.

He said this: You are talking about one of the best coaches our state has ever seen. He deserves a second chance. Yes he made mistakes but a college coach cannot babysit all of their players.

I feel the need to respond briefly with — yep! — another blog post.

Briles was fired in 2016 as Baylor’s head coach after he covered up allegations of sexual assault by his players on women at Baylor. The scandal swallowed the campus damn near whole. It also swept away the university’s chancellor, Kenneth Starr, who resigned.

Here is what I cannot accept about the idea that Mount Vernon Independent School District was looking for a first-rate football coach before hiring Art Briles: Texas is a gigantic state chock full of fine football coaches who aren’t tainted by the indelible stain of a sex scandal!

Football is a big deal in this state. Isn’t that what we all recognize? Sure it is!

Therefore, I am baffled, puzzled and utterly astonished that Mount Vernon ISD would turn to a guy with the baggage that Art Briles brings to this job. The Dallas Morning News noted today in an editorial that while Briles is likely to coach his team to a lot of wins on the field, the football program well could be sullied by the history Briles brings to his new job.

I just believe that Mount Vernon ISD could have done so much better than to hire a guy who got fired from his college coaching job because the young men he was assigned to lead toward adulthood became involved in a case of serial sexual assault!

This is the best that a public school system could do?