Paying for It

Stung by critics, KPRC dials up escort services

In case you missed it, the respected (if drearily earnest) Project for Excellence in Journalism has rated Houston's local TV news operations. The results aren't too surprising.

For five years the group, associated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has been rating local news around the country. This year marked the first time Houston was included. Criteria for the assessments included the range of topics covered, how good sources were and how likely the stations were willing to go beyond the crimes of the day.

The results are available at www. journalism.org, but the short version is that Houston is below average: 11th out of the 17 markets studied. KHOU was named the best station in our market (deservedly so), but ranked just 22nd out of the 53 stations studied.

Giant markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago were included in this year's study (with L.A. faring worst), but so were smaller outposts. Among the markets getting better local TV news than we are were Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Columbia, South Carolina.

KPRC got the lowest marks of the three Houston stations rated (finishing behind KTRK), and we can only theorize that the low finish was the result of the Columbia people picking the wrong time to Click 2 Houston. If they had only watched this month, we're sure things would have been different.

For this month featured the November 6 report by Investigator Robert Arnold, who uncovered the shocking news that…escort services are really fronts for prostitution.

Now sure, you're saying to yourself that this scoop ranks right up there with the disclosure that Scooby-Doo is not based on actual events. But what Arnold discovered -- Exclusively! On 2! -- was that some hookers are advertising their wares online. (Using Channel 2's idea of what's new, we should explain that the term "online" relates to something called a "computer.")

Yes, the hidden camera was brought out to show Arnold in a hotel room with hookers. The two hookers shown wanted him to get naked before they discussed sex for cash.

The best moment came when Arnold gave up on the back-and-forth "are you a hooker?/are you a cop?" stuff. With all the righteous deep-voiced profundity he could muster, Arnold proclaimed, "I'm the investigative reporter for Channel 2!" There wasn't a stirring trumpet crescendo to mark the triumphant moment, but there should have been.

It wasn't immediately clear to the prostitutes whether this was just a kinky john who liked to imitate Ted Baxter as he got off, but when a cameraman jumped out of the closet, they realized the jig was up and left quickly.

What all this accomplished, beyond wasting the time of two whores, was not immediately clear.

It did give Channel 2's Web site a chance to offer a link to video of the report, with the tantalizing headline "See Alleged Hookers in Action." (We guess desultory conversation with Robert Arnold counts as "action.")

That isn't the best headline on KPRC's site, though. The link is too long to list here, but do a Google search for "KPRC" and "Ora Potency" and you'll find this: "Coroner: Object in Fruit Drink Not Penis."

You'll also see a photograph of the object that is Not a Penis. Just in case you ever wanted to see something that looks like a really shriveled tiny penis, but isn't.

Cause and Effect

Here's the Lead of the Week, from (naturally enough) the Houston Chronicle: "Just one month after he played Houston's Verizon Wireless Theater, Elvis Costello got the biggest news of his career on Thursday. He's headed to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame." Talk about star-making machinery!

Next up, apparently, for the Hall of Fame: Meat Loaf. He plays the Verizon next month, and then will sit around waiting for word of his induction.

The Costello lead, by the way, barely beat out the second-place finisher, also from the Chron: "Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith is drawing criticism even from some of his supporters for a television commercial using an image of the World Trade Center burning on Sept. 11, 2001. Political operatives say they know of no other campaign commercials in the nation that use the image."

A reasonable enough lead, you say? Sure, except it appeared in the October 26 Chron. Two days earlier, The New York Times reported that "The independent candidate for governor in Oklahoma, United States Attorney Gary Richardson, released a 30-second commercial last week featuring the collapse of the World Trade Center…It appears to be the first commercial to use images of the collapse of the trade center."

We don't expect the Chronicle to keep up with ads for every campaign in America, but is it too much to ask them to read The New York Times?

 
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