Chief of Change
Grant Moise steers The Dallas Morning News into a new era.
On a Monday morning in October, Grant Moise ’04 MBA, the CEO of DallasNews Corp. and publisher of The Dallas Morning News, fielded questions from Hettie Richardson, interim dean of the Neeley School of Business. Their discussion before a packed audience at TCU centered on the evolution of media in the age of technology disruption.
Just 24 hours later, on an earnings call, Moise took questions from investors about capital allocation and employee pension plans. And midweek, he participated in one of the many civic boards he set up to better understand what’s happening in North Texas.
“We have our opinions all over the editorial pages. Well, if you’re going to weigh in with an opinion on a daily basis and the publisher doesn’t understand what’s happening in your city or region, people discount the opinion of the newspaper,” Moise said. “It’s how I keep my finger on the pulse.”
The Dallas Morning News is a 138-year-old newspaper fighting through a seismic digital disruption, one that already has shuttered hundreds of newsrooms worldwide. Moise is steering both the company and newspaper through uncertain times, headlined by rapidly changing readership behaviors, new competitors and the onslaught of artificial intelligence.
The median age for The Dallas Morning News print subscribers is 64, and they spend 29 minutes reading daily; by contrast, the median age of DallasNews.com digital subscribers is 44, and they might spend 80 seconds. At one time, newspapers were the main medium through which advertisers could pitch customers. Now through social media, advertisers have more direct access to audiences.
“In the heyday of when The Dallas Morning News, as people like to say, was printing money, we had less than 700,000 people reading our content,” Moise said.
“So this is the digital paradox we’re facing. Today we have 7 million people reading [every month]. It shows you the internet’s power over supply and demand for advertisers.”
ALIGNING PASSION WITH SKILL
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Moise grew up with a passion for journalism. His father, an attorney, helped him land an internship at the local NBC TV station affiliate at 15. He called it his “happy place” and initially planned a career as an on-air personality.
During high school at Albuquerque Academy, Moise was on the yearbook staff and worked for the school paper. He also was on the back-to-back state champion basketball teams in 1992 and 1993.
Moise pursued a journalism degree at the University of Kansas. His first two years were rough; he said he didn’t enjoy the heavy load of prerequisite classes.
“But, boy, when I got to that junior and senior year, I started working for the school newspaper, I was taking all the right classes, and that’s when I realized this just wasn’t some passing curiosity — I loved it,” Moise said. “I remember laughing and thinking, ‘I can’t believe I get to go to school to learn this stuff, because I just enjoy it so much.’ ”
After graduating Moise worked in sales for a CBS affiliate in Denver. It was there that he became convinced that he could someday lead a news organization.
Moise paid close attention to the decisions that the general manager made to best position the station. He watched how the general manager became a fixture in the community and the standard-bearer of ethical journalism. And he realized that if he were to ever run a station on his own, he needed to learn the fundamentals of business.
“I understood my limitations at the time. I knew my desire to be a leader was high, but I was also smart enough and humble enough to know that I just didn’t have the skill set. The tools were not in the toolbox, and that’s what brought me to TCU,” Moise said.
“The Neeley School was so good for me because the class size was small enough where I got the amount of personal attention I needed. And I’m still close to some of those professors today, 20 years later.”
The decision to go back to school is in line with the advice he often gives others trying to find their career path: “You’ve got to find where the passion of your heart meets the skills of your brain.”
Katy Murray, president and chief financial officer for DallasNews Corp., has observed that intersection in Moise’s work.
“Grant was meant to be a CEO,” Murray said. “He is passionate about what we do, and it’s clear when he talks to employees. He balances the successes and the opportunities for us to do better. Employees appreciate his openness and transparency.
“He acknowledges his strengths and looks for strong leaders to lead the areas that are not his expertise. … He is always studying and putting in the time to make sure he understands all aspects of the business and how he can assist without micromanaging.”
During these uncertain times, Moise said he expects people will come to value trusted news sources even more. He has worked to build trust in The Dallas Morning News by strengthening relationships to the community and, since becoming publisher in 2018, tripling the size of his business intelligence team to ensure they understand what customers want.
Stephen Garrison, CEO of an Austin, Texas-based software company and a close friend of Moise for nearly 20 years, noted how important relationships are to Moise.
“Grant is somebody who is extraordinarily optimistic and totally loyal. … That kind of person who is genuine in public and private is just so rare in the world today. And we need more people like Grant to be able to be role models and leaders in the business community.”
Among the challenges to building trust, Moise said, is “disintermediation” between the journalism and the reader.
“People have gotten between us and our customer. It might be Google, maybe Facebook, Twitter or X, whatever we want to call it today. So that’s difficult,” he said. “You have to be aware of your brand name and how is your brand relevant on a social media platform versus people consuming your brand directly.”
Moise and his leadership team have blocked AI crawlers from siphoning and aggregating the news organization’s content — “our intellectual property” — for anyone to use without attribution.
His plan is to double down on giving readers the high-quality content they need to make informed decisions, using customer-focused research to make sure content stays relevant. His hope is that strong content will enable The Dallas Morning News to leverage the power of social media and AI, rather than being a victim of them.
Moise is particularly proud of an editorial series he spearheaded at The Dallas Morning News in September 2022 called “The American Middle,” inspired by reader and community feedback. The media company’s research showed that about two-thirds of the nation is politically in the middle.
“The problem is the 10 percent on the left and 10 percent on the right are getting so much of the attention that we felt like the American middle was being lost,” Moise said. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we establish trust? Can we bring the temperature down a little bit, and can we make people smarter rather than just getting their passions, you know, elevated?’ ”
Another connection to the community comes from Katrice Hardy, executive editor of The Dallas Morning News, who sends an email every week to upward of 400,000 readers with a behind-the-scenes look at the week’s news stories and why the journalists covered them. Her team stays receptive to comments from readers on issues they find important.
Hardy’s team won national praise for a September 2023 series about the dangers of fentanyl to North Texas teens.
“For me and for our staff, the wakeup call really was news that three young people had died in a middle school right outside of Dallas in one school year. And more than a handful of others had overdosed — some multiple times. And it was time to really step back and think, ‘What is going on in our community?’ ” Hardy said while appearing on CNN Newsroom With Jim Acosta.
Since the series debuted, more than 234,000 people have read the stories online, with some writing in that it was “mandatory reading” and noting “this excellent reporting is what keeps me subscribing to The Dallas Morning News.”
Moise said keeping customer feedback front and center in decision-making is imperative in every meeting.
“We want to know what the data is telling us and what is the consumer telling us,” Moise said. “And if we keep focusing on the consumer, no matter what the disruption is, I think we find that we get much closer to success.
“If our product was a printed newspaper, then yes, what’s happening digitally is putting the printed newspaper on a path where it will one day just be gone,” he said. “But when the journalism is the product and when the content is the product, you focus on the 7 million people it’s reaching.”