OK, yesterday, as I do, I used the opportunity that arose when the Dallas Morning News more or less lost all of its Metro columnists (save Robert Wilonsky, with an asterisk) to do my head-fake, wait-it’s-just-dog-names thing. But I felt like we probably should really talk about whom the paper should hire to fill that void, because it is actually, in a way, a great chance to remake the paper.
I don’t have a specific name. If you do, feel free to drop it in the comments. I do have a type of writer I would like to see. To begin with, an actual writer. Someone who doesn’t use one-sentence paragraphs, who leaves me with a line that sticks in my head, who can think and express those thoughts with an economy of language. It is kind of sad this needs to be said, but it does.
It’s OK if that person is an occasional talking head. That’s the nature of the media landscape these days. But the column should be the focus. I want someone who does real reporting. That doesn’t mean one phone call, although that maybe is a step up. Someone with sources. Someone who leaves their desk and goes to see what they’re writing about. That did happen on occasion — when I ran for mayor, for example, Steve Blow came over to my house to interview me — but not nearly often enough. If Wilonsky is handling City Hall business, OK, fine, but there is plenty of other territory left to explore. I want someone who has a take, but a take that is informed by their first-hand reporting. Not just to be contrary or for a good headline.
Ideally, this person would not be white and/or a man. I guess I would settle for just hitting one of those marks. Under 40 would be nice, too. Someone from here or who has lived here more than a few years. Someone who loves the city, but not blindly. Would it kill them to have a sense of humor, too? I hope not.
Maybe the paper will just forego columnists and let their reporters write the occasional column. It seems like they have been exploring that, and if that’s the case, it’s a bad idea based on the small sample size. Mike Wilson has a chance to make a great hire here and reshape his newspaper. I hope he doesn’t blow it.