Readers expect humor on Facebook, says author of Dallas paper's funny weather posts

Dallas Morning News Digital Communities Manager Michael Landauer doesn't run the organization's Facebook page -- Christy Robinson, who he said has quadrupled the page's likes, is mostly tasked with that. Landauer does, however, write funny takes on the weather for the Morning News' page, one of which got a bit of attention last week.

The Morning News pushes out weather posts late at night so people have the most accurate information for the following morning. Landauer used to be on the Morning News' editorial board and said he was "looking for a creative outlet" when he volunteered for weather duty. He began peppering his posts with comments like "Today's a good day to wear pants" or asking people to observe a moment of silence for Charlie Chaplin's birthday, he said in a phone call with Poynter.

Here's the post for today's weather:

At first he made the "silly" comments about once a week, Landauer said, but "people started responding to the humor and pushing me to be funnier and goofier." He won't do a jokey post if "serious weather" is due -- what kind of joke might he do, he said: "President may visit?"

Readers seem to appreciate the zaniness. Really appreciate it: "We’ve had women say I’d really like to meet him. Is he single?" Landauer said. (Sorry, folks, he's married.) When readers reply to the posts, "We try to respond as The Dallas Morning News for the most part." He thinks it's "fun to make the institution look a litle bit personal and funny. I spent 10 years on the editorial board, so I'm very comfortable speaking for the institution."

Still, the voice of Landauer's posts is not particularly institutional. For example, his Cinco de Mayo post, written partially in Spanglish. "I was like, 'Ooh, man, this is risky," he said. "I wake up and the first thing I do is see how people are responding to it. I was afraid some people would be, "English only, this is America." By and large, commenters seemed to like it.

I asked Landauer if he ever has to run posts by anyone. "That would take all the fun out of it," he said. "Humor by committee doesn’t work." If the paper paid him his current salary to do just Facebook posts, that would be great, but as it stands it expects him to oversee "all things reader engagement" and edit a Saturday opinion section as well.

He told me a story about a guy who wrote in saying he was moving to the Dallas area from Los Angeles and enjoyed the weather posts. In a subsequent Friday post, Landauer wrote that it was a great day to move from L.A. "There's no way that could ever work on Twitter."

"I guess I’m lucky that I’m in a place where I have the trust and authority to do this, and I’m not such an old curmudgeonly, boring journalist that i’ve lost my sense of humor," he said.

Side note: During our conversation, Landauer mentioned he had great affection for Poynter and had first attended training at the institute in 1996. "Jayson Blair was in my class," he noted. Cue the sound of a record screeching in my head: Jayson Blair took a class at Poynter? Jayson Blair took a class at Poynter. Huh.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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