Houston’s News Authority has left the building

Today they smothered the last vestige of what once was the most kick-ass radio news station in Houston when KTRH Radio fired morning anchors Lana Hughes and J.P. Pritchard.  “Eh, yeah, 27 years…but it’s just not working out for us; we feel like we need to go in a new direction.”

JPP(Full disclosure: I worked with Lana and J.P. at KTRH, liked and respected them both.  I anchored afternoon drive with Jean Jangda, and then Tom Bacon, while they held down the mornings.  In fact, I was already at the station when they were hired, separately, and then when they were made the morning drive team.)

Today’s KTRH (740 on your AM dial) is just a faint echo of the real news organization it once was: full of reporters and writers and producers who bested every other broadcaster in town, and competed with two daily newspapers despite the papers’ overwhelming advantage in resources.  But that station is long gone, and I haven’t listened to KTRH in years.  It lost all depth of coverage, all its authority…become almost feathery, just a series of short readers ping-ponged back and forth between the morning anchors, and the rest of the day filled with Limbaugh and Limbaugh imitators, local and syndicated.  I can’t even turn it on for the Astros’ game (this part is not the station’s fault) because the Astros won’t can Milo Hamilton.   Lana and J.P. were the last link to that past.

As is the norm in these cases, station management has nothing but the highest praise for those so hastily dispatched—“been blessed to work with” them—and J.P. is quoted as saying he knows this is “nothing personal,” just part of a changing business.  But management let them know about “the change” after they got off the air this morning, and after 27 years they just won’t be back.  Makes you wonder: if they were so valued, and so loved, why weren’t they given an opportunity to say goodbye on the air?  To the audience, they will simply vanish, perhaps to be referred to by the new people, in mock reverent tones, for a week or two.  And why has every scintilla of evidence of their existence already been scrubbed from the website, like they were never there?

Station management reportedly admits that this decision means the end of a “traditional morning news show” on the station, and they hope for something more like “Fox and Friends.”  (Great.)  They say they’re making this change based on research and feedback—ah, the magic words that signal another victory for consultants…

In 1984 KTRH was the powerhouse news/talk station in Houston, making a ton of money, when it committed ritual hara-kiri of the talk component because a new program director (who would go on to become a consultant!) proclaimed that talk was a dying format that appealed only to the older demographic…well, we’ve all seen how right he was about that!  Since then subsequent management slowly brought back in the talk shows to fill time, because no one can bear to listen to the same news stories over and over and over again all day, but you need to keep the cume ratings up.  Then the station was bought, and ended up absorbed into Clear Channel Communications, and like most of the other tentacles of that beast it became a rebroadcaster—of right-wing talk, and right-wing news.  Today, they announce they’re going all the way…back to news/talk, but now with a partisan political point of view.

Hey, it’s their station (broadcasting on my airwaves and yours, free of charge), and they can do with it what they want.  What they want is to make money, and I’m fine with that—but don’t any of you for one minute think that they’re trying to do anything other than that.  Any informing or educating or entertaining, or whatever, that happens along the way, is gravy—they’re here to make money.  Today’s decision is, ultimately, undoubtedly, one they believe will make them more money (which, as I said, I’m fine with).  Any consideration about serving “the public interest, convenience and necessity” is an afterthought.

Lana and Jeeps: well done, old friends…sleep in.

Even Fred Flintstone was down with having a gay old time

Quick follow-up on the New York gay marriage vote, while waiting for a rational explanation from those in the “states’ rights” crowd who support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would prevent states from exerting their rights on this issue:

–hooray for the mayor of New York’s unequivocal support for gay marriage: it’s the right thing to do, opposing it is the same as opposing women’s rights or civil rights or the abolition of slavery, the law won’t require religions to perform or sanction a same sex marriage…and although people are free to belong to any religious group American society as a whole places its faith in the Constitution, not some set of religious laws.

–the Obama Administration isn’t defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and when House Republicans threaten to fight an 81-year-old woman over it even the lawyers bail out.

–the gay marriage issue helped a president win re-election in 2004; now some political pros think the Democrats can use gay marriage to hammer Republicans in 2012 because it could pull traditional Republicans away from the right-wing Christian evangelicals taking over the GOP.

–and looking into the future far beyond 2012, how many of us have even thought about how all this kerfuffle over gay rights will be viewed by our descendants?

“A vote of conscience”

Congratulations to the New York legislature for legalizing gay marriage in the state, for doing it with support from Democrats and Republicans, for stepping forward and changing the law to protect the civil rights of all New York citizens.  I read that the passage of the New York law is being credited to a couple of senators, one of whom voted against a similar proposal two years ago, both of whom cited the same reason for their vote this time: conscience.  “It was the right thing to do” is a powerful weapon.

I’m happy to see that people are coming around.  Yes, much more slowly than you might like, but big changes don’t happen overnight.  Now you’ve got the lawmakers in New York, the third-most populous state in the nation, accepting that gay marriage is a question of civil rights, one that can’t be pushed aside any more.

The objections still come predominantly from a religious point of view, and I get that.  These people want the civil law to enforce their religious beliefs on everyone, but that’s not the way it works in this exceptional country.  For the sake of the discussion, let’s accept the premise that the United States was founded on Christian principles; that still doesn’t make the United States a “Christian nation,” despite the fact that more Americans identify as Christians than as members of any other religion.   The Founding Fathers—not all devout Christians in the modern sense, not by any means—believed in everyone having the freedom to worship as they choose to, and in a government that does not show preference for any one religion over another (my translation of the establishment clause).  Legislators pass laws to protect the rights of all Americans, not just the ones who practice the majority religion.

You don’t believe in gay marriage?  OK, that’s your right.  Your church doesn’t believe in gay marriage?  Don’t perform any; no one’s forcing you.  What New York and other states have done is make it legal for two people of the same sex to take out a marriage license under civil law and enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with being married.  They don’t need the approval of any religious group, they’re married in the eyes of the law.  From a legal point of view, I don’t see the substantive difference between a heterosexual couple who get married in a civil ceremony and a homosexual couple who get married in a civil ceremony—none of them have the approval of any church, nor do they need it.  More power to ’em all.

I really don’t want to have to hear all this right now

I mean, this is June…June 2011, right?  Almost 17 months before the 2012 election?  I find that I grow fatigued already with the attention being paid to the early stages of the Republican Party’s presidential contest (I would be fatigued with the attention to the Democratic Party’s contest right now, too, if there was one).  There’s too much time before the election, and too much opportunity for things to happen—to change—for me to believe I’ve got to lock in to a candidate right now.  Yet the drone of activity continues.

It now seems clear that Rick Perry’s made up his mind to run for president.  Fine.  (I’ve been fighting off an imagined letter explaining his strategy, but I don’t know if I can fight it forever.)  One reason the Perry prospectus is positive is that the Newt Gingrich political brain trust that quit on him earlier this month was a bunch of Perry people, so they’re now available, if asked, to work on the makeover of yet another Texas governor into a national leader.  (Wasn’t the last one we sent you enough for a while?)  Gingrich says that was just a difference of opinion about how to run a campaign…wonder what his reasoning is today to explain his major fundraisers also calling it quits?

There’s been some consideration lately that perhaps Michele Bachmann is not so out of the mainstream after all; this is disturbing, too, and appears to be true to the extent that the mainstream is no longer where it once was.

But there was some not-disheartening news today in the stories on Jon Huntsman’s announcement of his candidacy for president.  He was able to make the point that he believes himself to be the best person for the job without resorting to irrational and hysterical (and untrue) accusations about President Obama.  No ominous warnings about socialism, or death panels, or usurpers and traitors, or even accusations that he doesn’t love his own dog.

“He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love,” Mr. Huntsman said of Mr. Obama. “But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who’s the better American.”

I don’t really want to be undergoing a presidential election right now, in the same way that I really don’t want to be undergoing a colonoscopy right now.  If I must, though, I could get used to one that sounded like that; on the other hand, I’m far too used to the sound of Americans’ religious bigotry showing its resilience, as it did again today.

Disgust over Heat collapse reaches even to Hitler

Yes, that Hitler.


Thanks to FairUseHitler and YouTube.