Same As the Old Boss

A lack of Bush means a lack of news in Houston

You may not have noticed it, but the Democrats held their convention last week. As compared to how the local media blanketed the Republican convention two weeks earlier, the Dems made barely a blip on the local radar screen.

Imagine our disappointment. We had been so hugely entertained by Channel 11's weightless anchor Greg Hurst as he "reported" from the GOP convention, reportage that seemed mostly to consist of fawning over every possible Bush he could find or mention.

We thought for sure he would liven things up when the Democrats met in Los Angeles. Alas, KHOU decided that a convention that did not include any Bushes is a convention not worth sending Hurst to cover. Democrats are reportedly still reeling from the backhanded slap.

There were some high points, though. Channel 2 actually ran an "Exclusive" tag under footage of Houston Mayor Lee Brown speaking to the convention from the podium. We couldn't tell if it was hidden-camera footage, and it sure looked like what C-SPAN had shown, but since Brown was shown saying, "Greetings from Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country," in that patented Brown style that makes Al Gore seem like William Jennings Bryan, we can only assume the report was "exclusive" because no one else could be bothered to run it.

The Houston Chronicle sent a slew of people to L.A. Reporter R.G. Ratcliffe analyzed the first-night speeches by noting that "neither [President] Clinton nor his wife, Hillary, a candidate for U.S. Senate in New York who also spoke to the convention Monday, made any reference to his 1992 promise to bring health care to all Americans. Hillary Clinton led that effort in 1993, only to see it falter and fail."

We could have sworn we heard Hillary Clinton speak ruefully about that very subject, so we checked a transcript. "You may remember I had a few ideas about health care," she said in her speech. "I've learned a few lessons since then. But I haven't given up on the goal."

The best story out of the convention might have been the rumors about squabbling between columnist and former Washington bureau chief Cragg Hines and current bureau chief John C. Henry. Henry is just about universally disliked by his underlings, who see him as a martinet, and if the stories going around are to be believed, he got on Hines for using a Chronicle cell phone (to call his ailing father, of all things). Hines basically said, "Fuck this; I quit."

Cooler heads eventually prevailed, thus averting the tragedy of depriving Houston of Hines's trenchant post-acceptance-speech analysis that Gore still finds himself dealing with the downside of Clinton's personal reputation.

*** This column contains an error. The News Hostage misidentified theChronicle writer who squabbled with John Henry and threatened to quit. As writer Richard Connelly explains in his August 31 News Hostage, it was Greg McDonald of theChronicle whose name should have been matched with the circumstances described in this column. ThePress regrets the error.

Same As the Old Boss

The KILT-KIKK chapters of the Laura Morris Alumni Group are a nervous bunch these days. The ad departments, the on-air talent, and the behind-the-scenes folk at that group of AM and FM radio stations are filled with people who used to work for Morris during her reign of terror at KTRH-AM. Now they have discovered the chilling truth: She's baaaack.

Morris helped turn KTRH into the city's best radio-news operation, and there has been much grumbling about quality slipping since she was shown the door in October. But while Morris has a lot of fans, there are just as many former employees who say they had to put up with heavy-handed, high-stress micromanagement that forced them to flee.

After a very brief stint working for Houston's new NFL franchise, Morris will be the new general manager at KILT and KIKK, staffers learned on August 15.

So far she is overseeing only the FM side of the operation, so the many former KTRHers who work for all-sports KILT-AM are ostensibly not affected. Yet.

But according to one, "We all share the same office space, so it will be interesting, to say the least."

Tragically Hip

You may have seen the billboards around town or the advertisements in the Chronicle touting Web sites such as www.thatsbogus.com or www.urbanlies.com or www.rumorhasit.net. That's all there is to the advertising, just the Web addresses.

One thing has become clear: We now have a new winner for Lamest News Media Promotional Campaign Ever. Step aside, you pretenders who gave us Channel 2's immortal Bill Balleza Knows Shortcuts advertisements!

If you go to the Web sites, you'll spend some time waiting for the upcoming splash screens to load, and then you'll see blurbs pop up touting the "savvy reporters," the "discerning editors" and the "insightful columnists" at our very own Houston Chronicle. You'll then be taken directly to the Chronicle's home page.

(By the way, one of those "insightful columnists," computer guru Dwight Silverman, happened to rail August 18 against Web sites where surfers "must wade through tedious animated splash screens before they can find what they're after," but he didn't mention any of the Chron's efforts.)

As for the bizarre ad campaign, feel free to insert your own joke about a company that creates sites called thatsbogus.com or urbanlies.com and then includes on those sites information about how its staffers are savvy, discerning and insightful. Maybe you just have to be really, really postmodernist hip to get the whole thing.

And as far as rumorhasit.net goes, maybe the Chron should take note that Rumor Has It that there is an alternative weekly in town called the Houston Press. In a lengthy front-page story August 15 on Roy Criner, the innocent man freed and pardoned after a decade in prison, the Chronicle somehow failed to mention that Criner's story was first brought to light by the Press. The next day's front-page follow-up cited only "attention in the local and national media." Papers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and USA Today have all credited reporter Bob Burtman's work, but it's apparently just a rumor to the local guys.

Correction of the Week

In the August 8 Chron: "Dallas-based Halliburton is not actively considering a move of its headquarters to Houston. A headline on a story on Page 1C in Saturday's Business section may have left the impression that it was."

The headline in question? "Halliburton Considering Moving Base: Company Once Again Weighs Houston for Its Headquarters."

May have left the impression?

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