I have news – the sort I never expected to break along my career journey when I graduated from Texas A&M with a journalism degree in 1983. Surely, I figured as a 22-year-old who, within a few weeks, would become a sports writer at The Odessa American, I’m destined to be a lifelong newspaper journalist.
Thirty-nine years later, after working at only three newspapers – the past 22-plus at The Dallas Morning News – in a variety of positions, most of which have involved editing with some writing sprinkled in, I’ve taken a job outside of the newspaper business.
The day after Labor Day, I’ll start as a managing editor in the Office of Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs at the world-renowned University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. For those unfamiliar with UTSW, it’s a huge health science center acclaimed for its outstanding medical school, groundbreaking biomedical research and North Texas’ top-rated treatment hospitals.
It’s a great place to work – a number of former colleagues have landed there through the years, including two I’ll be working with. It’s a fantastic opportunity that I keep wondering if I only dreamed was offered to me.
But it’s real, and along with the excitement of this new adventure comes the sadness of leaving friends and a highly respected newspaper I’ve been honored to work for since joining the staff at 508 Young St. on Feb. 29, 2000, the day after my 39th birthday. (In December 2017, The News moved to the old Dallas Central Library at 1954 Commerce St. on the east side of downtown.)
This is not easy. It’s not a decision I made on a whim or for change’s sake. I’ve loved working at newspapers and, despite the struggles of our industry over almost my entire time at the DMN, I still believe in our mission of reporting and publishing truth and holding public officials to account.
My goal, if my health allows and burnout doesn’t set in, is to work until I’m 70 or so (I’m 61). I’d hoped to retire at The Dallas Morning News, but I wasn’t sure that would be possible in this ever-shifting, uncertain newspaper environment. I’m hopeful my new position, where I’ll be assigning and editing news releases written by a team of freelancers for posting on UTSW’s Newsroom website and pitching to the media, will offer stability to take me through the rest of my career.
Our leaders at the DMN are – and have been for some time – taking steps they believe will help ensure the paper’s survival. But no one really knows the answer(s). The business model that will keep newspapers not named The New York Times and The Washington Post alive for decades more has not been conceived. And it simply may not exist, because readers’ attention spans and available time to spend with newspapers, whether print or digital, will keep shrinking as papers continue adjusting their content and the way they offer it.
I could write and write and write about my two-plus decades at The News (and you know me – I will): The amazing journalism we’ve produced; the incredible friends and colleagues I’ve seen come, go and, in quite a few cases, stay to this day; and some of the work that has been the most fulfilling I’ve done.
When I started, our newsroom boasted well over 400 journalists. Today, that number stands at about 140, although it is growing because our editor who came on last summer has been hiring. We’ve lost colleagues to layoffs, buyouts and, saddest of all, death.
I’m not sure how I’ve stayed a part of this newsroom through the numerous rounds of staff reductions we’ve suffered, starting in the fall of 2004. (My wife Kay says we had one in 2001, but I can’t remember that one – she insists we had layoffs both years our children were born, in ’01 and ’04.)
As each rolled through our ranks, sometimes expectedly and other times a complete shock, it was like a collective gut punch that not only knocked us down but left us gasping for breath. We moved on because a daily newspaper can’t just halt production so its employees can grieve for those whose livelihoods have been snatched from them and their families.
Although my main role has been as a copy editor for our print and digital products, I’ve also been blessed with chances to write some features and narratives; spend time on our editorial board on multiple occasions, even helping interview election candidates and write primary recommendations; work for several months with reporters as an editor in our Business News department; and help establish and grow our fledgling newsroom union focused on vital issues to improve our working conditions.
I sought out or generated many of the writing opportunities I’ve had, but excellent editors such as Tom Huang, Mike Wilson and Bruce Tomaso also took the time to work with me on developing some of those pieces and the edits and rewrites that prepared them for publication. The other roles outside my regular editing work came about because newsroom supervisors like Keith Campbell, Denise Beeber, Paul O’Donnell and Brendan Miniter had faith in my ability to step in and capably fulfill those duties for interim periods.
It’s been my great honor to be recognized as The News’ Copy Editor of the Year twice, and I’ve earned several Texas APME and national American Copy Editors Society headline awards. One of my most fulfilling roles has been working with awesome colleagues while editing many major projects and enterprise stories, several of which have won prestigious awards, including The Girl in the Closet, Pain and Profit, Guardians, State of the City, Standoff and The Memory Room.
I’ve also been lucky to earn awards for some of my writing, including one at the 2016 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference for a narrative about my biological father Bob that became a 2017 Father’s Day piece published in the DMN. That story also was honored with a first-place Hugh Aynesworth Award for Texas Journalism from the Press Club of Dallas. Other stories I’m proud of include narratives about my biological mother Betty, a family facing the emotional moment of putting a beloved pet to sleep, a young pilot facing a challenge in the air, a tribute to the late, beloved Texas author Larry McMurtry and an obituary for a longtime copy desk colleague. I even had the opportunity in 2009 to cover the Big Tex Choice Awards, the State Fair of Texas’ popular annual food contest.
I wouldn’t be able to thank and virtually hug all the DMN family members who have meant so much to me without unintentionally leaving some out … but I’m going to try, so please bear with me, and forgive me if I miss some of you. Many of these journalists no longer work at The News; others have been there for years and a good bit are relative newcomers.
It’s been my honor and privilege to work with so many remarkable copy editing/page designing teammates. Those on our copy/news desk with whom I’ve worked the closest know how important they are to me and how much I’ve cherished working with them to meet the challenges of producing a daily newspaper. A quick bit of math shows we’ve produced a mind-blowing more than 8,000 days’ worth of print newspapers during my 22-plus years at The News, and all these folks have played an overwhelmingly gigantic part in that superhuman effort.
I’ll always appreciate the daily camaraderie, collaboration and teamwork that goes into editing, designing, writing headlines/photo captions and proofing pages side by side with friends and talented journalists including (in alphabetical order) Michael Apuan (my current supervisor), Cindy Bagwell, Stephanie Barrio, Jane Baskett, Sheri Baxter, Denise Beeber (our copy desk boss in recent years), Kent Booke, Chris Borniger, Tracy Brown, Tara Bryant, Paul Buckley, LaSharah Bunting, Jessica Burgess Good, Jennifer Chamberlain, Sandy Guerra Cline (also a former Fort Worth Star-Telegram colleague and dear friend), Michelle Collins, Cheri Conner Shipman, Tim Connolly, Tracy Cowle, Linda Crosson, Kevin Cullen, Kent Davidson, the late James Davis, Bernie Diemer, Mary Dunklin, Laura Ehret, John Forsyth, George Foulsham, Robin Fowler, Leann Frola Wendell, Emily Goldstein, John Hanan, Anna Holland, Don Holt, Jill Houston, Helen Humphrey, Ted Ingram, Hunter Johnson, Linda Johnson, Marc Johnson, Brian Johnston, the late Terry Kelly, Erica Lewis, Kevin Lueb, John Lose, Alma Lozoya, Linda Kessler, Jamie Knodel, Dan Koller, Lin Lofley, the late Mike Luman, Oscar Martinez, Jessica Mayle, Haywood McNeill, Rachel McReynolds (my teammate the past nearly four years in producing the Sunday Business section), Jeff Meddaugh, Leila Merrill, Mike Merschel, Laura Miller, Julie Mitchell, Ayan Mittra, Jennifer Enfinger Moreland, Clay Morton, Darren Nielsen, Dennis Noone, Dan Noxon, Robert Owens, Howery Pack, Autumn Pattison, Lauren Phillips, Jason Philyaw, Gary Piña, Travis Pinson, Bob Pittman, Carolyn Poh, Jack Pointer, Dorothy Pugh, Lois Reed, Laura Riddle, Laura Roddy, Emily Rosenbaum, Jarrett Rush, Paige Sanders, Ed Sargent, Samantha Shaddock, Martha Sheridan, Elizabeth Egeland Slocum, Cindy Smith, Frank Smith, Michael Sperling, Erin Steele, Allison Stewart, Chuck Stewart, Nicole Stockdale, the late Gary Stratton, Rebecca Stumpf, Clay Swartz, Carol Taylor, Braulio Tellez, David Thorn, Joel Thornton (longtime copy desk chief who left in 2017), Dawn Travis, Pam Troboy, Doris Truong, Nancy Visser, Malecia Walker, Patrick Walker, Andy Walter, Leah Waters, Tim Watterson, Bryan Wendell, the late Chris Wienandt, Becky Williams, Eric Williams, Nathan Willis, Adam Wilson, Liz Wishaw, Tatia Woldt and Angie Wu.
In addition, thanks to The News’ terrific summer internship program, we’ve worked with many talented young copy editors, some of whom I’ve had the rewarding opportunity to help train in recent years, including last year’s Andrea Bian and this year’s Katie Ann McCarver, as well as Brandon Standley (2020), Stephanie Adeline (2019), Chandler Boese (2018) and so many others during my time at The News.
I’ve also treasured my friendships with the sports copy editors and sports digital producers, with whom I became friends partly through my editing high school football stories on Friday nights for 20 of my 22 years at The News, including John Banks, Brian Bearden, Jeff Cavallin, Mauro Diaz, the late Jon Ehret (also a newsroom tech guru and Star-Telegram friend and colleague dating back to 1989), Carl Ellis, Josh Friemel, Dan Galvis, Javier Gonzalez, the late Kevin Gray, Dennis Hall, Joey Hayden, Mark Johnson, Kim Kaufman, Mark “Kaz” Kazlowski, Mike Kondracki, Garth Lewis, Selby Lopez, Cameron Maun, Joel Moore, Scott Noll, John O’Rourke, Brice Paterik, Doug Pils, Dave “Renbo” Renbarger (who also ran the office NCAA and NFL pools), Jose Rodriguez, Kevin Stone, Rob Stroope, Barry Vigoda, Steve Waggoner (also a former Star-Telegram friend and colleague going waaay back), Vic West and others.
In addition, sports editors including Garry Leavell, Damon Marx, Mark Konradi, Tommy Magelssen, Scott Bell, Ed Choate, Schuyler Dixon and others have been good friends and helped guide the DMN’s sports staff to top national awards year after year, continuing the legacy of longtime sports editor Dave Smith and his successor, Bob Yates.
There are dozens of reporters, assigning editors, photographers, artists and digital/audience specialists with whom I’ve forged close working relationships and friendships and who have made my lengthy stay at The News so memorable.
Over the years, I’ve come to admire the journalistic talents of and appreciate the privilege of working with outstanding reporters/writers including Eric Aasen, Sue Ambrose, Roy Appleton, Kyle Arnold, Cary Aspinwall, Everton Bailey, Claire Ballor, the late Dan Barber, Leslie Barker, James Barragan, Holly Becka, Stephen Becker, Laura Beil, Tom Benning, Joshua Benton, Sarah Blaskovich, Steve Blow, Sam Blum, the late Karen Blumenthal, Herb Booth, Dave Boucher, Pennie Boyett, Dana Branham, Leslie Brenner, Steve Brown, Loyd Brumfield, Dawn Burkes, Scott Burns, Scott Cantrell, Callie Caplan, Claire Cardona, Stella Chavez, Juli Chiquillo, Hojun Choi, Nancy Churnin, Thor Christensen, Sara Coello, Alfredo Corchado, Jill Cowan, Tommy Cummings, Eline de Bruijn, Dom DiFurio, Tim Diovanni, Emily Donaldson, Reese Dunklin, Kim Durnan, Charles Ealy Jr., Brooks Egerton, Tanya Eiserer, Tiara Ellis, Katie Fairbank, Julie Fancher, Liz Farmer, Scott Farwell, Debbie Fleck, David Flick, Jacquielynn Floyd, Brandon Formby, the late Gerry Fraley, Imelda Garcia, Nic Garcia, Bob Garrett, Todd Gillman, Scott Goldstein, Michael Granberry, Evan Grant, Sharon Grigsby, Brandi Grissom, Holly Hacker, Maria Halkias, Cheryl Hall, Tristan Hallman, Lee Hancock, Karen Brooks Harper, Tony Hartzel, Tawnell Hobbs, Kristen Holland, Christy Hoppe, Barry Horn, Kim Horner, Joe Hoyt, Sherry Jacobson, Cassandra Jaramillo, Sheryl Jean, Gromer Jeffers Jr., Diane Jennings, Jesus Jimenez, Aria Jones, Gregg Jones, Nataly Keomoungkhoun, Kevin Krause, Anna Kuchment, Mark Lamster, Jamie Landers, Jim Landers, Terri Langford, Daniel Lathrop, Paula Lavigne, Christopher Lee, Katie Leslie, Carl Leubsdorf, Dave Levinthal, Marjorie Lewis, Nanette Light, Dave Lieber (whom I’ve known since he arrived in summer 1993 at the Star-Telegram), Elvia Limon, Michael Lindenberger, Randy Lee Loftis, Obed Manuel, Catherine Marfin, Suzanne Marta, Naomi Martin, Tom Maurstad, Terry Maxon, Lauren McGaughy, the late Steve McGonigle, David McSwane, Katie Menzer, Sarah Mervosh, Brendan Meyer, Bob Miller, Jim Mitchell, Miles Moffeit, David Moore, Allie Morris, Jeff Mosier, Colleen McCain Nelson, Hayat Norimine, Valeria Olivares, the late Mercedes Olivera, the late Alan Peppard, Britton Peele, Larry Powell, Jana Pruet, James Ragland, Naheed Rajwani, Marc Ramirez, Emily Ramshaw, Melissa Repko, Tiney Ricciardi, Sabriya Rice, Talia Richman, Marice Richter, Greg Riddle, Tod Robberson, Karen Robinson-Jacobs, Jim Rossman, Ryan Sanders, Mitch Schnurman, Charlie Scudder, Avi Selk, Angela Shah, Kevin Sherrington, Conor Shine, Joe Simnacher, Alexandra Skores, the late Wayne Slater, Pete Slover, Corbett Smith, Kelli Smith, LaVendrick Smith, Dianne Solis, Elizabeth Souder (wearer of many hats), Lori Stahl, Tom Steele (also a former copy desk colleague), Toya Stewart, Terrence Stutz, Doug Swanson, Dave Tarrant, Beatriz Terrazas (also a wonderful photographer and former S-T colleague), Robert Thomas, Jamie Thompson, Steve Thompson, Joy Tipping, Eric Torbenson, Krista Torralva, Brad Townsend, Jason Trahan, Marina Trahan Martinez, Frank Trejo, Tasha Tsiaperas, Chris Vognar, Natalie Walters, Calvin Watkins, the late Jeff Weiss, Michael Williams, Robert Wilonsky, Allison Wisk, Matt Wixon, Marin Wolf, Esther Wu, Tim Wyatt, Seema Yasmin, Pamela Yip and others.
Our award-winning photography staff had over 35 members when I arrived, and that number has dwindled to fewer than 10 along with some freelancers. But the quality remains exceptional, and I’ll always be in awe of the talents of current and former photo staff colleagues including these and others: Michael Ainsworth, Shafkat Anowar, Rose Baca, Ron Baselice, Vernon Bryant, Melanie Burford, Evans Caglage, Rick Choate, Barbara Davidson, Louis DeLuca, Brian Elledge, Anne Farrar, Juan Figueroa, Tom Fox, Ken Geiger, Lola Gomez, Lynda Gonzalez, Randy Eli Grothe, David Guzman, Milton Hinnant, Nathan Hunsinger, Andy Jacobsohn, Michael Hamtil, Sonya Hebert, Mei-Chu Jau, David Kent, Ashley Landis, the late David Leeson, Kim Leeson, Jae Lee, Lisa LeVrier, the late Jim Mahoney, Gerry McCarthy, Cheryl Diaz Meyer, Ryan Michalesko, Michael Mulvey, Huy Nguyen, Tommy Noel, Courtney Perry, Smiley Pool, Richard Pruitt, Mona Reeder, the late Guy Reynolds, John Rhodes, Benjamin Robinson, Anja Schlein, Andy Scott, William Snyder, Irwin Thompson, Elias Valverde and David Woo.
There’ve been graphic artists, designers and digital interactives producers including Dana Amihere, Marilyn Bishkin, James Black, Betsy Bock, G. Noel Gross, Di Hall, John Hancock, Jamie Huckaby, Ed Kohorst, Chris Morris, Troy Oxford, Sergio Pecanha, Rob Schneider, the late Tom Setzer, Layne Smith, Sharon Tarrant, Lisa Veigel and others. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for phenomenal artist/illustrator Michael Hogue and graphic artist extraordinaire Laurie Joseph, who could fill an entire paper with charts and maps in no time flat.
Helping us transition into our digital-first era have been amazing digital/audience specialists like Wayne Carter, Todd Davis, Tom Erickson, Lorena Flores, Mark Francescutti, Nick Friedman, Linda Leavell, Sean Lester, Chris McNary, Narda Perez, Zaira Perez, Holly Warren Rusak, Ashley Slayton, Carla Solorzano, Mallorie Sullivan, Chelsea Watkins, Amanda Wilkins, Hannah Wise and others. Sharp computational journalists like Madi Alexander, Andrew Chavez, Stephanie Lamm, Allan Vestal and the late James Wilkerson have teamed up with our reporters on deep data dives and investigative work. Researchers/archivists including Spencer Bevis, Hannah Evans, Alyssa Fernandez, Meagan Hurley, Naomi Kaskela, Ana Nino, Erin Sood and Jen Graffunder Vestal have been available to dig up information in our archives and elsewhere.
Then there are all the editors whose oversight and coordination help keep the newsroom running smoothly, whether as top bosses, assigning editors/“line editors” who work with groups of reporters, department leaders or those with other supervisory roles. I’m sure I’ll be leaving some out, but here are the ones who come to mind during my years at The News, many of whom have moved on to other jobs, are retired or have passed away:
Leona Allen (now deputy publisher), Eva-Marie Ayala (a great reporter who’s now an editor), Gilbert Bailon, Cathy Barber (retired longtime DMN food editor whom I’ve known since college), Maud Beelman, Harriet Blake, Larry Bleiberg, Erin Booke, Anne Bothwell, Kim Breen (another great reporter), Chris Buckle, Amy Burt, Rudy Bush (a top-notch reporter/writer who now leads our editorial board), Keith Campbell (longtime newsroom leader who retired late last year), Alfredo Carbajal (Al Dia editor), Mary Carter, Rob Clark, Selwyn Crawford, Tyra Damm (a skilled writer, too), Mike Drago, Ed Dufner, David Duitch, Leslie Eaton, Mark Edgar, Jen Emily (another great reporter who’s now an editor), Kamrhan Farwell, the late Mike Finn, Paul Foutch, Dennis Fulton, Beth Frerking, John Gandy, Eric Garcia, Arnessa Garrett, Mary McMullen Gladstone, Veronica Gonzalez, John Gravois, Kerry Gunnels, Sarah Hanan, Jamie Hancock, Katrice Hardy (our current editor), Steve Harris, Mike Hashimoto, Victoria Hicks (also a great reporter), Dave Hiott, Karel Holloway, Amy Hollyfield (our new managing editor), Rick Holter, Tom Huang (who wears more hats than anyone at The News), Dianna Hunt, Gary Jacobson, Laura Jacobus, Pete Johnson, Rodger Jones, Lison Joseph, Chris Kelley, Steve Kenny, Karisa King, Bob Kowalski, Lisa Kresl, Michael Landauer, Ray Leszcynski (also a skilled reporter), Pam Maples, Marty Melendy, Lowery Metts, Mark Miller, Brendan Miniter, Bob Mong (former DMN editor), Eric Nelson, Mede Nix, Paul O’Donnell, Kim Oglethorpe, the late Burl Osborne (publisher when I arrived and longtime editor before that), Janie Paleschic, Scott Parks (great writer too), the late Mike Peters, Matt Peterson, Ann Pinson, Mike Precker, Will Pry, Raul Reyes, Russell Rian (who will be one of my colleagues at UTSW), Christy Robinson, George Rodrigue, Ryan Rusak, Lennox Samuels, Erik Schutz, Steve Scott, David Sedeno, Shawna Seed, Dan Singer (another great writer), Chris Siron, Vernon Smith, Leslie Snyder, Walt Stallings, Shannon Sutlief, Ed Timms (also an outstanding reporter), Bruce Tomaso, Ana Waggoner, Mike Weiss, Valerie Wigglesworth (also a fine reporter), Stu Wilk, Keven Ann Willey, Mike Wilson (our editor from 2015 to 2020), Christopher Wynn, Steve Yount, Liz Zavala and others.
Some of the most critical members of our newsroom are staffers whose names don’t appear in the print or online newspaper – and I’m not talking about us copy editors. Our administrative assistants, who are not only dedicated employees but wonderful people, carry out tasks by the dozens that we never hear about but that, left undone, would cause major headaches. Lisa Biggins, Bonnie Bishop, Carol Caraway, Sylvia Curiel, Wendy Dalchau, Michael Dean, Iva Johnson, Julie Lukshin, Paula Luna and Sandra Smith have been among those folks, some of whom have been at The News much longer than I have.
And every night for years, the copy/news desk could always rely on Darrell Jones to help with copies, newspapers between editions, anything anyone ever needed – even conversation. Darrell and Sherry Davis, another clerk in our area, both left the paper several years ago and have been greatly missed. Another constant presence at the DMN, Cornelia Johnson – who helps keep the whole building clean, trash picked up and does so much we don’t see – may be the friendliest soul in the place, always checking on folks with a “You all right?” I’m really going to miss Corny.
I know that’s a ton of names. But it was important for me to list as many of the people as possible who have been such a big part of my life for over two decades – as friends, colleagues and collaborators, as the reporters whose stories I’ve edited, as the fellow DMN’ers who pour themselves every day into this crucial work we do.
Our journalists have all shared the same goals, the same pride, the same commitment to excellence and the same dedication to giving readers – we now call them members – the highest-quality, most impactful and relevant journalism each day. We are a team in every sense, full of players focused on the big picture, picking one another up and creating the same essential product seven days a week, 365 days a year.
I’m going to miss the people I work with, and this newspaper, very, very much – just like when I left the Star-Telegram after almost 13 years to join the staff at The News. I’ll miss the esprit de corps that comes with the territory, the unwavering belief that we’re doing what’s right and necessary for democracy. And my hope is that the DMN and newspaper journalism will survive and thrive for a long time to come. I’ll still be reading The News and rooting its journalists on, just from outside the building.
And I’m eager to join a new team, start from scratch, learn all new systems and processes, meet a lot of new faces – and at UT Southwestern, there are thousands of them. If I were to leave the newspaper business, I’d hoped it would be for a job using my communications skills in health care or higher education. I feel fortunate that this one brings together both those worlds.
My DMN friends and colleagues, I wish you happiness in life, a growing abundance of digital subscriptions to take The News into the future, and success in every personal and career endeavor.
Much love. ❤