The Insider

Sorry Sara, but the deal already stinks to high heaven.

One Taste Before WeDie
All-news Channel 51 is about to metamorphose into another one of those godawful home shopping channels, and it can't happen soon enough to suit the folks who do public relations for some Houston restaurants. They tell us the chefs who appeared on the station's Texas Today afternoon show were routinely dunned by program manager Joann Crassas for meal tickets to their restaurants.

"Since KNWS-TV 51 is giving you the opportunity to advertise, we request two $50 gift certificates for donations to Houston nonprofit organizations," reads the contract pushed on the chefs. The clause ignores the fact that Channel 51 was at least ostensibly doing news, rather than advertising, and that hitting up guests for free meals strikes some as, well, a little unethical.

"I think it's almost sinful," says Teresa Byrne-Dodge, editor and publisher of the bimonthly My Table. "I think the blurring of that line [between news and paid appearances] is very upsetting."

Not to worry. Texas Today went off the air at the end of the month after Channel 51 was sold to Global Broadcasting. The sale also ends owner Doug Johnson's pathetic "all news" operation, providing him a $40 million payoff on his original $10 million investment. But nobody who knows media ever said the good guys always win.

Feed The Insider by calling 624-1483 or fax him your delectables at 624-1496. He can also be reached by e-mail at Insider@houston-press.com.

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