One More Time

Houston's Image Problems, Part LCXVII

There are certain things that are simply immutable about Houston. The Astros are always going to disappoint. The freeways are always going to be clogged.

And the Houston Chronicle will always be using up its precious news space to piss and moan about the image of our fair city.

The latest installment in the depressingly long series came April 8, in conjunction with yet another boosterism trip by the mayor and the Greater Houston Partnership to the East Coast. "Houston Plowed: City's Image Keeps Being Dealt Blows, But Residents, Businesses Aren't in Crisis Mode," the front-page piece was headlined.

Last year's front-page story tied to the mayor's trip ("City Aims to Clean Up Campaign-Smudged Image") said the Democratic ads in the 2000 presidential campaign had painted Houston as a dirty-air mess.

"That little problem seems almost quaint now," the Chron's most recent story read, after a year of Enron, Tropical Storm Allison and Andrea Yates.

New York, the story noted, went from being hated to loved overnight after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "Houston, beset repeatedly by smaller but still disastrous events, is a city that never seems to get much love at all," the story sadly admitted, with downcast eyes and a pouting lip.

While Houstonians can only fervently pray that this year's booster trip doesn't trigger the avalanche of "We're Great!" stories the Chron did after the 2001 junket, we wouldn't hold our breath. The Chron just can't shut up about this subject.

December 1989: "Boosting of Image Expected," the headline read on a story about the world economic summit coming to town the next year. The summit would dispel the image of Houston as a "cowtown," one developer said.

April 1991: The GOP announces it will hold its 1992 presidential convention here. "Convention Seen as $60 Million Boon: City Can Burnish Its Cosmopolitan Image," the headline read.

Oops, maybe not. August 1992, a convention postmortem: "National Media Use Houston as Example of Ills Afflicting Cities," a front-page Sunday story said. A CNN spokesman disputed the charge, saying a preconvention special the network aired showed "Houston is more than a cowboy town -- which is how the rest of the country perceives it."

June 1994: The Rockets beat the Knicks for the NBA championship, and the Chron reports the series is "A Boon to the Community: Houston Getting 'MVP' Treatment." (The Partnership had issued a press release listing reasons why Houston was a "Most Valuable Place.")

March 1996: The Chron finds PR experts to offer tips on improving the city's image. One says Houston's image "as a cowtown with tumbleweed and cactus hasn't changed on the national scene."

The stories continue on, announcing each new slogan in the campaign to sell Space City.

We're almost absolutely positive that this most recent effort by the mayor -- and the Chronicle -- will once and for all convince the world that Houston is an international city brimming with wonderful things to do and see.

But somehow we feel that come next April, we'll be reading yet again how certain gosh-darn quaint events -- like massive pollution, a rampaging flood or a murdering mom -- have kept the world from realizing the truth.

Full of Holes

It took two full pages of faxed press release to announce the news: "Krispy Kreme Celebrates Opening of Bellaire Location."

The release went on about how "thrilled" Krispy Kreme execs were, and about the down-home goodness of all that is Krispy Kreme, ending with this ominous warning: "Information contained in this press release, other than historical information, may be considered forward-looking in nature and is subject to various risks, uncertainties and assumptions."

And it is exactly that type of forward-looking thinking that has made this country great, sirs.

Such boilerplate cover-your-butt disclaimers to potential stock investors are pro forma on press releases, of course, but Krispy Kreme's effort, which continued on at some length, takes the…ummm…cake.

It's a Darn Shame

David Barron, the Chron's sports TV-radio columnist, was in an absolute dither April 8.

"I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Fox Sports Net continues to program a prime-time show with a name so brutishly offensive that men like [broadcasters] Bill Worrell and Jim Deshaies refuse to say it during network promos. Until the network changes the name, it isn't the best show of any kind. Period," he wrote, in what he self-deprecatingly called "this week's screed."

What is this name that is "so brutishly offensive"? It's The Best Damn Sports Show, Period.

"Damn" is brutishly offensive? Jiminy Cricket and gosh whillikers, even the Chron's stolid TV listings have no trouble with it. Then again, those listings are put together by the entertainment section. Fucking pornographers.

 
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