Justice Served? Media Metrics and Elephants In the Room

 

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 ingenuous 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.

  • 1) The Dallas Theater Center (DTC): Anybody heard a peep about this issue from that nonprofit entity? An apology? Any explanation of how they intend to protect artists in the future? The man portrayed as a victim by the Dallas News worked for this major regional nonprofit organization. Everybody knows him, by reputation if not personal contact. DTC, under the guidance of its Board of Directors, has an obligation to serve the public good. Part of that involves making sure the nonprofit’s employees do no harm and are safe from harm. NO HARM. According to the DTC feature, Dallas Theater Center required its employee, the presumed abuser, to participate in “sensitivity training” in 2010. Somebody at DTC was concerned enough by complaints received or actions observed to require this training. Threatened charges deflected? Nobody there is raising his/her hand to fill the community, or any media entity, in. Did they hope the “training” would make this employee a kinder, gentler abuser/rapist? Or did attorneys consulted inform DTC’s Board this requirement would release the nonprofit from any responsibility for the man’s future or past actions? I have no answer. No media seems to be asking. Between 2010 and late 2017, when DTC fired him, this man was apparently allowed to interact with women (including SMU college students) unchecked, for better, for worse, lots of worse. It’s time for DTC’s Board to account for its inaction and end its silence. The arts community and beyond are owed full transparency about how this man’s seemingly excessive inappropriate behavior was allowed to continue. Who was his immediate supervisor? Who actually fired him? Why was nothing else done between 2010 and 2017 to curtail his activities? THAT would make a worthwhile “investigative journalism” article. Deluge the editors who supervised Mervosh – Christopher Wynn and Leslie Eaton (emails below) – with demands to cover the dark meat of this stinking turkey. Go up the editorial chain if they ignore you. Surely Dallas News hasn’t replaced all seasoned staff with lower paid newbies? If the community wants to have impact, deluge every member of the DTC Board with letters, phone calls and emails demanding their response. Every single funding source for DTC should get apprised of what sort of abusive behavior their funds have fostered through DTC Staff/Board’s failure to curtail one man’s supposed actions for years, with knowledge of it. Time to consider re-allocation of funds? Below is a list of Dallas Theater Center’s Board of Directors. Google their contact info. An exhaustive list of major donating sources can be found on DTC’s website. Look them up. Get busy. Write. Email. Call. Get off Facebook. Want to end the unwarranted silence by those who hold actual responsibility and see change happen? Go for the folks in charge. Encourage the hit hungry media to cover that enterprise. Let that light shine in, the brighter, the better. Media metrics will soar.
  • 2) As the Dallas News article states, “What now?” Did Lee Trull actually do what many have accused him of, some anonymously? Should he just get on with his life, elsewhere, or get sent to prison? Guilty rapists should serve time. Has any one of these women filed charges against him? Or against DTC for allowing him to continue? If not, why not? Statute of limitations protecting the abuser in Texas? Were the women paid off or intimidated for their silence? Has Trull been arrested, arraigned, tried and convicted… by anyone? For any of the abuses he supposedly committed, including rape? If not, I guess he’s innocent. That’s how justice works in the US. “Innocent until proven guilty.” It doesn’t matter how passionately anybody feels about the allegations made against Trull. If his continued state of innocence is a serious error and justice needs to be served, it’s about time somebody files a police report and gets the real media circus on the road. Class action…anybody?

End the silence, assuage the hurt, reveal the truth and shoo those lurking elephants out of the room. They leave such huge piles of steaming stink. And remember, readers, in five years’ time most artists in this community will continue to make art. The Dallas Morning News may be a fading memory.

Emails for Dallas News’ Editors in charge of feature “Now What?”:

cwynn@dallasnews.com

leaton@dallasnews.com

 

Dallas Theater Center Board of Trustees (as listed on website)

 

Julie Hersh*

Chair

 

Tina Barry*

Past President

 

Drew Alexandrou

Jennifer Altabef*

Irv Ashford

John F. Bergner

Mickie Bragalone‡

Diane M. Brierley^*

Randy Brown

LaRhonda Brown-Barrett

Molly Byrne

Nancy Carlson

Linda P. Custard^*

William A. Custard^

Terry Dallas

Scott Davis

Arlene J. Dayton^

Richard Dealy

Lauren Embrey

Mrs. Robert Ted Enloe III^

Melissa Fetter

Curtis M. FitzGerald*

Don Glendenning

 

……………………………………………………

 

 

Jeffrey R. Bragalone*

President

 

Andy Smith*

Secretary

 

William Douglas Graue*

Lance Hancock

Craig Haynes

Pilar Henry

Matt Hickey*

Ann Hobson

Roger Horchow

John Howell^

Kate Crosland Juett^

Suzan Kedron*

Kristie Konstans‡

Brett Levy

John I. Levy

Lawrence B. Mandala

Mrs. Eugene McDermott^

Megan McManemin

Scott Moore

Kevin Moriarty

Karl Nelson

Elle Oberdick

Dan Odom

 

Rebecca Fletcher*

Past Chair

 

Stephanie Anderson*

Treasurer

Scott Orr*

Yvette Ostolaza

Bob Penn*

Tracy Preston*

Terri Provencal

Frank A. Risch^*

Deedie Rose^

David Russakov

Teri Shaffer

Shannon Skokos*

Alex Smith*

Hamilton Sneed

Lori Stahl‡

Angela Stephens

Stewart Thomas

Robert J. Tonti

Daniel R. Waldmann*

Sarah Warnecke^

James L. Waters*

Donna Wilhelm^

Jeffrey Woodward

 

‡ Auxiliary Member

* Executive Committee

^ Life Member

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s