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Dallas History

D Magazine’s 50 Greatest Stories: The ‘Bareknuckle Journalism’ of Early 1900s Dallas

Without this 1979 story, we likely wouldn't know much about the Dallas Dispatch today.
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Despite — or perhaps because of — the cramped and noisy newsroom in which they worked, Dispatch reporters were a close-knit and loyal group.

For nearly 40 years—through two World Wars and prohibition—Dallas’ third newspaper made its name producing journalism for working class residents. The Dallas Dispatch fought the Klan and utility price hikes. Its reporters drank booze “the way most offices consume coffee.” They spent hours in the Trinity River bottoms, staking out Bonnie and Clyde. They jumped on ambulances, sometimes beating cops to the scene. Sometimes they identified victims before the cops could.

The first office was on a stretch of Commerce Street now occupied by Interstate 35. The next was on Federal, near Akard Street, where half a dozen bordellos operated through prohibition. (Its reporters visited for, apparently, story ideas.) The Times-Herald and the Morning News were more buttoned up. The Dispatch really went for it, and in 1979, alumnus Al Harting recounted the scrappy history of its 36 years of publishing. Which, tragically, came to an end after being gutted by its parent company to help subsidize failing newspapers elsewhere in the country. (Sound familiar?)

The end came fast. There were few artifacts left from its nearly four decades; the Dallas Public Library doesn’t even have a full accounting. Its building was torn down for a parking lot, and Al scooped up a dozen or so bricks to remember it by. But we also have this story, which presents Dallas journalism at its most cut-throat, fast-moving, and, dare I say, fun.

It’s one of our 50 greatest stories, and you can read it here.

Author

Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

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Matt Goodman is the online editorial director for D Magazine. He's written about a surgeon who killed, a man who…
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