News Hostage

Can't Get Enough
You can't watch a football game anymore without being subjected to endless replays of the play you just saw. If you see the quarterback hit his tight end for a 12-yard gain, you know you're going to see it at least three more times in slow motion, as a hyperventilating analyst screams a jargon-filled explanation of all the rocket science behind the play.

The Channel 13 news team has apparently taken that philosophy to heart, applying the replay-it-to-death strategy to the news business.

The story was big on June 18, all right. A hidden camera had captured video of a babysitter leaning into a crib and hitting a toddler on the head three times.

There were some problems, though. Problem Number One was that the babysitter, the toddler, the authorities investigating the incident, the whole damn thing took place not in Houston, not even in Texas, but in North Miami, Florida. Its relevance to Channel 13's viewers was utterly marginal at best.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Problem Number One didn't stop the station from deciding to air the video.

Problem Number Two was thornier. The entire clip lasted perhaps five seconds, not long enough for the anchors and reporters to show the proper disdain in their narration.

The solution? Show the clip. Then show it again. And again. And again. And wrap the clips around a lengthy free advertisement for a Houston company that could install a similar hidden-camera setup in your home, you guilt-ridden parent who heartlessly leaves your child in the care of some probably violent babysitter.

By the time the station got through promoting the item and airing it, viewers had seen the incident at least four times.

We also got to meet a local woman who told us that she, too, was once so worried about her babysitter that she installed a camera and discovered inappropriate behavior. She decided to start a company that offers hidden cameras to parents, 13 reported, "and now she can't keep up with the demand."

The reporter took us on a tour of a typical kid's room, where the business owner helpfully pointed out where she'd place her cameras. Then there was this whopper to close the ad -- er, the news piece. Speaking of the woman, the reporter told us that "more than half the time she puts a camera in a house," the woman's company finds a sitter abusing a child.

There was no explanation of how this woman, who after all was energetically trying to sell her hidden-camera services, defined the term "abusing a child." There was no hidden-camera video to back up the claim, not even video that obscured faces as a way of getting around privacy concerns.

Seeing as how viewers had just watched endless replays of a kid getting all but punched, we're sure the woman's phone was soon ringing off the hook.

By the way, Channel 13 anchors reassured the audience after the piece that the kid in the video was physically fine.

I Say a Little Prayer
Houston Astros manager Larry Dierker is recovering nicely from what a Channel 2 graphic called a "grand ma" seizure, and the Houston Chronicle knows who should get the credit.

In its initial story on the June 13 incident, the paper straight-facedly quoted the team chaplain as saying Dierker's seizure stopped only because he and the players started praying.

The Chronicle's account: "As the ambulance left ... players gathered on the field with team chaplain Gene Pemberton for prayer.

'We asked the Lord for a miracle to stabilize him,' Pemberton said. 'His word says that if we ask anything in the name of Jesus, he'll give it to us. We just asked him, "Lord, will you do it? Will you do it for your glory?"

'And he did. He (Dierker) stabilized in five minutes where for 20 minutes he had been having seizures.' "

We'll try to erase the thought of Dierker twitching on the ground while Our Lord and Savior poutily decides he won't lift a finger to help until someone asks him real nice. But we're thankful for the religion lesson.

Mommy, the Times Said a Bad Word!
We're also thankful for the Chronicle's eternal vigilance in protecting our delicate eyes from the sordid muck that so obnoxiously litters our modern so-called civilization.

Recently the paper ran a wire story from the Los Angeles Times on how, as the headline put it, "Politeness [Is] Still Lacking in Congress."

From the Chronicle version: "The university study combed thousands of pages of congressional transcripts and produced such nasty nuggets as:

* Name-calling nouns: 'Weirdo, traitor, crackpot and bitch.'
* Aspersions: 'Irrational, reckless and un-American.'
* Vulgarity
Makes you proud to be an American.
The unruly image is further amplified..." The story went on from there.

We thought the example-less "vulgarity" category looked suspicious, so we found the Times's original story. Here's what it had:

"...such nasty nuggets as:
* Name-calling nouns: 'Weirdo, traitor, crackpot and bitch.'
* Aspersions: 'Irrational, reckless and un-American.'
* Vulgarity: 'Damn, hell and s--.'
Makes you proud to be an American...."

Now, we have absolutely no idea what four-letter word "s--" can be -- maybe it's some abbreviation of the epithet "consarn it" -- but, believe us, we are grateful the Chron spared Houstonians from even trying to figure it out. Pretty fucking grateful, actually.

That way readers could apply their brainpower to trying to determine why "damn" or "hell" is more offensive than calling someone a bitch.

E-mail Richard Connelly at rich_connelly@houstonpress.com.

 
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