Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Fairly Astounding Figure Discovered Deep in Our Zoned Section of the Daily Newspaper

Newspapers report the darndest things.

Take this fer instance we stumbled across in the weekly Alief/Southwest section of Thursday’s Houston Chronicle, in a story on the latest get-together of the Alief school board. The story opened with the “news” that the district trustees had voted to nominate their superintendent for the “Superintendent of the Year” award given by the Texas Association of School Boards. The board deemed the super to be deserving of the honor partly because of the district’s acclaimed welcoming response to the flood of Katrina evacuee students into its schools.

The story ambled on in this vein until the 17th or so paragraph, when it allowed that one “concern” of the Alief Community Coalition, an area support organization for the school district, is Alief’s “burgeoning homeless population.”

That one pulled us up short, but we hit the wall at the next paragraph:
According to [an Alief ISD administrator], the influx of hurricane evacuees elevated Alief’s homeless population from 435 in 2005 to more than 4,000 in 2006.
Jumpin’ Jesus, stop the presses! If that were true---and we’re skeptical---shouldn’t that be all over the front page of the daily paper, rather than buried inside a story in a zoned section that no one but us and 12 or 13 other damned souls will bother to read?

It was just last Sunday that an advocate for the homeless was warning on the paper’s op-ed page that the city’s homeless population could rise from 14,000 to 18-20,000 after the FEMA rent subsidies for evacuees run out, but elsewhere in the paper a few days later it’s suggested that Alief is already crawling with the un-homed (and wouldn’t such an explosive increase of street wanderers in a rather small block of the city be noticeable to the naked eye?)

(This kind of reminds us of the classic on-deadline story/review in the Ye Long Gone Houston Post of a Rolling Stones concert at the Astrodome, which mentioned in the last paragraph that the crowd had been peaceful and full of good vibes, except for the two homicides on the premises that police were investigating at press time.)

Of course, we’ve never believed any purported census of the homeless could be very reliable (we’re even suspicious of the official government census of those with fixed addresses), but, for discussion’s sake, let’s say that even half or a third of the increase reported by the Alief ISD administrator is accurate (and where’d she get her figure?).

We think the daily newspaper still missed the lede.

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