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Hi, I’m Jim Moroney, publisher & CEO of The Dallas Morning News. We’re celebrating 175 years of our parent company, A.H. Belo and bringing news to Texas. Ask me anything.
UPDATE Thanks to everyone who joined us today, we hope to be back soon!
If you like what we do and want to support local journalism you can subscribe to The Dallas Morning News for only $1.75/week.
I’ll be answering questions about our business and the industry for about an hour beginning at 10:30 a.m. CT
how do you feel about the 'fake news' scare going around? How have you guys handled this?
The fake news problem is a very significant problem. A durable democracy depends on an informed electorate. We are a representative democracy and if we're informed we can let those who stand for reflection of the city know how we want them to represent us. Through the press we can keep track on whether they are representing us the way we want them to. If the link becomes corrupted, and instead of the citizens getting honest truthful information back on what the representatives are doing and instead getting information that is not true and instead getting the ideas and agendas of the government this could have a very bad effect on how a representative democracy functions. Fake news has lots of definitions. I believe the important definition in this context is when a person deliberately puts out information that they know is to be untrue and they have a purpose to achieve to put this out. This speaks directly to government trying to control what people know and don't know about the functioning of their government. We can only go to countries the press is controlled by the government and we know that the government goes to great lengths to be sure their citizens get only what the government wants them to know which may not be what the citizens want to know. N. Korea to be on the far end of the spectrum.
How do you maintain trust in an age where the trust on mainstream media is at an all time low? Also how do journalists check their bias in their reporting ?
The starting point is to recognize journalism is a process. I think sometimes we think journalism is a thing in and of itself but we need to remember that journalism at it's heart is a process for finding and reporting facts. It's a process for verifying the information that you obtain in the process and that it's true and factual. If we stay dedicated to the process of journalism ensuring that what we tell those who consume what we publish is true and factual then we will continue to earn and have the trust of our consumers for as long as we are in business.
Remember when ya'll used to demonize Dr. Hinojosa? Take him out to the woodshed daily? Helped get him replaced? Then lauded him as the returned son when you didn't like his replacement? What does that do to a publications credibility?
You and I will have to agree to disagree about this one! If you go back and look at our record including our editorial board, we did not demonize Dr. Hinojosa. Like every superintendent we have lauded them for the good things they've done and we've criticized them when we thought they could do better. Dr. Hinojosa is no exception. The very proof of this is exhibited in your question. If we had felt so badly about him, we would never have written such a warm welcoming upon his return. The editorial below is an example of our coverage on Dr. Hinojosa. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/2015/10/01/editorial-hinojosa-must-support-teacher-pay-for-performance
Where do you see the future of news evolving to, given the move to digital/mobile?
One thing that is certain about the future of news is that there will always be a great demand for news. What has changed and will continue to change is how people get that information, we've already seen the shift to mobile. I think you will see an increase in needing to pay to access news. I believe the biggest change we will see in the next four years, is the use of speech. Eventually we will always ask an Alexa type of device to give us the news, pause it in our car and throughout the day keep getting updates as we ask.
How do you feel about people preferring to get their news from websites like Facebook and Reddit?
If people are getting news and information however they get it, is mostly good. The only caveat is that because of the proliferation of fake news, I would urge people to consider the source for what they might read on other platforms, check the authenticity of the author. If you have concerns about the author, go to snopes and politifact to verify the authenticity of what you've read.
We need an informed electorate, be informed from sources you trust.
Local elections are going on, and your editorial board has been publishing its endorsements. How relevant do you think these endorsements are in today's digital world, and what's the future of opinion journalism look like at your paper and beyond?
I believe it's important for editorial boards to make recommendations from the top of the ticket in presidential years all the way to the bottom of the ticket. I do believe our recommendations have the most influence the more local the election is so boards of trustees for school districts, city council, mayors, state legislature...I think those recommendations have the most influence and it diminishes as you go up the ticket.
Your paper has reported extensively on what very well may be criminal activity involving the redevelopment of the Statler. You will also soon be Statler's largest tenant.
Does the potential conflict of interest or at least the possibility of it looking like there might be one cause concern? Similar things could also be said of the paper's reporting on the high-speed rail project and the sale of the DMN's current headquarters.
As you implied in the question, there has been no finding of criminal wrong-doing with the re-development of the Statler. When we met with the principal that is doing the re-development we were abundantly clear that if anything arises while we were considering moving, after we signed the agreement or once we occupied it, we would report on issues without any favoritism to anything but the facts. The same is true of the high-speed rail project.
What do you think about the Media Industry right now?
Well, the media industry is going through rapid change and it has been for the last decade. The media is controlling how one gets news and information, it revisits the question weather content or distribution is king. Personally, I believe it always goes back to content as king, because distribution is an empty roadway with no content. The media industry landscape will continue to consolidate and evolve and the heart will always be content that can attract an audience.
Whats your go to breakfast to get the day going?
I have yogurt and fruit, sorry it's so boring....but by the way, also every morning a glass of skim milk!
What advice would you give for freelance writers and journalists wanting to be published in major publications like the DMN?
I would suggest they look at current topics of controversy or debate and a look for a way to provide perspective or context and analysis around the issue. If you are approaching a local media organization, localize the story and explain why it's important to that area, like North Texas and submit it to the Managing Editor or Editor of the paper. I'd keep it to 500-600 words to begin and they will let you know if they want more or less!
Has the Guide section become just a PR shell of what once was a vibrant, exciting, honest reporting of Dallas at night? And is Leslie Brenner still the choice of voice on Dallas food?
Whether you are referring to the printed Guide or Guidelive.com all the information that you get goes through a journalistic process. Of course there are ads, but our staff works to make judgments about what is most interesting, important and fun things to go and do every week. We often provide reports from our critics so that you can have a sense of how they feel about something you might be making decision to go do.
As for Leslise, there is nobody in the city who is a finer critic of the restaurant and food scene in Dallas.
How does breaking into the industry as a modern newspaper reporter differ from, say, twenty-plus years ago?
Are the barriers higher or lower?
Should I start in the mail room, or on a professionally-toned blog?
Today you have to be a multi media reporter. you need to know how to tell stories in text, photos, audio and video. You need to be familiar with all the major social channels in terms of distributing what it is you want publish. It doesn't hurt to be a little facile at understanding audience metrics so that you can see what is really resonating among the things you published. It is a much tougher job in this way than it was 20 years ago. However, at its heart, it all about great story telling and if you publish a great story only in text, just like Mark Twain and many others, you will get published and you will find an audience.
Is there a tension between your feelings of civic duty and your desire to sell the company?
I have been clear in public statements that our board is not at this time looking to sell the company. As a publicly traded company, if an offer is made, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders to consider it. I feel very strongly, as does our board, that there is an important civic dimension to what we do and we're very conscientious about meeting that civic duty each and every day.
What do you see as the most important "next step" to keep your publication relevant to news consumers in the next 10 years?
We have to continue to meet the consumer where he or she is regarding how they want to get their news and information and what news and information they want in the way they want it. For different consumers that can be different mixes of text, audio, photo and video. We'll have to serve the right mix to each individual according to their preferences as best as we can.
What changes need to be made to the way journalism is approached in the U.S. to restore its credibility? Is it something that the industry has tailored to cater to what the consumer wants or has the leadership of the industry made efforts to move journalism in the direction they want?
Journalistically based news organizations can always,like any business, improve on what they do. However, their commitment to journalistic process is as strong today as it ever was. I believe the issue that has confused the consumer is the emergence,more than 30 years ago, of cable new organizations with a stated political bias and the plethora of partisan radio talk shows on both sides of the spectrum. We have to add to that, the web-based news organizations that have a political bias, some of which are in the business of publishing, distributing, and promoting information that is inaccurate and meant to cause people to believe things that aren't true. I wish that there were less or perhaps even none of these organizations that get lumped into the definition of news. And yet, they will continue to exist as long as people continue to read and listen to what they see and hear.
How big is your sports department? I've worked over six years for a daily paper owned by McClatchy and our sports staff never had more than 5 people in sports during that time, and that's including myself. People often wondered how we got a section out with such good content. And some of us were even having to work on other parts of the paper plus cover games pretty much daily!
Anyway, I've been wondering what it's like to work for a REAL newspaper. Would you happen to be looking for any sports people? I can ALSO do news! I have a great portfolio and have been looking for work at a respectable publication. It would be an honor to work for you.
As you probably know, we have the undisputed, most honored local sports journalism in the country. We are always looking for great talent so send your resume to our sports department and if you are that good, I'm sure they will keep you in mind when there is an opening!
Hi Jim. I live in a smaller market in Nebraska. There is only one newspaper in town and their reporting is just horrible and days behind. I am a web developer and am considering starting an online-only digital newspaper to compete against them. Do you see a rise of small-budget digital competitors and are they viable?
There are more and more examples of enterprising and dedicated journalists starting a web-based news reporting site about local communities. You, no doubt, have read about Billy Penn in Philadelphia which is a large market example of this. For smaller communities look to Derby, Connecticut, Mansfield, Ohio and Charlottesville, Virginia
Thank you for the reply, Mr. Moroney. I agree that the key to making news consumption more attractive is providing varied options for format and content hyper-customization and, in a perfect world, we could probably have that at a manual and AI learning level. What kind of conflict or compromise to this ideal system do you anticipate having to navigate, if any?
My concerns are with the filter bubble/eco-chamber that we can find ourselves in when we over-personalize our news feed, particularly when it's being done for us through AI. The machine learning process will only get better at returning to me the things I most click on, which for many people are the things they already mostly agree. I don't think that's healthy for a truly informed electorate.