MEDIA Rumors are turning into reality as Houston publishing wunderkind CHRIS HEARNE advances plans to launch a Dallas newsweekly that would compete with the Dallas Observer. “We have plans that put us up there in 1991,” says Hearne, who set up the critically acclaimed Houston Press tabloid a year ago and whose previous venture, the Austin-based Third Coast, was a two-time finalist for general excellence in the National Magazine Awards.
Whether Hearne will go head-to-head with the 10-year-old Observer or simply buy it out (he says talks are “on and off”) is still under study, as is a gambit that would launch the new weekly in Fort Worth before moving to Dallas. By any route, Hearne figures Dallas is a vulnerable market-’a bit underserved in terms of an aggressive newsweekly.”
Judging by the Houston Press, a new Hearne tabloid would have a more serious tone than the Observer, and offer better cultural reporting-a traditionally important element of an alternative weekly. “We also won’t run 1-900 recordings and talk-dirty-to-me’ ads,” says. Hearne, who cites the Observer’s heavy reliance on the skin trade as one sign of a general decline in the tabloid’s quality since the death of founder KEN KIRK two years ago.
Should Hearne be successful, he would have an enviable presence in Texas’s two major markets. And he’s already contemplating a linkup with his original terrain-an alliance with the Austin Chronicle, also a newsweekly. “It’s an 11-year-old publishing plan,” Hearne says. If he achieves it, he’ll have created a marketing and editorial network many have contem-plated, but none have formed.