In many places, it ain't exactly like CSI.In case you're wondering, that tidbit of literary brilliance was foisted on the public by one Lisa Falkenberg, the Chron's Jr. Metro columnist and chief nail-banger. Which editor allowed it into print is information to which I'm not aware, being an outside accountant-blogger whose** opinions in this matter are given short shrift by the powers that be over at 801 Texas Ave. (Unlike say, Christof Spieler, ChronBlog's transportation go-to guy (and employee of Morris Architects a firm with ties to Parsons that stands to benefit from increased LRT development...just sayin'), or Bob Stein designer of the SafeClear program (and the conductor of a survey regarding its** efficacy) and husband Mayor White's agenda Director**. (No conflict of interest there))
The problem with the blurb is that it's just one of the many instances where "Features creep" has infiltrated the newsroom. It's bad enough that the ChronBlog is directing most of it's resources toward projects like the hardcore-porn promoting 29-95 or the potential FoodBorg magnet delish but now there's evidence that low standards of language are infiltrating the newsroom as well. It's started with cute, witty passages from ChronBlog's Caucasian think-tank and has now trickled into the outlying opinion columns.
Need more evidence?
The Houston Mayoral race and most State political coverage has been relegated to staff blogs, freeing up more print space for personal asides.
The offshoot of this is that the public is being drastically underserved by the former newspaper of record on many fronts. Critical watchdog reporting has been all but ceded to non-profit ventures such as Texas Watchdog or amateur bloggers such as HouBlog who are doing the heavy lifting that should be done by paid, trained reporters. When those, local, groups aren't out there scooping ChronBlog, it's out of town, or national news organizations that are doing the job, as in the case of Enron.
Unfortunately, the list of key issues that the newspaper has missed, due to either lack of interest or lack of staff, is growing longer by the day. KHOU broke the crime lab story, the under reported crime story and a host of others. KTRK was responsible for breaking the story about Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, scandals that could land the Commissioner in court. Then there's BARC, the reporting of which has been owned by Craig Malisow of The Houston Press and local blogger Kelly Cripe. All of these stories broken by organizations with much less funding and resources than ChronBlog.
Why is this a concern? Because a community needs a strong and independent media to be healthy, and Houston has been operating without this civic cog in its inner working for quite some time. Ever since the now-infamous rail-mirror memo was inadvertently posted on Chron.com (and then quickly withdrawn with the weak explanation that it was 'an internal memo' not meant for public consumption) watchdog reporting has taken a back-seat to features fluff over at Chronblog, and the City of Houston has been worse off for it.
It's such a little thing, one phrase in a long article about errors in autopsies that are occurring throughout the State. Such a little thing that speaks volumes about the state of media in Houston, and why our democracy is nearing the end of its half-life perhaps. Given the general lack of quality and creativity demonstrated by the current crop of candidates for public office I'd say we're getting very, very close to the end of it.*
*If a candidate like Gene Locke can be an announced candidate for months and only have his potential conflict of interests high-lighted weeks before the election (and by the aforementioned Texas Watchdog to boot) then I'd say that we're in just a little bit of trouble.
**Thanks to Mike, who was kind enough to provide me with some free editing. We'd offer to buy you a hamburger but sadly, free lunches have been cut back in the latest budget