When the Dallas Morning News is doing well, we all benefit. People in power get away with less. People who are too often ignored get their stories told. Local readers get informed. Local reporters get a few more years before they have to take jobs in marketing or PR or move into the woods and grow peaches.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I also have a personal stake in the paper doing well. My wife works there, although not in the newsroom. We don’t know how to grow peaches.)
So everyone in Dallas should be rooting for the DMN and for its new executive editor, Katrice Hardy, who introduced herself and took questions from readers in a video chat Thursday afternoon. Hardy, who is the first woman and the first Black journalist to lead the newsroom, comes to Dallas by way of the Midwest, where she was executive editor of the Indianapolis Star and a regional editor for the USA Today Network.
Hardy ran us through the bullet points of her career, starting with Louisiana State University, where a college professor told her she would be lucky to ever work for the Dallas Morning News. “Look at me now, teach,” she could have said while spiking a football, but didn’t.
She worked her way up into top editorial positions at papers in South Carolina and Virginia as the industry’s business model got walloped by a combination of Google, Facebook, and a precipitous decline in print advertising dollars. Today, any newsroom leader who likes this gig is now required to talk a lot about things like digital growth and subscriptions. So Hardy did that, but said “we will have print for a while to come.”
She acknowledged the challenges of covering an area as big as North Texas with a newsroom that’s a fraction of the size it once was. “If we’re maximizing our resources well, we can do a great job covering this community,” Hardy said. “But that does mean we’re going to have to make choices in what we cover.”
To that end, Hardy wants to hear from readers. She’s only been here for a few weeks and is to some extent still learning the lay of the land. She did cite an interest in housing issues, which is big for North Texas, and in inclusive coverage that reflects the area’s diversity and the fact that many stories have historically been overlooked. Also a big thing for North Texas.
She didn’t use the phrase “explainer journalism,” but expressed an appreciation for coverage that breaks down the impact of a story on you, the reader. That means articles like “5 things to know about the lambda variant and its arrival in Dallas” and “10 things: How new laws on guns, education, abortion and more will impact Texans.” Hardy also wants to see more “aggressive reporting,” in which journalists are “not stepping back and waiting on someone to give their response to something.”
She said there are no immediate plans to hire a full-time restaurant critic, and in response to questions about objectivity and the paper’s decision to endorse no candidate in the 2020 presidential election, she re-drew the line separating the newsroom from the opinion writers on the editorial board. “We have a great staff up there,” she said of the ed board.
Hardy skipped over questions about how she will work with the newsroom’s new union and about whether she has any pets and whether they might be named Story. (I tried.)
You can watch the full video of the chat below.