From the Publisher The Useful Purposes of Scandal

How we pick what to print.

A YOUNG MARRIED WOMAN WITH CHILDREN, whose maiden name is one of the oldest and A best known in Dallas, has been secretly “dat-ing” not one, not two. not three, but as many as four well-known young men in town, themselves in various stages of wedlock. The juicy details are about to come out in the divorce trial, for which each of the gentlemen involved has received a subpoena.

Would you print it?

A scion of another prominent family has asked the court for a reduction in his child support papers, leading his former wife to not only picket charities that he supports, but also to deluge the media with written records of their long marital dispute about how to raise their children.

Would you print it?

The son of yet another prominent family who had sex with his wife’s retarded sister-this one’s even been in the newspaper-wrote a long and rambling account of his problems on the advice of his counselor/priest titled “Confessions of a Sex Addict.” We were given a copy. Would you print it?

In all three cases, the answer for me is no.

My rule is that scandal should serve a purpose. At its best, a rollicking good controversy-fueled by salacious details or not-focuses the public spotlight on matters that shouldn’t be kept in the dark. Life is full of controversies. How do we choose from such a rich lode?

Our most important criterion is the most obvious: Is ii true? Everyone realizes that you can believe little of what people say about one another. Not many people realize that you can believe even less of what people say about themselves. Time and again we’ve been approached to do a story by people who were then dumbstruck by what we published, as if we were supposed to take their version of events and write it down verbatim. An old saying warns, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. A corollary might read, be careful when you ask the press to investigate something because they might begin by investigating you.

Does it seem self-evident that the first criterion is the truth? Most of what is communicated on the cocktail party circuit, and then whispered to us the next morning, has been heavily flavored. It seems slander adds spice to any tale.

Other criteria have to be met before we’ll write about something, even if we know it’s true, For one, we ask ourselves: Does it raise an important question about public policy? Few private disputes rise to this level, but when they do, we consider them worth exploring. (If there’s public money involved, it wasn’t private to begin with.) But if you’re seeking to turn a purely private dispute into a public controversy for your own purposes, we don’t feel obligated to play along.

In the same vein, we ask ourselves; Will it advance our readers’ understanding of their city and how it works ? Does it affect the public good? In this regard, public matters remain public no matter how private you’d like to keep them. If your home was listed in a citation for underage drinking, expect to see your address in print. Likewise, private matters become public when they affect other people. If you are building a gargantuan house that has turned your neighborhood into a construction zone, expect to see a photo of it.

Maybe that photo or mention will make you angry. But maybe it will make some other people cautious. If more people realized that by filing a lawsuit, for example, they are turning their private disputes into public controversies-and making themselves fair game-maybe there would be fewer lawsuits.

Scandal, I say, can be a positive force for good, PUBNOTES


The second edition of out popular Dallas Menu Guide is hot, hot, hot, Food editor Nancy Nichols teams up again with photographer John Wong for a stunning-and enticing-look at dining trends. Chef Frank Harris surveys local wine experts on the best buys for under $25. All that, plus the menus of every restaurant from Abacus to Via Real, for $4.95 on newsstands. If you order by phone ore-mail from our office, please add another $3for shipping and handling.


Fashion editor JeanieTave is our clothes and accessories maven (she even picked out my new glasses). She pulls clothes, styles, writes, and kibitzes with our photographers. Now Sharon Burgher joins her on the advertising side, and together they’re working on the fall collections and our big fall fashion features.


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