Rodrigue Writes Another Column Defending The DMN

Now that I’m back, I can answer Tim’s question about what I thought of George Rodrigue’s defense of his paper against Jim Schutze’s charges of bias (at best) and lies (at worst). Especially since Rodrigue has a second post wherein he defends his paper some more. I have much to say, sigh, as usual, so let’s get jumpy:

My first thought is this: thank goodness someone at the News has a pair. Must run in managing editors, no?

The bloggers there seem all atwitter that someone on staff would actually fire back. That they’re so surprised — and that Rodrigue seems so conflicted about it — suggests they’re still fighting to eliminate that damaging mind-set the paper had for the past 30 years: that they were somehow above the fray. That they operated on some sort of higher intellectual plane and couldn’t be bothered with messy brouhahas. They’re trying hard to change that. I hope. It’s the only way the paper will stay relevant. Remember: ink-stained wretches, not pressed-shirt PTA members. Write like the former, be the latter when you leave the building. Maybe make Rodrigue a city columnist.

Someone who relishes a good fight instead of someone who dislikes it when things get noisy. I’d read him.

As to the substance of his claims: um, okay, sure. He makes some very good points, but he ignores facts that might undermine his points. (Sound like a polemicist you know?) Look at the most recent column. He points out the paper has won a Pulitzer recently, but doesn’t point out it was for photography, even though what he’s defending is the paper’s news coverage. Points out how many stories they’ve done on the Trinity to show their commitment to covering local issues thoroughly, doesn’t point out that only recently have they given the great Dave Levinthal some help by finally hiring another City Hall reporter, which the Metro desk has been screaming about forever. Points out how much they’ve covered the Trinity debate since the referendum petition but doesn’t answer why this civic issue, which clearly has touched a lot of people and is incredibly important, wasn’t covered nearly as thoroughly for much of the previous eight years when Jim was railing on the plan (and when D was trumpeting the Balanced Vision Plan).

Another example is his defense of the newsroom culture. One, he says Jim has never been in the newsroom, suggesting that he doesn’t know what it’s like. Hey, I haven’t been in it for 18 years, but the many e-mails and conversations I have with people there (reporters and editors) who complain about things they feel they can’t say to their bosses (even if you disregard 90 percent of it, which I do) gives me some insight into the newsroom Rodrigue doesn’t have. Is he saying that because Elizabeth Souder doesn’t attend the TXU Monday morning meeting she can’t give me insight into the company? Of course not.

He also says an agenda is not set from above in regards to the paper’s “stance” on an issue. This is true. The idea that the paper’s top brass tells journalists how to report on sensitive political issues is not true. They wouldn’t stand for it if the biz-side brass tried to do so.

But what Rodrigue ignores are the smaller, seemingly insignificant notices from on high that show, yes, the boys in suits are paying attention, so be careful.

Quick story: A few years ago, I was asked to write a Sunday column for the DMN praising the frozen margarita. You can read it here. When someone very, very high up the food chain found out that my name was going to be in the paper for something other than a DUI notice, that person freaked out. It took a quiet stand by editors to make sure it ran.

Look, the Morning News often does great work, but it’s not above criticism. In fact, it should welcome passionate criticism. Its staffers should also defend the paper steadfastly when they think the criticism is misguided. Like Rodrigue did. So good on him.

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