Another round of layoffs at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram included this surprising pink slip — consumer watchdog columnist Dave Lieber is leaving the daily after 20 years.
Lieber accepted the layoff with grace and his typical optimistic outlook.
“I thank the paper for giving me 20 of the most exciting years a guy could ever have in Texas,” he said. “The Star-Telegram prepared me for the rest of my life – to help people.”
The layoff makes little sense — Lieber was an enthusiastic and absolutely tireless promoter of himself, his column, and the newspaper. Lieber’s prominent face and voice was on a level with fellow columnists Bud Kennedy and Bob Ray Sanders.
And Lieber did a lot of good for the community, looking out for underdogs, the voiceless, the aged, the conned, and the screwed over.
“He was an invaluable asset, you would think, given the fact that the kind of advocacy journalism and community interaction he supplied were among the few points of difference that the Star-Telegram — or any local daily for that matter — can still offer to keep themselves relevant,” said a former Star-Telegram writer who was previously laid off. “It’s as if management is trying to steer the paper to a premature death.”
Losing Lieber was another blow to an already staggered newsroom that’s seen its numbers reduced dramatically in recent years. Several hundred employees in various departments have been fired, laid off, or bought out, but few with Lieber’s high profile.
“He differentiated the paper and is exactly the sort of thing a paper needs to make itself relevant as a local news leader,” said a current employee who requested anonymity. “Everyone is scratching their heads.”
A former Star-Telegram reporter lamented the painful slide by a newspaper that was once considered among the state’s best at covering local news, but now relies heavily on wire copy to make up for its skeletal staff.
“Are they going to just reprint all the wire stuff that everybody saw the night before?” the former employee said. “I don’t know what the strategy is there. It sounds like they’re going to ride this thing down to the bottom of the ocean until there are only a couple of high paid executives left. It’s stunning.”
Lieber blew kisses at the paper — “I’m probably the only person who got laid off by the Star-Telegram that told [executive editor] Jim Witt that he loved him” — and spoke excitedly about the freedom to pursue other adventures.
Lieber is an author with several books published and more planned.
He oversees a couple of charitable organizations, and is planning another, the Texas Ethics League, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank geared toward empowering Texans fighting against injustice.
He’s also a frequent public speaker who teaches others on speaking in public.
And he’s eager to begin writing a one-man play about former Star-Telegram publisher Amon G. Carter.
In other words, he’s a busy boy.
“My whole world just opened up,” he said. “My legs weren’t cut out from under me. I’m a happy camper. I’m a really positive guy to begin with. I want to continue to fight for people. I’ll still be out there, they’ll just have to hunt me down a little bit.”