What You Missed

Thousands and thousands of Houstonians were forced to live without their Channel 13 Eyewitness News May 1 when Time Warner Cable pulled KTRK off the air as part of its dispute with Disney.

Fortunately we have obtained a video of that night's 10 p.m. news from someone who has a VCR and patience enough to deal with a rabbit-ear antenna. Here's what all you erstwhile Eyewitness News viewers missed:

The "top story," of course, was the dispute that knocked 13 off the air. "We don't know when it will be resolved," reporter Cynthia Hunt intoned, "but one thing we do know: It has frustrated hundreds of thousands of Houstonians."

The scene then cut to the home of Houstonians Brad and Sue Raffield. Hunt told us Brad was "desperately" trying to get his antenna to work. Said Sue: "I have three things in my life that are very important to me: my granddaughter, Caitlyn, my grandson, Will, and Regis Philbin and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." She was not smiling when she said this.

In what seemed like a threat, Time Warner announced it would be showing C-SPAN 2 in the place normally occupied by 13 until the dispute was resolved.

We also got a report on the next day's planned release of the report on the Texas A&M Bonfire. KTRK's man in the field asked an A&M student whether "many people on campus are curious about what the report will say." (Yes, as it turns out.) He also asked a College Station resident if nonstudents are "interested in all this." (Yes, indeed.)

There was also a sweeps-month investigation by Wayne Dolcefino, who seemed palpably pissed at the thought of not being seen by anyone. Those white buttons on the highways that tell you when you're drifting out of your lane? The boxes they come in say the buttons are made in America, but they're actually made in China.

Dolcefino interviewed a door that had been slammed in his face by the highway-button distributor, but got no answers.

There was also a story that George W. Bush was leading Al Gore in a new poll (in Arizona, of all places); there seemed to be about 45 minutes of weather, and Marvin Zindler railed against the huge traffic jam that tied up the West Loop a few days previously.

In contest news, "Barbara in Sweeney" won $5,000 by being the 13th caller to KTRK after phone lines were open -- which apparently proves there were at least 13 viewers that night, unless some called twice. There was also some sports news.

And no, we won't deny you Channel 13 fans the icing on the cake, Dave Ward's light and bright "Before We Go" closer. Seems a teen in Hawaii found an envelope with a few thousand dollars in his dad's rental car and returned it.

"If he knew what the money was for, he might have kept it," Dave said, because it was for -- tee-hee -- teaching people the hula and ukulele. Co-anchor Shara Fryer dutifully giggled, as always.

Prima Donna

For years, every late January or early February has seen a Houston Chronicle piece describing the upcoming Houston Grand Opera season.

Not this year.

No one really wants to talk about it, but apparently the powers-that-be at the Chron's entertainment department got themselves into a snit because they felt they had been denied their God-given right to be the first publication with the details on the schedule.

The culprit? An innocuous piece in the program for HGO's first winter production this year, in which David Gockley, the opera's general director, briefly outlined some coming attractions.

That was enough for the Chronicle, apparently; the paper took its ball and went home. For the first time in 13 years, winter came and went without an HGO preview.

The situation was rectified April 30, when a short piece ran in the paper's Zest section. Why such an unusual date for the annual story? Well, it came shortly after the Houston Press began asking about the missing preview, but far be it from us to claim such influence.

Fine arts editor Lindsay Heinsen did not respond to a request for comment.

By the way, the Chron's arts section is still working hard to attract young readers. Apparently as part of that effort, on May 4 they previewed an upcoming performance by cutting-edge comic Rich Little, who is probably still doing a killer Spiro Agnew.

One graf of the piece caught our eye: " 'I'm doing a game show in the show called Presidential Pursuit,' [Little] says wryly. 'It's a little like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.' "

We're sure it is, and we're sure we'd be chuckling in anticipation if we hadn't immediately banished all thought of the skit from our heads. What we love, though, is the Chron's fearless, proud-to-be-a-fogy attitude symbolized by that single word "wryly."

Next up: a Yo! section interview with Helen Reddy.

A Fallen Comrade

It is with a heavy heart that we must report our recent joy in finding the Chronicle an ally in the battle against self-congratulatory newspaper-award stories was perhaps misplaced.

We thought the people at the Chron had joined our crusade when, for the first time ever, they refused to do a story on the annual Press Club of Houston awards. Sure, they didn't really win that much, and they were still in a hissy fit over last year's embarrassing Spot News results, but Chron staffers did garner some awards.

But no story ever showed up. Admirable modesty and self-restraint, we thought.

At least until April 30 and May 1. In the space of those two days, the paper had a 33-inch story on the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors' awards and a story on winning an honorable mention from the Overseas Press Club of America.

Oh, and there was one other story: With accompanying mug shots, the Chron proudly informed readers that its manager of packaging and distribution, and its librarian, had won in-house awards from Hearst.

Sigh. We fight on alone, breathlessly awaiting news stories on Chronicle staffers celebrating birthdays this month.

E-mail the News Hostage at rich.connelly@houstonpress.com.


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