Static: Wednesday, December 12, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Telling its Bassfrom its Elbow

The Poynter Institute in Florida is a well-respected center for journalism education, a forum for discussions on the ethics and business of news coverage. Last week, a lengthy article on the Poynter web site lauded the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as the most generously staffed newspaper in the U.S., proportionate to circulation size. And, the Poynter sages concluded, the paper does well with its 336 full-time staffers, putting out a reader-friendly, clearly written paper with lots of news in it. (Static can’t disagree with most of that, although reader-friendly too often degenerates into silly.)

The story quoted Executive Editor Jim Witt as saying that the paper’s quality may have gone somewhat unnoticed in the industry because “we weren’t that good until recently.” The story said the S-T “used to be the kind of place where tough stories on local heavy hitters disappeared into the publisher’s office and never returned” — which Witt said was no longer the practice.

Ahem. Readers might have noticed a long and contorted correction on the front page of their hometown daily on Tuesday. The correction basically took back the main point of a front-page story from Dec. 6, which quoted billionaire developer Ed Bass as saying that city officials were planning to fund a new Cultural District arena, possibly with revenue from a city-owned convention center hotel. And, the correction said, two quotes attributed to Bass were actually taken from an S-T editorial.

The plot on this one, it seems, is about as clear as the murky correction. S-T sources told Static that, after Bass called the paper to complain, reporter Ginger Richardson re-verified her story with City Hall sources, who agreed to call the S-T brass and tell ’em she had it right and there was nothing to correct.

That apparently didn’t satisfy Startlegram editors, who ran the correction anyway. Faced with the choice of supporting one of its reporters or acting like a lapdog for a Bass brother, Star-T managers seem to have panted like a dehydrated Pekingese — Poynter folks be damned. As for staffers, that’s Mr. Bass to you.


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