Dallas Morning News Irresponsible in Practice Facility Over-Coverage

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst IMay 24, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 16:  Owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, looks on during warmups before the game against the Washington Redskins on November 16, 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In this recession, it's been hard to miss newspapers closing down.  It's been even harder to miss self-important journalists belly-aching about the newspaper industry.  Given all the expenditure slashes, one would think shoddy, over-the-top, trifling investigative journalism might be gone.

Not at the Dallas Morning News.

As published today and reprinted on ESPN's hit-mongering site, Brooks Egerton (Dallas' version of Carl Monday?) tells the world the shocking, appalling, and devastating truth that a consultant who worked on the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility had a criminal record and fudged the resume he sent to the paper.

The newspaper industry is dwindling in resources while the country is in the middle of two wars, a multifaceted financial crisis, and pressing issues that will affect the nation for generations and the Dallas Morning News is paying someone to check resume lines on former consultants to the Cowboys.

Articles like this one are exactly the type of disproportionate, unnecessary crap that removes sympathy from the slow death of investigative journalism.

The consultant in question was convicted of a felony in 1995.  He served his time and was hired at the firm with whom the Cowboys did business.

Why blacklist his name in print by calling attention to his "ex-con" status?  It is not illegal to hire ex-convicts or to be an ex-convict seeking a job.  If Egerton finds it immoral, why not focus on the hiring policies of the Cowboys and the people with whom they do business?

In singling out the individual (which Egerton does in the first line of paragraph two), the writer only creates another victim in an already-tragic situation, shamelessly trying to create a scapegoat because he did something stupid fifteen years ago.

Worse, Brooks Egerton makes false accusations against "a man who has falsified his educational credentials."

Did he actually falsify his educational credentials, as normally is assumed to mean "to try and attain employment on a fake resume?"  Nope.  A close reading of the article shows that all the man did was send the Dallas Morning News an outdated summary that fudged a little. 

For those unfamiliar with the business world, a majority of people "spruce up" their accomplishments in unofficial circumstances, ex-felons or not.

However, in Brooks Egerton's world, giving him technically incorrect information is a high crime and misdemeanor worthy of being accused of document falsification in a major newspaper.

I'm all for investigating tragedy, but let's have some perspective. This particular collapse injured affected about 60 people directly, injuring 12 and severely injuring two.  Devoting a month investigating every possible lead is ridiculous unless one is representing one of the latter in their suit against the Cowboys.

High winds knocked down a cheaply-built structure.  It's not uncommon to have unfriendly weather severely damage the most poorly-constructed building on the block while leaving sturdier structures intact.  The Cowboys made a cheap choice that the City of Irving approved.  An act of nature tore it down.

Milking the story a month later because an apparently faultless consultant had a record does a disservice to the public by potentially damaging the reputation of another individual without cause.

Sports journalism is nothing without perspective.  No matter how much fans love the Cowboys or the Crimson Tide or the Yankees, it comes second to major issues.

Turning the microscope on such a high power as to find a former consultant who spent time in jail does just the opposite. It gives one the impression Egerton is digging so deep solely due to the logo on the helmets, which is neither a public service nor good for journalism's reputation.

Generally, investigative journalism is about finding an outrageous issue that's escaped the public eye and exposing it, enacting a "proper" response.  The Cowboys practice facility is a known issue being actively investigated by OSHA and the Texas Board of Engineers. 

There's no need to pull a guy's criminal record into the limelight or even call attention to the issue aside from wanting to negatively muckrake.

The Cowboys have never had many qualms associating with ex-felons, or even instituting criminals in their Ring of Honor.  Why bother bringing it up here, Brooks? 

Unless the man was more responsible for the facility's collapse, bringing up his record and blasting his character for lying to a newspaper only distorts the story, tarnishes investigative journalism, and adds fuel to public stereotypes about ex-felons.


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