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Rich get richer, lumpens run in place at The Dallas Morning News

Well, this should boost morale.

The top five executives at A.H. Belo, owner of The Dallas Morning News, received nearly $1.6 million in cash bonuses last year, the company said Monday in an SEC filing.

The bonuses were reported by WPRI 12, the CBS station in Providence, R.I., where Belo owns the Providence Journal.

Leading the parade was A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd, whose total compensation tripled from $499,180 in 2009 to $1.87 million last year, according to the filing. That included a $408,000 cash bonus.

Dallas Morning News publisher James Moroney received $1.3 million in total compensation, an increase from $478,090 in 2009. His cash bonus was $327,250.

Decherd's $29,872 in "other compensation" included a $420 cell phone allowance among other perks, according to WPRI.

Worker bees at the DMN continue to work without raises, and have done so for more than two years with no end in sight. But Decherd is sympathetic, telling employees in a letter last month that executives "continue to monitor competitive pay practices in our industry and we are very much aware that there have been no merit increases at A.H. Belo since 2008."

An "early-stage recovery in Dallas" and "economic challenges" in Rhode Island and Inland Southern California (where Belo owns the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, CA) "continue to create uncertainty that makes it difficult to predict when merit increases can be implemented at any level in the company," Decherd said.

Well, at most levels anyway.

A supposed separate entity of Belo owns the DMN's across-the-driveway neighbor, WFAA8. But the ABC affiliate station and the newspaper still regularly collaborate on stories and sometimes cross-promote them.

WFAA8 has two veteran award-winning investigators in Brett Shipp and Byron Harris, who last week won his second prestigious George Foster Peabody award. Harris also has been awarded for his past dogged investigation of NBC's Dateline and alleged improprieties with its controversial "To Catch a Predator" series during a North Texas sting operation.

Harris was asked back in 2007 whether he would have been allowed to do that same investigation if Dateline instead were produced by the network (ABC) whose programming WFAA8 runs.

"I don't know. I would try," he told unclebarky.com at the time. "It wouldn't keep me from trying. It's not my decision. If someone were to tell me not to do the story, it wouldn't be me . . . I think it's less probable certainly (that he could investigate an ABC News program)."

Harris or Shipp might at least want to try looking further into these bonuses for millionaire Belo executives in times when raises are otherwise off the table for underlings. That would be a bracingly bold and fearless undertaking, and possibly a helluva story, too.

Yeah, I know. End of story.