Christmas Miracle

A media benefit helps a charity that's been questioned

Modesty Blaze

The Chronicle seems to be suffering from a case of undue modesty lately.

On December 16, TV-sports columnist David Barron hyped an upcoming Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO. The show had a segment on the ongoing dispute over the Master's golf tournament, and Augusta National Golf Club chairman Hootie Johnson's refusal to admit women to his club despite protests by Martha Burk of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

"The dispute over Augusta National's admission policies is a familiar story," Barron wrote, "but HBO brings a couple of new wrinkles. One is the disclosure that Burk's group has set up a Web site, www.augustadiscriminates.org, that will list corporations whose executives belong to the club."

It's nice to see the Chron crediting someone else for a scoop, but the day before the paper had devoted more than 60 inches of copy to what Barron called "a familiar story." Included was a paragraph noting that "in the next few days, [Burk] hopes to have in place a Web site -- www.augustadiscriminates.org -- that will target various corporate CEOs."

Modesty continued the next day, when TV reporter Mike McDaniel did a roundup on how local news stations handled the story of the guy who climbed partway up Williams Tower before plunging to his death.

"Channels 26, 11 Only Stations to Air Video of Fall," the headline read. McDaniel said KHOU news director Mike Devlin "defended his station's coverage, not conceding late Monday afternoon that [the guy] committed suicide, and arguing on behalf of coverage even if it was." A Fox 26 honcho also "defended" using the tape, McDaniel wrote.

He then noted that the city's five other news stations did not show the fall and quoted KPRC news director Nancy Shafran as saying, "Not only did we not show the jump, we didn't even question not showing it."

Other news directors in the story chimed in on the unseemliness of using the video. "Even if we had the video, we wouldn't put it on the air," one said.

One thing McDaniel didn't mention: the Chronicle's own story on the Williams Tower event.

On the paper's Web page, thanks to its partnership with KHOU, that story featured…a link to the video that the majority of newsrooms said they wouldn't use. Websurfers could click on it and rerun the clip to their heart's content all day long.

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