The Houston Chronicle just finished a fat, happy week, bulging with advertisements urging shoppers to take advantage of the state's new three-day "sales-tax holiday."
The Chron also offered a long story August 6 telling shoppers how to shop, in a transparent attempt to win the Pulitzer committee's Public Service Award.
"The experts say you need a plan. High on the list is deciding when and where to shop," the story's opening related.
Ummm. So this so-called "shopping" involves figuring out an actual time to do the activity. And apparently one must visit some type of location. Might these be the "stores" we sometimes hear expert shoppers talking about?
Intimidated readers were reassured by a detailed nine-point checklist of tips. Among them:
1. "Scour the ads for sales before leaving home." Why, a good place to start would be Houston's Leading Information Source!
2. "Trying on new clothes will be less of a hassle" if your kids are already wearing clothes that are well, as the story says, "easy-on, easy-off." By God, they're right!
3. "You should wear comfortable clothes, too, and, most important, comfortable shoes." Intriguing idea. Our decision to dress uncomfortably to go to a packed mall was obviously not well thought-through.
4. "Remember that kids grow. Buy some things in larger sizes." Wait, what are you telling us these little humans grow? That wasn't in the guidebook!
5. Make sure the kids have a good night's sleep and a good breakfast. Says one "store employee bracing for the busy weekend": "Bathe them, feed them, give them lots to drink and take them to the bathroom." But what should we give them to eat and drink, Chronicle? And do we have to decide When and Where to do it? The kitchen? The dining room? Details, dammit!
6. "Ask if you're getting the absolute best price." And be sure to do it on every item, even ones you're not considering buying. The sales staff will love you for it!
Oh, the paper also added a further tip: "Have a good time."
We sure will, if we can just remember all the goddamn steps involved.
It happened on Channel 26's morning news, which means not a whole lot of people saw it. We didn't, but a reliable source did, and someone at Fox backs the claim up.
Reporter Lloyd Gite was doing a live stand-up from City Streets, interviewing a guy who was auditioning acts for The Extreme Gong Show, which we're guessing is not something for the Bravo Channel.
Says Gite: "Tell us What kind of extreme acts are you looking for?"
Says the guy: "Well, for instance, if you sing the 'Star-Spangled Banner,' we wouldn't care. But if you could fart the 'Star-Spangled Banner,' then we'd love to see you."
What we'd have loved to see was the look on Gite's face. He apparently recovered quickly and threw it back to anchorman Jose Grinan. Unfortunately.
Said Grinan: "No one would like more than me to hear patriotic poots, but I wouldn't want to smell one."
We're thankful for the information, Jose. We think.
No, this isn't the poster for the upcoming action thriller Barney Fife, 2050 A.D. It's Chronicle computer columnist Dwight Silverman, all decked out to play in a Quake media tournament in Dallas. Quake is apparently a 3-D game where you pretend to shoot other players. On August 6, Silverman promised readers a full report on the tournament, in case there's anyone left who doesn't think grown-ups playing such games are nerds.
Taking Care of Business
There it was, bannered across the top of the Houston Chronicle's front page August 2, with a mug shot and a highlighted quote, apparently the most important news of the day: a story about Hillary Clinton's interview with Talk magazine.
The piece, from the paper's Washington bureau, went on and on for more than 1,000 words. By comparison, The New York Times ran its version of the tale on page ten, giving it about 200 words; The Washington Post had it on page two, at about 700 words; The Boston Globe had it on page ten with 172 words; and The Dallas Morning News put it on page three at less than 500 words.
Why the hype in Houston? Some highly paranoid readers have had the gall to point ominously to the fact that the Hearst Corporation, which owns the Chronicle, has a financial stake in the Disney-owned Talk.
We would never think such a thing, though. And the Chron does deserve kudos for pointing out the company ties in its story. Other Hearst papers didn't do so.
Those other Hearst papers also didn't devote as much prime space to the story, however. Maybe now we know why the Chron tells us each year that it has dominated the Hearst Corporation's in-house journalism contest.
Got a media miscue you want to relay? A news nugget worth sharing? E-mail Richard Connelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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