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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Wanna Know Why Some Newspapers are Dying a Dinosaur's Death?

18

September

Riddle me this, blogosphere buddies: What is the most important, most explosive, most exciting change underway in media right this moment?

Digitaltv If you said the explosion of television and digital media, you get a gold star. And you know more than executives at both the Indianapolis Star and Dallas Morning News.

Both those newspapers have eliminated TV Critic positions at a time where there's never been more television on the airwaves, or more devices for accessing it.

Ebark If you want to know why Belo-owned Dallas Morning News pushed out longtime critic Ed Bark -- long considered the dean of critics nationally, both for his 26-year tenure and or his consistent quality work -- read his blog. There, Bark lays out his side of how Belo first prohibited him from writing about local television -- because Belo owns one of the local stations -- while promising to relent at some point.

But it never happened. And then the paper's entertainment writers were told when the latest round of buyouts were at hand that they had better take them or risk discharge. So now, Uncle Barky is gone after nearly 30 years' covering television for Belo and the Morning News.

And he's speaking out. Even though he hasn't yet gotten the check from his buyout. Talk about intestinal fortitude.

Here's his beginning:

"Every dog has his day. So this is Bark unleashed on the new unclebarky.com

I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to readers of The Dallas Morning News, Dallas_morning_news where for better or worse my TV columns and stories had been housed since June 1, 1980. We were told that upper management approval would be required for any and all farewells. In other words I couldn't have been truthful about my real reasons for leaving a newspaper that had provided me with great opportunities and experiences, as well as a very gainful living. I'm sincerely thankful for that.

What I'm feeling now, however, is an urge to strike back in the one way that seems both just and justified. It's grounded in principle. Honest.

DMN management's recent decision to mostly cover national network television with wire service copy left me without much of a playing field. "Localism" is the new mantra, but I'd been muzzled on that front since Feb. 3, 2000. That's when Belo Corp., owner of the DMN and Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV (Channel 8), instituted a ban on critiquing or covering local TV news stations in what now is the country's sixth-largest TV market.

Exceptions to that edict have been ratings stories during the three annual major "sweeps" months and a bare handful of enterprise efforts. They've included a Nov. 13, 2003 column on anchor Clarice Tinsley's 25th anniversary at KDFW-TV (Channel 4). I had to lobby hard for that one, though, after the paper began promoting its considerable sports section coverage of anchor Dale Hansen's 20th anniversary at Belo-owned Channel 8. Somehow that didn't seem quite fair. Even top management had no defense for honoring Dale and ignoring Clarice."

And here's his end:

"That's what this brand new Web site is all about. My son, Sam, and my daughter, Liz, have separate non-TV "bureaus" that I hope you'll check out, too. Hey, it's the least the old man could do. But if TV's your game, then I'm going to try to make a go of it. I'll need lots of help and "hits" to put up more than a token fight. The stamina of 10 Tarzans would help, too. But I feel I've got one more battle cry left in me. Maybe I'm not "dynamic" enough for the new DMN. Those of us who parted ways basically are being portrayed that way in the well-practiced rhetoric of upper management.

Decherd_bio In the end, though, I figure it comes down to this. (Belo CEO) Robert W. Decherd and (Morning News publisher) James M. Moroney III were born to lives of wealth, privilege and entitlement.

I'm the son of working class parents from Racine, WI, both of whom are deceased and neither of whom finished high school.

Dammit, I kind of like my chances."

I have nothing but high hopes for Uncle Barky: Both because he's a great guy and because I may be living his story 10 or 15 years from now. Hopefully, by then, there will be a job available at UncleBarky.com.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:37pm]

    

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