Imagine a world without Tom DeLay.
Now, snap out of your reverie and force yourself to face the heinous reality that Tom DeLay is, indeed, a part of this world. No one said this life would be easy.
DeLay, the GOP leader from Sugar Land, has long been busy putting the "lunatic" in the "lunatic fringe." He stepped up to the plate nicely in a recent speech, where he told a group of antievolution Christians that colleges like Baylor and Texas A&M were bastions of liberal hedonism. Which was certainly news to anyone who doesn't necessarily think the Harry Potter books are satanist propaganda.
Someone from a liberal group (one pushing the communistic idea of church-state separation) sneaked a tape recorder into the speech and leaked the results to the Houston Chronicle.
The paper's April 18 story was followed up by all the local TV news stations; Channel 11 made it the lead story that evening.
KHOU reporter Jason Whitely did the report, which featured an audio clip of the speech. And then, as Whitely noted that DeLay "would not speak about the matter on camera," video was shown of the representative fighting his way through a crowd of reporters and hostile-looking bystanders, his wife and daughter huddling near him for safety, at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Boy, those Aggies sure take things personally, we thought.
That's not what Edd Hendee, occasional host of a talk show on right-wing radio KSEV-AM, thought. "I saw the clip, and the body language is that he was trying to get away from the press, and he had this pretty worried look on his face, and I thought, 'This doesn't seem to fit,' " Hendee says.
Hendee, who says DeLay "looked like he had been caught screwing his secretary or stealing taxpayers' money," called the congressman's office to see about an on-air interview. He told staffers that DeLay hadn't done himself any favors with the way he had dodged the press at Intercontinental that day.
That struck the staffers as odd, because DeLay hadn't traveled to Bush that day, and he hadn't traveled with his family. He had flown by private jet to an airport in Sugar Land.
It turns out KHOU had used four-year-old footage of DeLay. It was shot the day a crazed gunman had stormed DeLay's Capitol office; DeLay had just been informed upon landing at Bush that his good friend and bodyguard, who had been injured in the shooting, had died as a result of the injuries.
KHOU news director Mike Devlin has long made known his antipathy to talking to the Press, but he talked with Hendee. "He told me, 'I guess we just forgot to put [a graphic saying] File Footage on it,' " Hendee says.
We never thought we'd see the day when we'd take Tom DeLay's side in something, but wonders never cease, we guess. And maybe he's right -- maybe we didn't descend from damn dirty apes!
Speaking of television news, it's always been a heartwarming, supportive industry. Why, within mere minutes of longtime KTRK anchor Shara Fryer's announcement that she had colorectal cancer, there was an outpouring of grumbling about "sweeps stunts."
Fryer, who is undergoing chemotherapy and believes the disease was caught early enough, learned of her diagnosis March 14, she told viewers. She did so on April 25 -- the first day of the crucial sweeps period. She also told readers of the Chronicle the same thing that morning, in a story previewing the night's report. Rival TV newsrooms across the city felt the timing of the newspaper story was too perfect, and noted that KTRK's piece on Fryer that night was delayed until well into the broadcast, to maximize ratings.
We're sure -- well, at least we hope -- that all the grumblers also felt at least a tinge of sympathy for her.
We Lead No More
It was an absolutely stunning admission of defeat, an unexpected acknowledgement by the Chronicle that it had been fooling the public all along.
There, in the "Behind the Bylines" insert sent to subscribers, was the notice: The Chron would no longer refer to itself as "Houston's Leading Information Source." From now on, the front-page slogan would be the decidedly more modest "Your Daily Information Source."
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Gosh. A slogan for a newspaper that, after all, does come out each day could hardly get more unassuming than that. Sure, we've got some information, the slogan says, but we're not making any claims as to how good it is.
"We just finally realized that we weren't the 'leading' anything anymore," a Chron spokesman didn't say.
Instead, the announcement said the change came because "we think this better explains the way readers use their newspaper." Whatever the hell that means.
The title of "Houston's Leading Information Source" now passes, due to complicated seniority rules, to the Greensheet. We hope they wear it well.