In 2008 and 2009, I worked for a pair of newspapers east of Dallas. One, The Terrell Tribune, covered towns just barely close enough to be considered part of the Metroplex. Terrell had a decidedly rural feel, and seemed more affiliated with East Texas than a metropolitan hub. The other, The Rockwall County News, was a satellite weekly in a dense and affluent lakeside suburb about 20 miles away.
There was a night and day difference between the two. One was traditional, diverse, and down-to-Earth; the other was ritzy, affluent, and monochrome. Each had different problems, different styles, and different solutions. I covered local government, elections, and public affairs in both towns, and got a front row seat to the differences between booming suburbs and exurbs thirsty for development.
Once in Rockwall, the city council debated the fate of a Walgreens tower for nearly an hour. Architects planned to build the tower two feet taller than the maximum allowed height for any new building in town; they were using default blueprints for new stores and hadn’t noticed the rule. The council grilled the surprised Walgreens representatives, who weren’t able to say if the two-foot exemption would be a “deal breaker” or not. I also covered a weeks-long annexation saga and a battle over local HOA regulation.
In Terrell, meanwhile, the city government had a more unified focus on development. I covered a variety of zoning incentives and TIF proposals, as well as development news on new businesses. Like any rural community, though, scandal and crime were not uncommon. A candidate for sheriff was indicted on corruption charges mid-campaign, the local hospital struggled with its finances and relationship to the city, and the last summer I was there, an elderly woman was murdered the same week a teacher was arrested for sexual harassment. There was plenty of news to go around, and it was a great place to work not long after graduation.