Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Weak, Meaningless Gesture By a Fading Institution Unsure of Its Footing on Today’s “Media Landscape”

As we expected, the city’s leading daily newspaper had difficulty making up its institutional mind on the mayoral race. As we did not expect, the Chronicle resolved its internal confusion by issuing a non-endorsement endorsement Sunday of both Gene Locke and Annise Parker, complete with the candidates’ mug shots artfully arranged in alphabetical order amid the verbiage. The desultory nature of the entire enterprise could be detected in the less-than-vibrant prose (“Locke styles himself a consensus builder and dealmaker”) outlining the reasons for the paper’s dual recommendation (you the voter and resident of the real world will of course be limited to only one choice on Nov. 3), which read as if it could have been cut and pasted from the candidates’ campaign literature. Our first thought was that Peter Brown, by not squandering any of his wife’s inheritance on a series of full-page advertisements in the paper, may have screwed himself out of a coveted triple endorsement.

We have no inside information on the whys and wherefores of the process that led to this public profession of ineffectuality, but we’d wager that the Lockean portion of the double-nod was reached by a 1-0 vote of publisher Smilin’ Jack Sweeney, after a secret hooded ceremony that included a recitation of “The Song of the River,” that timeless bit of Hearstian poesy that wisely reminds us how fruitless it is to even wonder about “the mysteries/That only God may know” (and maybe [maybe] a friendly shoot-the-breeze discussion or two with Bob Lanier). Perhaps other, more earthbound placeholders on the masthead suggested that a full and unabashed nuzzling-up to Locke would be too much of a throwback to Ye Olde Chronicle, the Jones-owned and then Houston Endowment-ed one that was a serious downtown weight-thrower-around, famed for its inside wheelings and dealings, whose editorials, even into city’s the Early Modern Era, virtually seethed with contempt for the city’s first and thus far only female mayor. Perhaps the need to not solely embrace Locke was rendered more acute by the obvious fact that Parker is the better candidate of the entire lot, and we suspect that was borne out in the candidates’ meeting with the editorial board or janitorial staff or whoever supposedly makes these endorsement decisions. (As previously noted, we’re probably going to vote for Parker but are not yet fully in the bag, and in any case we’re not going to set our alarm to be first in line when the polls open.) A factor not to be underestimated in the paper's calculations is the extra pat-itself-on-the-back points it acquires through the dual nod: Look! We've endorsed a gay white woman and a straight black man! It's all about positioning. (You, the real world voter, will be unable to so widely embrace diversity.)

Meanwhile, the paper complemented its dual endorsement with a new Zogby poll confirming our previous prescient estimation of non-endorsee Brown’s mischief-wreaking potential (by the way, and apropos of nothing in particular, but outside of his commercials Brown has the public presence of a piece of rusty barb wire, doesn’t he?). While we suspect Brown may have reached his 52-week high, the Zogby numbers were in no way good news for double endorsees Parker and Locke. We were amused by the canned ham served up to the paper by somebody named Kim Devlin, a “senior adviser” to Locke (does he have “junior” advisers, too?), who opined that poll frontunner Brown is “learning an expensive lesson that Houstonians cannot be bought and leadership is more than just writing a check.” Well, as our coozan George Will has been known to exclaim upon awakening on the carpet after a long night of whiskey and Hank Jr.

Of these matters we shall soon say more, as sure as the mad river flows into the peaceful sea.

No comments: