Ben Hall Vs. the Houston Chronicle

So awhile back the Houston Chronicle set up an editorial board meeting featuring Mayor Annise Parker and Ben Hall, the two frontrunners for mayor. The meeting was scheduled for last Friday.

Parker and Hall were to meet with the board so the board could consider which candidate the paper would endorse for mayor. (We're assuming this involved a Monty Python-esque test involving a nice shrubbery and both candidates hitting each other with swords while fake blood goes everywhere. It's not actually likely this happened, but Hair Balls can dream, because it's funny.)

Anyways, about a month before the meeting, Hall's people asked if the Chron would open the meeting to the public. When the Chron nixed that, Hall's camp asked that they open the meeting to all other media outlets in the area.

And go figure, the Chron again was not having it. The meeting crept closer on the calendar and then there was that, ahem, debate between all the mayoral candidates last week. (It was like watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail if the whole movie had left out all the people and instead been two hours of watching that nice shrubbery grow.)

Last Thursday, Julia Smekalina, Hall's press secretary, emailed Jeff Cohen, executive editor of opinions and editorials for the Chron, asking if they could open up the meeting to all media since they weren't going for the public thing. Again, Cohen seemed uninterested in this option as they continued to "discuss" it over email.

Smekalina and Jeff Cohen volleyed emails back and forth, each message more pointy until finally they got to the last of it:

Smekalina: In that case, would you allow the editorial meeting to be filmed by our campaign and distributed or made available online?

Cohen: No.

Hall's camp, decrying unfair treatment, a Chron bias toward Parker and with some kind of a focus on making the editorial board meeting public for "the people," then declined to attend the meeting. Or more specifically, according to the Chron, he backed out 15 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Cohen issued a statement after the meeting, according to the Chron:

"Candidate Hall was invited to the Chronicle's editorial board to be considered for an endorsement alongside Mayor Parker. It's the same kind of invitation newspapers have extended for more than 100 years. After saying he would be there, Hall backed out at the last minute. We're disappointed that he didn't want to discuss important issues facing Houston but we do not customize each editorial meeting to fit the demands of a particular candidate."

Parker was formally endorsed for mayor by the Chron Sunday. Go figure.

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