‘Dallas Voice’ Editor Blasts Owners for His ‘Unjust, Immoral, and Just Plain Wrong’ Termination

John Wright, the longtime editor of the Dallas Voice, is speaking out about his recent termination, and policies at his former paper.

Writes Wright on Facebook:
Wright

OK so here goes. I have poured my heart and soul into Dallas Voice for the last six-and-a-half years. I've worked my ass off for minimal pay because I loved my job and I loved fighting for equality. As a reward, I was unceremoniously fired Monday for alleged insubordination, which is a totally false and slanderous charge. I can tell you that I did absolutely nothing wrong, and my termination was unjust, immoral and just plain wrong.

Roughly six months ago, the original owner of the Voice, Robert Moore, sold the newspaper to his ex-husband whom he had recently divorced, Terry Thompson, and the longtime sales director, Leo Cusimano. Since then, things have gone steadily downhill. In my opinion, the new owners of the Voice are interested in nothing but profit. They don't seem to care about the LGBT community or their employees, and they certainly don't care about doing good journalism. They want an editor who will write puff pieces about their advertisers instead of reporting the facts, and I refused to be that editor.

For example, last week we reported on the new dress code at Dallas Pride. Organizers of the parade are among the Voice's biggest advertisers, and they were not at all happy when this became a national story. They blamed me for it. I also raised objections about the cover of our Pride issue because I didn't think it included enough minorities, and specifically African-Americans. In response, I was shouted down and told, "That's not our market."

These are just a few examples of what I have endured for the last several months. The new owners wanted to get rid of me, so they fabricated something out of thin air. Of course, they waited to do this until I had just closed on a house. This whole thing is a total outrage, and I'm still in shock over it. If you're reading this, I hope that you will help me do something about it. The LGBT community needs to take back its Voice.

Comments

  1. David From Canada says

    It’s difficult to understand this story. It’s not cut and dried.
    The former owner – as well as the current owner – are both gay. So obviously they’re not hate-filled homophobes.
    The new owner told gay(I assume)John Wright about the new policy at the newspaper. John’s heart was in the right place, but he’s not the boss and he wasn’t following the new policy. Instead of acting like a case of Sour Grapes, he needs to start his own newspaper here he can do exactly as he pleases.

  2. Stm007 says

    Agreed, David. There is no moral imperative to ‘do good journalism’ because you put out a paper. His situation is unfortunate, but when you’re paid to do a job and you don’t do that job (whether your intentions are honorable or not), firing is one possible course of action for said employer. The timing sounds like an unfortunate coincidence, but there are two sides to every story.

  3. Chazwm says

    I sure hope John uses his talent and ‘his truth’ and starts a new publication. Put the experience and the vision to work! Don’t spend energy on the regretable past or people.

  4. HadenoughBS says

    Yes, even if anyone wanted to assist Mr. Wright “to take back (the community’s Dallas) Voice”, there’s nothing that can be done. He worked for a privately owned publication. He was their employee. And, here in Texas, unless Mr. Wright was under contract, he probably was an “employee at will”.

    The “at-will” doctrine allows either an employee or an employer to terminate the employment at any time, for any reason, as long as the reason is not a legally protected one. The state of Texas practices the at-will doctrine.

    Therefore, as earlier posters have noted, his only recourse is to move on to find new employment OR to find financial backers (good luck) to start a competitive publication to the “Dallas Voice”.

  5. says

    Wait: so when the straight media is biased it’s bad, but when LGBT media is biased it’s strictly business? I applaud Mr. Wright for letting us know why gay media is in the state it’s in. When a news outlet’s point of view is skewed to please its owner or its advertisers, the readers need to know.

  6. jamal49 says

    Seems pretty cut-and-dried to me. New owners, prissy, white social climbers, wanting a more conservative slant to reporting on the LGBT community, interested in making profits and connections, not wanting to alienate their biggest advertisers who, by the way, want to tamp down on self-expression and get rid of the “bad elements” (read flamboyant gays) from the Pride Parade and make it more representative of Dallas’ conservative ethic. It’s their paper now. They can do whatever they want.

  7. Hagatha says

    The rightness or wrongness of his termination is solely the call of the owner. We’re talking about a privately owned business. I am astounded that some people simply don’t get that just because a gay bar is gay doesn’t mean it’s a community center and just because a paper is gay doesn’t mean it’s a house organ for Progressives. We have listened to this same whine about The Washington Blade- basically the complaint is that it is owned by businessmen who want to make money. Shame on them, right?

    If indeed he did a great job at the Dallas Voice then Mr. Whinypants wouldn’t have had any trouble finding another job in his field, especially if he’s adapted to minimal pay. However, publicly pitching a fit might have cut off some of those opportunities. The bottom line is that in executive positions they don’t need or often bother to give and explanation for termination. You’re out, get your stuff and leave.

  8. MichaelJ says

    @ David and STM007: I know next-to-nothing about the situation, and I agree that most likely it is more complicated than most of us know. But I wouldn’t presume that because the owners are gay they have the best interests of the gay community in mind in running their business. There are plenty of entrepreneurs, gay or not, who are solely concerned with making money off of the gay community.

    And while I wouldn’t use “moral imperative” to describe what journalists should or shouldn’t do, I think that any publication, website or other media outlet with integrity (a word I would use) does not let it advertisers determine or restrict its content, even if they have the right legally to do so.

    I do agree with everyone that John needs to move on. And I would add that he or anyone else should think twice about working for “minimal pay.” (I have no idea if that truly describes what he earned at the Voice). There have been too many examples of exploiting staff by non-profits, let alone businesses.

  9. MichaelJ says

    @Hagatha You have a pretty narrow view of “rightness” or “wrongness” in a business situation if your view is limited to consideration of the legal rights of employers. There are plenty of things that businesses are legally allowed to do, such as discriminate against gay employees (in most parts of the US), that most of us would consider wrong.

  10. crispy says

    “why do most of the comments sound like they came from the paper’s PR agency?”

    You think a gay news weekly can afford to hire a PR agency? LOL

  11. Hagatha says

    MichaelJ – You are trying to paint right or wrong on a business decision that is arbitrary and which the owner considers in the best interest of the business.

    Wright makes two specific complaints about owner expectations. 1- That the owners wanted him to puff advertisers. 2 – That the owners didn’t think that the Pride cover needed “more minorities”.

    We can’t really make a judgement based on either of those accusations. There simply isn’t enough information given. What we do know is that all newspapers puff their advertisers. The Washington Post and New York Times do puff pieces on car shows, car dealers, fashion shows, and retail events. The Wall Street Journal does “profiles” of bankers and financiers, new locations and products. As for how many minorities are on the cover – I looked at the covers of the Dallas Voice online and it’s not clear what Wright is talking about, but even if the picture were there does “enough minorities” mean the national representation? State? Dallas metro? This country is 75% caucasian, so how many black people should there be in a shot showing six people? Ten people? A hundred is easy enough, should we only take pictures that have a hundred people in them?

  12. Beezer says

    I quote the top comment:

    “The former owner – as well as the current owner – are both gay. So obviously they’re not hate-filled homophobes.”

    Horsesh*t.

    Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you show solidarity with other gays. Some people are so money-obsessed that they’ll sell their own mother if the price is right.

    I applaud Mr. Wright for coming forward. It’s not an easy thing to do and he’s really putting his neck out there.

    I look forward to him finding solid ground to report solid news.

  13. Hagatha says

    OK, I found the photo Wright is talking about.

    There are four people on the float whose ethnicity is fairly certain: three caucasians who appear to be Anglo and one black guy. Prominent is a star with the name of Carolyn Davis (black female council candidate) and Scott Griggs (white male council candidate) who appears to be facing the camera. So, the white to black ratio is consistent with the US population and that of Texas.

    There are four women facing away from the camera, three of whom might reasonably be thought to be Latino. There is one woman facing the camera in large dark glasses who might be Latino or Oriental.

    In other words, Wright is trying to call the owners racist to get back at them. So looks are not all that deceiving: he’s a glassy eyed little whiner who lives on the edge of tears and the owners got tired of him.

  14. Marq says

    There is one woman facing the camera in large dark glasses who might be Latino or Oriental.

    The word is Asian, not “Oriental.”

  15. Hagatha says

    Hey Marq – Kiss my hiney. “Asian” means someone from Asia. Asia is a continent not a race. Israelis, Persians, Turks, Syrians, Arabs, and Indians (all of whom are classified as Caucasian) are Asians. I was being more specific. I would have said “Mongoloid” if I didn’t think that some idiot like you would think I means Downs Syndrome.

  16. Sam says

    Hagatha, apparently you don’t know any people from “the Orient.” If you did, you would know they like being called “oriental” as much as black people like being called “colored.” Congratulations on your knowledge of geography, but not your knowledge of current social norms.

  17. Tyler says

    Sam, you apparently don’t know that Hagatha is actually an alias of our resident troll, Rick.

    Ignore her/him.

  18. David From Canada says

    At the present time, unfortunately, the new meme out there(especially in the U.S.A.) is to call someone a ‘racist’ if you want to smear them and get even with them.
    Mr. Wright needs to lay aside this vicious tactic and move on. He needs to let go of The Dallas Voice and all that unhappiness and find a better job. This is just like listening to a messy Divorce case.

  19. E. Carpenter says

    John Wright is a good man who has done his best at the Voice to report LGBT news about the whole LGBT population of Dallas / Fort Worth.

    The new owners seem, from the changes in the last few months, to be aiming for a narrower, more affluent portion of the LGBT community, and wealthier advertisers, in an effort to increase their profits.

    That’s short sighted – the very few general newspapers in the country which have increased their circulation and profits in the last ten years have followed a different model. They have concentrated on covering more local news, in more neighborhoods, about more local groups of people. La Diario, in New York City, is doing very well, MUCH better than the NY Times, which concentrated on things that were interesting for just their affluent readers.

    The Voice should hire John Wright back, and work on increasing their coverage of ALL LGBT people in the Dallas / Fort Worth area – if they do that, their advertiser base will increase, their profits will increase and they will also be better for the LGBT communities, a win-win result.

  20. Hagatha says

    Hey Sam, bite me. I am well aware of how people like you play the game. Instead of addressing the truth or lack thereof of the statement, you rag about the terminology. Stick it. I’ll call people what I want to and they can call me whatever they like. See how simple that is?

    Now address the issue: In which way is the picture of the float not representative of this country’s population?

  21. Hagatha says

    E Carpenter – I can honestly say that I don’t see what you see. I have lived in several cities and gay publications are pretty standard. They cover the charity events at bars. They run “stories” from press releases by gay organizations. The ones who have membership in AP run the occasional national news item. A surprising number of publications are actually properties of gay publishing corporations with multiple outlets. Advertisers are pretty much the same all over as well. National accounts from beverage and underwear people, local accounts from car dealers, realtors, lawyers, and touch-me services (hair, nails, massage, “therapies”).

    How exactly do you expect them to market to people who rise the bus, shop at Walmart, and eat at Subway? Those companies want to know what your circulation is and gay papers by and large only have distribution.

  22. E. Carpenter says

    @HAGATHA – you’re setting up straw-men and knocking them down.

    I did not say that a more inclusive business model would attract Walmart and Subway as advertisers.

    And I did not say that gay publications in other cities follow a more inclusive business model than the current Voice does.

    Can you demonstrate that El Diario has a business model that has not succeeded? It’s owners can (and do) point you to their supporting facts.

    And can you demonstrate that applying that model to the Voice would fail? It hasn’t failed for other publications, so no, you can’t.

    So you try to confuse the issue and ‘refute’ invented claims that no one has made. Which is a very common NOM and FRC tactic.

    Assertions are not facts, and straw men are not useful for anything but rhetorical battering. It would be refreshing if you’d be honest about your goals in writing such a post, but people who try to sow confusion and misinformation don’t start out honest, and we can’t expect you to give up your deceitful ways.

  23. E. Carpenter says

    @DERRICK – People like Hagatha have no ethics or shame, so he/she will be back, under one name or another, trying to sow more confusion and misinformation.

    He/she is very skillful at it, I must say – if you’re not aware of the techniques he/she uses, they can work well enough to make some people doubt real facts, or think real events didn’t happen, or believe that taking political action will have no effect.

  24. Hagatha says

    E Carpenter – It’s a very strange world you live in where you accuse the one person here who tells the unvarnished truth of being deceptive. I am not deceptive. I also don’t post under other people’s names… unlike Derrick and Kiwi.

  25. Roger says

    Hagatha, I live in Dallas and I am looking at the cover of the print issue, the one Mr. Wright mentions when he shifts gears and writes “I also raised objections about the cover of our Pride issue because I didn’t think it included enough minorities, and specifically African-Americans.” You, dear contrarian, are very wrong.

    The cover of the pride issue has nothing to do with the parade dress code story. While I suppose you are entitled to an opinion about Mr. Wright’s situation, you need not misrepresent the facts. (Also, why do “asian” folks not refer to each other as “oriental?” Clue up, troll.)

    The Voice circulated online a float photo for the parade dress code story but it was not the same image as the print issue cover photo. Of the nine people in the cover photo – photographed from above, head to head, starburst pattern – though highly photoshopped there is only one obviously black model, male.

    My advice to Mr. Wright: start a well designed blog covering the real news being made by and impacting the LGBT community (statewide for that matter.) The Voice’s website is deplorable – personality profiles on twink pole dancers, no thanks.

  26. Hagatha says

    “… I am looking at the cover of the print issue,…. You, dear contrarian, are very wrong.”

    OK, so I was looking at the wrong picture. I am now looking at the “starburst” picture. As you say , there are nine people. The one at 10 o’clock and the woman at one o’clock both appear to be more or less Black, and the woman at 5:30 could be all or part nonwhite. So if there is one black person then the photo is 11% Black and if there are two then it’s 22% black in a country and state which are about 13% Black. What exactly is Wright’s legitimate complaint? Does every photo need to be on the nose?

  27. Hagatha says

    “(Also, why do “asian” folks not refer to each other as “oriental?” Clue up, troll.)
    POSTED BY: ROGER | SEP 17, 2013 9:00:54 PM”

    Some Black people in the US refer to themselves simply as “African”, not “African-American” or African Negro or any actual racial designation , just AFrican. It’s a culturally aggressive practice deliberately promoted by Afrocentrics.

    The demand for the term “asian” comes from a similar source: artifical academia. However, in the real world if you will run a search you will find over 5000 entries for business named “oriental….” . The market I shop in is United Oriental Foods, not United Asian foods, or United Vietnamese Foods. Oriental. Anticipating your response , the ridiculous “people are asian carpets are oriental” I would point out that both people and carpets are Persian. Both people and delicatessens can be Jewish, and people and restaurants can be Thai. So that doesn’t wash.

    I do appreciate that you accusation was that I am wrong, rather than the more typical and pathetic whine “You’re mean.” or “You’re a troll named Rick (Kiwi’s favorite claim)”

  28. emjayay says

    Of course print media everywhere has been totally impacted by the internet. Eventually the whole idea may be a thing of the past, even more now with people carrying around interenet connected tablets and mini-tablets, and who knows what’s next. So the surviving ones are scrambling. Some may try doubling down on serious reporting. Some like apparently the Dallas Voice under new owners go the other way to becoming at least in part a PR outlet for advertisers.

    By the way, the more ethical way to do it isn’t to do puff pieces on the individual advertisers, but to create a section they will get more eyes looking at them. So the NYT runs a weekly Automobiles section. The articles are not puffing anything but are well written interesting car stuff. This brings readers interested in cars to the section, where they see the ads about cars, which they are interested in.

    On the other side of the coin, the Village Voice (not gay) in NYC got rid of its old time political columnists a few years ago. They were pretty old line guys who had writtn for the Voice since its heyday. They didn’t replace them with any young snappy political or social commentary. They dumped the most interesting restaurant writer I’ve ever read previously I think. I think he was pushed, not jumped. The Voice traditionally runs one big feature article. It started being really hard to explain half the time, but then sometimes killed big time.

    Then very recently it dropped the very gay gossip columnist Michael Musto after decades. Calling him a gossip columnist is a huge disservice. He’s a really cool writer and besides is seen riding his bike around. At the other end of the paper Dan Savage disappeared. What is left is reviews of things, Tom Tommorow, and a feature. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was excited to pick it up every week, mainly for Michael and Dan. So they’re saving money and maybe losing a lot of readers, particulary intelligent and gay ones. It’s a business decision. Bad, but not with the wiff of rottenness that is maybe coming from Dallas.

    After Katrina, the Onion just didn’t reappear. Tradedy. I used to bring a bunch to work and it livened up lunch discussions every week.
    Anyway being dumped by your job when it means a lot to you because you were doing it in an enlightened way and made it your world and they want stupid pandering to advertisers instead is no doubt extrememly upsetting. It happens. Something analogus happened to me and it’s been a lot to work through. Thank god for our paltry unemployment stystem while it lasts – Texas probably pays half.

  29. emjayay says

    Oh and Oriental went out of style many years ago. Using Asian is a somehow more dignified appellaition. Oriental implies inscrutable and exotic, a judgement from an uninformed Western perspective.