By MOLLIE FINCH BELT
The Dallas Examiner
We moved to Dallas when my husband finished Thurgood Marshall Law School and he started practicing law with my father, in 1975. I was able to get a job immediately with the City of Dallas as manager of their Title VI Program that was part of the City of Dallas’ Manpower Program.
My short tenure with the City of Dallas was challenging. I was responsible for reviewing proposals from community-based organizations seeking funding under the program. The Manpower Program office was located on South Ervay Street, not far from city hall but I remember the political influence from city hall weighing in heavily on who received funding from the program.
Six months later I got a job with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Office for Civil Rights as an investigator. When the department was split into two departments – U. S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I chose to go with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I was promoted to branch chief and worked there until I retired to publish The Dallas Examiner full time.
As branch chief I supervised a group of investigators and thoroughly enjoyed my work. We investigated complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of race (Civil Rights Act of 1964) and handicap (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) against recipients of funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We were responsible for Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana. It was very challenging.
I supervised some of the first investigations of complaints alleging discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS. This is when the disease was new and people were dying because there was no medicine for them. Health care providers did not want to treat them or if they did they treated them differently.
I supervised investigation of state health and welfare departments, nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices, any recipient of federal financial assistance from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. We had laws to prohibit discrimination, but Blacks were still treated differently based on their race. Many entities refused to abide by the law.
Some areas we traveled to were dangerous and we rented cars instead of using marked government vehicles. The complainants were often afraid of retaliation, in spite of the government’s no retaliation laws.
Sometime the discrimination was blatant, other times it was disguised. When violations occurred we wrote noncompliance letters to recipients, however, it was not always easy to find sufficient evidence to determine a violation and to get our attorneys and headquarters to approve violation letters of findings. So, in many instances it was easier to get recipients to take corrective action and issue corrective findings letters.
I had returned to live in Dallas – an integrated city. It was a different city from what it had been when I left in 1961. Companies were trying to meet their affirmative action goals, so there were professional job opportunities for Blacks.
My father started The Dallas Examiner, a newspaper with hard news, in March 1986. He owned one third of The Dallas Post Tribune, but he wanted complete control of a newspaper. He and Charles O’Neal a professional journalist worked together planning The Dallas Examiner. The new method of distribution was direct marketing and they decided on home delivery of the newspaper.
The Dallas Examiner was a 4-color newspaper with a clean look – laid out on the new Apple computer – with relevant hard news that was mailed directly to 60,000 households in predominately Black ZIP codes. It contained no fluff, i.e. weddings, parties, etc. The newspaper addressed the hard issues facing the African American community in Dallas i.e. DART the new bus system and how it would change public transportation. A large part of the Black community used public transportation.
It contained news Blacks wanted to read about and the newspaper received high acclaim from the community, but companies did not want to advertise. For example, as much money as Blacks spent on groceries, not a single grocery store advertised every week to let our community know the food specials for the week. To this date grocery stores do not advertise in Black newspapers.
Unfortunately, two weeks after the first publication of The Dallas Examiner, my father and mother were murdered in their home. I tried to publish the newspaper and work at OCR but it just did not work. I took a leave of absence from OCR and worked at The Dallas Examiner. Charles O’Neal was the editor.
He and my father had worked together for about a year planning The Dallas Examiner. Charles and I worked hard on the new newspaper. However, businesses did not want to advertise in the newspaper because it had not been publishing but a couple of months. At least that is what they told us.
My father was a charter member of Newsfinder, the Associated Press newswire for weekly newspapers. We used freelance reporters who were trained journalists. Bob Ray Sanders was one of those who reported the local news.
The plan my father had for the newspaper to be mailed directly to each household in predominately Black ZIP codes did not work. He used his own money to finance the newspaper. Research showed direct delivery to homes was the new concept, however advertisers did not place ads in The Dallas Examiner to reach the Black community.
This continues today. Many advertisers refuse to use the Black newspaper to promote their messages to Blacks in spite of the fact that we are a trusted vehicle in the community. Public relations firms highlight the value of the Black Press as they send endless press releases that they want us to publish for free. However, paid ads are not used to promote and inform our community.
Mollie Finch Belt is the publisher of The Dallas Examiner and the daughter of the newspaper’s founder.