Justice Served? : The Questionable Aftermath of a Sexual Misconduct Issue in Dallas

Alexandra Bonefield

Justice Served? Media Metrics and Elephants In the Roo

In response to the Dallas Morning News feature posted online May 2, 2018 and shortly after in print, “Now What?”:

Do ethics and truth mean nothing compared to trolling for increased metrics under the flimsy guise of “presenting both sides of a story”? Clueless, callous opportunism? Check. The Dallas News article shed no new light on a horrific, problematic situation. Instead, it outraged the regional theatre community with a sloppy, poorly researched, prejudicial screed focused on a perpetrator of abuse as “victim”, accompanied by a soft focus PR-driven sympathetic photo spread of him. This yellow-hued scandal journalism probably earned the publication more site traffic than two months’ worth of carefully crafted theatre features and reviews by Dallas News’ indefatigable arts journalist Nancy Churnin, sad to say. The Dallas News sees it as a win.

For those of you living under a rock somewhere, here’s the short version: Dallas News – metrics obsessed repository of bottom-line bureaucracy dominating the fast fading, regional journalistic landscape – posted an “investigative” feature solicited by a former DFW theatre community member (or maybe by a PR firm engaged to whitewash his reputation). Dallas News’ writer framed the article to portray the man as the wronged “victim” in a revolting manner – with a glamour-style photo spread of the disconsolate, victimized lad, no less. It was hard to read, given the approach engaged by said writer, one Sarah Mervosh (Christopher Wynn and Leslie Eaton, editors). Clearly not familiar with the regional theatre arts scene, Mervosh championed the abuser’s cause throughout. This presumed predator reveals through Mervosh’s ingenious writing a tawdry, repellent unwillingness to accept full responsibility for his putative actions or any comprehension/ compassion for the genuine suffering these actions may have caused to multiple women who claim to be his victims. Some even claim rape. Mervosh’s piece reads as sensationalism, hardly balanced. It’s amateurish. Since the article’s publication, The New York Times offered this young woman a job for her “superior” investigative reporting. Good luck with that. May everyone involved receive what he/she earns?

So, what should we, still in Dallas-Fort Worth, expect from the Dallas Morning News? Nada. Their job consists of printing words, serving the corporate overlords, trying to stay afloat in a world where their irrelevance increases daily. Lots of outraged posts pepper an array of Facebook pages. Many signatures appear on a well-intentioned “petition” circulated by another media outlet. Feels great to sign it, sure, but it’s destined for some rhetorical circular file. Let’s not give the bottom line-addicted-in-charge any excuse to wipe theatre coverage off their publication schedule like the Star Telegram has done in Fort Worth. They would likely welcome the pesky theatre community’s departure. Yes, Dallas News’ article sucks, in the worst possible, insensitive way. Face it. The theatre community doesn’t have the power or means to make them back down or recant. Theatre coverage just doesn’t give them the metrics they desperately seek.

Where could real change and eventual resolution with lasting future impact come from? I see two elephants and a presumptive predator in the room, not getting the focus they deserve.

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