Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TBAR: Dallas Morning News and Texas Publishing

What would the Dallas metroplex be like without the Dallas Morning News?

The DMN was founded in 1885 by Alfred Belo. The Dallas Morning News has been around for a long time and it would be sad to see it go. But it could shut down. 105 newspapers have closed in 2009. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer closed after 146 years in print. We cannot take for granted the survival of the DMN.

The Dallas Morning News ran an article on Sunday October 11, 2009: Morning News Tries Premium Value Strategy by Brendan Case. The DMN said it will fight for readership by increasing its news coverage: they are betting on providing quality to maintain readership. A significant number of people from the DMN attended a home owners meeting in Plano to explain their commitment to its readers.

Dallas cannot become a world-class city without a world-class newspaper, so I definitely would like to see a newspaper in Dallas. If the DMN closes, would another newspaper take its place? This is a difficult time for newspapers across America. There is a thought that has plagued me for over a month. I could not figure out how to express this thought, but then a friend put it into words for me.

I was telling a friend that one year ago people protested in front of every Federal Reserve Bank in America, the End the Fed movement, but there was no news coverage in Dallas at all. The Dallas Morning News and TV news were all silent. My friend said, "You know how worried people are about the newspapers closing? Maybe they deserve to close."

What a shocking thought! Then I remembered how terrible the news coverage was during the last presidential election. The reporting was so bad I had to read London newspapers and a German magazine to learn what was going on in America. Maybe newspapers are failing as businesses because they have been failing as newspapers.

If the DMN fails, it will leave void. But we already have a major void in Texas publishing.

Are Newspapers All We Need?

We need more than good newspapers. For Texas to rise to greatness, we need great ideas. I never cared for William F. Buckley or the National Review, but they did make a difference. The New Criterion had some influence as did First Things, Chronicles, and The Public Interest. The Cornell Review and the Dartmouth Review were started by students and have had some influence.

The book of James says the tongue is like a tiny rudder that turns a large ship. Ideas are like tiny rudders that turn society. We cannot have great leaders without great ideas, and we cannot raise Texas to greatness without great leaders. So great ideas can contribute to making Texas a great state.

There are universities in Texas that aspire to become Tier One universities. It really does take more than a research budget to get respect, it takes intellectual firepower. Texas needs magazines with intellectual content, and Texas universities are pools of talent that that can nurture influential magazines. My neighborhood bookstore sells the Yale Economic Review, a student journal. Why can't we have a Texas Economic Review put out by our university students? We have not set that kind of goal for ourselves, but it is time we did.

How can we contribute to the birth of great magazines of thoughtful discourse? We can look forward to them, read them when they are available, and discuss their ideas. An infrastructure of power that lacks ideas is a weak infrastructure.

Robert Canright

Related posts:
The Texas Journalism Project November 27, 2008
The Texas Publishing Project December 14, 2008
Publishing Business Novels February 12, 2009
Texas Tier One University Project, September 19, 2009