D Magazine/Shawn Williams: Saving Old Red Bird Mall

In this month’s D Magazine, there’s an article written by yours truly where I talk about the plight of Southwest Center/Red Bird Mall.  You can read Saving Old Red Bird Mall at the D Magazine site (MAKE SURE TO GO PICK UP A FEW COPIES).  Thanks to Tim Rogers at D for the opportunity, and Trey Garrison for helping me with the edit.  Here are a few excerpts from the article.

  • My son and I recently found ourselves in the mall formerly known as Red Bird because I had forgotten Dillard’s had packed up last year and moved to the new Uptown Village at Cedar Hill. We tried to find something else to occupy our time since we had already made the trip. “Does this mall have a Build-A-Bear Workshop?” my first-grader asked. “No, son,” I said, halfway shamed by his question and my answer. “They don’t have that store here.”
  • Dr. Frederick D. Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church and a group of Southern Dallas pastors unsuccessfully pursued a joint venture with an investment group to purchase the mall in 2001. (“The owners of Red Bird got complacent and didn’t keep up with what other malls were doing,” Haynes says. “They lost contact with the community.”) Then Dr. Roland Hill, pastor of the Living Waters Worship Center, created the Red Bird Renaissance Community Development Committee to help find new ownership. But again, no deal.
  • Some of these challenges of perception may be addressed now that Mayor Tom Leppert’s 240-member Southern Dallas Task Force lists the mall as a top priority. Edna Pemberton was assigned by Leppert and Councilman Tennell Atkins to serve as a liaison between Southwest Center’s tenants and the city. Pemberton’s duties have included everything from persuading an Oncor meter man not to flip the switch on the mall’s power to leading a group of store owners to Washington, D.C., for a meeting with the Department of Labor.
  • Start by changing the name back to Red Bird Mall. Tear down everything west of the common area that stands in front of Foley’s, including the vacant J.C. Penney and most of Dillard’s. The lower level that leads east toward Penney’s is void of tenants. The stores that are open on the upper level of that end of the building can flip to the boarded-up spaces in front of Sears on the far east side.

Dallas Bar Association/Press Club of Dallas host Redefining “News” in the Digital Age: Shawn Williams panelist

This Thursday May 21st, members of the news media and the legal community will convene a HAPPY HOUR and PANEL DISCUSSION about the evolving newsroom, the future of investigative reporting, citizen journalism, and legal issues related to “new media.” The event is Co-Sponsored by the Media Relations Committee of the Dallas Bar Association, and the Press Club of Dallas.

I’ve been asked to serve as a panelist for the evening and represent the citizen journalist point of view. I’d love to see members of the Dallas South Family join me for this discussion at the Belo Mansion on Thursday. You can RSVP to dhutchinson@dallasbar.org . Here are my fellow panelists for Thursday.

PANELISTS:

  • Tom Williams, media lawyer, Haynes & Boone LLP
  • Bennett E. Cunningham, Channel 11 investigative reporter & licensed attorney
  • Toby Shook, former prosecutor, Fitzpatrick Hagood Smith & Uhl LLP
  • Doug Swanson, Dallas Morning News investigative/projects reporter
  • Shawn P. Williams, DallasSouthBlog.com publisher/editor

Who: Dallas Bar Association and Press Club of Dallas

What: Redefining “News” in the Digital Age

Where: The Belo Mansion; 2101 Ross Avenue, Dallas – Garage Parking Available (enter from Olive Street)

When: Thursday May 21st, 2009

5:15 p.m. — Happy Hour Begins
5:45 to 6:45 p.m. — Panel Discussion

This Week on Blog Talk Radio: Wayne Hicks/Electronic Village & Vanessa Byers/Vanessa Unplugged

The Bloggers Roundup segment has been wildly popular, and more people are listening to the Shawn P. Williams Show than ever before. Kristin and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the guests that we’ve had, including our two heavy hitters joining us this week.

Click here to listen to an archive of last week’s show.

Thursday April 30th – Bloggers Roundup
Guests:  Wayne Hicks, Electronic Village & Vanessa Byers Vanessa: Unplugged! , on the black hand side and others.

Topics:  H1N1 Virus (swine flu), Obama’s 1st 100 Days

Time:  9PM Central and 10 PM Eastern

Call in # – (347) 215-9337
Join in online and stop by the chat room which has been really jumping.

Convention Center Hotel Message to a Friend

I was responding to a message from a friend this morning and figured I’d post what I typed on the blog.

Shawn,

Just read your latest post. Why is the hotel so important? I don’t live in Dallas and I don’t have a say but what is it expected to bring.

I have heard of conferences but with so little entertainment to offer I don’t see that being a big pull. I think it is great that this mayor wants to build up Dallas but I am not sure what or why you all think a hotel is the way to go about it.

Friend

###

Friend,

That’s a good question and a question I plan to answer in the next few days. The hotel is important to a city like Dallas because convention and tourism is the lifeblood of major cities. New Orleans is taking their time to rebuild living space, but they wasted no time making sure that tourism was protected and back up as soon as possible.

Dallas is the only city in the top 20 convention markets that does not have a convention hotel. Even most opponents agree that the city will benefit from such a venue, they just don’t agree with how it’s being funded.

Regardless of what people say, convention planners like to come to Dallas. When you have a convention on a coast like San Diego -A GREAT CONVENTION CITY- it can be tough for people to travel from the East Coast. Early Departures/ Late Arrivals, jet lag, it all takes away from the experience.

When I was working a convention in Seattle recently they told me attendance was down this year because many of the doctors from the East Coast did not attend. The logistical convenience offered by Chicago, Dallas, (even Houston) offers an initial incentive for our first customer: convention planners.

And there are things to do in Dallas that even folks who live here don’t take advantage of. Ask locals whether they have been to the Nasher Scupture Center and most will say no. Yet it’s one of the reasons the New York Times listed Dallas as #17 in the their list of top #44 cities in the world.

In my initial article on this issues for the Dallas Morning News on December 17, 2007, I stated that Dallas needs both a hotel and improved entertainment options to be successful. In this hotel deal, Matthews Southwest (hotel developer) has committed to raising up to $30 million for entertainment and retail space around the hotel. These are the same people who recruited Brooklyn’s Jazz Cafe to the Southside. I was there on Friday, you could hardly get in.

It’s just one man’s opinion, but I think Jack Matthews is the 21st Century Trammell Crow/Marcus Stanley. Because he’s not from here (like many of us) he’s not bogged down by what can’t happen. “You can’t make money out of that Old Sears Building,” but he did. “You can’t build a successful hotel downtown,” but he will.

The way Matthews treats his African-American retail tenants (which are quite a few) is outstanding, and he’s a huge supporter of “minority owned businesses.” I’m sure that goes for everyone who work and live in his buildings. People love working for the guy. I was on board with the hotel before they announced a developer, but I can tell you my support would not be as strong were it anyone else.

FACT

In 2007-2008 the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau booked 1 million room nights, $ 1 billion of economic impact for our city. That’s a record for Dallas and up 20% from the previous year. This had everything to do with the fact that the Dallas City Council approved the hotel.

In the end, I think part of it is that I see Dallas not as it is, but as it will be 5 years from now. I see Dallas with a deck park over Woodall Rogers, a beautiful bridge extending into West Dallas, a Performing Arts Center and Theater that rival any such venues in the world. I even see the stinky Trinity becoming a white water rapids course.

Our city made some mistakes, and if I can borrow a line from our President, much of that took place before I got here. But Dallas has to protect Dallas. Prop 1 and 2 don’t make one person safer, one road smoother, and they don’t save one job. We have to move forward, and that’s what we’ve been able to do in the last 4 or 5 years. We can’t let one person stand in our way for fear that he’ll lose business.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Shawn

Shawn P. discussing Convention Center Hotel at 5 and or 6 on WFAA 8

I just finished shooting (Wednesday) an interview with Brad Watson from WFAA 8 a few minutes ago. Brad wanted my thoughts regarding the “Vote No” (For the hotel) campaign and a press conference that was held by a group of  Southern Dallas pastors who are against the hotel.

The interview is scheduled to run at either 5pm, 6pm, or both on Channel 8.

Shawn Williams – Dallas Morning News: Citizen journalists as prospective partners

Here’s my  Dallas Morning News Citizen Journalism Column that appeared in Sunday’s Points section.  I’ve included pictures from the Poynter Institute Sense Making conference that I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks and reference in the column.  Thanks to Nicole Stockdale at the Morning News for allowing my thought to be published.

Poynter Institute Sense Making Conference

When are we? It’s a popular question on ABC’s drama series Lost, since characters now realize that they are traveling through time. The question also seems fitting as a new era in media is thrust upon us and we look to decipher where one period ends and another begins.

Mac to PC Ratio was at least 5 to 1

I recently attended a “Sense Making” seminar hosted by the Poynter Institute, a journalism school affiliated with the St. Petersburg Times. Kelly McBride, who facilitated the weeklong meeting, assembled a diverse group of bloggers, traditional journalists and everyday citizens to discuss the sea change affecting every aspect of media. The project looks to chart a new course through the rough waters that lie ahead.

dees agreed on one sobering point: Media as we’ve known it is dead. Those of us who share this sentiment do not seek to diminish the effort or cheapen the value of professional journalists, as they continue to make vital contributions. Truth be told, without the work of everyday reporters, the blogosphere would have little to comment on; Web feed aggregators would have little to share.

Porter Baynes, Anna John, Alexis Ohanian, Drew Curtis

Ameritocracy, Sepia Mutiny, Reddit, Fark.com

But the conversation in St. Petersburg was acutely focused on what’s next and how we prepare for the gaps in coverage that are coming. Many of us faced questions that hadn’t been asked of us before. What values will drive the new media reality? Will transparency replace the revered journalistic principle of objectivity? Who’s going to fund this revolution (and will it be televised)?

Here lies the biggest challenge: There are many more questions than answers regarding the spaces being shared by journalists and bloggers, writers and activists, citizens and politicians. But one answer is clear: Newsrooms must begin to view citizen journalists as prospective partners rather than impending threats. That will mean listening to ideas, engaging in debate and responding to the needs of readers, viewers and listeners. Merely pushing out content on Facebook and Twitter won’t cut it.

Chris RabbAfro-Netizen.com

The future media model will depend on innovative collaborations and shared responsibilities. Stories may be written with 20 authors, all of whom share in the credit and each of whom has a byline. Awards will mean less; public trust will mean more.

The paradigm shift will call for the public to re-examine its role, as well. The boundaries between producer and consumer will become amorphous. If a story I’m interested in isn’t covered, the fault may lie with me and every other regular Joe involved because we weren’t there with our Flip video cameras and MP3 recorders. The days of demanding professional media coverage are coming to a close now that everyone is one UStream account and a webcam away from producing their own newscast. Technology is the true equalizer.

Shawn P. and Latoya PetersonRacialicious.com

As I watch journalists debate the fate of their profession on television and in print, I wonder how many of them have faith in the noble values and ideals that have emerged in their profession over the last 400 years. Because if newspaper-types really believe in this most American of institutions – dating back to Benjamin Franklin and his brother James – they know that journalism will persist even if the salaries of columnists and opinion-makers dry up.

As we embark on this journey of identifying new business models and missions, I remain extremely hopeful because this media evolution is driven by individuals, the same bottom-up archetype that recently changed the political landscape. Once we sort through all the rhetoric, it really boils down to this: How will all of this affect our democracy?

In our political democracy, the idea that every vote counts is fundamental – even though one vote rarely determines the outcome of an election. In our journalistic democracy, every story, every post, every comment (OK, maybe not every comment) will help us get to the real story and bring us closer to the truth. More Americans than at any point in history will make a contribution to the greater good through some form of reporting or writing.

Upon leaving the Poynter Institute I felt just as I do after an episode of Lost. I’m never exactly sure how what I’ve witnessed fits together, and I have no idea how the story is going to end. Yet I can’t wait until the next episode.

President Obama lays out plan for ailing auto industry

In a statement directed at Americans nervous about the auto industry, President Barack Obama outlined his administrations further involvement in helping the struggling auto makers.  That includes the Obama administration forcing GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner to resign.

The President said that the plans formerly submitted by GM and Chrysler are unacceptable, and he wants them to take another run at it.  In the meantime, they will have to submit to guidelines set by the federal government in order to receive additional federal funds.  Obama said GM and Chrysler will have “limited additional periods of time” to produce plans that inspire confidence from the American citizens who their are asking to give them aid.

He also called on others to make concessions, including auto workers and their unions, auto dealers, and suppliers. Though much of the news is bleak, Obama cited GM producing the 2008 North American Car of the Year (Chevy Malibu), and Chrysler for the Buick’s recognition in the area of reliability.

Obama said that the business plans submitted to the government were “not strong enough” and additional measures were necessary for them to become viable once again.  The first step to that end was his auto task force pushing Wagoner out as CEO.

The government will give GM 60 days of working capital to try to push through it’s financial situation.  He paused to emphasize the fact that the government has “no intentions in running or interest in running GM.”

Obama said the situation at Chrysler is “more challenging” and that the company may not survive without a partnership with Italian automaker FIAT.  The Obama administration is giving Chrysler 30 days to work out a deal with FIAT in order to receive up to $6 Billion in additional government aid.

After detailing the state of the trouble car companies, Obama acknowledged that bankruptcy is still an option.  He look to soften the effects of the ‘B’ word by saying that neither company would be broken up and sold off if bankruptcy codes were used.  Obama listed four steps his administration is focused on relating to the auto industry:

  1. Ensuring relief funds get to designated entities as soon as possible.
  2. Increasing credit flow
  3. Alerting consumers of tax benefits for cars purchased between Feb. 16th and year end.
  4. Pursuing a program with Congress that offers tax incentives to those purchase energy efficient cars to replace less efficient models.

Obama ended his statement by underscoring the importance of the auto industry in the United States.  He said that it wasn’t important just to the the Midwest which has been hardest hit, but all Americans.

Photo credit CNN.com

Shawn Williams/Paris News: Has Top 10 Percent Law achieved its purpose?

Here’s an article that I wrote regarding Texas’ Top 10% rule which appears in Sunday Morning’s Paris News.


Is the diversity achieved by the top 10 percent rule in Texas Higher Education really that diverse? That’s one of many questions I’ve been asking myself as I ponder whether or not the state’s Top 10 Percent Law has achieved its original purpose.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in Orange and Maroon Legislative Day, an annual time for rivals from the University of Texas and Texas A&M University to lay aside their differences and advocate on behalf of higher education in front of state legislators. Even as the spirit of cooperation abounds, I’m sure the Aggies and Longhorns would squabble over which school gets top billing if the acronym for Maroon and Orange Legislative Day wasn’t MOLD.

olmd2 olmd1

olmd9 olmd7

This year, one of the hot topics in Austin was the Top 10 Percent Law, which guarantees Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class automatic admission to any state-funded university. The University of Texas is lamenting the fact that in the 2008-2009 academic year 81 percent of Texas high school graduates entering UT were admitted under the Top 10 Percent Law.


One of the hopes of the law when it was enacted in 1997 was that it would help increase the number of African-American and Latino students at Texas A&M and the University of Texas, as well as give students from rural geographies a better opportunity to attend one of the flagship schools.

It seems that the law has at least helped UT move towards that goal. In 2007, the number of African-American undergraduates in Austin was up 32.4 percent from the levels seen in 1998 prior to the 10 Percent Law. The number of Hispanic students at UT has also increased with 29.3 percent more students from that population since the law was passed.

These are statistics that legislators can be proud of, especially Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, who co-authored theTtop 10 Percent Law. Many African-American students residing in Texas’ urban centers have benefited immensely. But I often wonder if there isn’t a group of college aspirants who may get missed in the numerical fallout — like black and Latino students who excel in schools where they don’t make up the majority.

When I was a senior at Paris High School, I finished ranked just outside the top 10 percent of my graduating class. That year I was student body president, a captain on the football and basketball teams, and scored in the 80th percentile on the SAT. But if I were to apply at the University of Texas with those same credentials today, I’d be fighting an uphill battle with long odds to obtain one of the few slots allotted to those who don’t finish at the top of their class.

As I travel back to Texas A&M from year to year, I’ve felt there is a certain homogeny to the African-American students that are on campus these days. All of the black students that I meet seem to hail from Dallas or Houston, and many attended the same high schools in those cities. I don’t meet many black students from towns like Giddings, Dickinson or Jewett. As the universities focus African-American and Hispanic recruiting efforts on urban campuses, students in small towns such as these may be a necessary casualties.

olmd4

Efforts by the University of Texas to put a cap on the law are starting to make headway. The Senate Higher Education Committee voted by a 4-1 margin that no more than half of a freshman class could be admitted to a state university under the Top 10 Percent Law. The lone dissenting vote on the measure came from Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. The Ten Percent Law is obviously not the be-all end-all when it comes to achieving diversity. If it were, Texas A&M, which only gets about half of its freshman admits from the rule, would have the same problem as UT.

There are a number of factors that have helped make Texas more desirable to all students, including their overwhelming success in sports during the past decade. Believe it or not in the early 90s, one of the reasons I chose to attend Texas A&M was the school’s accomplishments on the football field. Recent gridiron failures make it hard to explain to current students how a winning atmosphere enhanced the campus experience.

While I continue to sort out my own thoughts around the fate of this law, I do know that I would not want to see an erosion of diversity gains that have been made in the past decade. The 10 Percent Law should not be used as a crutch or a shield, but as one of a number of factors that helps increase the number of African-American students.

Shawn Williams: A blessing and a curse for Paris, Texas

This is the content of an article the I wrote which appeared in Sunday’s Points Section of the Dallas Morning News.  Thanks to Nicole Stockdale for allowing me to state my opinion.

February 15, 2008

My hometown’s biggest blessing is also its biggest curse. There’s something about the name Paris, Texas, that is simultaneously romantic and amusing. A town that fancies itself as the second-largest Paris in the world – complete with a miniature Eiffel Tower – leaves itself open to a certain amount of good-natured ribbing. But there’s nothing funny about the struggle for identity that’s taking place in the East Texas town.

No one outside of Lamar County cares that the girls basketball team is having its best season in years, but onlookers are all too eager to see how the city will handle its latest round of increased racial tension. Over a two-year period, Paris has been skewered in the national press, portrayed as the stereotypical Southern town where Jim Crow-era prejudice is alive and well.

The media spotlight started shining on Paris in March 2007 after Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune wrote a story about a 14-year-old African-American female who was sentenced for up to seven years in juvenile prison for pushing down a hall monitor. Later in the year, Witt introduced much of the nation to the Jena Six, and his reporting on those two episodes helped him earn a Pulitzer Prize nomination for journalism.

Witt returned to Paris late last year to chronicle the story of two white men accused of murdering a black man, Brandon McClelland, and then dragged him under a pickup. The incident, referred to as a “modern-day lynching” in some circles, has led to protests and marches at the county courthouse. Many Parisians have tired of Witt’s seeming fascination with their town, calling him a muckraker and accusing him of race-baiting.

Recently other media outlets have latched onto the murder case, including Newsweek and The New York Times. While Witt spent significant time learning about the city and its past, other journalists seem bent on making a name of their own at the city’s expense. Witt’s work has benefited Paris in ways residents may never know, yet I’m skeptical of the newfound interest others have found in my childhood home. Without question, the McClelland murder case is newsworthy and relevant, but at what point does pertinent reporting morph into piling on?

Under pressure, the Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young recused himself from the case for having served as counsel to one of the defendants in a manslaughter case. The defensive posture the DA’s office took toward calls for Young’s removal damaged the whole town’s credibility, just as it did two years ago. But now that Young has stepped down and appointed former Dallas County prosecutor Toby Shook to try the case, I’m not sure what more we can learn before there is action in the courtroom.

Most articles related to Paris miss out on the thing that has intrigued me the most: how everyday people of different attitudes and backgrounds are sitting across the table from one another trying to come to grips with what has taken place. For the last three months, Paris residents have worked with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Division to see what good may be mined from the stony path placed before them.

The first thing that struck me when I attended one of the sessions was how the hundred in attendance voluntarily intermingled without the prodding of the facilitators. It’s rare (outside of a work function) that any of us sit down at an event where the people to our left and right are of a different racial or ethnic background than our own.

To date, the sessions have allowed citizens to air their grievance on issues ranging from a Confederate statue that sits on the courthouse lawn to black students feeling slighted by their teachers. It hasn’t been easy, and there’s been no shortage of ruffled feathers and hurt feelings in the process. The Department of Justice has committed to using its resources to help the town address sentencing disparities and a failing education system, problems that affect municipalities both large and small.

It might not sound like much to city folks, but I’ve been encouraged by the effort residents have shown to improve their city. All Parisians must be willing to share in the blame for their predicament, while the media should examine whether they’re making a difficult situation worse in order to sell a few extra copies.

In the end, residents have the opportunity to interact with one another at a level that many of us aspire to but rarely achieve. But who wants to read about that?