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Leading Off (10/17/14)

The Latest on Ebola. Nurse Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Thursday evening, with news copters following her trip every step of the way from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field, onto the plane and then off the plane to the NIH clinic. Just before she left Dallas, a video of her speaking with her physician was recorded and released to the public at her request. In it, she expresses her love for the Presby staff. Meanwhile, Dallas County leaders didn’t declare an emergency situation during their meeting yesterday, but they are requiring all health care workers exposed to Ebola to sign a document promising to avoid public transit and public places. If the workers don’t sign the “voluntary” agreements, orders will be issued restricting their movement. And, at the national level, President Obama called Gov. Rick Perry and vowed to offer Texas and Dallas all the help it needs in confronting the disease.

Superintendent Urged to Apologize to Trustee. At a meeting during which Mike Miles was seeking to explain his actions in response to what he termed a “crisis” at Dade Middle School, some in attendance pushed for the super to say he was sorry for having had district trustee Bernadette Nutall removed from the Dade campus on Monday. He did not.

Housing Prices Continue to Rise. The supply of available Dallas homes remains absurdly low, so the market values keep rising sharply, and now I’m feeling pretty screwed for not having jumped on the bottoming out a few years back.

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Fox 4 and Clarice Tinsley Show Us the Future of TV News. And Its End.

Last night, I watched the news. On my television. It feels odd to type those words. Maybe this post should end there. But I can’t help myself.

So the Ebola. It’s all Ebola all the time in Dallas, for good reasons and also for less than good reasons. On Fox 4 last night, they did some serious Ebola coverage (that I’d already digested on my phone hours earlier). And then they did their “Your Word” segment, during which the esteemed, long-serving, much-respected Clarice Tinsley was forced by producers to climb from behind the anchor desk and perambulate the studio, all casual like, while talking about the most serious of topics. Actually, she didn’t talk about Ebola. She said, “Social media is blowing up about that nurse getting on a commercial flight to Cleveland.” And then she started reading Facebook comments.

I assume these TV producers have kidnapped Clarice’s loved ones and threatened to kill them unless she follows their instructions. Only reasonable assumption. Last night, she was holding a fancy tablet that operated a large monitor behind her, but at one point, she stood there reading Facebook comments from her iPhone (as pictured above). One of the comments that she didn’t read but which was displayed for viewers was a photo of Homer Simpson. One can only pray for the safe return of Clarice’s husband. Well, one can pray, and one can also put up a blog post.

Imagine if, when television began to supplant radio as the dominant medium, the radio programs had begun to broadcast a live account of what television stations were broadcasting. THAT’S what Clarice was doing last night, best I can figure. It’s goofy. It’s self-defeating. It’s bad business. It’s acknowledging that the entire world is upside down and that you haven’t figured out how to survive in that world.

A quick postscript: I think we sometimes do the same thing in the pages of D Magazine.

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Virgin America’s Straight Talk About Balance Sheets

It’s true that Virgin America has lost a total of $400 million since its founding. But it’s also true that the California-based airline made $10.1 million on $1.4 billion in operating revenue last year—and that revenue has been growing for the last five years at least. So when an incredibly downbeat AP story about the airline’s planned initial public offering appeared in the Dallas Morning News yesterday—the same day Virgin began flights out of Dallas Love Field—was Virgin America’s CEO upset? Not really, David Cush said last night at Virgin’s celebration party at the House of Blues: “I saw a lot of opinion in there, and I’ve seen lots of stories like that.” While the airline has moved in the past and is continuing to move to retool its balance sheet, Cush said, “The important thing is that when you’re a private-equity-owned firm, you don’t give a s*** about your balance sheet or your P&L” [profit and loss statement]. The key is keeping the investor-owners happy, the chief executive added. Virgin’s investors include a hedge fund called Cyrus Capital Partners, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and Don Carty, former chairman and CEO of AMR Corp.

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Leading Off (10/13/14)

More About the Second Ebola Case: There’s more info about the Dallas healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola here, here, and here. And you should be following the reporting of our Matt Goodman here. Among other things, we know that, unlike in the recent case in Spain, this Ebola patient’s dog will not be euthanized.

Wright Amendment Is No More: The 1980 law restricting flights to and from Love Field becomes history today. Southwest, Virgin, and Delta will have dozens of new direct routes heading to nine new airports. It’s been a long time coming, and under other circumstances, this would probably be the biggest news of the week. But these are strange days in Dallas.

Cowboys Win Big Game: Dallas defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Seattle yesterday, marking only the second time the Seahawks have lost at home in the last three years. DeMarco Murray is almost certainly the leading candidate for league MVP at the moment, and he just tied a 56-year-old record held by Jim Brown. The win puts the Cowboys’ record at 5-1 and gives all Cowboys fans the sick agony of expectation.

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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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Comer Cottrell Jr., R.I.P.

An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News lauds the life and legacy of Comer Cottrell Jr., the pioneering African-American businessman who died last week at the age of 82. Cottrell, who founded Pro-Line, a black-focused hair-products company that he sold for $80 million in 2000, broke down a number of racial barriers in North Texas over the years. In this cover story/book excerpt in D CEO magazine (then called Dallas CEO) back in 2008, Cottrell told how he did it in a gritty, no-holds-barred style. The excerpt recalls Cottrell’s multiple encounters with discrimination when he moved in 1980 to Dallas from Los Angeles. The fascinating thing is that the prejudice came not just from Dallas’ white establishment but from the local African-American community, too.

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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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Pop-Up Store Called Unbranded To Open in Deep Ellum

We’ve written in the magazine about Matt Alexander, founder of Need, and Bryan DeLuca, founder of Foot Cardigan. The two are joining forces to launch something called Unbranded in November. You’ll be able to buy pants there. And socks. And maybe a photograph. Plus, you’ll be able to hang out and drink beer and get some work done on your laptop. There might be mimes or jugglers. Folks need only apply to practice their art or sell their craft in the space. I am thinking of applying to be the in-house sword swallower. Just need to learn how to swallow swords. Anyway, here’s the full release:

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Leading Off (9/26/14)

Wylys Must Pay More than $300M in SEC Case. In May, a jury found that brothers Sam and Charles Wyly, founders of Irving-based Michaels Stores Inc., were guilty of fraud. They were found to have hidden their holdings in offshore trusts and to have engaged in illegal trading. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Sam and the estate of Charles (who died in 2011) must pay $187.7 plus interest, which could bring their total obligation to between $300 million and $400 million. The Wylys had argued their total net worth is only $119 million and that any punishment greater than that amount would bankrupt them. Tough, said the judge.

Need to Borrow Millions? Gov. Perry Can Help. You don’t even need to ask. The Texas Enterprise Fund, which the governor’s office oversees, even awarded $170 million to recipients who never officially applied for it. That’s just one of a number of troubling findings in a state audit report released Thursday.

UT Dallas Repaid State $4.3 Million. The university’s calculation error related to employee benefits is similar to the same one recently discovered at UNT, which has to repay almost $76 million. Maybe the Texas Enterprise Fund can help them out?

Enterovirus-D68 Cases Confirmed in Dallas County. Ten cases of the respiratory illness have been detected in children, which has symptoms much like those of the flu or a cold. Wash your hands regularly. Hand sanitizer is powerless against it, apparently.

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Headington Companies Pursue Odd PR Strategy While Tearing Down Buildings

Tim Headington — oilman, movie financier, real estate mogul — is a very private man. He doesn’t do press — at all. Here and there, he has been written about. But to my knowledge, he has never given an interview for a magazine or newspaper profile (please correct me if I’m wrong). We’ve asked for time with him. In fact, a couple years back, we killed an innocuous story about a very small part of his empire after his people told us that the timing was bad (it was) and that a look at the bigger picture would serve Dallas better (they were right). We were told that it would be possible to get time with Headington to tell the larger story. That never happened.

His penchant for secrecy is well and fine, when it comes to most of his operations. Check out the website for Headington Companies, for example. In how little it reveals about the organization, it feels like a repudiation of our selfie society. It is brilliant. But this secrecy fails him when it comes to demolishing old buildings.

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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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1611 Main Street, R.I.P.

Sunday afternoon, while the Cowboys were losing to the Rams, I heard a loud bang and went to investigate. It was the sound of a wrecking ball hitting the 129-year-old building next door to ours. I walked out to Main Street and saw people standing in front of Neiman’s, their phones pointed toward 1611 Main Street. I had missed the first few swings of the crane, but I got there just in time to see the top portion of the building crumble to the ground.

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