Space Invaders

Boy, that World Space Congress really is something. At least if you're judging by the amount of space the Houston Chronicle is devoting to it.

The Chron lately hasn't met a convention it didn't love. To death.

With some, such as this year's national conventions of LULAC and the NAACP, overboard coverage is the paper's way of signaling that new editor Jeff Cohen is eager to court readers in the minority community (as if profiles of every Hispanic with a TV show weren't signal enough).

Currently in town is the World Space Congress, which you had probably never heard of until you read your October 10 Chron. Splattered across the front page was a painting by "renowned astronaut and artist Alan Bean" called "Hello, Universe." A caption told us the painting, of an astronaut flinging his arms wide, "captures the thrill of space discovery underpinning the World Space Congress."

Two inside pages were cleared to make room for space-related news, including a timetable of "Milestones in Space History" that reminded us that Sputnik launched in 1957, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969, etc., etc. The articles were part of a whopping 150 inches or so of combined copy on the Congress that ran in the paper on October 10 and 11, with the promise of much more to come.

The Congress, we were told, is "the meeting of the decade for space professionals." It is only the second such meeting, the first was held 10 years ago in Washington.

Man, that first one must really have been something, too. After all, about as many people attended it as the one here in Houston.

And that year it got exactly 10 paragraphs of coverage in the Chronicle, which is maybe seven column inches.

So if it's held in Washington its newsworthiness is seven inches, but if it's held here it's worth hundreds of inches of copy?

Somewhere -- maybe out there in the glorious, inviting dark, near the farthest reaches of mankind's ever-yearning imagination -- there's got to be a happy medium.

The Wonder of Me

KTRK's Wayne Dolcefino, at some point in his life, must have been humble and retiring. Perhaps not.

At any rate, those days are long gone. And now, Channel 13's investigator is taking ego to new (at least to us) heights.

October 10's late news led with his latest update on the Kid-Care scandal. It was good -- Dolcefino got an on-camera interview with the former staffer who's now being blamed by Kid-Care founder Carol Porter for all the group's woes. The staffer said he had permission from Porter for all his spending, but admitted "in hindsight" that it was probably not best to spend money designated for feeding hungry kids on such things as vacations to California and nights out at gentlemen's clubs.

All well and good. After the interview the piece cut to Wayne for the usual stand-up to close the story. He's standing not in the newsroom, not live!! outside Kid-Care headquarters, not in the studio with Dave and Gina.

Instead, he's apparently standing in his office, in front of a large "13 Undercover" logo and in front of a shelf with a row of the nine (regional) Emmy awards Dolcefino's won. It was like Pia Zadora showing off her Golden Globe trophy.

We looked closely, but we didn't see any Boy Scout merit badges that Wayne might have won, or even any certificates from a defensive-driving course.

Maybe he is a humble guy after all.

Calling Lt. Columbo

The local police and federal government are throwing all sorts of resources into the hunt for the serial sniper who's stalking the Washington, D.C. area.

We're sure they're consulting all the experts they can. But we can only hope that they are checking with the folks who write the editorials at the Chronicle.

The editorial board weighed in on October 10 on the subject of snipers who stalk innocent victims (they're against them). "Grotesque and evil crimes are not unique to the United States," the editorial said for some reason. "However, Americans have valid cause for alarm or sorrow when a cluster of shootings by a serial sniper quickly follows a particularly vicious and fatal beating administered to a Milwaukee man by a gang whose youngest member was 10."

Got it -- if there's a wacko going around shooting people randomly, it's okay to be alarmed. Or sorry for the victims.

The Chron did not simply reassure Houstonians, however. It offered its intriguing theory on the case, one we fervently wish someone would pass on to the investigating authorities: "If and when a suspect is caught," the editorial posited, "he…no doubt will turn out to be a sociopathic misfit."

Hmmmm. Someone who gets off on killing people in cold blood might turn out to be a sociopathic misfit?

We don't want to say, "No shit, Sherlock," but somehow we just can't avoid it.


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