Monday, September 21, 2009

Dallas Morning News' Bridging the Gap: A Significant Effort

The Dallas Morning News Sunday edition includes in its 'Points' section a review and analysis of its 'Bridging Dallas' North-South Gap' emphasis. I have to say I'm impressed.

Because I know a number of the editorial staff who have devoted the past two years to this effort and didn't doubt their individual commitment, I have to admit I was a little wary of the institutional commitment. But this is turning out to be a pretty robust investment of journalistic time and talent.

Southern Dallas is an area which has suffered decades of neglect, disinvestment and most of the social pathologies associated with poverty. Racism is not the source of all of southern Dallas' problems, but it is, at least a context, in which blight, crime, the academic achievement gap and economic underinvestment have been tolerated for so long. Serious conversations regarding economic development and strategic planning, almost always encounter a market paradox: during good economic times people are told you can't make enough money in southern Dallas; when times are bad, there isn't enough money to invest in southern Dallas.

This is why I'm impressed with DMN's effort. Not only did they stick with the 'Bridging Dallas' North-South Gap' project; they've not allowed themselves to be the tool of either the business community or city hall to use the market paradox to explain away the lack of attentiveness by the city, unresponsive political representation, or the short sighted nature of its inclusion in plans for Dallas' future. Nor do they allow this to unduly influence their analysis of or their proposals for southern Dallas.

At the same time, because negative issue at play in the southern portion of the city cannot be explained away by racism, they've tried to strike the balance between calling for personal responsibility and public allocation or reallocation of resources.

DMN's editorial staff has also focused on measurables - it's Ten Drops in a Bucket focus. Ten specific, definable issues or problems in neighborhoods throughout southern Dallas that either citizens or city government can do something about. They are not, in and of themselves, comprehensive redevelopment projects, nor are they meant to be. They do, however, give a sense of movement to the project and displays a sense of accountability on the part of the newspaper, by putting some of its institutional capital on the line in spot lighting these issues and helping to get something concrete done.

Sharon Grigsby, Tod Robberson and Colleen McCain Nelson, are to be congratulated. They're going to get some criticism and some of it might be justified. But they've help push the editorial department of the Morning News in a direction few have ever thought they would see it move.

I think its a very significant effort.

Again, DMN's commitment to this effort is refreshing. Check out the online version here.

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