Embargo

UH and Rice make deal with Chron

EDUCATION

Media Embargo
UH and Rice Get What They Want from theChronicle

By Richard Connelly

If you're going to kill off the last station in town that epitomizes "college radio" (for better or worse), you have to work hard not to come off looking like a villain.

The University of Houston and Rice sure did, using a media embargo in cooperation with the Houston Chronicle that was supposed to ensure the first news of UH buying and shutting down Rice's legendary KTRU-FM would be delivered in a glowing, positive, puffy style.

How do you headline a piece about the killing of a locally famous, highly idiosyncratic radio station that has been in equal parts exciting and exasperating audiences for three decades? A transaction that would turn a station that plays things like ultra-obscure nu-metal, World Music from countries you've never heard of, and just about defines "eclectic" into one that will play the same tired NPR-ish classical-music repertoire all day?

This way: "UH Signals Boost to Public Radio".

Yay public radio!!

Chronicle reporter Jeannie Kever, who covers higher education for the paper, apparently heard rumors of UH's plan to buy KTRU. Negotiations were not finished, so administrators at both schools cooked up a deal: They would give her all the info she needed, including an official statement from UH president Renu Khator, if she would hold the story until Tuesday, August 17, when the UH Board of Regents would approve it.

Such agreements, called embargoes, are more typically used when a study or some other type of detailed information is about to be released: The entity gives the info to reporters to digest, with the promise that nothing will be published before a certain specified time and date. (In the Internet age, these agreements are getting a bit outdated.)

Unfortunately for the Chron and the schools, our Chris Gray heard rumors of the pending sale the afternoon before the meeting, and we posted an item detailing what we heard. A UH spokesman would only confirm the purchase of some radio station was on the next day's board agenda, but he would not name the station. A Rice spokesman said merely he would have to run Gray's question by some people.

A couple of hours after our item went up, the Chron posted Kever's love letter to the deal. It's no longer available online, even in cached version, but the headline pretty much gives an accurate feel for it — UH was buying KTRU in order to make its KUHF station into news and talk 24/7; KTRU would become KUHC and take over all the classical-music programming, and everyone was happy. UH would be one of the few universities with two radio stations — big time!! — and the official statement from Khator blathered on about keeping UH at the forefront of something or other.

There was a quick sentence noting KTRU's programming would still be available online. We seem to remember, buried deep, deep in the original article, some criticism of the deal, but even our print version from that day has been updated from that first post.

In other words, the article could not have been better, from the point of view of UH and Rice. From the point of view of music lovers in Houston, though — even music lovers who thought KTRU was ridiculously precious or full of itself — the article was a little lacking.

Then again, embargoed stories are rarely critical of the entity you've made the embargo agreement with.
_____________________

SPACED CITY

The Five Most Overrated Neighborhoods in Houston

By Richard Connelly

Recently we told you about Houston's most underrated neighborhoods. Now it's time to determine the area's most overrated places to live.

Where to begin? Let us travel north, for ­starters.

5. The Woodlands

Recently the author of something called The Nordstrom Guide to Everyday Dressing called The Woodlands "hip," for reasons that are as clear to us as why anyone would buy a book called The Nordstrom Guide to Everyday Dressing. The Woodlands is a place where you never, ever escape the movie-set feeling of unreality: it's like a meticulously planned version of what a bucolic suburb should be, but it's like living in The Sims rather than reality. When the focus point of your neighborhood's existence is a mall with overpriced touches like gondola rides, you're not "hip." Except maybe to a Nordstrom publicist.

4. Kingwood

The northern suburb that isn't The Woodlands. Yeah, it's got a lot of trees and trails. But you can only see so many McMansions before your brain gets scrambled. And that commute up and down 59 — is that really worth some trees?

3. Bellaire

A nice, 1950s suburb, filled with comfortable houses on big lots, has become a collection of ostentatious, overbuilt modern monstrosities with teeny little bits of lawn. An over-aggressive police force, people inordinately proud to be zoned to Bellaire High, and a general feeling of disappointment that they're not in West U lead to an overall blah-ness.

2. Montrose

Oh, not the Montrose of old — the one filled with bungalows, odd shops, and weird little apartments and duplexes. But modern Montrose? Filled with shoddy-looking cookie-cutter townhomes, strip shopping centers, and a constant stream of death notices for former neighborhood landmarks? That Montrose is overrated. Still better than a lot of neighborhoods, but not what it used to be, and not what old-timers think of when they hear "Montrose." Sic transit gloria, and all that.

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