Profiles in Boredom

A bright idea, dimly executed, at the local daily

Connoisseurs of the Houston Chronicle now have something new to savor: the pointless profile.

Editor Jeff Cohen apparently loves the idea of having a flowery profile anchoring the Metro front whenever possible, so we're going to be seeing a lot of these.

Cohen is not alone in this, of course. The pointless profile is a staple of many newspapers across the country. Like everything else, they can be done well and done…not so well. When done right, you get a bright, nicely turned look at some local with an interesting tale to tell. When done not so right, you get a pang of regret for the trees that have been felled in vain.

Connoisseurs of the Chron have been thinking of trees.

We had the elderly accountant ("Tax Man Cometh: 91-Year-Old CPA Finds Some Things Never Change"). In it we learned that Homer Longenecker, "a former member of the San Jacinto College Board of Regents," reads the Houston Chronicle every day.

We had the pit bulls who have weight-pulling competitions. And then we had the latest, a May 7 Metro-front piece by the Chron's former rock critic, Marty Racine. It was about…an elderly crossing guard. ("Her Street Corner: At 75, Dedicated Crossing Guard Still 'Can't Wait to Get to Work.' ") We learned crossing guards "have no powers of arrest."

We're assuming, perhaps naively, that these profiles won't consist almost entirely of elderly Houstonians telling us how they love their jobs. But if there's no relief coming from the by-the-numbers Official Newspaper Profile template that has so far been fanatically adhered to, thoughts of dead trees will never be far away.

Unlucky 13

Longtime Channel 13 anchor Dave Ward got in a car accident May 8 on his way home after the 10 p.m. newscast. He broke a leg. The Chronicle's Web site story on the incident noted that "all three cars involved in the crash were westbound on the 610 Loop near Richmond," which certainly would explain why an accident occurred, that stretch of the Loop being a north-south road and all.

Channel 13's story was even better. The lead, as shown on the station's Web site: "A Houston news legend was hospitalized Thursday night after a serious car accident allegedly caused by an unsafe driver."

We enjoyed the video, too, which featured a close-up of a plaque on Ward's totaled luxury car, a gold plaque saying "Built Especially For Dave Ward." Channel 13 told us the leg that Ward broke was the same leg he hurt in a celebrity motocross race, and they even had video of that 30-year-old event.

One thing they didn't mention or show was anything about the last time Ward made vehicle-related news, his 1995 DWI arrest. (There were no allegations of drinking being involved in the May 8 crash.)

What is it about KTRK anchors during sweeps month? Last year it was Shara Fryer announcing she was being treated for colon cancer. This time around we have Gina Gaston splashing her newborn triplets all over the place. Who can blame Ward for trying to get a bit of hospital time himself?

All this drama on the anchor desk has not kept Channel 13 from performing its journalistic duties, we're glad to say. Like every other station in town, Channel 13 felt it necessary to cover an open call for Houstonians trying to be the centerfold for Playboy's 50th anniversary issue. Houston is one of 20 towns where auditions are being held, and we're betting every TV station in all of those 20 cities will robotically provide Playboy with the publicity it wants.

Channel 13's report featured an antiporn crusader hating Playboy, and then a sex therapist defending the magazine.

The therapist said of the photos: "It's the way that it's used, and I think each individual needs to be able to self-regulate." Playboy fans are doing something to themselves, we're sure, but perhaps "regulate" is not the right word.

Pandering Por Favor

In honor of the Chronicle's tireless efforts to reach Hispanics by printing occasional articles in both English and Spanish -- like the weeklong hype surrounding the U.S.-Mexico soccer match -- we are also printing this item in Spanish.

En el honor de laCrónica de Houston los esfuerzos incansables para alcanzar a Hispanos imprimiendo el reglamento ocasional en ambos inglés y español -- como el exagera toda la semana circundante la U.S. el igual del fútbol de México -- imprimimos también este artículo en español.

Except when we took that block of text to a different Web translator, we got this English version: "In the honor of the Chronicle the untiring efforts to also reach to Hispanic imprimiendo the English and Spanish occasional regulation in both -- as the equal one of the soccer of Mexico exaggerates all the surrounding week the U.S. -- imprimimos this article in Spanish."

Oy.

 
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