Press Briefs

Harold's Whereabouts
"I'm here very temporarily," Harold Farb said when he answered our call to his room at the Guest Quarters Suite Hotel on Westheimer.

Farb's fourth wife, Diane Lokey, is still living in the couple's 5,000-square-foot residence in the Four Leaf Towers condo.

Farb, who has made some fortunes as an apartment developer in Houston, declined to say why he wasn't staying in property he owns or to say anything about his current marital status or future personal plans.

When the phone in Farb's room at the Guest Quarters rang, it was answered by a woman. She summoned Farb to our call by saying, "It's for you, honey."

-- Michele Meyer
Famous Last Words
Does the Houston Fire Department play favorites with the media? In the case of the 911 tape that recorded the final words of Houston Oiler Jeff Alm, confusion among HFD higher-ups led to a selective media blackout.

"In this business," explains KTRH/740 AM radio reporter John Cannon, "coming in second just doesn't cut it."

Cannon, who covers the cops for KTRH, first requested a copy of the tape from HFD public information officer Rick Flanagan early in the afternoon of Wednesday, December 22. But the flack was away from his desk. A secretary, Lil Harris, directed Cannon to HFD deputy chief Robert Sherrard.

Sherrard, contends Cannon, proclaimed that any media desiring a copy of the 911 tape must first fax an Open Records request to City Attorney Ben Hall.

While Cannon rushed to find the proper forms, his news desk called, complaining that the 911 tape had been played, in its gruesome entirety, on KILT/610 AM.

Cannon then rushed back to Sherrard, who staunchly maintained that no tapes had passed through his office.

[Sherrard failed to return calls from the Press.]
Cannon, fuming, returned to HFD's Flanagan, who speculated that the tape may have been released by Captain Marvin Litzler, who works under Sherrard.

Though Cannon claims that Litzler gave copies to various broadcast outlets -- KTRK/Channel 13, KRIV/Channel 26 and KILT -- Litzler says that he received no special instructions regarding the tape and that he released only three copies: two to Flanagan, and one to the Houston Police Department.

Cannon disputes that claim. He alleges that KTRH's copy of Alm's 911 call was taped over the phone during a conversation with Litzler.

eanwhile, other local media types were also chafing. "The right hand didn't know what the left was doing," says KHOU news director David Goldberg. "We followed the procedures we were told to follow and were not treated the same way as other members of the media."

Outraged at being scooped, Goldberg sent a letter last Monday to Flanagan, requesting a legal clarification on the matter. "Features should be in place for equitable handling," reads the letter. "On behalf of KHOU, we request that these matters be handled more fairly in the future."

"Mix up with who?" asks the flack Flanagan, who admits that he passed the info about the tape to Channel 13, the Chronicle and the Associated Press. "I haven't heard anything about that."

"The problem everybody had was that they went too high up the food chain," says Joe Nolan, KPRC's news director. "Everybody was expecting a fight, so they started talking to the district chiefs and all this other crap.

"Don Kobos at Channel 13 did something smart -- he went over to Flanagan's office and got a copy of the tape. Everybody else was expecting an Armageddon, and it wasn't."

--Alex Hecht

 
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