News Hostage

Reporters Are Not Scum
It's a crowded field with many, many deserving candidates, but we think we can finally declare just which media outlet is most guilty of overrating the importance of journalism contests.

And the winner is... Inside Houston magazine, the veteran glossy that every month offers a tepid blend of snooze-inducing stories about what a terrific city we live in.

Except for an often-funny humor feature by Gary Michaels -- a feature that, however, should pay royalties to an exceedingly similar column in Entertainment Weekly -- the magazine is known chiefly for being the home of former Houston Post editorial page editor Lynn Ashby.

For Houstonians who remember Ashby's bizarre columns at the dead daily, that's reason enough to leave Inside Houston unread. (As far as we can tell, Ashby has not yet resuscitated his zany stock character, Calpakis The Wily Greek, the neighbor who always raided Ashby's liquor cabinet.)

With not much in the way of competition, Inside Houston swept the Press Club of Houston awards recently in the magazine category, a fact celebrated in an over-the-top column by editor Regina Throop.

"In the late 18th century," she began, "you might have seen this sign on an American printer's door: 'This is a printing office. Cross-roads of civilization, fortress of stubborn truth.... Lovers of liberty, here you stand on sacred ground. This is a printing office.' "

Today, she said, journalists still strive to give the public information it needs, "digging deeper, questioning everything."

In the course of doing so, Inside Houston "truth seekers" won awards for stories on missing kids and, umm, "how Houstonians built their future around the beautiful bayous" and a feature on Westheimer Road, "a family's dirt road that turned into 43 miles of booming business."

But Inside Houston is not the only home to intrepid and stalwart fighters for Right, Throop said. Others won awards, too.

"When you turn on the six o'clock news tonight, pick up your newspaper tomorrow morning or flip through the pages of your favorite magazine, remember the ones who gathered the news, researched the feature story, designed the layout, operated the camera, edited the broadcast and carried the mike. These are the ones who strive to bring you the truth. Here you stand on sacred ground."

Geez, it's just the Press Club of Houston, kids. Save some hosannas for when you win awards from the Beautiful Bayou Association or the Westheimer Chamber of Commerce.

We're just glad Throop didn't go on at such length that she cut into that month's cover story, a liberty-defending piece from the crossroads of civilization called "School's Out! 50-Plus Ways to Keep Kids Entertained."

Twice-Told Tales, The Sequel
We thoroughly enjoyed the news item by Houston Chronicle reporter Terry Kliewer June 4. It was datelined Brenham and began, "This little piggy went to market -- or at least it was supposed to. But a certain piggy shown at the Washington County fair earlier this year never made it to market. And therein lies a twisty tale of swine crime, according to a Washington County grand jury."

It brought us back to the halcyon days of August 26, 1998, when we thoroughly enjoyed a Terry Kliewer piece datelined Brenham that began, "This little piggy went to market -- or at least it was supposed to. But a certain piggy shown at the Washington County fair earlier this year never made it to market. And therein lies a twisty tale of swine crime, according to a Washington County grand jury."

Come to think of it, we didn't like it that much. Once really would have been enough.

Kliewer says he had written a new story, about the defendants working out plea bargains on the indictments mentioned in the 1998 item, but the copy desk somehow picked up the wrong pig piece.

The headline writers, of course, had different space to work with in the two issues, so they came up with different results. Depressingly enough for readers, though, both headline writers apparently considered the phrase "purloined porker" so clever that it just had to be used each time.

Next up: The Chron analyzes George W. Bush's election chances -- against Ann Richards.

Tomorrow's Weather: Hot and Obscure
Here's a quiz for you: What are Ace, Glidden, Romayor, Goodrich and Pinehurst?

They're not hardware brands. They're not paints. What they are, apparently, are important, highly valued pockets of desirable television news viewers.

That's the only assumption you can make as you sit and watch these very, very, very obscure Texas towns scroll by at the bottom of the screen as Channel 2 gives its noon-news weather report. Employing the same inane "News 2 You" philosophy that leads anchors to announce they're delivering the news "for Conroe, Kemah and Kennedy Heights," KPRC feels the need to inform us specifically what tomorrow's weather will be like in Glidden and Ace.

Beyond the fact that the only difference in forecasts for any of the dozen or so towns that scroll by is a degree or so at most, you have to wonder what's the point. We're sure Romayorites get a little twinge of Romayor Pride when they see the big-city teevee mentioning their town's name, but how many people can that be?

Do they gather daily at the barber shop in Goodrich to see if their town has made the cut yet again? Is it iced tea on the house at the Pinehurst Dairy Queen whenever the big moment comes?

Maybe it's intended to be a travel forecast. If you're planning to be on the road the next day, you better know that it's gonna be partly sunny and 87 in Ace, partly sunny and 87 in Glidden, partly sunny and 87 in Romayor, and -- you might want to adjust your travel plans here -- partly sunny but only 86 in Goodrich.

Surveyed the Houston media scene and found something that inspires, angers or befuddles you? Contact Richard Connelly at the Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Houston, TX 77002, or e-mail him at

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