The Bridge to a Brighter Tomorrow

November 22, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Editor’s note: For a story on another homeless Bridge resident who is transitioning into regular housing, see Elena Harding’s audio slideshow.

By Felicia Logan

Trials and tribulations are nothing new to Dallas native John Paul, who has been homeless at least eight of his 40 years alive. Although he seems down to earth and friendly, a hint of sadness tinges his dark brown eyes. He was once a productive member of society, spending time in college, the military and driving trucks for a living. Now he “hustles to make it.”

“Situations and life circumstances brought me here, no problem,” Paul said. “Just deal with it and move on.”

Several factors, including divorce and depression, led Paul to make some bad decisions and go down the wrong side of the tracks, he said.

Dallas Native John Paul tells his story outside of The Bridge, his current home. (PHOTO BY FELICIA LOGAN / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Paul is one of about 900 victims of homelessness that utilize the services of The Bridge on any given day. Located at 1818 Corsicana St. in Dallas’ Historic District, The Bridge, which opened in May 2008, is a $21 million city-owned facility run by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.

In order to help those who are chronically homeless, the facility provides a place for the homeless to take daily showers, wash clothes, sleep, eat and sometimes work at the facility. Non-residents can come and go as they please, but they must be in by 10 p.m., and out by 5 a.m.

“The greatest need of the homeless is just a safe place to lay their heads,” said The Bridge’s Guest Services Associate Jackie Hammons.

Paul said his basic needs are being met at The Bridge, but that the facility never has any room.

“Once they’ve helped you awhile, they treat you like you’re a burden,” Paul said. “If you don’t get a job, then you’re stuck out like this. Unless you really have a mental illness, you can’t sit around.”

The Bridge has apartments upstairs, but is always filled to capacity. In fact, it is now double the capacity.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said the facility is aptly named.

“The Bridge is named what it is, a bridge,” Price said. “It was never designed for so many people.”

James McGhee knows extreme adversity, too. A slight man of 5’8, the hardships of life are deeply etched into his rugged face. He said trying to recover from alcoholism has caused him to live a life of hopelessness. Sheer grit and determination is what keeps him going.

“I just can’t roll over and die,” said McGhee, who bathes and eats at The Bridge.

MDHA, a non-profit organization composed of a broad spectrum of stakeholders committed to end homelessness, located at The Bridge. A collaborative of Dallas agencies within this alliance represent shelters, hospitals, government agencies, local municipalities, non-profits, faith-based organizations and housing treatment providers, among others. Private benefactors, corporations and volunteers contribute to keeping the center up and running.

The Bridge provides a transition from destitution to restoration, which is a far cry from those living underneath bridges. The agency offers a wide array of services, including temporary, transitional housing located throughout Dallas, employment assistance, education assistance, mental health services, substance abuse services and healthcare, which are provided by Parkland Hospital.

Recently, neighborhood groups have been on the offense regarding MDHA’s plans to do more for the homeless through its transitional housing program, “Homes for Our Neighbors.”

“Not in my Backyard” is the main theme among these groups. According to The Dallas Morning News, north Oak Cliff residents are against moving homeless people into their neighborhood.

Price believes ignorance only perpetuates the plight of the homeless.

“Perception is the greatest problem regarding homelessness,” Price said. “They’re never perceived as being human beings. Funding and assisting the less fortunate will only go so far. Their insular attitudes have to change.”

McGhee grew up with alcoholic parents, and his destiny in life seemed to have been preordained. As a high school drop out, McGhee learned the trade of masonry. His stubby, dirty fingers shake slightly as he struggles to light one of the discarded cigarette butts he finds on the street. Unemployed, he makes do with what he scrapes up through panhandling and doing odd jobs here and there.

“Man, it’s hard, really rough out here,” he says.

McGhee is able to bathe, wash his clothes and get a decent meal at the Bridge, services he greatly appreciates. He also takes advantage of the free healthcare Parkland Hospital provides. The Bridge is open 24 hours a day, and has police officers on-site to keep the peace, a necessary precaution, because people come to the facility under the affluence of drugs and alcohol. There is a no tolerance ban on drugs and alcohol at the facility.

The Bridge’s motto of “Strength, Hope, Dignity” are words of comfort for McGhee.

However, McGhee says, “Right now, I just keep living as best I can.”

Groundbreaking to Take Place Tuesday

November 14, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Hayley Bosch

Former President George W. Bush is scheduled to break ground on his long-awaited Presidential Library this Tuesday. Thousands of guests, as well as protesters, are expected.

The invitation-only event will take over campus beginning Monday morning. Streets on the east side of campus will be closed to make way for the event.

The 24-acre site will soon boast a 225,000 square-foot building surrounded by a 3-foot retaining wall as is the federal security requirement. Beginning Tuesday, what looks like an empty dirt lot will be transformed into a facility that will put SMU on the map.

The single building on the grounds, featuring a museum, library and archives, policy institute, gift shop and cafés, will don replicas of both the White House Rose Garden and the Oval Office of George W. Bush. The building is designed to achieve Platinum Certification, the highest possible distinction under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. Regionally sourced building materials, including limestone from Midland, Texas, where the Bushes first met, and the utilization of 20 percent recycled materials are among many of features within the sustainable design of the building.

A special exhibit at Meadows Museum previews some of the historic holdings that will eventually be moved to the museum when the Presidential Center is complete. The exhibit, “Breaking New Ground: Presenting the George W. Bush Presidential Center,” allows visitors a sneak peek into what the Bush Foundation is all about. Floor plans of the Center and the initiatives of The Bush Institute are showcased in the exhibit, which runs through February 6, 2011.

The museum within the Presidential Center plans to tell the story of the leadership of President and Mrs. Bush. It will feature artifacts from the presidency, such as Saddam Hussein’s pistol retrieved upon his capture, and handwritten notes made by Bush as he planned a statement immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Also on display will be more personal items, such as a sweatshirt worn by the president as he threw the ceremonial first pitch of the 2001 World Series at the Yankees Stadium and a baseball bat from the Hall of Fame.

The former president kicked off his book tour with a book-signing of “Decision Points” last week in Dallas. The timely release fell exactly one week before the groundbreaking ceremony and was met with anti-water boarding protests. Thousands have planned to protest at Tuesday’s groundbreaking, starting with a march from Mockingbird Station to the SMU campus.

Follow the Daily Mustang from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday as we team up with The Dallas Morning News for live coverage of the groundbreaking.

Dallas Journalists Come to SMU to Give the Lowdown on What’s Happening to Journalism and The Media

October 26, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Kalyn Harper

Distinguished Dallas journalists discussed the growth of social media and strategies for students to enter into a professional career in journalism at SMU’s Meadows Symposium 2010: The Art of Entrepreneurship Friday.

The panel discussion, “From Citizen Journalist to Professional,” was held by Matthew Haag, writer and blogger for the Dallas Morning News, Linda Leavell, editor for, and Callie Wall, KETK-TV anchor were invited to discuss the growing world of social media.

Linda Leavell is managing editor of The Dallas Morning News website, where she has worked since January 2003. MU graduate Matthew Haag, who interned under Leavell, covers Plano and Plano ISD for The Dallas Morning News. SMU graduate and journalism major Callie Wall was hired by KETK, an NBC affiliate in Tyler, where she co-anchors a 2-hour morning show, KETK Today, and a one-hour midday show, East Texas Live.

Each journalist on the panel were invited to discuss where journalism is going, how it’s changing and what people can expect. Students were encouraged to ask any and all questions about what their careers and perspectives on the future of the media.

The underlying question of the day: What do we, as journalists and future members of the media, need to know to make it?

“Journalism has always been about being first and being the most current,” Wall said.
“This industry is moving so much faster than it ever has and social networking, amongst other things, is repelling it forward.”

The future of journalism is changing because of the incorporation of multimedia, and flexibility is the key to success in the business.

“Flexibility is huge and your willingness to experiment—maybe Skype live to do an interview—you have to be willing to be on the cutting edge to see what works and what doesn’t work to better reach your audience,” Haag, who co-writes a beat blog about Plano on, said.

Journalism students are learning the implications of live blogging—an experience that many older reporters aren’t comfortable with. CoveritLive and other mobile sites are becoming more important because people want to get their news on the go.
Haag uses Twitter and Facebook for reporting, which “adds more social responsibility” to what he does. People expect news from a number of platforms: newspapers, websites, mobiles, iPhone apps, and iPADs.

Now, reporters must know how to distribute news that is valuable in various forms of media because the receipt of information is different. “The immediacy of it all is indicative of how fast things are changing,” Wall said.

After the panel discussion, SMU sophomore and journalism major Erica Penunuri asked Wall, “What makes you happy about choosing this career?”
“Feeling like I’m bringing information to people is a pretty powerful thing, I never go day to day with the same thing going on because news is always changing,” Wall responded.
“It’s not an easy industry to be in, but if you thrive on a changing environment, it’s a fun a one to be in.”

VIDEO: Interview with Journalism Icon and NewsHour Anchor Jim Lehrer

October 7, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Kassi Schmitt

Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of The NewsHour on PBS, had the audience laughing and applauding his stories and successes as a journalist Wednesday night at the 11th annual Sammons Media Ethics Lecture.

The distinguished journalist spoke to a sold-out crowd of students, faculty and Dallas residents about how he came to where he is in his career today, adding some important ethical tips about journalism he learned along the way.

Lehrer sat down to speak with the Daily Mustang’s Kellis Cunningham about his long career. Check out the video below.

VIDEO: Interview With Jim Lehrer from on Vimeo.

“Journalism isn’t about truth, it’s about gathering facts,” Lehrer said. “Our job is only to provide the facts and let each individual consumer make up his or her own decision.”

Establishing Texan Roots

Lehrer said he began to focus on becoming a journalist at the age of 17 after his baseball coach shattered his dream of ever becoming a professional and a teacher told him he had a knack for writing.

After serving in the Marine Corps, Lehrer sent letters to four different news organizations in hopes of securing his first journalism job. He endured rejection by all but The Dallas Morning News, where he was offered a position as a federal reporter.

Lehrer quit a short time later when his editor refused to run an article he had been working on about a civil defense operation in Dallas in fear that it would embarrass one of his friends.

Hearing Lehrer had left the newspaper, the Dallas Times Herald instantly hired him as a court reporter where he said he learned many of the lessons of journalism that he carries with him every day.

“There is no such thing as a sure thing,” Lehrer said in regards to journalism. “If you wait until you have the truth, you’ll never go to press. The truth is deeper than a set of facts.”

Lehrer mentioned other significant events in his journalism career that affected him throughout the rest of his profession that kept the audience waiting on the edge of their seats.

On the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, Lehrer was stationed in Dallas at Love Field airport to report on the arrival and departure of the president. He was told to find out if the bubble top on the car Kennedy would be riding in was to remain on or off the vehicle. After asking a secret service agent, the top was removed and Kennedy was escorted downtown where he was shot and killed.

“One event can change the course of all our fragile lives,” Lehrer said remembering the course of the day’s events. “On any given day, something somewhere could happen.”

After recounting other influential events in his career including a lecture given by Martin Luther King Jr. at SMU, Lehrer said he left the print industry of journalism. He began his television career at KERA-TV which eventually led him to Washington and the production of The NewsHour on PBS.

A Familiar Crowd

Audience members attending the lecture not only came from the SMU community, but streamed in from the surrounding area as well. Allen, Texas couple, Stan and Donna Newding, attended the lecture after reading about it in the paper and said they found the evening to be very entertaining.

“It was clear that [Lehrer] had a purpose before he even started his career,” Stan Newding said. “Some doors opened and some closed but he always knew what he wanted to do.”

But among the crowded theatre, Lehrer was able to recognize a few friendly faces.

Lehrer told the story of how the first time he spoke in front of a group of people it was for SMU English professor Marshall Terry’s class, who happened to be seated in the auditorium Wednesday night.

John Tackett also was also in the audience listening to his close friend’s lecture. Tackett and Lehrer were previous co-workers and had met at KERA where they worked together on the Dallas Newsroom segment and became very close.

“This merely put the shine on the true Jim Lehrer and his character, honesty and truth,” Tackett said. “He’s not getting older, he’s getting better and I would say his accomplishments speak for everything.”

Lehrer concluded his lecture by offering a few of his personal ethical rules to abide by in the journalism field.

“Do nothing I can’t defend, do the story as if it were about me, always assume there is another side to the story, separate opinion and analysis, assume all my readers are as smart as I am, don’t use anonymous quotes and I am not in the entertainment industry,” Lehrer said.

The Rosine Smith Sammons Media Ethics Lecture Series is hosted annually by SMU’s Division of Journalism and is funded by an endowment from the Rosine Foundation Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas. The series is named in honor of Rosine Smith Sammons, who graduated from SMU in the 1920s with a degree in journalism.

NOLA Now: New Orleans at Night

August 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Kassi Schmitt

For our last night here, we decided to find a restaurant in the heart of New Orleans. We all took a step out of our comfort zones and even tried alligator for the first time (which surprisingly does taste a lot like chicken)! As we walked back along Bourbon Street and some of the other side streets to our hotel, we really got the chance to look around and see the truly diverse and original group of people that make up the heart and soul of New Orleans. It seems that everyone has their own story and contributes to what makes NOLA such a strong and proud city in their own unique way. We even got the opportunity to speak to a tarot card reader, Elizabeth. After Hayley sat down with her to see what her future has in store (and her future does indeed have a positive outlook- Elizabeth predicted Hayley would be very successful and makes lots of money), she told us her heart wrenching story of how she survived on $20 and one tank of gas after Katrina hit.

NOLA Now: Taking it to the Streets from on Vimeo.

NOLA Now: Appetizing Alligator from on Vimeo.

SMU Football: What’s to Come

August 25, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Kimmy Ryan

Excited for football season already? has compiled an outlook of the 2010 SMU football season. They’ve got everything from best offensive and defensive players, to rookies, pre-season traditions and predictions. June Jones also weighs in on what 2010 may have in store for his team.

Check out the’s 2010 SMU Football Preview.