Skulduggery of the Decades

People Newspapers’ 40-year history of snarky crime reports

Where else but in the pages of Park Cities People, Preston Hollow People, and can you read crime reports like this one from September 2019?

Happy birthday to you! Bistro 31, we’ll do. Hit and run, leave a present: a damaged Honda for you. The disappointed Dallas woman reported that the anonymous “gift” to her 2018 Accord came between 5 and 10:34 p.m. Sept. 20 at Highland Park Village.

“None of the other newspapers where I’ve worked would approach them like this,” Editor William Taylor said of People Newspapers’ crime reports. “I’d be open to changing them if enough of our readers asked for that. However, the tradition adds to our newspapers’ distinct character.”

Company co-founder Kirk Dooley said the signature flippant style started before Park Cities People’s founding in 1981.

Dooley said former Park Cities News editor Jon Harrison wrote the crime reports that way when they worked there.

“He’s the guy that made it funny,” Dooley said. “It was pretty black and white crime reporting, but because some of the offenses were so outrageous or so boring or funny, he put a spin on it where it’s almost like a comedian writing the police report. He didn’t change the facts, but the way he reported it made it really tongue-in-cheek and funny.”

Dooley brought their flair for crime reporting to Park Cities People.

Glenda Vosburgh, a former managing editor, noted that the papers approached violent crimes such as murder with appropriate seriousness.

But much of the crime in the early days – as it is now – involved auto break-ins and criminal mischief.

“He didn’t change the facts, but the way he reported it made it really tongue-in-cheek and funny.”

Kirk Dooley

“It was boring,” Vosburgh said. “If you wrote it straight up, it would have been dull.”

Editor Reid Slaughter, she said, “wanted to make it funny. He wanted us to have a little fun with it, and so we did.”

Longtime People Newspapers senior account executive Kim Hurmis said the page became popular with readers, and radio personality Ron Chapman used to read from them on his morning radio show on KVIL.

“Over the years, when we would hire marketing firms to compile readership stats to share with potential advertisers and agencies, the Police Report page was always the ‘most read page’ by both men and women,” Hurmis added. 

The “Skulduggery” feature became a regular feature of the crime report page after Wick Allison bought the newspaper, adding it to the D Magazine family of publications.

But not everyone is amused.

Lucy Washburne of Highland Park complained in a Letter to the Editor in the February issues that calling a criminal a “ne’er do well,” “rogue,” “troublemaker,” or “scoundrel,” instead of “what these people really are – thieves and robbers – gives the false impression that the crimes committed aren’t real crimes.”

Gwen McKinney of Highland Park responded with a letter saying she agrees with Washburne.

“I thought the police log was serious reporting,” McKinney wrote. “Now it appears to be very much ‘tongue-in-cheek.’ I hope you rethink this approach.”

SPEAK UP: Visit and let us know whether the crime reports’ humor is too much, too little, or about right.

For nearly 40 years, People Newspapers has worked tirelessly to tell the stories—good, bad, and sublime—of our neighbors in the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. To support our efforts, please contact [email protected] for advertising opportunities. Please also consider sharing this story with your friends and social media followers.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Skulduggery of the Decades

  • March 9, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    I think its hilarious. The first time I read the reports the humor caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure what to think. But I could immediately tell the report wasn’t making light of the crime it was just a different way of reporting it. The crime itself makes me angry. The reporting of it makes me laugh. Just right in my opinion.

  • March 9, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    I have less of a problem with ” putting a spin on it” (ie – the crimes) in the actual reporting than I do with the euphemisms chosen for the criminals themselves, and I still take issue with those. I think that some of the reports can still be approached with a tongue-in-cheek slant, as long as it remains clear that, however “outrageous, boring, or funny” an offense is, it is still a crime committed by a person who deserves a correct designation: thief, robber, shoplifter, burglar.


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