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Did Smokey Joe bend the DMN to his will?

Awhile back, I noted a story which told the tale of Things Gone Wrong at the Dallas Morning News. The American Journalism Review has a followup on the subject now (via Kimberly). All I can say to that is Yeesh.

Much more interesting from a political intrigue perspective is this long sidebar which asks the question “Did the Morning News soften its pro-environment stance after a visit from a powerful congressman?”

Regrettable as the layoffs were at the Dallas Morning News, there might have been a silver lining for at least one very important person: Joe Barton.

Barton, a Republican congressman, represents Ellis County, just south of Dallas, where cement plants and other industries contribute mightily to the area’s smog problem. But besides contributing to the smog, the companies that own these plants also contribute to Barton’s political campaigns, and Barton fights doggedly to shield them from government clean air rules.

Before they were laid off in October, two of the News’ editorial writers, Timothy O’Leary and Jim Frisinger, had given Barton a very hard time, accusing him of using sneaky legislative maneuvers, regulatory loopholes and plain old political pressure to protect some of North Texas’ worst polluters.

Local advocates for clean air drew comfort from these editorials. They felt that the paper was on their side in the fight against Barton.

But now, says Wendi Hammond, executive director of Blue Skies Alliance in Dallas, “There are a lot of people in the environmental community who are not happy with what’s going on at the paper.” They fear that political pressure may have played a role in the two writers’ departures, says Hammond, and in what they perceive to be a toned-down editorial policy.

Read the rest and decide for yourself. There’s a reference to some of the stuff O’Leary wrote about Smokey Joe and to the DMN’s curious non-endorsement endorsement of Barton before the election. More (much more) on the Barton vs Frisinger/O’Leary scuffle can be found here, and a Barton vs Belo timeline can be found here, on the Midlothian Family Network page, the proprietor of which, Julie Boyle, sent me the sidebar link (actually a link to the D Magazine blog, which has also posted on this) via email.

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4 Comments

  1. Kimberly says:

    I miss all the fun…. Glad you caught that sidebar.

  2. Smoky Joe & the Free Press

    Last November we linked to an op-ed by a fellow named Tom Boyle who suggested that some Texas newspapers were being intimidated into playing nice with Smoky Joe Barton (Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Commitee) on his rather abominable…

  3. kevin whited says:

    Newspapers can, of course, take any editorial stance they’d like.

    But they do hurt their credibility with so many off-the-record meetings with public officials. Keep transcripts. Put those things online. Let your readers know what you’re talking about, and with whom.

    I’m not thinking of the DMN so much as the Chronicle here, but the principle is the same.

  4. Joe Barton Hawks His Energy Bill in the Dallas Morning News

    More of a press release, the proud man who fought for the right of companies to pollute water, avoid being sued by the public, and make communities pay for cleanup as an unfunded mandate needs to have his BS called.