Way Out There

When Time Warner Cable and the Belo Corporation, the company that owns Channel 11 and The Dallas Morning News, announced earlier this year that they would be starting a new 24-hour all-local-news channel, some people worried that it would just be a low-rent operation showing the same borrowed video clips over and over.

The news station will be similar to the format of CNN's Headline News, in which each half-hour features headlines, sports and weather at specified times, but officials said they also would have reporters and newsroom staff on hand to cover the city aggressively.

Which certainly would be a welcome development.

Time Warner/Belo officials have announced where they are going to put their new studio, however, and the decision doesn't inspire confidence.

The city will be aggressively covered by news reporters based…in the farthest northwest corner of Beltway 8. It seems like more of an Austin suburb than a Houston operation, but apparently there are things about Houston traffic that we don't know about.

"The big thing for us in the TV business is getting around the city," a Time Warner official told the Houston Chronicle. The paper said the official added that "being along the tollway will give the news crew the ability to drive to various parts of Houston quickly."

In what alternate universe would that be? Unless by "various parts" he means Jersey Village. And the suburbs of Jersey Village.

Not to mention that if disaster should ever befall the Tomball Fourth of July parade, these guys will have the jump on their competitors.

But if they ever want to get to that big collection of tall buildings in the middle of Harris County (note to Time Warner/Belo people: the locals call it "downtown"), they better pack a lunch.

Chronicle real estate writer Ralph Bivins, who's never met a proposed development that wasn't destined for success, noted that the area along the West Belt has been booming. For proof, he talked to an official with the developer who sold the land to Time Warner/Belo.

The official expressed boundless relief that someone had actually purchased that white-elephant piece of land he'd been looking forever to unload. Perhaps not. Perhaps, much more predictably, he waxed eloquent to Bivins about the great Land of Opportunity that is the virgin prairie way out there.

"The western Sam Houston Tollway could become as dense with development as Loop 610 someday, said David Hightower, executive vice president of Wolff Cos.," Bivins wrote. " 'It's going to be the center of commerce as the Houston area continues to grow,' Hightower said."

Bivins noted that Hightower is pushing the nickname "Techway" for the area (the Chron helpfully used the term in its headline).

As evidence of the cutting-edge high-techness of the area, Bivins said the news station will be sharing space at its development with the DeVry Institute, one of the most prestigious schools that advertise on daytime TV.

Can an aggressive news operation, with hordes of support crew and stevedores constantly manhandling the supplies needed for the long trips to the big city, coexist peacefully with a sedate, cultured, ivy-covered Seat of Learning? Stay tuned.

You Only Die Twice

The Chronicle has introduced a new obituary feature to its pages. It's not a bad idea -- every day they have a reporter do an expanded obit of some local personage who has gone on to his or her just reward, and some of the deceased have interesting stories.

Not to mention that there's some sport in seeing who's getting stuck with the assignment each day (we're guessing Tony Freemantle won't be keeping his clip headlined "Churchgoer, Devoted Single Mom Dies at 90.")

They also have "Deaths Elsewhere" as part of the package, a wrap-up of that day's prominent newly dead people.

On July 28 it included Rex T. Barber. Barber, the Chron reported, was "a World War II fighter pilot who spent most of his life seeking sole credit for shooting down the bomber carrying the mastermind of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

Five days later, "Deaths Elsewhere" featured Rex T. Barber. He was still dead, but this time he was described as a "World War II fighter pilot who was a central figure in the storied 1943 mission that resulted in the death of Adm. Isokuro Yamamoto, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." That's certainly an improvement over the image from the first obit, which offered the picture of some bitter old vet obsessed with trying to hog the glory for some long-ago deed.

The first obit came from the Associated Press; the second -- published in the Chron August 2 -- came from the August 1 edition of The New York Times.

It turns out that the Yamamoto mission is a source of great debate in the WWII community. A group called the Second Yamamoto Mission Association even has a Web site, www.syma.org, dedicated to furthering Barber's claim to being the guy who shot down Yamamoto.

We couldn't reach anyone at the association, so we don't know if they got to the Chronicle, or if the guy doing obits August 1 just picked up the Times item without realizing it was a repeat.

We're simply glad justice was served. And we eagerly await the next Rex T. Barber obit for further developments.

Insert "Dream" Pun Here

This being the third or fourth time the city has had to deal with losing Hakeem Olajuwon, the local media have got the drill down pretty good. Seeing as how this time the event may just actually occur, that's a good thing.

The standard boxes are all checked: Man in sports bar saying he'll be forever grateful for what Hakeem's done for the city, check. Second man in sports bar saying it's all about the money and there's no loyalty left in professional sports, check.

Some reporter, talk-show host or columnist referring to Hakeem as "a warrior," check. (We're sure someone mentioned "the heart of a warrior" somewhere, but we missed it.)

All in all, the week's reporting on Olajuwon's departure was pretty standard, not much different from all the other times when the Dream was supposedly leaving.

And then there was the promo from KTRH-AM: "First it was Tropical Storm Allison, now it's Hakeem leaving!" the station's anchors boomed.

Red Cross shelters will be opening soon.

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