We knew that the Houston media's coverage of the GOP convention was going to get weird when we read the Houston Chronicle's front-page teaser July 29 for the next day's convention preview: "Philly's Rebound: Once a decaying city largely governed by Democrats, Philadelphia is enjoying a revitalization, helped by an enthusiastic response to the GOP convention."
Golly! If all of America would just see the light and forsake those godless Democrats
Things got weirder when we saw that Channel 13's Marvin Zindler was on the scene, for the moment leaving defenseless all those Houstonians for whom he is the bewigged vengeance-seeking vigilante imposing justice on all store owners who dare sell vacuum cleaners that don't function properly.
Things got much weirder when Zindler, who seemed to spend most of his time corralling people in the lobby of the hotel in which he was staying, excitedly struck gold by nailing an exclusive interview with CNN talk-show host and noted media recluse Larry King. How he got King to talk we'll never know, and since we immediately hit the mute button, we'll never really know what they said. But we did see extensive video of King proudly showing snapshots of his new kids to his age-peer Zindler.
That alone justified the expense of sending Marvin to Philly.
The weirdness in the Chronicle didn't come from the fawning coverage of George W. Bush, of every other Bush, or of any other Texan going on at length about what good folks those Bushes are; that was to be expected.
("Did he make the speech everyone said he had to make? Yes, he did," the Chronicle's news analysis of Bush's acceptance speech read. "He was up. He was in charge. He spoke directly to the country's questions about him. He had a relaxed air of humor that belied the tension." Oh, wait -- that was their analysis of the acceptance speech by President George Bush eight years ago, the speech that rocketed him to re-election.)
No, the really weird part was the coverage by Chron political writer Julie Mason, who filed some entertaining and sharp -- in other words, very un-Chronicle-esque -- work.
Before the convention opened, she chided Texas social conservatives for their attitudes toward gay Congressman Jim Kolbe. And in a column August 2, she not only called Bush nephew George P. "bright but uncharismatic," heresy in a sea of coverage about the so-called Hispanic hunk, but she wrote this: "Is anyone really buying the Republican Party's so-called efforts to reach out to minorities and younger voters? Of course not; it's a sham within a scam."
How that got by the desk we can only begin to guess.
Things returned to normal the next day in the newspaper's sedate pages. An analysis declared that Bush's delivery of his acceptance speech "demonstrated a power and poise as a candidate that he could not have mustered just a year ago when he launched his presidential campaign," thus fulfilling the Chron's traditional role of declaring any and all problems of a Bush to be now put to rest.
Instead of Mason, the convention-closing column went to former Washington bureau chief Cragg Hines. Who devoted his space to discussing cheese steaks.
Yep, It's Wet
Television reporters have long sought to prove their courage by standing in driving rainstorms to report that the rain is really wet, but at least they have the sense to wear raincoats. Channel 2's Suzanne Boase went above and beyond the call of duty August 2, apparently setting out to prove that Real Reporters don't need raincoats.
Says a viewer: "She was apparently going to go live at 5 p.m. outside the courthouse but got caught in the rain when the storm showed up. She was not wearing a coat, but was instead in her usual suit, soaked to the bone in a driving rainstorm, standing almost in the street. Her wet hair was matted and stuck to her face. Her clipboard (also soaked) was clutched under her left arm. She breathlessly informed us that a 'strong storm' had just hit the downtown area and she was caught in it (duh) .She also stated that the lightning and thunder was 'really, really loud' and that the rain hitting her face 'really hurt.' All this while a Metro bus darn near hit her."
And who says local news ain't gripping, compelling television? And who says NBC doesn't have any Survivor-type reality programming?
Size Does Matter
The Chronicle has been running house ads lately with the proud boast that "The Chronicle is the sixth-largest U.S. daily newspaper."
For a paper that regularly takes Bill Clinton to task for misleading and hair-splitting statements, this one could definitely qualify as "Clintonesque."
The circulation figures come from the most recent report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. But the ABC's list of "Largest Dailies' Circulation" shows the Chron as the country's ninth-largest daily.
The Chronicle apparently believes that USA Today and The Wall Street Journal -- no. 1 and 2 on the list -- don't count because they don't publish on weekends. The ABC calls them dailies, but not the Chron.
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That gets the Chron to seventh place. How does it get sixth?
The Chron wrote a story May 7 that showed the New York paper Newsday had a circulation of 552,937, which puts it just 525 papers behind the Chron. But according to the ABC report, Newsday's circulation is actually 575,595, well ahead of the Chron's. A Chronicle spokeswoman referred questions to the ABC.
That circulation chart, by the way, is not the only national journalism list on which the Chron finds itself lately. Those nasty folks at Forbes magazine have put together a list showing that our very own Chronicle is the largest daily paper in the country to never win a Pulitzer Prize. The Chron is 36 percent larger than the next-biggest non-Pulitzer paper.
Of course, Forbes's list did show USA Today at the top of the non-honored papers. But as the folks at 801 Texas know, that paper doesn't count.