Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Pegasus News content partner interview: Best Southwest Citizen
Brian Allen, formerly of Today Newspapers, started the online-only paper a little over a year ago.
Brian Allen, as you'll soon read, has had two stints being a content partner with Pegasus News. The first time around, he wrote for the Today Newspapers group. He has since gone on to create his own online-only paper called the Best Southwest Citizen, which covers much of the same area as Today. Below is the interview I conducted with Allen.
Pegasus News: When did you start Best Southwest Citizen and why did you start it?
Allen: We got started a little over a year ago. After seven years covering the area, there were several stories I wanted to keep following. People tell me even if they were at the meeting or read coverage elsewhere, they are still interested in my take on things. That's flattering and it keeps me going.
Also, I don't just work here. I live here, so I'm very interested in things such as the local economy, the quality of our schools and who we elect to lead us. I don't ask people to agree with me on the issues, I'm just asking they stop to think about the issues.
Pegasus News: For those unfamiliar with the distinction, what exactly is the “Best Southwest” area?
Allen: The suburbs of Cedar Hill, Duncanville, DeSoto, and Lancaster share the Best Southwest designation. We share a number of resources such as Tri-City Animal Shelter and regional communications. Though I admit to being biased, this area is a great place to live and raise a family.
Pegasus News: What was your background prior to starting Best Southwest Citizen?
Allen: I worked for Today Newspapers for seven years and for the Shreveport Times before that. In addition to my full-time work, I've freelanced for some magazines, blogs, etc. I also do some comedy and local theater.
Pegasus News: Although Cedar Hill and Lancaster are in your coverage area, the majority of your political stories tend to come out of Duncanville – what is it about the Duncanville City Council that's so fascinating?
Allen: While news usually goes in cycles, I've never known the Duncanville City Council to spend much time out of the limelight. People tell me the chaos at their meetings goes back decades and there's really no indication of it slowing down so far.
The past couple of years have been exceptionally active even by their standards. Stories such as the Cherry Pit and Paul Ford's rage against the political machine have taken it to another level. And now, there are more people watching them so things that might not have gotten media coverage before are going to.
Latest stories from Best Southwest Citizen:
Duncanville City Council figures out what "inclusive" includes -- June 18
Duncanville boxer Luis Yanez to return to the ring -- June 17
Chris Parvin wins Cedar Hill City Council runoff -- June 15
Terrell Owens to still hold Duncanville football camp -- June 10
Pegasus News: The Lancaster ISD school board is another controversial group in your area – have things settled down since the departure of Larry Lewis, or will that take a while?
Allen: I think they've settled down in the sense that no one is proposing any four-day school weeks or the mass purchase of newspaper subscriptions. Not that long ago, I talked to some Lancaster residents who remember the days when people moved to the district because the schools were so great. They have a long, hard road ahead of them to get back to that point.
And as I've said before, not all Larry Lewis' ideas were bad. One of his greatest failures was an unwillingness to compromise, to the point that anyone who disagreed with him was branded "against kids getting a good education." That, and his assurances that the TEA audit wouldn't find anything irregular.
Allen: It's so hard to say. I think it's any story that after I leave the event, I can't wait to get to the computer and type it up. Then, after that I keep checking back every so often for the comments. That could be sports, politics or something completely different.
Pegasus News: What do you see as the future of Best Southwest Citizen?
Allen: There it is, the mother of open-ended questions. As long as readers have an interest in what I'm writing about, I want to communicate with them. I don't pretend to have all the answers; there are times I come away from a meeting unsure I even asked the right questions.
But, as anyone can look around and see, newspapers are struggling nationally and locally. I fear the day when our elected officials can go about their business with no one in the room watching. I think the blogosphere is the best safeguard we have now against that happening.
I could be completely wrong about the news industry trends. Nothing would please me more than to see newspapers be able to start hiring full staffs again. I'm not confident enough in that to start buying newspaper stock just yet.
See more stories in:
- Theater review: AART's A Lesson Before Dying demands thoughtful reflection
- Theater review: Dallas writer Regina Taylor's Crowns comes to life at the African American Repertory Theater
- Theater review: Beauty Is A Beast at Crossover Arts Summer Theatre Program in DeSoto
- Theater review: Warriors Don't Cry at Corner Theatre in DeSoto
- Theater review: Jar the Floor at Corner Theatre in DeSoto