Pretty sure I could take Steve Blow in a staring contest.

Ask John Neely Bryan: Let’s All Give Steve Blow a Wide Berth, Shall We?

I hate this — being forced to play the role of sensible adult, I mean.

John Neely Bryan, Our Founder
John Neely Bryan, Our Founder
Photography by Matthew Shelley

Lee Kleinman is the most courageous member of the Dallas City Council. I am pleased to announce that he is the first — thus far the only — member of that quasi-august body to accept my challenge. He has agreed to face off against me, mano e mano, over heaping bowls of dal makhani at Mughlai. I’ve asked my people to reach out to his people to work out the details. I shall keep you informed as to the progress of this effort.

Now, to today’s business.


Question: Have you read Steve Blow’s latest column about the Trinity toll road? Such ignorance displayed in this article. Aren’t journalists supposed to do research? — Brian S.

I hate this — being forced to play the role of sensible adult, I mean.

You know: rotate your tires, bury your bankroll in the backyard, and let’s not be so quick to dismiss Steve Blow.

The cool kids in town are definitely ganged up against him. They’ve referred to him as “an embarrassment to our city” and everything.

But since he inconveniently refuses to go away, they have taken to calling him the “zombie” columnist, hoping mockery will knock him out of newsprint.

Listen, I’m sick of the whole subject and bet you are, too. His time as a columnist in a major metropolitan daily paper has dragged on way too long.

The opponents conjure up all sorts of conspiracy theories to explain why he hasn’t gone away — dirt he dug up on Bob Mong, the political clout of the AARP, selfish suburbanites.

But one other possibility is that he survives because he’s the smartest columnist at the Morning News.

My basic position on Steve Blow has been the same from the start: Let’s try to keep our eyes propped open as we read him.

No one has ever built up quite his track record of favoring folksy truisms over facts and figures. His column could have proved impossible, impractical or impermissible at numerous junctures along the way. And that would have settled it.

But that hasn’t happened yet. He’s still alive. And I think that’s what scares his opponents most — that what they ridicule as folly is slowly looking brilliant.

Some big fans remain for his work, to be sure. His success still relies on the approval of the city’s grandmothers, and he’s definitely got that. Why a major newspaper has to pay for that sort of content remains an open question.

But maybe the biggest question now is whether his audience is dying out. Dallas readers seem to enjoy him, or at least they don’t hate him enough to write letters, and he’s got his share of strong supporters.

But all the passion is on the side of the haters. They promise never to read another of his columns. And their complaints can make it seem like nobody likes him.

In truth, who does love a bland bore? It’s a lot more fun to discuss original ideas and debate with concrete facts.

But just like opium pipes and spittoons, aw-shucks columnists are ugly-duckling necessities. The only thing less lovable is the three-donkey pileup that ensues when a mess of farmers slips on tobacco juice all over the saloon floor.

Some argue that the future of the Morning News depends on getting rid of Steve Blow and even some of their other columnists. But I don’t buy it.

A city needs a good laugh at its bloviating opiners — at their silliness on a smorgasbord of subjects, from Big Tex to highways to pilots having a “bad day at the office.”

Slowly we are making the shift away from newspapers. And that’s a blessing. Young people especially show they prefer the pictographic communication of Instagram and emojis to words written in ink.

But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about what’s in the newspaper or that the city is ruined if we don’t. Bad writing isn’t good for people or cities.

I’m sympathetic to opponents who say a smart city and a dumb columnist don’t mix. But it’s a matter of balancing priorities and a useful debate.

I would simply note that stupidity and Dallas mix all over town. Think of whoever’s bright idea it was to model downtown after the latter-day Sodom of Las Vegas, buildings putting on whorish light shows every which way but loose.

And for heaven’s sake, our wunderkind Klyde Warren Park still has Olive Street running right through the middle of it.

I especially urge anyone wrestling with this subject to attempt to write a regular column and get a feel for how daunting is the blank Word document. I confront such a task weekly and am struck by how even my enormous talent is tested.

It’s so challenging that I could more easily enjoy an association football game, partake of a vegan picnic, or take a death-defying foot-cycle ride on a hot July day.

Above all, let’s do the sensible thing and simply keep ignoring Steve Blow. Let’s see instead what Rudolph Bush has to say. Let’s hear from anyone with better-reasoned opinions grounded in reality.

It’s boring, but let’s be grown-ups about this.


Inimitably yours,

John Neely Bryan is the founder of the city of Dallas and an expert on all matters. Email him for advice, to have a dispute adjudicated, or to seek his wisdom on any of a myriad of topics, at [email protected].


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