Meghan Mangrum moved to Dallas last summer to cover education as part of Dallas Morning News‘ Education Lab. She had previously worked with the education rhythm in Tennessee for six years, at Tennessean and before that at Chattanooga Times Free Press. But she is a hockey fan from Florida.
Then on Saturday, February 11, when the Tampa Bay Lightning came to Dallas for a matinee game, Mangrum went to the American Airlines Center for his first Stars game. A little before 1 p.m., too late for the puck, she saw that Mayor Eric Johnson had it criticized local media for, in his view, not fully reporting the good news that Dallas’ crime rate is falling for the second year in a row. The mayor believed that journalists were only interested in bad news.
In a tweet that would change the trajectory of her career, Mangrum wrote the following: “Bruh, national news is always going to chase the trend. Cultivate relationships with quality local news partnerships.”
“He was going after the local media for their coverage of crime,” Mangrum tells me two weeks later, “and I saw some of my colleagues responding to him and tweeting out stories about Dallas Morning News has done, and said: ‘Hey, Mr. Mayor, you know this is not entirely fair.'”
Mangrum adds: “Standing up for my colleagues and the work we do, when I know we are doing good and honest work, is something I am proud of and something I look for in my colleagues and in my workplace as well. ”
That was not how her workplace saw it. Three days after she sent that tweet, she was fired for calling the mayor “bruh.”
The Lightning beat the Stars 3-1. Later that day, Mangrum received an email from an editor saying her presence was requested at a Monday meeting. An HR representative was admitted. And that’s how Mangrum found himself grilled by the paper’s managing editor, Katrice Hardy. According to Mangrum, Hardy, who is Black, asked her if she would have used the word “bruh” if the mayor was white. Mangrum, who is White, said yes. Her Twitter feed is full of the word “bruh” directed at all kinds of accounts, including those belonging to hockey fans and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.
Mangrum says she knows it’s not her place to tell people how to feel. “I would never say to a person of color, ‘Oh, that wasn’t racist. You shouldn’t feel that way,'” says Mangrum. “But I know my intent, and it wasn’t about race at all. I use that word with my friends and when I tweet about hockey. It’s just part of my vernacular. I grew up in Central Florida, and you know, I’m a millennial.”
The morning after that meeting, Mangrum helped organize and participated in a union protest out front News‘ headquarters in the city centre. The Dallas News Guild has clashed with management over a number of issues, including equal pay for employees in the Al Dia. The union found that some of the employees at the Spanish-language publication earned half of what their peers with similar experience earned at News. Later that day, Mangrum was fired. She was told she had breached the paper’s social media policy. She says they didn’t tell her what specific part of the policy she had broken.
The mayor’s chief of staff, Tristan Hallman, declined to comment on the matter. Hardy also declined to comment. Regina Caldwell, a leader in News‘ human resources department, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
It is impossible at this time to say whether the mayor may have privately put pressure on the newspaper to take action. Public, though both him and Hallman shouted Mangrum on Twitter for using the word “bruh”. Always the diligent reporter, Mangrum has filed an open records request with the city of Dallas seeking communications between her former employer and the mayor’s office.
It is worth noting that Mangrum did not reach out to D Magazine to tell her story. I was the one who contacted her. She told me that it was important to her that this report not only focus on her, that the larger context of the union’s activities be included. Which brings us to a statement I received from Leah Waters, president of the Dallas News Guild. It reads in its entirety:
The Dallas News Guild and DallasNews Corp are nearing the end of contract negotiations, which are in their third year.
The Guild has filed six unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB has found that the first, for failing to notify the guild and negotiate with its agents about changes to our health plan under the status quo, had merit. A settlement awaits.
Other complaints allege the following: 1) breach of terms in an agreement relating to employees’ return to work after a home working practice; 2) negotiations in bad faith on parts of the collective agreement where the company will unilaterally control significant terms of our employment with the intention of extorting employees in the bargaining unit; 3) closure of a Washington, DC office, resulting in a material and substantial change in the workers’ daily lives; 4) interference with and retaliation against concerted union activity related to the closing of the Washington office; and 5) implementation of required company handbook training and signed attestation form without notice and opportunity to negotiate.
Dallas Guild News also filed an unfair labor complaint against DallasNews Corporation with the National Labor Relations Board on February 17 following the firing of an employee and guild organizer. [Ed: that was the firing of Mangrum.] Our complaint states that the employee was dismissed in deviation from the status quo and unilaterally, without notice to the guild or opportunity to negotiate. The workers’ termination came directly after they participated in a collective action intended to cause a chilling effect on the bargaining unit.
Agents of the Dallas News Guild and its parent, the Media Guild of the West TNG-CWA #39213, have a duty to fairly represent all workers of the Guild in situations where discipline, including termination, occurs. As such, the union’s unit council voted unanimously to file the complaint with the NLRB in an attempt to investigate the extent to which the employee’s union activity was or was not related to the discipline issued by the company.
NLRB complaints take quite a long time to iron out. So for now, Mangrum is moving back to her parents’ house in Florida while she looks for another job. It was not at all how she imagined it would go when she moved here. She says one of her mentors commented that her career was skyrocketing.
“Coming to what has historically been one of the best newspapers in the country, that was a step up,” she says. “And joining the Ed Lab team was specifically a dream come true.”
All it took to kill that dream was a “bruh”.
Tim is the editor of D Magazinewhere he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…