PostScripts

Notes and anecdotes from a one-daily newspaper town

We got you now! The Chronicle didn't even wait for the corpse of the Post to cool before it began informing advertisers that the cost of placing their ads in the city's sole surviving daily newspaper will be rising sharply on June 1. An April 28 missive from Chronicle publisher and chairman Richard J.V. Johnson explains that all ad rates will be going up by 38 percent next month. That increase will "incorporate"one that had been planned prior to the Post's shuttering, Johnson says.

Johnson blames the large bite on the need to defray the rising cost of newsprint and other added costs associated with Chronicle's increased circulation in the wake of the Post's death.

As you may remember, escalating newsprint costs also were the stated reason for the demise of the Post, and they are rumored to be behind Jeff Bagwell's early-season hitting slump as well.

...Doth protest too much? One institutional sore point with the Chronicle is its role -- excuse us ... its total, hands-off, non-involvement -- in the killing of the Post. On the Sunday following the closing of its rival, the Chronicle reported on the front of its Metropolitan section, in a story headlined "Chronicle scrambles to fill void left by Post," that "on the morning the Post closed, Chronicle officials learned that the U.S. Justice Department had approved an offer by the Chronicle's parent company, Hearst Corp., to buy the Post's building, press and other assets for $120 million." (Amazing coincidence!)

On the same day, the paper wasted space on a lead editorial ("A few words in favor of telling the story accurately") pounding it home that "contrary to erroneous reports, the Chronicle did not purchase the Houston Post and close it down, causing employees to become unemployed." Then, a few days later, the paper printed a letter from an ex-employee professing his thanks at how lucky Houston was to have the Chronicle as its leading information source, given that several TV stations had wrongly reported that the Chronicle had closed the Post.

Maybe the paper's sensitivity was grounded in more than just a wish to get the story straight. The week of the Post's closing, the Chronicle hired off-duty Houston police officers to patrol its lobby after several angry citizens showed up on the premises to issue threats against the Chronicle for closing the Post.

All merchandise must go! The Post's folding left unclear the fate of one of the dead paper's more memorable "assets" -- the famous antique Chippendale table from the third-floor publisher's suite that dated back to its glory days under former owner Oveta Culp Hobby. The grand doyenne of Houston publishing often sipped tea with guests at the table -- including many newsroom employees who at least once during their employment at the Post were invited in for an audience with Mrs. Hobby.

A magazine journalist remembers spotting the table several years ago in an anteroom outside owner William Dean Singleton's office at 4747 Southwest Freeway. But Singleton says he didn't spirit the antique off to his Denver headquarters before he shuttered the Post.

"It's on the inventory list the Chronicle bought," said Singleton. "We didn't take anything out. We gave them the same inventory list we inherited. It now belongs to Hearst."

Compulsive shopper For those wondering what Singleton will do with the "gain" his Consolidated Newspapers Inc. said it would report from the sale of the Post's assets, the former Postmaster says that a shopping expedition is on to find a new property for the empty Consolidated entity.

"We'll buy something," explains Deano, "but it won't be a second newspaper in a competitive market."

Hardly any of those left, anyway.

-- Tim Fleck, Jim Simmon

 
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