News Hostage

Daring You to Stay Tuned

What does it take to make you switch the channel from a news broadcast?

For some, it was when a Fox reporter perkily promo'd an upcoming investigation recently with the hard-hitting line, "Silicone without surgery! Is this the ultimate bra?"

For others, it was when Channel 13 sent a reporter out a week ago to interview people who knew a guy who had just been arrested for sexually assaulting two teenagers. "It's not like him at all," the report quoted one acquaintance as saying. "He loves kids."

For us, though, it was yet another "exclusive" celebrity interview conducted by Channel 2's very own Buzz Lady, Roseann Rogers. The excitement was palpable as Rogers squealed about how she got a rare chance to talk with actress Annette Bening!

Somehow, in our mad dementia, the enthusiasm Rogers was displaying led us to believe that she had actually gotten an in-depth interview with Bening. Perhaps, given the way Rogers was so delighted, Bening was actually in Houston and had sat down with the entertainment reporter.

Umm, no, as it turns out. The "interview" was a sad little 30-second effort that revealed nothing more than KPRC's delusions of grandeur.

Bening was in one of those standard anonymous interview rooms, with the black background and the poster for her movie prominently behind her. Rogers was in the Channel 2 studio, allegedly tossing questions to the actress. There seemed to be a strange disconnect between the questions and answers, but we would never assume that the studio had provided a list of questions for local reporters to read in order to match up with Bening's answers.

Three innocuous queries later, it was over. You could all but hear the technical people in L.A. shouting, "Okay, Houston's finished. Oklahoma City, up next! Birmingham, you're after them! And get Poughkeepsie ready, dammit!"

Bagwell Doesn't Suck

The Chronicle has long been very protective of the delicate sensibilities of its readers, liberally substituting euphemisms for perceived vulgarities in quoted sentences.

Who is leading this moral crusade? Who wants most to turn back the clock to a more dignified time? You might be surprised to know it's the sports department.

Reporting on the Astros' annual playoff collapse, the Chron had a front-page story headlined, "Over And Out: Astros Fall Short One Last Time As Dome Era Ends." In it, first baseman Jeff Bagwell commented on how he had yet again been unable to produce in the post-season.

He said, according to the story, "I'm not going to lie to you. I am frustrated. I didn't want to suck again. I really didn't."

Or maybe he didn't say that. The same quote showed up on the sports pages that day, changed to reflect the classier tone one finds there. "I didn't want to (stink) again," Bagwell was quoted as saying.

Remember: At the Chronicle, you can suck on the news pages, but you can only stink in sports.

Push-button Phones!

Jerry Marcus, who has been running Fox Channel 26 for the last 21 years, announced October 15 that he was retiring, earning accolades and glowing media stories.

In some parts of the Fox newsroom, though, the joke was that the 67-year-old Marcus was retiring at the end of the year because he wasn't Y2K-compliant. He's apparently not the most computer-literate guy on the planet.

The local Fox affiliate has no Web page. There's no real e-mail system in the newsroom -- staffers have to use their personal AOL accounts if they want to partake in the not-so-modern miracle of sending mail on-line.

Last we heard, though, the station had purchased some of those newfangled fax machines.

Visit Beautiful East Timor

We realize that the arts-and-leisure sections of a newspaper aren't supposed to be filled with doom and gloom, but that doesn't mean they have to ignore reality.

The Chron did a short piece recently that all but begged readers to ignore that dead skunk in the middle of the room.

A relentlessly cheery story told, with a photo, of how Galveston now has "duck boats," amphibious vehicles that drive through the city and then take a short tour over the water.

The story said, "Tour guides are licensed as captains by the U.S. Coast Guard -- and maybe by Jerry Seinfeld," apparently because they're so darn funny on the tours.

That's fine, but absolutely nowhere was mentioned the last time anyone had seen one of these boats in a newspaper: just a few months ago, when the same kind of World War II-era vehicle sank instantly in Hot Springs, Arkansas, killing 11.

You might've expected some kind of no-worries comment explaining how inspections and safety measures have been tightened in the wake of the recent disaster.

Instead, it was as if the Arkansas incident had never occurred.

We can't wait for the upcoming travel feature on the wonders of Russia's Chernobyl area.

The Great Man's Thoughts

Samuel Johnson had his Boswell to record his every thought; CBS's Jim Nantz has the Chron's David Barron. The headline on Barron's sports-TV column October 8: "Nantz Happy League Picked Houston."

We first noted Barron's Nantz obsession in April. Since then, we've learned that Nantz: thinks his new colleagues at NFL Today are "extremely enthusiastic and experienced" (September 12); believes the rivalry between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia "has to be created on a golf course," like it was during a tournament on CBS (August 16); finds professional golfers "are truly the most gracious athletes I've ever dealt with" (August 13); "rejoiced" in Stuart Appelby's win at the Shell Houston Open on CBS (May 3); and was "ecstatic" to be back in Houston covering the SHO -- on CBS. (April 25).

More to come, we're sure.

Seen anything really special in the Houston media that you'd like to share with the News Hostage? Email us at

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