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JournalistI am Mike Wilson, editor of The Dallas Morning News, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting -- AMA!

Apr 18th 2017 by AskDallas • 20 Questions • 1314 Points

Hi, I’m Mike Wilson, editor of The Dallas Morning News. Ask me anything.

UPDATE: That's all, everybody! Thanks so much for joining in and asking your questions. If you like what we do, you can subscribe to The Dallas Morning News for as low as $1.75/week as part of the 175 years celebration of A.H. Belo. Join us this Friday at 10:30 a.m. CST for an AMA with publisher Jim Moroney.

UPDATE: Mike is at his desk and ready to go.

I’ll be answering questions for about an hour beginning at 2:45 p.m. CT.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/0aqrxhvpm6sy.jpghttps://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/664yyl/i_am_mike_wilson_editor_of_the_dallas_morning/?sort=new#

Our staff at The Dallas Morning News was recently named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting for coverage of the ambush on police in downtown Dallas last July.

Our coverage: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/dallas-ambush/collection/coverage-dallas-police-ambush-named-pulitzer-prize-finalist

We’re also celebrating 175 years of our parent company, A.H. Belo and bringing news to Texas.

dallasnews.com | Twitter

https://twitter.com/dallasnews/status/852998708505567232

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/dallas/2017/04/10/ask-dallas-join-editor-publisher-reddit-ama

Q:

News, especially breaking news, has always been a time sensitive business, probably now more than ever. How can journalists and also consumers ensure that the quality of information does not suffer under increasing pressure to be the first to report on a breaking story? Every time a major story breaks there are so many half-truths and outright speculations out there and I feel like many people have already made up their minds before all relevant facts are known.

A:

Thanks for the question! It's a good one. Around here, we're always saying it's more important to be right than to be first. I don't think the audience is giving us much credit for having a story 90 seconds before the competition. I think the media organizations that endure will be the ones people can trust.


Q:

Good afternoon Mike!

I am a social studies teacher in the DFW metroplex that has lived here since July of last year. I want to compliment you guys on some awesome reporting!

I actually have a question in regards to political reporting. Many of the mainstream news media outlets, like CNN, tend to treat reports on politics how one would expect ESPN to report on sports teams and certain player coverage. Could you talk a little about some of the thought process that goes into reporting political news in general? For instance I have been reading with great interest the Ken Paxton case and I would like to know what goes into reporting that kind of thing.

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-politics/2017/04/17/judge-will-stay-case-despite-ken-paxtons-request-boot

A:

Great question, and thanks for being a social studies teacher. You are doing hugely important work.

I consider myself lucky that I don't live with the cable TV news imperative to always say SOMETHING about politics even when there's nothing to say. I like print/digital journalism because we can be a little more careful about choosing which stories to do. We try to stay away from stuff that's purely political and report on the implications of what's happening in politics and government. Todd Gillman in Washington and Brandi Grissom in Austin lead teams that do this pretty well.


Q:

Where do you see the news going in the next few years?

A:

There are a couple of things going on right now. There's a trend toward people just wanting to see news that justifies or supports their worldview. Others are demanding honest, in-depth reporting from journalists because they distrust the government's or establishment's view of things. I believe the need for objective truth will always win out in the end.


Q:

Glazed Donut Works on Deep Ellum.

A:

To your larger question, we don't judge our journalists purely on the number of clicks they get. We have a series of metrics we look at that rewards journalists not just for getting clicks, but for getting local, loyal readers. Readers of clickbait stories tend to read one thing and move on. We're trying to publish stuff that will make people loyal readers.


Q:

How do you justify the "recommended by Outbrain" clickbait trash articles that are mixed up with legit content on the mobile app?

A:

I like this question. Recently we moved away from Outbrain and started using a new service called Aggrego. It delivers news from sources around the country that we think readers might be interested in. The challenge continues to be filtering the content so it meets our standards. If you see stuff on our site that doesn't seem worthy of dallasnews.com, email me.


Q:

What is the sentiment in the newsroom about the design of the DMN moving to Austin?

A:

It's a tough thing. We know our partner in Austin will do good work, but nobody likes the fact that it means fewer jobs in our newsroom.


Q:

Well, I bet the Belo board of directors likes the fact.

A:

I'm being a little cheeky there, but seriously, the most important thing anyone can do is support local journalism. Doesn't have to be the DMN, but please give your support to good local reporting.


Q:

I guess maybe I should reframe my question: given that people support journalism as a concept but have been increasingly unwilling to support journalistic organizations financially (especially as the public's appetite for print media has increasingly been replaced by the availability and timeliness of online articles), how can news organizations get the support they need to survive?

Your response almost suggests that we should start treating subscriptions to news services like charitable donations. "You don't have to give us your money, but you should if you like the work that we do. We could put up a paywall, but then you'd probably just get your news elsewhere, but please don't and just support us cause we're good at what we do."

Considering how a different newspaper seems to go bankrupt every other month, do you honestly think just directing people to the subscription link is a sustainable solution? Certainly something needs to change, but I can't imagine what.

Thanks for your time.

A:

Thanks for the follow-up. Our site is now metered, so at a certain point every reader is asked to subscribe in order to keep reading. I think local journalism has value, and we need income to keep providing that information. So I'm encouraging people to subscribe rather than assuming they should get valuable information for free -- an assumption my industry unfortunately encouraged for a long time.


Q:

What the hell'll happen to the Stone of Truth? That whole building? Aren't you nerds shrugging that thing off for some cheap space?

A:

First, nerds is a fair description. We're honored.

The future of the Rock of Truth is uncertain. The space we're moving to is beautiful but not cheap. Some version or iteration of the Rock of Truth will be a part of our new digs.


Q:

Thank for doing this AMA, how can we help people connect around community government the way they do around local sports?

A:

This is a good question. We're developing Facebook groups around subjects of interest right now. Do you think a community government group would catch on if we posted links there and spent some time chatting with folks?


Q:

Competing against all other Dallas area journalist/media personalities (TV, radio, or print), which Dallas area journalist/media personality would win in a:

  • footrace?

  • hotdog-eating contest?

  • Dallas-centric game of Charades?

A:

Footrace: Meredith Land looks like she'd be good competition in a 40-yard dash.

Hot-dog eating contest: I'm going with DMN Watchdog Dave Lieber, though that's cannibalism.

Charades: Our own Robert Wilonsky. He's always acting out his feelings about Dallas.


Q:

Be real, how much did it suck talking to people who cancelled their subscriptions because the editorial board endorsed Clinton? Has there been any discussion of a disclaimer on every editorial that explains the function of an editorial and its separation from the paper's news reporting?

A:

It's painful to talk to somebody who's canceling, especially if the person has been a subscriber for a long time. Re the second part of your question, we actually have plans to communicate with readers much more about the different parts of our paper and how they interact. Stay tuned for that.


Q:

Hi, Mike. I actually work for you as a colleges blogger on the sports desk. Thanks for doing this AMA. Where did the idea of implementing a CMS designed specifically for TDMN come from and how has it changed the newsroom in its first couple years?

A:

The idea to build own CMS was driven by our chief digital officer, Nicki Purcell. It has totally transformed our newsroom, I'd say. We can tell stories much more easily and richly than we could with our old technology.


Q:

How do you overcome your personal bias to report the news fairly?

A:

I try to remember that nobody cares what my view is and that it's irrelevant to the story.


Q:

I forgot what the company wide email last week said, where do we go to get the $10 bounty for posting a softball question?

A:

My office, of course.


Q:

Is Dallasnews.com ever going to get rid of the stupid paywall? I and a lot of other users on /r/dallas no longer click on dallasnews links because of it.

A:

I don't see it happening. It costs money to report the news, and this is a business, so we charge for the product we put out.


Q:

What are some examples of stories that readers can get from The Dallas Morning News that they can't find elsewhere? Why subscribe?

A:

Here's one example: Last year we reported that CPS wasn't checking in on vulnerable kids in a timely way. One child was beaten to death in the interim. After we did our reporting, the state moved to hire more workers and give raises to the ones it has. You should subscribe so you'll know what the government is and isn't doing with your tax money. I'll be back in a minute with 1,000 other examples.


Q:

Why does your newspaper refuse to use the term "illegal alien" and instead just says "immigrant. And as a followup question do you feel that is a slap in the face to the millions of people who were patient and immigrated into the country legally?

A:

First, no person is illegal. He or she may have done something against the law, but we're not going to call a person illegal. Second, "alien" makes it sound like the person is from another planet, so we avoid that word. If we know a person is here without documentation, we say he or she is an "undocumented immigrant." Finally, if the person has been judged by a court to be in the country illegally, we report that.


Q:

Couldn't you have come up with a better name for your dog than Story?

A:

Couldn't you have come up with a better question?


Q:

How do you and the paper navigate the issue of false balance, both in the news department and on the editorial page? (For example, does the DMN really need to give safe harbor to a buffoon like Mark Davis so that it can claim a conservative viewpoint?) There are two sides to every story, sure, but when one side is relying on conspiracy theories and fake news to bolster its case, it seems disingenuous to give both sides equal weight.

A:

It isn't false balance to put a wide variety of opinions on the op-ed page. False balance is when somebody points out the sky is blue, so you report that and then go find somebody who will say it's polka-dotted.