Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How not to win an award for your Metro Column

It's no big secret that ChronBlog is The only newspaper among the 10 largest publications to have never won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. They've been nominated, and probably should have won for their outstanding coverage of the Ike aftermath. Two sections of ChronBlog that have no chance of being nominated, much less winning, if they continue on in their current state are the local/Metro columns.

Remember the 18% concerned about the press being fair? It's possible that all of them are reading the column of Lisa Falkenberg. Now, granted, L'il Red's column is opinion, so it's not held to the same journalistic standards as is say, a Metro news story on City Hall. That being said even an opinion piece should really try harder than Falkenberg did in today's effort.

It's not the subject matter that's of concern, (Houston is a city of increasing diversity. This diversity is a strength.) nor did go out of her way to ridicule those who don't see things as she does. (A sad literary device that she resorts to all too often.) Nope, the shortcomings in this column stem from an unprofessional habit of hers to view some information uncritically.

The example: This following excerpt focusing on Garnet Coleman:
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, who grew up in Third Ward, said Houston today is what it's always been working toward.

“This is the utopia I've been looking for,” he said. “I was always taught Houston — it's not Dallas — it's an open city, as they say. And because it's an open city, if you work hard you can succeed.”

Sure, he said, some people see the demographic shift as threatening, like “their way of life is being stripped away” and they try even harder to draw the lines.
There's considerable evidence that Garnet Coleman is not someone to lecture others on the folly of having their life stripped away as the following excerpt from a Live Oaks Blog post authored by property rights activist Brian Phillips:
Coleman, who is described as having "partial control" of the special tax district for the area, used his political power to begin buying land in the Third Ward. He then attached deed restrictions to the property mandating that it be used solely for rental housing. The taxing district, which was formed for the specific purpose of encouraging development, is now being used to discourage development.
Lest you think this is nothing more than baseless accusations from an Ayn Rand disciple, Steve Inskeep of NPR penned this excerpt in his report on the Third Ward:
Coleman, the son of a Third Ward physician, is convinced that most of the residents of the new townhomes are likely to be affluent and white. And he was not ready for the poorer residents of this area, many of them renters, to be squeezed out.

"I'm an egalitarian like everybody else," Coleman said, "and talking about the racial aspect of this, or saying this is born of race, is not something I feel absolutely comfortable with."
Maybe he's not comfortable, but the question is on the table.

The Chron's Jr. columnist decided to leave it there, and run Coleman's veiled implications without question, and without challenge. Not only is that poor journalism, but it's a disservice to the City that she supposedly is serving (if, as do many, you view journalism as a vital public service.) A quality Metro columnist would at least pose the question, let readers decide for themselves. There's certainly nothing illegal about the actions of Rep. Coleman, and nothing that flies in the face of house ethics rules. Some might say that his influence over the demographics of an area he represents are unethical on a societal level, but that's for the voters in his district to decide.

They might decide he does a good enough job representing them to keep him in office, however, since ChronBlog has shown no interest in reporting this local story (getting scooped, again, by a national outlet on a local matter) the point is moot.
Further evidence that ChronBlog's so-called "watchdog" role is being sublet out to bloggers, non-profits and national news services.

Meanwhile the number of people who view the media as fair and accurate drops lower and lower.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, check the Stuff White People Like white person's embrace of "diversity"--"But many of us experience the richness of Houston's diversity every day, at work, at Hermann Park, at the Galleria, and embrace it." "At the Galleria. " "At Hermann Park" "At work," all venues, including the latter in this columnist's case, which are overwhelmingly white middle-class. Which are the only venues in which SWPL white people feel comfortable. Not the in-the-toilet neighborhood school or crapped-out apartment complex. Also, the choice of quote-givers is instructive: each of these people have profited, in political currency if not actual $$ (OK, maybe not Lanier) from the truly anti-democratic racial/ethnic spoils system masquerading as "diversity." This was a pathetic piece of propaganda, and to top it off there was no actual "news" in it--just another opportunity for the columnist to impress with her assumed social superiority ...

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