- Houston Chronicle
caption = The
March 24, 2006front page of the
type = Daily
foundation = 1901
price = $0.50 Monday-Saturday
headquarters = 801 Texas Avenue
editor = Jeff Cohen
publisher = Jack Sweeney
circulation = 494,131 Daily
632,797 Sundaycite web | title=2008 Top 100 Daily Newspapers in the U.S. by Circulation |publisher=Burrelles"Luce" |url=http://www.burrellesluce.com/top100/2008_Top_100List.pdf |format=PDF |accessdate=2008-07-31 |date=2008-03-31]
website = [http://chron.com/ chron.com]
ISSN = 1074-7109
The "Houston Chronicle" is the largest daily
newspaperin Texas, USA. As of March 2008, it is the ninth-largest newspaper by circulation in the United States. With the demise of its long-time rival the " Houston Post", its nearest major competitors are located in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The "Houston Chronicle" is the largest daily paper owned and operated by the
Hearst Corporation, a multinational corporate media conglomeratewith $4 billion in revenues. The paper employs nearly 2,000 people, including approximately 300 journalists, editors, and photographers. The "Chronicle" has bureaus in Washington, D.C., Mexico City, Colombiaand Austin. Its web site averages 25 million hits per month [ [http://www.hearstcorp.com/newspapers/property/news_daily_houston.html Houston Chronicle] . "Hearst Corporation. Last accessed September 13, 2006."] .
1901: Marcellus E. Foster
The "Houston Chronicle" was founded in 1901 by a former reporter for the now-defunct "
Houston Post", Marcellus E. Foster. Foster, who had been covering the Spindletopoil boom for the "Post", invested in Spindletop and took $30 of the return on that investment — at the time equivalent to a week's wages — and used it to found the "Chronicle".
The "Chronicle's" first edition was published on
October 14, 1901and sold for two cents per copy, at a time when most papers sold for five cents each. At the end of its first month in operation, the "Chronicle" had a circulation of 4,378 — roughly one tenth of the population of Houston at the time. [ [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/eeh2.html Houston Chronicle] . " Handbook of TexasOnline. June 6, 2001. Last accessed September 13, 2006." ] Within the first year of operation, the paper purchased and consolidated the "Daily Herald".
In 1911, City Editor
George Kepplestarted [http://www.houstonchronicle.com/goodfellows/ Goodfellows] . On a Christmas Evein 1911, Kepple passed a hat among the "Chronicle's" reporters to collect money to buy toys for a shoe-shine boy.
Goodfellows continues today through donations made by the newspaper and its readers. It has grown into a city-wide program that provides needy children between the ages of two and ten with toys during the
winter holidays. In 2003, Goodfellows distributed almost 250,000 toys to more than 100,000 needy children in the Greater Houstonarea.
1926: Jesse H. Jones
Jesse H. Jonesbecame the sole owner of the paper. In 1968, the "Chronicle" set a Texas newspaper circulation record. In 1981, the business pages — which up until then had been combined with sports — became its own section of the newspaper.
May 1, 1987, the Hearst Corporationpurchased the "Houston Chronicle" for $415 Million. In 1994, the "Chronicle" switched to being a morning-only paper. With the demise of the Houston Post the following year, the Chronicle became Houston's sole major daily newspaper.
Jack Sweeney is the publisher and president of the "Houston Chronicle".
As of April 2006, the editorial board includes:
Jack Sweeney(The previous president was Richard J. V. Johnson, who died in 2006.)
*Executive Vice President and Editor: Jeff Cohen
*Editor (Opinion pages): James Howard Gibbons
*Outlook Editor: David Langworthy
*Assistant Outlook Editor: Vernoica Bucio
*Viewpoints Editor: Judy Minshew
*Editorial Writer: Andrea Georgsson
*Editorial Writer: Claudia Kolker
*Editorial Writer: Tim Fleck
*Editorial Cartoonist: Nick Anderson
*Reader Representative: Steve Jetton
The paper employs nearly 2,000 people, including approximately 300 journalists. The paper's main political columnist is
Cragg Hines, who is based in Washington, D.C. In addition, the "Chronicle" contracts with multiple distributors who circulate and deliver copies of the newspaper.
A longtime "Chronicle" officer was John Hulen Murphy, I, the assistant to Richard Johnson, former executive vice president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association, and a newspaperman, mostly in Houston, for seventy-four years.
M. D. Anderson Cancer Centergave the "Chronicle" its " Joseph T. Ainsworth Volunteer Community Award" for making the newspaper available at a "greatly reduced rate" to the hospital and its patients. [http://www3.mdanderson.org/news/ainsworth.html]
*2002: [http://www.hmh.org/ Holocaust Museum Houston] awarded the "Chronicle" its "Guardian of the Human spirit" award. The presenter, Janis Goldstein, said the award was given "because the "Houston Chronicle" embraces the causes most dear to it with a depth and scope that goes well beyond what is expected." Also, that "the "Chronicle" gives of itself to build a community that will embrace tolerance, understanding, and diversity and will speak out against prejudice and unfairness of any kind." [http://www.hmh.org/article.asp?id=9]
*1989-1997: Carlos Antonio Rios, a "Chronicle" photographer since 1978, has repeatedly been honored for his photojournalism by the
National Association of Hispanic Journalists. [http://www-new.latinosandmedia.org/jawards/awards-nahj-year.html]
*2003: James Howard Gibbons received third place in the "Hearst Distinguished Journalism Awards," an internal contest held between Hearst's newspapers, for his editorial piece "When Will the U.S. Liberate Texas?" [http://www.hearstcorp.com/newspapers/property/news_distinguished.html]
*2005: White House correspondent
Julie Masonwas voted by readers of Wonkette(a Washington, D.C. political blog) the tongue-in-cheek "Best to Sit Next to on the Bus (for more than 20 minutes)."
Leon Hale, a long-time columnist and author of 11 books, recently received the "Lon Tinkle Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career" from the Texas Institute of Letters, of which Hale is member. [http://www.winedalebooks.com/books/hale.html]
"The Houston Chronicle" is the only newspaper of the '10 largest' in the United States to have never won a
Pulitzer Prizefor journalism. [http://www.pulitzer.org]
However, reporters at the newspaper have several times been Pulitzer finalists, recently for international reporting:
*Dudley Althaus - 1992 finalist in international reporting for his articles on the causes of the
choleraepidemic in Peruand Mexico.
*Tony Freemantle - 1997 finalist in international reporting for his reporting from
Rwanda, South Africa, El Salvadorand Guatemalaon why crimes against humanity go unstopped and unpunished.
The Houston Chronicle is divided into several sections:
* Front Page (A)
* City and State (B)
* Sports (C)
* Business (D)
* Star (E)
* Classifides (F)On some days, "local" sections (Z) for residents of various Houston-area neighborhoods appear - Depending on one's residence, a customer will receive one of the following sections on Thursdays:
* Aldine/North Houston [http://www.chron.com/news/community/aldine]
* Alief/Southwest [http://www.chron.com/news/community/alief]
* Bellaire/West U/River Oaks/Meyerland [http://www.chron.com/news/community/bellaire]
ZIP codes receiving the section include 77004, 77005, 77019, 77025, 77027, 77030, 77035, 77046, 77054, 77071, 77081, 77085, 77096, 77098, and 77401
**Other neighborhoods served by the section include Southside Place, Southampton,
Rice University, Texas Medical Center, Museum District, and Westbury)
* Clear Lake [http://www.chron.com/news/community/bayarea]
* Conroe [http://www.chron.com/news/community/conroe]
* Cy-Fair [http://www.chron.com/news/community/cyfair]
* East End/Third Ward [http://www.chron.com/news/community/east/]
* Fort Bend [http://www.chron.com/news/community/fortbend]
* Heights/Neartown [http://www.chron.com/news/community/heights]
* Katy [http://www.chron.com/news/community/katy]
* Kingwood/Humble [http://www.chron.com/news/community/humble]
* Memorial/Spring Branch [http://www.chron.com/news/community/memorial]
* Pasadena/Baytown [http://www.chron.com/news/community/pasadena]
* Pearland/Friendswood [http://www.chron.com/news/community/pearland]
* Spring/Klein/Tomball [http://www.chron.com/news/community/spring]
* Tomball/Magnolia [http://www.chron.com/news/community/tomball]
* The Woodlands [http://www.chron.com/news/community/woodlands]
The paper's main critics are conservative
talk radiostation KSEVand its affiliated weblogs, " [http://www.chronicallybiased.com/ Chronically Biased] " and " [http://www.lonestartimes.com Lone Star Times] ". The paper's editorial page is often a target in Houston's political circles for what critics perceive as an overbearing habit of promoting light railtransit. "Chronically Biased" featured a cartoon character named "Captain Chronicle" who espouses light rail transit as the solution to all of Houston's problems (including those unrelated to traffic.)
In May 2005 the Harris County Republican Party joined a boycott of the newspaper, [http://www.harriscountygop.com/sections/rulesbylaws/documents/rp050905_7.doc] called for previously by KSEV hosts. The Republican Party accused the paper of having a liberal political slant, of biased coverage of the light rail project, of supporting
Planned Parenthoodand of waging a "personal smear campaign" against Houston area congressman Tom DeLay.
The newspaper also has had critics on the political left. The "
Houston Press", an alternative weekly tabloid newspaperthat often takes a liberal perspective, used to run a column entitled "News Hostage", which often critiqued the "Chronicle". Now that paper only occasionally criticizes the "Chronicle" in its "Hairballs" column.
Light Rail memorandum controversy
In late 2002, "Chronicle" website managers accidentally posted an internal
memorandumon its Web site, [http://www.houstonchronicle.com HoustonChronicle.com] . The memorandum [http://www.robbooth.net/chrnmem.shtml] outlined a draft agenda of coordinated news articles, editorials, and op-eds seemingly intended to promote a hotly contested mass transit referendumto expand Houston's controversial METRORailsystem on the 2003 ballot, which was later approved narrowly by voters. The memo's anonymous author proposed supporting the referendum and stated:
:"Next November, voters in the city and across the Metropolitan Transit Authority service area will cast a truly important vote: They will decide whether Metro should be permitted to expand our rail rail system beyond the 7-mile South Main line. There isn't a more critical issue on the horizon."
:"I propose a series of editorials, editorial cartoons and Sounding Board columns leading up to the rail referendum, with this specific objective: Continuing our long standing efforts to make rail a permanent part of the transit mix here."
:"The timing, language and approach of the paper's editorials would, of course, be the decision of the Editorial Board. But I suggest that they could be built upon and informed by a news-feature package with an equally specific focus..."
The memorandum then proposed several "investigative" news stories and editorials designed to examine "the campaign led by
Tom DeLayand Bob Lanier to defeat rail expansion." DeLay, a Houston congressman, and Lanier, a former mayor of Houston, had both actively opposed light rail in the past.
The document was online for only an hour, but long enough to be viewed by some readers. Soon after the "Houston Review", a conservative newspaper published by students at the
University of Houston(now defunct), printed the memo's full text and an accompanying commentary that criticized the paper for bias toward rail. The "Houston Press" also accused the "Chronicle" of having a bias toward rail. [http://web.archive.org/web/20021204203757/www.houstonreview.com/1102/chroniclememo.htm] They dubbed the paper Houston's "in-house light rail newsletter," described it as a "tireless promoter of rail," and mocked its editorial board's portrayal of light rail as the key to making Houston a "world class" city [http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2003-09-11/feature.html] — a claim echoed by the city's former mayor, Lee Brown, who campaigned on a platform of bringing light rail to Houston. Other local weekly and monthly newspapers, including the "Houston Forward Times", a local African-Americanweekly newspaper, seized on the controversy, as did local talk radiostations, bloggers, and the conservative Free RepublicInternet forum.
The "Chronicle's" response was notably muted. Its first official response appeared in the "corrections" section later the same week stating: "An internal "Houston Chronicle" document was mistakenly posted to the editorial/opinion area of the Web site early Thursday morning. We apologize for any confusion it may have caused."
Later, the "Houston Press" discovered "Chronicle" editor Jeff Cohen, who gave a statement in defense of the memorandum: "I make no apologies for having a thorough discussion of the issue. We have nothing to apologize for…There was an inadvertent posting of it to the Web site, and I'm sorry about that, but I make no apologies for the contents of it."
After the memo's accidental release, the "Chronicle's" critics noted that its Editorial Board continued being a vocal advocate of the expansion of Houston's light rail and charged that the paper became a partisan participant in the debate over light rail expansion. According to a content analysis of the paper by the "Houston Review" done to support their allegation of bias, the "Houston Chronicle" published 5 editorials attacking rail opponents, 6 editorials promoting or endorsing light rail, 6 news stories attacking the motives of rail opponents, 3 news stories promoting a criminal investigation of rail opponents, and 1 staff editorial endorsing a criminal investigation of rail opponents during the course of the election. As the bond referendum approached, rail opponents criticized the "Houston Chronicle"'s request that
Texans for True Mobility(TTM), the main critic of METRORail, provide the paper with a copy of their financial contributor reports. TTM declined, saying they did not believe the "Chronicle" would adequately protect the privacy of their donors.
The "Chronicle" responded by making a complaint to the Harris County District Attorney's office asking that Texans for True Mobility be investigated for potential violations of Texas election law. The "Chronicle" alleged that TTM broke a law requiring PACs to disclose their donors. Violation of this law, a misdemeanor, is punishable by a maximum $500 fine. TTM was a registered
non-profit 501(c)(6)organization and said this status did not require them to disclose contributors like PACs must do. The "Chronicle" argued that the law covered TTM because it made "paid political moves." Texas campaign law allows nonprofits to run "educational" advertisements, but those advertisements cannot endorse specific political positions or people or make a specific recommendation in a pending election. The dispute was over whether TTM's advertisements, and specifically the slogans "Metro's Rail Plan Costs Too Much ... Does Too Little" and "Metro's Plan Won't Work Here," were specific recommendations on how to vote.
Rosenthal later dismissed the Chronicle's complaint, finding it without merit on the grounds that the statute did not apply. Rosenthal's involvement in the probe itself came under fire by the
Houston Press, which in editorials questioned whether Rosenthal was too close to TTM: from 2000 to 2004, Rosenthal accepted some $30,000 in donations from known TTM supporters.
Later that year, the group revealed that that their TV and radio ads were funded by $30,000 in contributions made the day before the election by two PACs controlled by DeLay.
By comparison with TTM, which was extensively attacked in the paper's editorials and covered in multiple news stories, the "Chronicle" devoted only a portion of one article to the finances of
Texans for Public Transportation(TPT), the main pro-METRORail group, according to the "Houston Review". The "Houston Review" further alleged multiple conflicts of interest in TPT's financing. The report involved fourteen METRORail contracters and business interests who stood to gain financially from the project and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the referendum. [http://www.texansfortruemobility.com/press_news22.shtml]
Feuds with KSEV radio and Bill O'Reilly
In early 2004 the "Chronicle" was accused of bias and adding to the family's grief regarding its coverage of the death of Leroy Sandoval, a soldier from Houston who was killed in Iraq. "Chronicle" reporter Lucas Wall visited the family of Sandoval for an interview about the loss of their loved one.
After the article appeared, Sandoval's family members complained that a sentence alleging "President Bush's failure to find weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq misrepresented their views on the war and President
George W. Bush(the Sandoval family was supportive of the war). The next day Sandoval's stepfather and sister called into Houston talk radio station KSEVand explained that Wall had pressured them for a quotation that criticized Bush and then included the line alleging Bush's "failure" against the wishes of the family. [http://www.publiustx.net/index.php?itemid=1092]
A bitter on-air showdown ensued between the KSEV radio show host/owner Dan Patrick, and an assistant managing editor at the "Chronicle", who defended his reporter's story. The incident prompted Patrick to join the call for a
boycottof the paper. [http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/040904_local_boycott.html] The story was also picked up by the local Houston television stations and, a week later, the O'Reilly Factor. The issue cooled down when "Chronicle" publisher Jack Sweeney contacted the Sandoval family to apologize. [http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/040904_local_boycott.html]
Patrick and Bill O'Reilly have both been involved in subsequent disputes with the "Chronicle" over alleged biases and writings pertaining to each other. [http://lonestartimes.com/index.php?p=575] In 2005 O'Reilly and editorial page editor James Howard Gibbons became involved in a heated exchange carried out over their respective media outlets involving a "Chronicle" editorial that, according to O'Reilly, seemingly advocated softer treatment for convicted child sex offenders.
[http://www.thebluesite.com/archives/2005/05/houston_chronic.html] The "Chronicle" responded to O'Reilly by editorializing against the host and accusing him of misrepresenting their position and misquoting a segment of the editorial. O'Reilly retracted the erroneous quotation but reiterated his criticism by quoting the correct editorial, which criticized Florida's
Jessica Lunsford Act, espoused rehabilitation for sex offenders, and argued that " counselingreduces recidivism". The incident also prompted O'Reilly to host a segment on liberal biasat the "Houston Chronicle" on his March 12television broadcast, featuring criticisms of the paper by Patrick. [http://www.billoreilly.com/show?action=viewTVShow&showID=269]
Planned Parenthood contributions
The newspaper's objectivity on the issue of
abortionhas also been called into question following revelations that the "Chronicle" makes several annual contributions to Planned Parenthood. According to an investigation by the "Houston Review", an "independent, conservative, student-run journal of news and opinion," the "Chronicle" donated between $6,000 - $12,000 to Planned Parenthood over the period 1994 to 1998.Fact|date=June 2008 One of its executives, Richard J. V. Johnson (together with his wife), has also donated between $5,000 and $15,000 over the period 1992 to 1998. The "Chronicle" additionally donated between $1,000 and $5,000 to Planned Parenthood in 2002 and is a member of the organization's employee donations program that matches dollar amounts contributed to the group by the paper's employees. [http://www.pphouston.org/upload/SPRING02.PDF] .
Such donations typically occur in the form of buying tables for Planned Parenthood luncheons and similar events.
According to the Texas Alliance for Life's Dr. Joe Pojman, this activity "calls into question the "Chronicle’s" professional objectivity when reporting on the abortion issue."Fact|date=August 2007 The Texas Foundation for Life, another pro-life organization, has accused the paper of taking a
pro-choiceposition in its editorials. The organization also contends that the paper has misrepresented the effects of legislation that removes state funding for abortion providers by relying heavily on Planned Parenthood sources for its articles. [http://web.archive.org/web/20050916100018/http://www.lifeadvocates.org/html/local_news_june_july_03.html]
The paper's support for Planned Parenthood has also been cited by KSEV radio and the Republican Party as a reason for their boycotts.Fact|date=June 2008
Purchase of "Houston Post" assets
In 1995, the "Houston Post" ceased operations, leaving the "Chronicle" as Houston's only major daily newspaper, and the Hearst Corporation purchased some of the "Post's" assets. "Houston Chronicle" announced it in a way that suggested the shutdown and Hearst's purchase of the "Post's" assets were simultaneous events. "Post" closes; Hearst buys assets," the "Chronicle" headline read the day after the "Post" was shut.
Internal memos obtained from by FOIA from the Justice Department
antitrustattorneys who investigated the closing of the "Houston Post" said the "Chronicle's" parent organization struck a deal to buy the "Post" six months before it closed. The memos, first obtained by the alternative paper the "Houston Press", say the "Chronicle's" conglomerate and the "Post" "reached an agreement in October, 1994, for the sale of Houston Post Co.'s assets for approximately $120 million." [http://www.reclaimthemedia.org/print.php?story=04/05/31/6064236]
No anti-trust charges have been filed against the "Houston Chronicle", the "Houston Post" or against the Hearst corporation.
Robert Jensen and September 11, 2001 controversy
In the weeks following the
September 11, 2001 attacksthe "Houston Chronicle" published a series of opinion articles by University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensenthat asserted the United States was "just as guilty" as the hijackers in committing acts of violence and compared that attack with the history of U.S. attacks on civilians in other countries. According to an article of Jensen's published by the "Chronicle" three days after the attacks.
:"For more than five decades throughout the
Third World, the United States has deliberately targeted civilians or engaged in violence so indiscriminate that there is no other way to understand it except as terrorism."
In a follow up article Jensen continued, asserting "my anger is directed not only at individuals who engineered the Sept. 11 tragedy, but at those who have held power in the United States and have engineered attacks on civilians every bit as tragic." He goes on to warn of more civilian deaths that may follow retaliation, "let us not forget that a 'massive response' will kill people, and if the pattern of past U.S. actions holds, it will kill innocents." [http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/editorial/1047072]
The opinion piece resulted in hundreds of angry letters to the editor and reportedly over 4,000 angry responses to Jensen. [http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/editorial/outlook/1215826] Among them were claims of insensitivity against the newspaper and of giving an unduly large audience to a position characterized as being extremist. University of Texas president
Larry Faulknerissued a response denouncing Jenson's as "a fountain of undiluted foolishness on issues of public policy", noting " [h] e is not speaking in the University's name and may not speak in its name." [http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~ulrich/RHE306fall01/RhetAnaly/analyzethis.htm]
Despite the public backlash, the "Chronicle" printed four subsequent opinion articles by Jensen, asserting his case. Jensen is also a regular guest writer on the opinion page and has published several dozen opinion articles on other subjects in the "Chronicle".
Tom DeLay poll
In January 2006 the "Chronicle" hired Dr.
Richard Murrayof the University of Houstonto conduct an election survey in the district of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, in light of his 2005 indictment by District Attorney Ronnie Earlefor alleged campaign money violations. The Chronicle claimed that its poll showed "severely eroded support for U.S. Rep Tom DeLay in his district, most notably among Republicans who have voted for him before." [http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/3587652.html]
Almost immediately, supporters of DeLay began to argue that Murray's poll had severe methodological flaws and was designed to be biased against DeLay. Dr. David Hill, a pollster who writes for "The Hill" newspaper, questioned the poll's accuracy. According to Hill the poll by Murray had an unusually small sample of participants. This gave the poll a margin of error of plus/minus 9 percentage points, which is more than twice the error margin of most election surveys. [http://www.lonestartimes.com/2006/01/18/chronmurray-poll-story-has-legs/]
Former Texas Secretary of State
Jack Rainscontacted the "Chronicle's" James Howard Gibbons, alleging that the poll appeared to incorrectly count non-Republican Primary voters in its sample. Rains also pointed out that Dr. Murray had a conflict of interest in the poll. Murray's son Keir Murray is a Democratic political consultant who works for Nick Lampson, DeLay's Democratic challenger in 2006. [http://lonestartimes.com/2006/01/19/hendee-emails-murray-re-chron-delay-poll/] In response, Gibbons denied the methodological flaws in the poll and stated:
:If you object to the potential for conflict between Murray pere et fils, what must you think of Rep. DeLay, who allowed his wife and daughter to be hired by PACs and lobbying firms? [http://lonestartimes.com/2006/01/18/chronicle-editorial-page-editor-on-delay-poll/]
KSEV Talk Show Host
Edd Hendeecontacted Dr. Murray directly and accused him of manufacturing the poll to "demonstrate political vulnerability of DeLay" and of having a conflict of interest due to his son's employer. Hendee also pointed out that Keir Murray, who works for Lampson, is one of the 3 board members (along with his father) in the University of Houston polling group that designed the survey. [http://lonestartimes.com/2006/01/19/hendee-emails-murray-re-chron-delay-poll/] Murray's responses, if any, have not been made public.
United States journalism scandals
* [http://www.hearst.com/newspapers/property/news_daily_houston.html Hearst subsidiary profile of the "Houston Chronicle"]
* [http://www.info-news.com.ar/pagina.php?idpagina=argentina Houston Chronicle Frontpage (Updated)]
* [http://www.chron.com/ "The Houston Chronicle"]
* [http://forums.chron.com/ Houston Chronicle forums]
Links critical of the "Chronicle"
* [http://www.texasmediawatch.com/ Texas Media Watch] - media watchdog group (archived)
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