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For those who haven’t already realized it:  Two longtime North Texas newspaper rivals, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are now sharing arts and lifestyle stories.

I’d heard this was happening, and then I began noticing examples of it in print. For example, the DMN’s GuideDaily section featured a story that ran  in the Startlegram, about a show of Italian artists’ Nativity scenes now on view at the Kimbell

It ran in the FWST almost two weeks ago, on Nov. 30; it only got into GuideDaily today. The S-T’s writer, Gaile Robinson, was credited as a “Special Contributor,” the usual DMN designation for freelancers. (BTW, Gaile was on staff at the DMN, some 20-odd years ago.)

Visual arts, theater, dance and classical-music reviews will be shared by the two papers. Will TV reviews be next? Movies? Pop music? It’s probably only a matter of time.

Expect to see shared stories also appear in the food and home sections of the DMN, which no longer have any staff writers and depend pretty much on freelancers for local lifestyles content.

Other parts of the newspapers are sure to be affected. Word is that the S-T will take over MLB coverage for the two papers’ sports sections, while the DMN will cover the Mavs and Stars for both papers. You can bet that ever-observant sports fans will notice that, even if the arts and lifestyle coverage changes happen to escape them.

And why would the DMN even bother to maintain a Fort Worth news bureau any more, if the S-T’s writers now are at the Dallas paper’s disposal?

This is happening, of course, to save manpower [read: salaries/benefits] at both newspapers. The end result, inevitably, will be that fewer local writers are needed on both papers, so the staffs of both will shrink further.

And so fewer voices than ever will be heard in the land.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

In a week that opened with some very bad news — the death of a dear friend at age 50, from cancer — I’ve been looking for little things to console me. Comforting things like grandchildren… LOST reruns… Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. You know, the stuff that makes life worth living.

Books always are a consolation, of course. For one, I have Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed awaiting me. It’s his first novel in a solid decade.

I can’t help wondering if, somewhere inside it, I will find the reason the author chose this particular title. It comes from the second of six verses in that most famous of Christian hymns, “Amazing Grace”:

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

A new Wally Lamb is something to anticipate, indeed. But for me, today, there’s something even better:

This morning at 10, the UPS man rang the doorbell and left me a slender box. Today being December 4, of course I knew what the box held, because I’d been waiting for it since July 31. It is J.K. Rowling’s U.S. edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. (The UK edition also is on its way, at insane expense, via Royal Mail.)

How happy it makes me to unwrap this little book! Such pleasure is nothing I need explain to any Harry Potter fan, of course.

Like millions of others, I’ve bought and enjoyed everything Jo Rowling has ever put between book covers. Her deft storytelling and subversive sense of humor have made me her abject slave: content to stand in midnight book-release lines, resigned to two- or three-year waits between books. (Hey, at least she never pulled a Wally Lamb on us and made us wait a decade!)

I have lived more hours than I can count in the world of Jo’s imagination, and I consider them hours well spent. Her work is indeed magic, or at least a universal panacea for whatever may ail me.

With Beedle the Bard, I will read slowly, savoring each fable for the first time. In the back of my mind, I will think of the bright smile that I will miss so much, the kind voice that brought such wisdom and strength into our lives.

Two very special women with a gift for words, who even share a name. Goodbye, dear Kathleen.

And hello, Joanne Kathleen.