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Leading Off (10/10/14)

Baylor Hospital Could Lose Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds. Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently found several instances of psychiatric patients walking away from the emergency department at Baylor University Medical Center. The violations potentially could cost the hospital up to $300 million in annual revenue it receives from Medicare, though Baylor is devising a plan to fix its problems, which it will submit to Texas Department of State Health Services by Monday.

Judge Rules Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an opinion late Thursday holding that the 2011 bill requiring photo identification for anyone to cast a valid election ballot places an undue burden on the right to vote and has a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and African-Americans. Attorney general Greg Abbott, who is also running for governor (in case you haven’t heard), announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision. It’s not clear yet how the ruling will affect the election that’s only a few weeks away.

Dallas Stars Lose Season Opener. They played great against a great team, but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout.

Scam Targets Morning News Subscribers. Do not send $600 to an Oregon post office box to get the newspaper.

Today is Double Tenth National Day in Taiwan. It commemorates the start of the 1911 uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. It’s also an office holiday for D Magazine Partners, celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day this weekend because of the horrific crimes Christopher Columbus committed against the native peoples of the Americas. (To be honest, I think it’s just because we decided we preferred getting a Friday off to getting a Monday off.)

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The Selling of Al Jazeera America

You’d think that a fledgling cable TV news channel owned by the Qatar-royal family’s Al Jazeera Media Network would be a tough sell in a deep-red state like Texas. But there was Al Jazeera America anchorman John Seigenthaler at a luncheon meeting of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth the other day, showing the audience a clip from The Colbert Report in which the host was jokingly calling Seigenthaler and his employer part of the al-Qaeda Network. “That looks terrifying,” Stephen Colbert said to the veteran newsman, referring to the Al Jazeera logo. “That is not only Arabic; it looks like Arabic on fire! … It means, ‘The bombing starts at midnight!’ ”

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Why in Sam Hell Did FrontBurner Comments Change?

Close observers of FrontBurner have already noted that the presentation of comments has been altered somewhat. Now the comments with the most up-votes (the most readers having hit that little green thumbs-up button) will move to the top of the comment display. We’ve added down-voting as well (the red thumbs-down symbol) as a way for you to express your displeasure of a particular comment.

Unfortunately what we didn’t realize when we made the change was that our commenting platform, Gigya, apparently also ties this to reversing the chronological order in which comments appear. Now the most recent comments are appearing on top. We’re looking into whether we can enable the prioritization of up-voted comments while otherwise displaying comments down the page from oldest to newest. At the moment, it’s an either/or situation.

In the meanwhile, feel free to let me know what you think.

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CURE Magazine Sold to New Jersey Firm

If you’ve never heard of CURE magazine, then you’ve probably never had cancer. Its editorial staff is (or was) based here in Dallas. As “the largest consumer magazine in the United States focused entirely on cancer,” it claims 1 million readers. Its parent organization, CURE Media Group, started in 2002. It’s a fine publication. I can tell you that back when the Katie Awards were a thing, we lost a couple of statuettes, that I can recall, to CURE.

Well, last week it was announced that Michael J. Hennessy Associates, “a full-service healthcare education, market research, and communications company” based in New Jersey, bought CURE Media Group. Come October 15, all but two staff members will be out of work (sorry, I don’t know how many folks that represents; I’ll update this post when I find out). Here’s hoping they all find their next adventure.

UPDATE (4:32) From a source: “All in all, nine people lost their jobs. We also had four open positions at the time of the sale. Of the nine who were let go, two were offered positions with the new company, and one was offered a different position with the old company. So, that leaves six who are looking for work.

“Beyond that, we had a number of regular contributors who are now uncertain if the work they had depended upon will be given to someone else. Writers, proofreaders, fact-checkers, photographers, illustrators, designers — all of whom had deep relationships with us — are now left to wonder if they will continue with the new owner.”

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Marcus Smart’s Crazy Back Story in Lancaster

Marcus Smart, the sixth overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, was, until recently, most famous for shoving a Texas Tech fan in the middle of a game earlier this year. (He also had a pretty good two-year career at Oklahoma State.) Then the Celtics drafted him, and he got a multi-year endorsement deal from Adidas worth $1 million. Now, Baxter Holmes at the Boston Globe has a profile that includes harrowing details from Smart growing up in Lancaster.

The story has bullets flying, a mentor half-brother dying of cancer, a teammate hit by a train, and eventually Smart breaking down in tears. He took Holmes to several of his old houses and apartment buildings.

From the story:

Marcus recalls the area, known as the “1500 block,” as a place where Crips and Bloods gangs waged war, where drugs were rampant, where police sirens howled, where the Fourth of July was an excuse to fire off more gunshots than normal because outsiders mistook them for fireworks.

“At the time when I was here,” Marcus says, “if you heard ‘Lancaster, 1500 block, Meadows,’ everybody said, ‘Oh, you live by the Meadows. We won’t come over there. We’ll talk to you later.’ ”

Read the entire thing here.

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Announcing StreetSmart, D Magazine’s New Transportation and Urbanism Blog

My personal ignorance when it comes to matters of urbanism makes me grateful that Dallas has someone like Patrick Kennedy pushing it — however reluctantly — towards new modes of thinking about how to shape this city. Patrick’s blog, first known as Car-Free in Big D and then Walkable DFW, has been an invaluable conversation starter that we’ve referenced and linked to countless times on FrontBurner. He briefly wrote a monthly column in the ink-on-paper version of D, but today he joins us in an even more significant role.

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our newest online community, StreetSmart. Walkable DFW has been adopted into the family, and the renaming signifies an expansion of its mission. StreetSmart will focus on intelligent — and occasionally irreverent — urban planning, with discussion of the important housing, neighborhood, and transportation issues and decisions taking place in Dallas-Fort Worth.

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Job Opening: Editorial Researcher

Would you like to work in beautiful downtown Dallas, just a short walk from Klyde Warren Park? Would you like to work for one of the last great family-owned media empires in America? Do you like free coffee? Are you okay with a certain amount of profanity? Then consider this job listing:

The business media group of D Magazine Partners, which includes D CEO magazine, D Real Estate Daily, and D Healthcare Daily, is seeking a detail-oriented researcher to join its editorial team. Ideal candidates will have exceptional Excel skills, written and verbal communication skills, and knowledge of AP style. He or she must also be able to juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines. Knowledge of InCopy/InDesign is a plus. Launched eight years ago, D CEO was named the nation’s best regional business magazine in 2013 and again in 2014. The person in this role will play a key part in our continued growth.

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to No phone calls please.

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Dallas City Council Could Vote Against Funding Trinity Toll Road

On Wednesday, DMN editorial writer Rudy Bush dropped a bombshell. In a blog post, he reported that the city attorney, in response to a request from Councilman Scott Griggs, issued a memo saying that the city’s contract with the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the Trinity toll road isn’t the ironclad agreement that we’ve all been led to believe it is. In short, the contract is old, many of the dates mentioned for getting work done have come and gone, and there are too many “agreements to agree,” something the city attorney says are generally not enforceable. The Council could vote to walk away from this contact. It likely could do so without legal consequences. This is huge news. As Bush noted, “It’s hard to overstate how important this is, both from a political and policy perspective.”

Hours after that post went up, the Observer took note of it and had reaction from Angela Hunt. The next day, Thursday, another editorial boarder, Sharon Grigsby, put up a post saying, in so many words, “Wow. That’s big news. We’re talking about it here at the office.”

Today is Friday. News of the city attorney’s memo still has yet to appear in the newspaper or in the main news feed of the paper’s website. I can only assume that Sunday’s front-page story will be amazing.

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99% Invisible on the Scheme to Make Dallas a Seaport

The great podcast 99% Invisible just did an episode about our city’s admittedly harebrained idea to establish Dallas (a city 300 miles from the ocean, 700 miles via the Trinity River) as an important seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. I’d heard much of this before, but I hadn’t realize that our incongruously massive freeway bridges over the river are massive specifically to let ships pass under:

In a series of fits and starts over the next 55 years, the Port of Dallas project kept moving forward. In anticipation of the imminent navigability of the Trinity River, new freeway bridges constructed over the river were built extra tall to allow sea-going vessels clearance underneath. But by the time the money and political clout was ready to finish the project once and for all, Dallas didn’t really need a seaport. The new DFW airport would do just fine.

So the city of Dallas moved their river from the center of town to a walled-off floodplain for a Port of Dallas which never came to pass, and for years the diverted river festered; it became a place to dump sewage, and trash, and even dead bodies. No one went there on purpose.

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Folio Honors D Magazine Visionaries

Folio is a magazine industry publication, and next month it’s recognizing what’s called the Folio: 100, media’s “most innovative entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers.” If you peruse the list of honorees, you’ll see folks from many top national titles and brands, largely big-shots out of New York City.

Scroll on down to the group categorized as “Visionaries” though, and right there at the top you’ll find our own D Magazine Partners president Christine Allison and chairman/editor in chief Wick Allison.

All of us who are lucky enough to work here recognize what a unique company this is. Christine and Wick aren’t afraid to take chances and to give any promising idea a shot. They’re always looking for a new angle on this business and early on recognized the need to transform what was once a single-title paper-and-ink business into a still-expanding digital enterprise.

I asked Christine what this means to her:

“It’s an honor, to be sure, but we couldn’t do what we do in any other city. To be acknowledged nationally is a big nod to Dallas and our incredible staff.”

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The Dallas Morning News Is Watching You Online

An internet savvy FrontBurnervian told me about a browser add-on called Ghostery. It looks for trackers — cookies, tags, web bugs, pixels, beacons — and shows you how the sites you visit are monitoring your online behavior. The reason this FrontBurnervian told me about Ghostery was because he was aghast at what the Morning News was doing. So I installed the software and took it for a spin. Here’s what I found:

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Tod Robberson Puts Pressure on District Attorney To Do His Job

Editorial writer Tod Robberson has a bylined op-ed in today’s paper that you should read. Essentially it says: “What the heck, people? I did a bunch of really solid reporting on a slumlord in southern Dallas who has been breaking the law for years and bragging about it. DA Craig Watkins? U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña? Are you guys paying attention?”

Here’s the first story Robberson did, a serious bit of reporting into the operations of Douglas T. “Chase” Fonteno, a self-described “real estate cat burglar” who takes poor people’s houses and then resells them. I know, right? It sounds insane. It sounds like something that authorities should put a stop to. Robberson wrote a series of stories about Fonteno back in May. Then he brought his findings to the authorities. But as Mayor Mike Rawlings told Robberson, there isn’t much the city can do besides slap Fonteno on his wrist. So:

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