Heard some bittersweet news from Dallas just while ago: Mike Lee, the Star-Telegram’s excellent city hall reporter, is leaving soon to join Bloomberg’s Dallas bureau staff to cover the natural gas industry.
For the S-T, that’s a hard loss of deep, credible institutional knowledge and talent, but it’s a great career move for Mike. It speaks volumes about his talent and why he’s held in such high regard at the paper, at city hall and among readers. Mike’s potent work ethic and deep familiarity with Barnett Shale-related matters will fit well with Bloomberg’s stratospheric level of competitiveness, competence and expectations.
I congratulate Mike and Bloomberg. I wish Mike happiness, prosperity and fulfillment on his new path. I’m sure Mike’s going to be just fine with not having to pull obit duty, a rotating S-T assignment among the short-staffed city desk’s team.
Who will fill Mike’s shoes at city hall? That's a demanding beat that needs to be covered by a passionate, persistent and savvy reporter.
There are excellent backups in Anna Tinsley and Aman Batheja, one of the sharpest and most unflappable political writers around. Perhaps one of them will shoulder the city hall beat temporarily if not permanently. Whoever it is, we wish them the best. I have no doubt that Mike’s boss at the S-T, veteran assistant managing editor John Gravois, will find a capable replacement. Lord knows there’s plenty of hungry talent out there in the debris left by newsroom cuts across the country over the past two years.
Here's something I'm sure is weighing on newsroom managers' minds: Whenever a newsroom loses someone of Mike’s stature, a dreaded domino effect can follow as other staffers are inspired to bail out for opportunities elsewhere.
All newsrooms are vulnerable to that even in these tough times. I certainly had to contend with the domino effect back in my newsroom management days. But I’d guess the S-T’s particularly vulnerable in light of increased duties staff must juggle and disquieting daily uncertainty over when another staff cut may occur. At the same time, current tight conditions in the newspaper job market may blunt the domino effect. Time will tell.
This much is for sure: Bloomberg’s getting one heck of a reporter. The Star-Telegram will find a strong one, too. With the City of Fort Worth struggling with so much -– from a budget-busting pension plan to a retiring city manager, mind-boggling infrastructure challenges, and a fed-up citizenry/electorate expecting solutions –- the Star-Telegram must pump all the strength it can into the city hall beat.