Sunday, November 5, 2017

R.I.P. Houston Press

I was very disappointed to learn last week that The Houston Press was ending its printed editions and laying off almost all of its staff.  I had not seen that coming, but apparently the business clientele that traditionally advertised with The Press was the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey.  The loss of advertising revenue caused them to shut their doors.

Ever since I arrived in Houston for law school, I loved reading The Press.  It was a fun paper to read and the writing was great.  As a prosecutor, I often found myself disagreeing with some of the articles, but I had to appreciate the work that all of the writers did on their stories.  I also came to truly love The Press's open contempt for the Houston Chronicle.

Pound for pound, the writers for The Press always seemed to get the Criminal Justice System in Harris County, and writers like Meagan Flynn and Craig Malisow knew that the interesting issues couldn't be written up in a short article.  They took the time to go in depth and research the hell out of stories, and they never accepted any one point of view as the absolute truth.  Their big articles involved weeks, if not months of research before going to print.  They gave everyone the opportunity to throw in their two cents before going to print.

But what I appreciated the most about The Houston Press was that the writers weren't afraid to burn bridges and they absolutely weren't afraid to call bullshit on people and institutions.  They weren't afraid to take unpopular stances, either.  The truth was far more important to them. 

The weekly Houston Press was a tremendous asset to Harris County, especially to the Criminal Justice world.  It had the luxury of lengthy articles written by outstanding journalists.  Without picking on the Chronicle (at least not for the moment) or the television news stations, The Press was just so well suited to explain the stories behind the headlines and provide in depth analysis to what they meant.  Losing that forum is devastating to me.

To my friends that worked and wrote for The Press, I offer you a heartfelt "thank you" for all the times you looked into a story and/or heard me out when I was complaining about something that I hoped you would care about.  More often than not, you did care and your writing showed it.  You provided a greater public service than the public probably deserved.

It just won't be the same without you all.


Anonymous said...

Murray, while it is very true that the Press covers various subjects in superior fashion to the Chronicle, that being easy enough to do, it's important to note that the media resource is 1) only ending the print version, not stopping altogether, and 2) the free lance model it is moving towards will be at least as conducive to well investigated articles as the salaried positions from the good old days when the Press was at it's best, circa the late 1990's through about 2010. The easy comparison is to the Chronicle but look at how pitiful their coverage is for most criminal justice topics, talk about setting the bar too low.

Look at the type of article the Chronicle regularly produces when it is not relying on the Associated Press feed or rehashing an older article verbatim from archives. There are the weekly prostitution articles where the comments sections are hands down superior to the actual articles, many people asking exactly how these ongoing operations are tied to human trafficking or why the reporter seems to let the police write the article for them. Then there are the multitude of slideshows where most of the slides have little to do with the article, many trying to obtain extra clicks by focusing on lurid topics. Or the editorials that are so one sided that even those they support seem embarrassed at the resulting support. I could go on and on but frankly, other than lining my bird cages or for use as packing material, what good is the Chronicle these days, at least in most cases? How much more can they downsize before they too are not producing a physical copy?

Anonymous said...

The Press used to do some great investigative reporting on Harris County CJ issues when the Houston Barnacle would ignore most of the issues.

TriggerMortis said...

That was indeed a great thread beneath the latest Chronicle prostitution bust article. Readers have certainly caught on to the two tier system with 138 of the suspects names made public and the one police officer whose name was withheld making an outrageous mockery of the CJS here in Houston.

Anonymous said...

Want today's news?

Check what is trending on twitter.

Investigative news gets no traction while they are selling us what we want to hear