The competition has been fierce in the battle over the 2012 Olympics. And we're not talking about the cities involved, we're talking about the newspapers from those cities.
Papers from each of the four remaining cities bidding to host the 2012 Summer Games went out of their way to breathlessly report that the U.S. Olympic Committee selection team really, really liked what they saw on the final tour that wrapped up this month.
From the Washington, D.C., visit, courtesy of the June 30 Washington Post: "USOC Sees 'No Shortfalls' in Washington Bid; 2012 Games Site Evaluation Team Weighs In, Moves On."
The New York visit, via the July 2 Daily News: "Olympics Bid by City Wows 'Em."
San Francisco, as headlined in the July 17 San Francisco Chronicle: "Hopes Rise on Bay Area Olympic Bid; San Francisco Said to Be Top Choice."
Not to be left behind, of course, was our very own Houston Chronicle, which summarized the USOC's Texas visit with this July 14 headline: "Olympic Praise for City; Task Force Calls 2012 Bid 'Extraordinary.' "
While the fight for the Breathlessness Award was indeed close, we -- perhaps in the throes of hometown favoritism -- have to anoint Houston's Daily Information Source.
The July 14 story by David Barron quoted extensively from the praise that site-selection committee chairman Charles Moore handed out ("This is a competitive bid from a can-do, committed and spirited city," Moore was quoted as saying).
Then there was this: "Moore's positive reaction to the city's venue plan apparently was so genuine that he almost violated his cardinal rule of refusing to compare the bid cities," Barron wrote. "'The sports infrastructure stacks up very well against the other four bid cities,' he said before pausing. 'I didn't mean to say that. The sports infrastructure stacks up very well against our standards.' "
Wow, he was so overwhelmed he almost let slip that Houston has facilities comparable to the other cities.
The Washington Post also noted, in reporting on the Houston visit, that Moore almost broke a self-imposed gag rule. Their take was different, though:
"Moore perhaps provided more insight than he intended in his remarks today," reporter Amy Shipley wrote. "After reiterating that the USOC wanted a city appealing enough to compete as an international destination with the likes of Paris, Rome and London Moore was asked to comment on Houston's strengths and weaknesses. Moore said he would not comment on the bid's 'weaknesses.' (In Washington, he said the Washington-Baltimore bid had no flaws, then repeated the remark when queried about it in New York.)"
Shipley then wrote that Moore "proceeded to cite only two qualities as specific strengths [of Houston], neither of which addresses the international aspect."
For what it's worth, every city's paper seems to be sure that their city has got the inside track. Three of the four also seem to agree Houston is a long shot at best.
Also agreeing is the putatively no-dog-in-the-hunt Los Angeles Times, which notes Houston is compared in International Olympic Committee circles to Atlanta, "on the grounds that both are featureless, hot, muggy Southern cities."
That brought forth a ringing rebuttal from Houston 2012 honcho Susan Bandy: "Comparatively speaking," she told the Times, "we are so much farther along, however you look at it, than Atlanta will ever be."
As they say in Arkansas whenever national education rankings are cited, "Thank God for Mississippi."
Donna Savarese, the part-time model and reporter/weekend anchor for KHWB, is no longer with the station.
As noted here earlier (see "Model Journalist," July 4), Savarese surprised her bosses by appearing as a model in an advertisement for a local homebuilder. KHWB news director Joe Nolan said after the incident that he had discussed the situation with Savarese "and she assures me she won't be doing it again."
Nolan won't talk about Savarese's departure, but apparently KHWB brass were not thrilled with their anchor's in-print explanation of the matter. For one thing, Nolan had been under the impression that Savarese believed her modeling work -- done as a favor to a friend who owns an agency -- would not show up in an ad; Savarese said, however, that she knew it was for an ad, she just didn't think it was for an ad that would appear in the Chronicle.
Perhaps more damaging was her further explanation that, basically, she thought it was okay because no one watched KHWB anyway: "I didn't think anyone would notice," she said, "because I hardly ever get recognized when I go out."
Savarese, who came to Houston after an anchor stint in Jacksonville, Florida, could not be reached.
Writing in a lively manner is always important if you want to grab readers, and the folks at the Chron are trying mightily. Just look at one example of how they aim to improve their story-telling ability.
A July 12 article noted that a plaintiff had recently accused a priest of sexually abusing him almost 30 years ago in Channelview. The story said the plaintiff had been so emotionally disturbed that he didn't remember it until January 2002.
A correction the next day pointed the way to a New Day of tight, concise writing at the Chron (or perhaps of frantically appeasing lawyers). "The article should have stated," the correction read, that -- hold your breath -- "the plaintiff's 'chronic psychological condition has prevented him from understanding and appreciating that the serious emotional, physical and sexual difficulties he suffers from were the direct result of the sexual abuse and the other actions described herein until after January 2002.' "
Damn straight the story should have said that. We know that if we can't get the phrase "described herein" into a news story, it's a wasted day.
There's other evidence of newfound playfulness in our city's daily. We offer two sentences: One, from a July 14 editorial railing against any investigation of President Bush's shady financial past: "As a director Bush accepted favorable and legal loans from Harken Energy Corp., but he has summoned the gumption to condemn the practice and call for its end."
That's one way of looking at it, we guess.
Exhibit 2: From a straightforward page 1 news story July 16 about scandal-plagued Halliburton relocating its headquarters from Dallas to Houston: "Only 20 people work in the Halliburton headquarters office in Dallas, [a company spokesman] said. But Houston will gain some prestige by being the home base for another large energy company."
With prestige like that, who needs Enron?