Correct-a-mundo

Fumbling towards reality

Getting things right the first time -- not to mention the second -- is still proving difficult for the Houston Chronicle. June 28 saw the paper's second correction-correcting correction in as many weeks.

The Chron ran an op-ed piece June 26 about the dispute between the federal government and Our Town's Charles Hurwitz, the CEO of Maxxam Corporation, who has become the tree-choppin' bane of environmentalists worldwide. The piece, perhaps not surprisingly, was headlined "It's Outrageous How FDIC Has Treated Hurwitz."

The next day there was a correction: The article "misstated Charles Hurwitz's ownership in Maxxam Corp. The correct ownership is 24.9 percent."

That would be news, if true.

The next day there was another correction. It didn't mention the previous day's correction, but simply noted that the original op-ed article "misstated Maxxam Corp.'s ownership in a company that owned a savings and loan. The correct ownership percentage is 24.9 percent."

While the Chron eventually got the factoid right (we're assuming, anyhow -- no further updates appeared before our deadline), the corrections left unaddressed one of the bigger questions about the op-ed piece. The piece was written by Amy Ridenour, who we were informed "is president of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C."

Gee, can't get any more benign than that. Or less informative, as it turns out. Readers might have been better served if they'd been told that The National Center for Public Policy Research, while it is officially nonpartisan for tax purposes, is vehemently right-wing. Its Web site offers press releases sporting such titles as "Environmentalists Try to Whip Up Hysteria to Advance Global Warming Fears" or ready-to-go opinion pieces warning that the "United Nations [Is] Gaining Control Over American Historical Landmarks" because we let them designate Independence Hall and the Statue of Liberty as U.N. World Heritage Sites. (An excerpt: "It is true that -- for the moment -- the U.N. does not involve itself in the day-to-day management of World Heritage Sites. But … [t]his establishes an ominous precedent that could very well have major repercussions.")

Ridenour's column, and her accompanying identification, came from the Knight-Ridder news service. Still, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the Chron to be a little more educational. Just a quick check of its own archives would have shown that Ridenour and her group were part of the Paula Jones publicity juggernaut.

To give credit where it's due, Ridenour's column did not put the blame for Hurwitz's problems on black helicopters from the U.N. or the Trilateral Commission. Just those godless liberals.

Death Watch 2000

The local television stations went all out to cover the Gary Graham execution, and the postmortem postmortems are coming in. It seems folks in the electronic media -- at least those monitoring what the other guys were doing -- are eager to point out just how often their competitors messed up through the night.

Graham was all but killed several times that evening, if the reports issued during the much-delayed process are to be believed. Channel 11 interrupted its legal expert at about 6:45 p.m. to go live to its on-scene reporter Dan Lauck, who said something like "word is making the rounds here" that the execution was under way. The execution didn't take place for another two hours, but apparently Lauck was getting his info from the gaggle of reporters sitting around waiting for something to happen and speculating idly about things.

There was also the seemingly haphazard effort of Fox Channel 26. It chose not to interrupt The Simpsons for reports from Huntsville during the originally scheduled execution time, but later decided to go live.

The staff's best moment, according to one who watched, came when the anchor threw it to the trio of reporters at the scene for Team Coverage. Reporter Todd Duplantis filled in viewers on his take of things, then intoned, "And now over to Sue Speck for more."

At which point he, ummm, handed his microphone over to Speck, who was standing next to him. The camera dutifully panned over to her. Speck later passed the baton on to Monique Nation.

It was charming, in its innocent "Let's put on a show!" way.

Fox's image improved when reporter Lloyd Gite, along with the Houston Chronicle's Salatheia Bryant and the Associated Press's Michael Graczyk, did a solid job briefing reporters and viewers on what they saw as the designated media execution witnesses.

One Gay or Another

"As many as 100,000 spectators" showed up for the June 24 Houston Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade, the Chron told us, without elaborating on its sourcing for that estimate, an estimate that was worded cleverly enough to be deemed accurate even if it's wildly inflated.

One of those in attendance, of course, was a Chron reporter. His lede on the next day's story: "Decked in sequins and beads and adorned in neon bracelets and shimmery miniskirts, revelers made their way up Westheimer Saturday in a saucy, yet serious, celebration of the Houston Lesbian and Gay Pride parade."

Which wasn't a whole lot different from how another Chron reporter opened his story of the 1997 parade: "Floats adorned with blinking lights, flashlight-toting and neon-bracelet-wearing marchers and shimmering sequins on the gowns of drag queens lit up Montrose Saturday night as the gay community celebrated in colorful fashion at the Houston Gay and Lesbian Pride parade."

Memo to the staffer who gets the assignment next year: Neon bracelets are fascinating; don't forget the sequins, and let your groove thing shimmer, bay-bee.

 
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