Robert Wilonsky is leaving the Dallas Morning News. The longtime city columnist is decamping for the top communications job at Heritage Auctions, which will free him up to become even more active at City Hall by, he says, maybe joining a board or commission. News staff was told in a memo this afternoon, while Wilonsky was guest hosting Intentional Grounding on the Ticket. He was hired in 2012 after decades at the Dallas Observer, where he built the Unfair Park blog into a repository for all things Dallas-related. He’s been writing about the city for more than 30 years. The memo says he’ll keep an occasional opinion column in the newspaper.
Memo after the jump.
We’re sad to say that the Robert Wilonsky column appearing in tomorrow’s Metro & Business section will be his last as a full-time city columnist. While he’ll continue to be a regular contributor to The Dallas Morning News (more on that in a minute), his day job will be communications director for Heritage Auctions, where he’ll indulge his pop-culture obsessions by writing about all the things he has spent his whole life collecting.
Robert joined us on March 12, 2012, as our digital managing editor. The title was a misnomer. He was a one-man reporting army for our web site and our newspaper. After just two days on the payroll, he had a top-of-the-fold Page One story. It would be the first of many.
He wrote about the city’s complicated and often painful history, its heroes and villains, its dispossessed and its powerful.
Four years ago this month, Robert made his debut as our city columnist. For his first column, he spent a rainy night at a homeless encampment under I-45. Here’s his lead:
“I just wanna walk around,” said the man in the blue-hooded rain jacket pulled over his pressed button-down. He was walking down Hickory Street toward the Interstate 45 overpass, taking his first steps into Tent City in as long as he could remember.
The sky was growing dark, and a light drizzle had begun to fall.
“I just wanna talk to some people.” And they wanted to talk to him. Turns out, many of the residents of the massive homeless encampment on downtown’s southern edge know Mayor Mike Rawlings. And they know he wants them out come early May.
Robert would show up anywhere and everywhere to get a story. His columns were full of love for Dallas and fury about its shortcomings. Nothing seemed to stop Robert in his quest, not even late-stage kidney cancer.
His powerful voice will still appear occasionally on our site and in our Op-Ed pages in a column titled “This City, I Swear.” He’ll have a few things to say, as he does in this note:
“I love this place — most of all the passion and perseverance of its staff, my colleagues, my friends. And eight years after starting here, almost to the day, I am still proud to be associated with The Dallas Morning News, which is why I will continue contributing when the occasion and need arises. (I will also keep giving the summer-intern bus tour, poor kids.)
“I am not running away, merely stepping aside to take on a different challenge at a new place — a rare opportunity after more than 30 years of doing one thing every single day. (Longer if you go back to Thomas Jefferson and the University of Texas, where I first fell in love with this profession.)
“It also affords me the chance to do something I could not while a full-time newspaperman — I can now serve on a board or commission at City Hall, and actually do a thing I could only write about from the sidelines. I will miss this place, but never be far from it — as a contributor on occasion, yes, but most of all as an ardent admirer and loyal subscriber.”
Please join us in wishing Robert the very best in his new opportunity.
Mike and Keith