MEDIA: Dallas' daily is for multimedia news mavens - No one could accuse The Dallas Morning News of resting on its laurels. The Texas paper is revamping its look and content, while blazing a multimedia trail. Sherri Deatherage Green reports

The Dallas Morning News not only takes its business section seriously, it takes its business seriously.

The Dallas Morning News not only takes its business section seriously, it takes its business seriously.

The Dallas Morning News not only takes its business section seriously, it takes its business seriously.

In the last year, parent company A. H. Belo has made several bold moves to strengthen its already healthy finances. To buy back its own stock, the company put three smaller papers on the block and is selling off other assets. The DMN joins the cost-cutting trend toward narrower newsprint.

Belo's financial savvy reflects the culture of Dallas, a city often ranked among the country's best in which to do business. 'You don't come here for the roar of the oceans or the beauty of the mountains,' comments Rob Allyn, a local PR pro. 'This is a place to do business, to live and raise a family and make money.'



Not a lone star in Belo's constellation

Founded in 1885, the DMN remains the flagship in a seven-paper chain that includes The Providence Journal and The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, CA. Belo bought and subsequently shut down the Dallas Times-Herald in 1991, leaving the DMN without a direct competitor. The paper's geographic reach extends into neighboring states, and its Sunday circulation edges out the Houston Chronicle's.

Also a regional broadcasting pioneer, Belo owns 18 TV stations, including Dallas' WFAA. Managing editor Stuart Wilk, a 20-year DMN veteran and former Milwaukee Sentinel assistant city editor, says the creation of Belo's Washington bureau a few years back threw broadcast and print reporters into the same office. That, along with Belo's 1999 founding of the Texas Cable News network and increasing focus on the Web, fostered more communication across the driveway that separates newspapers from TV stations. 'I think the Internet is the bridge between broadcast and print,' Wilk comments.

'It's taught print journalists some tricks of the trade that broadcast journalists have practiced for years.'

The two staffs now share daily news reports, and TV and print reporters worked together in November on a story about Mexican drug running, Wilk recalls. Both outlets also are launching a new Internet linking initiative.

Belo owns a stake in DigitalConvergence, a Dallas company that has developed a device called :CueCat. The device scans bar codes, and the companion software immediately brings up relevant Web sites. The DMN will begin printing scanable codes in ads and news articles Oct 1. WFAA will broadcast tones that route connected computers to relevant Web pages.



Changing landscape

The bar codes are part of a broader DMN redesign. Switching font means the news hole won't be reduced while page widths are gradually trimmed by an inch. The visual goal is to better organize the paper and make it easier to navigate.

'We're looking for ways to better reflect how readers live,' Wilk says of content direction. Themed lifestyle sections are among the most noticeable changes. 'Today' has been renamed 'Texas Living' and will feature family on Mondays, work on Tuesdays, health on Wednesdays, people on Thursdays, relationships on Fridays and fitness on Saturdays.

Dallas PR pros who deal with the DMN say reporters generally are open to pitches. 'Overall, I find them very approachable,' says Neil McGlone, partner in Cummings McGlone. Ken Luce, general manager of BSMG's Dallas office, agrees but advises PR folks to look past the limited local story.

Wilk feels the paper's coverage of religion, sports, fashion, food and Latin America (the Cuban government recently authorized the DMN and the Chicago Tribune to open bureaus there) are among the best in the country.

Special Web site sections are devoted to the Waco Branch Davidian investigation and the Bush campaign. Wilk claims no other paper covered Bush as intently before the campaign. 'I think that gave us a leg up on telling the George Bush story,' he says. Historically, DMN has had a conservative reputation, but Wilk says the range of views expressed on editorial and op-ed pages has expanded, especially since the Times-Herald's demise.

The DMN cooperates with professionally arranged embargoes that treat all media the same, Wilks says. He prefers pitches via e-mail or post but says not all reporters have had e-mail access. That problem should be solved soon. The paper doesn't accept freebies, and reporters won't be dazzled by press releases delivered by giant vegetables. 'Yesterday, somebody sent a tea service with a press release,' Wilk says. 'The release will get the same treatment with or without the tea service, and the tea service just presents a challenge for us in trying to dispose of it.'

Clyde Hopkins, president of Hopkins & Associates, says the DMN's business section is one of the country's best. Other pros agree, but some complain the paper uses too much ink for self promotion and doesn't always run prompt earnings reports.

Belo's purchase last year of a stake in the Dallas Mavericks and AA Center (where the NBA team will play) raised the eyebrows of a few city officials, readers and even reporters in the newsroom, Wilk admits. But Belo put to rest any conflict-of-interest concerns by agreeing to sell its interest to Broadcast.com mogul Mark Cuban. The company made dollars 10 million on the deal, proving its financial sense goes well beyond editing the pages of the business section.



CONTACT LIST

Dallas Morning News

508 Young St.

Dallas, TX 75202

www.dallasnews.com

Tel: 214-977-8222 (214-977 and four-digit ext. for individual editors)

Fax: Contact editors for departmental fax numbers

E-mail: firstinitiallastname@dallasnews.com

Belo Washington Bureau

1325 G Street NW, Suite 250

Washington, DC 20005

Tel: 202-661-8410

Fax: 202-628-2730

Bureau chief: Carl P. Leubsdorf

VP/executive editor: Gilbert Bailon (8457)

Managing editor: Stuart Wilk (8743)

Deputy managing editors: Lennox Samuels (8713); Sue Smith, lifestyles (8981); Dave Smith, sports (8757)

Assistant managing editors: Sharon Grigsby, metro (7693); Ricardo Chavira, national and foreign (8974); John Davidson, visuals (8774); Lisa Kresl, lifestyles (8807); Vernon Smith, Discoveries and Sunday Reader (752-1399)

Section editors: Ed Dufner, Business (8771); Bob Bersano, Personal Technology (8433); Rodger Johnson, Texas & Southwest (8307); Raul Reyes, national (7696); Kerry Gunnes, foreign (8988); Bob Yates, sports (8260); Rick Holter, Arts & Entertainment (8351); Cheryl Chapman, books (8492); Tracey Hayes, fashion (8081); Cathy Barber, food (8413); Connie Dufner, house and garden (8684); Tom Siegfried, science (8443).



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