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Did you assume compelling journalism was dead?

Think again, bucko.

Update: the reporter/strip club entertainer in question has broken her silence on twitter, with this hysterically funny tweet:

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RIP Startlegram Capitol Bureau

Last night’s going-away celebration for the irrepressible Dave “Davey Joe” Montgomery, the last (damn good) man standing in the once-proud Austin bureau of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was both fun and bittersweet. The room was decorated with photos of reporters past and present, and lined with old front pages of the newspaper with legendary bylines such as Molly Ivins, Jake Dyer, Jay Root, John Moritz, Karen Brooks, and many others. But of course since Jay Root was kind enough to put together the event, most of the front pages in the room had Jay Root bylines. Funny how that works.

Here’s how universally-respected and well-liked the former Startlegram writers and editors are in this town – it brought together these two unlikely people.

Harold, Perry Presidential Campaign Spokesman Mark Miner

With Dave’s departure, the Startlegram bureau is no more – another victim of buyouts, layoffs, and cutbacks. Anybody think that’ll improve news coverage of the goings-on of the folks you elect? I didn’t think so.

Caption contest in the comments section! You gotta be nice. (at least to Miner)

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Investigative reporting at its best

Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters, Twitter Data Mining Division, brings you this tweet from the Texas Tribune:

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Clearly, SXSW is going to the dogs

I am completely excited, and somewhat terrified, to have been included as an IgniteSXSW speaker tomorrow night at the Austin Music Hall. This, despite the fact that I’ve never attended SXSW, nor have I ever attended an Ignite event. That the event is headlined by titans Bob Metcalfe and Guy Kawasaki doesn’t intimidate me any less, let’s just say.

Here’s the blurb on their website about my big 5 minutes of fame flame:

Political Communication in 2021

Harold Cook

The future of successful political communications in the coming decade is even more uncertain than political communications methods have been over the past decade. Political advisor, analyst, and satirist Harold Cook will explore the range of possibilities for the future, in this very unique pursuit for votes – in which more than half the candidates fall short, almost half the voters are bitterly disappointed, and almost everyone involved takes themselves way too seriously.

Somebody mentioned earlier this week that now that I’m on the SXSW program this year, I’d have to stop ragging on SXSW. She’s about to find out how utterly wrong she is, when a SXSW piece will auto-post in this space tomorrow night while I’m speaking.

Here’s what an Ignite event is all about.

Here’s the line-up of speakers.

Here’s where to register to attend, even if you don’t have SXSW credentials. And yes, the bar in the Music Hall will be open. That’s where you’ll find me immediately before and after my part of the program.

Spoiler alert: this might come up during my remarks. Just sayin’.

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Sometimes the news media’s favorite topic is themselves

Reporters are funny.

Remember the dust-up last week, when it was discovered that Governor Rick Perry was blocking some Texas reporters from his twitter feed? First reported in Dallas, the story instantly went national.

Except, Perry’s behavior is nothing new. Back in early October of 2010, the Austin American-Statesman‘s Omar Gallaga reported that some of Perry’s fellow Texans had been blocked from Perry’s twitter feed, which not only prevents Perry’s communications from appearing in the timelines of those blocked, but also prevents Perry from seeing any of the blocked Texans’ communications in his own timeline.

The only new news here is that this time, it wasn’t just constituents – the people the governor represents – being blocked. This time, it’s reporters. Since reporters are so special and all, national media couldn’t wait to report on local Texas media being screwed.

But here’s what’s really special: a state’s governor, communicating by using a handle containing the title of his office of public trust, in the process of communicating with his constituents willfully chooses to block messages both to and from some constituents who might not agree.

The symbolism is unmistakable, and terrible: to some Texans, he’s turning a blind eye to their views, and his own are none of their business.

So how many publications picked up the original Statesman story last October, when it was Perry’s constituents being blocked? To my knowledge, none.

Let the Governor block a few journalists, however, and the Washington Post picks it up by sundown.

I can’t imagine why the Governor would choose to block reporters, especially the ones he blocked, who are among the fairest journalists I know. But they’re also among the journalists who never bothered to ask Perry about it until they themselves were blocked – only the Statesman‘s Gallaga had approached him before, to his credit.

I also can’t imagine why they and the national media outlets who pounced last week didn’t think it was worthy news when Perry was blocking regular citizens last October.

Perhaps Gallaga, the original reporter, who doesn’t usually report on politics, tweeted it best on the day the story re-broke last week:

A link to something I wrote that’s five months old is still better late than never!  Politics: I don’t get it.

Sadly, Omar, I think you get it perfectly.

As for some of the other reporters, good thing they didn’t instead become fire fighters. They might not show up to put out the fire until it’s their own house in flames.

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I wonder if FoxNews…

…is covering this important breaking news story?

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Texas Journalist of the Day Award

This news anchor in Houston has apparently not gotten used to the new wide-screen HD format at his station. Oopsie.

Well that didn’t take long – for KPRC-TV in Houston to assert their copyright claim so that you, the crap-reading public, could no longer watch as their news anchor shot the bird on live TV. But as a consolation prize, here’s a screen capture.

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Olbermann bites dog.

Democrats and/or Republicans have been stewing and/or cackling about MSNBC’s suspension of Keith Olbermann, since the cable news host made personal campaign contributions to candidates he supports. Olbermann’s network announced last night that his indefinite suspension gets pretty darn definite tomorrow, when he’ll return to his show. So basically, all of political Earth was up in arms about what essentially amounted to Olbermann taking a long weekend in the Catskills, taking long walks with that special someone.

Did I happen to mention that it’s sweeps month? I’m thinking his show “Countdown” takes a spike on Tuesday. Yeah. Go team.

Olbermann’s frequent co-conspirator in socialism and/or The American Way, Rachel Maddow, put things in perspective pretty well on her own show.

As articulately as Ms. Maddow put it, and as much as I agree with her bottom line, do you ever get the idea – perhaps even the hope – that MSNBC and Fox News will eventually morph into attacking each other full-time, in the process forgetting all about the rest of us?

A girl can dream….

Meanwhile, forget all that, because I’m pretty sure this is where all the trouble started anyway.

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Well it’s about time!

Finally! This is the big break I’ve been looking for.

The Associated Press has announced their new policy that bloggers should be credited as news sources.

Well, Mr. Big Shot Jay Root, I’m calling you out: you should have covered my big exclusive story on the explosion in El Paso when you had a chance. Now you’re way behind the rest of the news media in reporting episodes of border violence that never actually happened.

And I’m calling you out, Miss Fancy Pants April Castro, for failing to report my big exclusive story on all the places Bill White has been photographed, yet in reality hasn’t been.

Or what about you, Miss “I’d rather be writing about stupid stuff like $18 billion budget shortfalls” Kelley Shannon, who completely missed in-depth analysis about how Tiger Woods could repair his reputation? Completely ignored it.

Clearly it’s time for you Austin Bureau AP people to straighten up and fly right. There’s a new sheriff in town.

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It’s an issues thang

A well-respected progressive blogger last week, in reaction to a perfectly ridiculous and semi-entertaining news release about how some creepy guy stole General Land Office Commissioner candidate Hector Uribe’s photo to put it on his own dating website page, tweeted “time to focus on GLO issues” Meanwhile, the stolen photo incident got some love by mainstream media.

Another progressive blogger has criticized Uribe twice for his tongue-in-cheek news, once for the dating website creep, and again for a release notifying media that Uribe had performed CPR on a guy on the Capitol grounds. Similarly, the CPR incident was covered by mainstream media.
The second blogger said it best (naturally, since he wasn’t constrained by 140 characters):

Uribe’s campaign should be using its press releases to attack the Republican incumbent and to announce Uribe’s own policy ideas (assuming they actually exist).

But, funny thing – they do exist, by the bucket-full.
 Uribe has already debated incumbent Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on the issues face-to-face – to my knowledge Hector Uribe and Jerry Patterson are the only statewide opponents to do so this year, so far. Not a word about it from either of these bloggers – or from any news organization I know of, except the news organization that sponsored the debate.
Uribe issued a major piece entited “On Energy, Texas needs leadership,” in which he advocated for Texas’ renewed commitment to sustainable energy like wind and solar power. The Austin American-Statesman thought it was news-worthy and printed it in full. Neither of these two gave it notice though, nor did any other blogger I know of.
Uribe gave a barn-burner of a speech at the Democratic state convention in Corpus Christi, in which he talked about the Republicans defending oil companies while the Gulf of Mexico turns to “liquid death” in the midst of a massive oil spill. Uribe laid out his thoughts on the oil spill, specified disagreements with his opponent on the issue, and explained what he would do on drilling safety if he is elected Land Commissioner. The Dallas Morning News gave the speech some mention, but the speech saw little coverage by mainstream media, and none by either of these two bloggers.
Uribe has taken on Patterson on the Christmas Mountains issue, saying Patterson’s attempt to sell the land to private interests constitutes a broken promise, and pledging that Uribe’s first act as Land Commissioner will be to transfer the land to the National Parks Service. But many may not know about that pledge, because neither of these bloggers covered it.
Fact is, each of these bloggers has an important point – candidates should focus on issues. But in this case neither takes any personal responsibility for covering the issues on which Uribe has focused, and each seems unaware that few statewide candidates have been focusing on issues as much as Hector Uribe. And who can blame them for being unaware of that, since media – these bloggers included – didn’t cover them?
A campaign will do whatever works. And when attempts to point out solid issue differences fall flat, a campaign will try something else. And meanwhile, Uribe is traveling the state talking about these important issues, even if campaign flacks like me often resort to cheap attention-getting tricks to highlight candidates. 
Reporters are in the same boat. When they write about serious campaign issues, and their readership falls, reporters will try something else.  That’s why many campaigns – including Uribe’s – have sometimes turned to humor, and why humor is being well-covered these days, both in mainstream and advocacy media.
Does coverage like that mean voters know a single additional thing about that candidate’s views? Nope, and it’s a shame. But it’s not for lack of trying. And Uribe’s campaign won’t give up – he’ll be talking about the issues all year long, whether the newspapers or these two bloggers cover it or not.
So for those critical of the direction this or any other campaign is going, it’s a good criticism – and exploring that criticism might best start with a mirror, and a critical analysis of political discourse and waning interest on some issues among voters. 
Meanwhile, I’ll do my part – if you’re a mainstream reporter, or progressive blogger, who before now had no idea that Hector Uribe has been talking about the issues all along, shoot me your email address and I’ll happily add you to Hector Uribe’s distribution list.

And incidentally – oops – I just did it again. I used blogger criticism as an excuse to highlight Hector Uribe’s issues. More political flack cheap tricks. My bad.

Update: one of the two above bloggers, the one with the more extensive quote, had widely-hinted on his blog that Charles Kuffner, publisher of the leading “Off the Kuff” blog, agrees with him. Kuff interrupted his vacation this morning long enough to email me the following:

I strongly disagree with that characterization, which I will state on my blog when I am back online. I’ve said Hector is my favorite candidate this cycle, and I meant it.

Thank Kuff!

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A once-proud USA falls farther behind our European allies

We here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters often discuss with you, the crap-reading public, the concept of news as a revenue-generating business. This creates both problems and solutions from time to time, as journalists run all over the place looking for something people are more likely to read or watch than whatever the competition offers.

Particularly susceptible to the trend are those in broadcast media, who are in a constant battle for ever-increasing flash, glitter, and glitz.

Where does this trend lead? I’m glad you asked. Elise Hu and Matt Stiles, both very ironically with the non-profit news organization Texas Tribune, were recently on their honeymoon in Greece (congratulations, you two crazy kids!), and shot this video of the weather report of the nightly news program there.

The video originally appeared on Elise’s personal blog, Hey Elise.

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Testing the truth test

Gardner Selby is practically the same guy as Al Franken, just with a fraction of the good looks and humor, and twice the made-up vocabulary.

The bandwidth on the Statesman website occupied by PolitiFact Texas would be better used for slideshows of readers’ cat photos.


PolitiFact Texas is the end-all, be-all final arbiter of all political truth in Texas, and certainly not merely the opinion of a few random people.


Efforts to re-name “PolitiFact Texas” to “Gotcha, Mo-fo!” were thwarted by Cox Newspapers middle management.


PolitiFact Texas interviewed God and confirmed that Rick Perry was right about the oil spill.

Harvey Kronberg’s Quorum Report recently started linking to PolitiFact Texas – a strong indication that Kronberg has lost his rabbit-ass mind.


Long-time readers of this blog who have wondered when FUBAR would get in big trouble are thinking that today’s the day.

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The truth, and nothing but.

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times – about how el Presidente Hopey McChangerson continually breaks the promises he made while campaigning for President. He’s getting quite the reputation, “that one” is.

Except, apparently it isn’t true.

PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning online journalism project which holds candidates’ and officeholders’ feet to the fire on the truth of their claims, recently rated more than 500 promises Obama made during the campaign, and is tracking the administration’s progress on those promises.

Turns out he’s doing pretty well so far.

So far, the new-ish Texas version of PolitiFact, originating from the American-Statesman (and frankly, deliberately not linked to from here) hasn’t made a fan out of me. There’s a fine line between the nit-picking “gotcha” journalism it has too often been so far, and the sort of sober clarity that the fact-checking project could provide readers.

In their defense, we obviously haven’t made fans out of the Statesman either, since they removed our link from their “Virtual Capitol” political portal page a while back.

And on an unrelated note, a big thank you to those of you who follow or read us through Facebook – LettersFromTexas.com passed through 1,000 Facebook followers at some point over the weekend. Among Facebook followers, that ranks us as the most followed blog in Texas of any kind, and at the moment rates us at 15th among all political blogs, and 11th among all humor blogs. Check out the badge in the right hand sidebar for the current number of followers.

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Headline of the week so far

This also explains why the baseball team doesn’t seem very focused on the game of baseball most of the time.

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The Empire Smokes Crack

Top Secret Intergalactic Communication

From: Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas

To: Supreme Chancellor Rick Perry, AKA Darth Sidious

My Lord, I fear that our plot to create a clone army has failed. Obi-Wan Kenobi has discovered our plan. I’m pretty sure he read it in the Texas Tribune.

The future of The Empire is at risk. Please advise.

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