I’ll forgive you if you don’t know what “10 Drops in the Bucket” is. It’s a monthly series of editorials in the Dallas Morning News wherein they call attention to blighted areas in southern Dallas and take to task the owners of those properties. The paper has been doing this for eight years. Wednesday online (and in print the next day) the paper congratulated itself for doing good work. And some of the work, to be sure, has been excellent. But there is one problem with the editorial that I am compelled to point out.
As I say, the editorial was published online Wednesday. At its conclusion, though, there appears the following italicized note about an update:
This editorial was updated 10/22 to provide more details of efforts by then-City Council member Dwaine Caraway to force the closure of the Southern Comfort Motel.
That was nice of them. They went back and provided more details about the work done by Caraway. I bet he appreciates that, because Caraway is running for John Wiley Price’s seat on the County Commissioners Court. So if the paper details Caraway’s efforts to clean up southern Dallas and shut down a cesspool of a hotel, then he could use that detailing in his campaign. Let’s see what passage they’re talking about:
When 10 Drops debuted on Dec. 17, 2007, the second item listed was the Southern Comfort Motel at 4403 S. Lancaster Road, the scene of assaults, robberies, carjackings, homicides, prostitution and drug sales. Efforts to force its closure were under way, thanks to the work of then-City Council member Dwaine Caraway. We joined the chorus, and demolition came in 2008.
Hmm. I don’t see a lot of details. In fact, I don’t see any details. Just a reference to “work,” which is about as vague as you can possibly be. From the way it’s written, it sounds like Caraway was singing, because the paper says it joined the chorus.
I’m being a snot. I apologize. But the thing is, the paper damn near broke its own arm patting itself on the back. It went too far. It took credit for something it had nothing to do with, and someone called them on it. Then, instead of being honest about the correction it made, the paper came up with that bogus “providing more details” line.
I opened a tab in my browser and loaded the editorial the day it appeared online. But I didn’t get around to reading the entire thing until today, Friday. Never refreshed the page. So I still had the original version of the editorial. I took a screen grab. Here’s how the first version read:
When 10 Drops debuted on Dec. 17, 2007, the second item listed was the Southern Comfort Motel at 4403 S. Lancaster Road, the scene of assaults, robberies, carjackings, homicides, prostitution and drug sales. Then-City Council member Dwaine Caraway already was urging its closure but not gaining much traction. We joined the chorus, and closure came soon after, followed by demolition in 2008.
The first version actually provided more detail. The detail was this: Caraway wasn’t getting the job done. Then along came the paper, put the patented “10 Drops” move on the situation, and — boom — progress.
Except that’s not how it happened. The Zoning Board of Adjustment — thanks to Caraway — had shut down the Southern Comfort Motel before the paper even started singing. The building was already coming down. The outcome had nothing at all to do with “10 Drops.”
Now, did the paper know this before the editorial was written? I believe it did. I hold that belief because I’ve talked to some people who know the history of the Southern Comfort Motel. But fine, whatever. I’m biased. I write snotty things about the paper all the time. So let’s assume it was an honest mistake. Let’s assume whoever wrote the editorial was made aware of the mistake, perhaps even by reading Michael Davis’ Facebook post about it. Was the editorial updated to give more detail about Caraway’s work? No, it was not. The note about the update was a cowardly cover-up. It should have read:
This editorial was updated 10/22 in a way that makes it technically correct while sidestepping the real error, which was committed when we took credit for something we didn’t really do.
None of which is even half as interesting as the notion of Dwaine Caraway singing about a motel called the Southern Comfort. Time to get him back on the podcast.