Media Watch: Whoring is boring
Lofty debates about national security, scandals at the highest level of government, attacks on the foundation of a free press: It was a year of spicy, incendiary media stories, striking to the core of the media's role in a free society.
But not here in li'l Austin, where the media served up a pale gruel of politically correct, happy-face news; crime reports; and rewritten press releases. Austin media managers spent the year busily rearranging the deck chairs, while audiences yawned and fiddled with their new PlayStations.
The Top 10 Austin media stories:
1) Statesman Doesn't Get It: In its largest promotional push in recent memory, the Austin American-Statesman asked the community, "Do You Get It?" Many Austinites responded, "No." The circulation for Austin's only daily newspaper continued to sag like Bill O'Reilly's nut sack.
2) It's All About ME!: Longtime KGSR morning host Kevin Connor jumped to Austin's fledgling Music and Entertainment Television, giving an instant shot of credibility to the attempt to create a local MTV-style channel. If you're still clicking through it, ME is just like MTV except it actually plays music.
3) Whores, Dirty Whores!: Hoping for a little ratings mojo, a KEYE reporter went undercover to reveal the shocking news that he was offered a "hand job" at a massage parlor. Local media observers expressed outrage at the shameless ploy. In fact, KXAN was so outraged, a few weeks later it did its own prostitution report, speaking volumes about the state of shame in local TV news.
4) Statesman Gets It: While the print edition snoozed, the Statesman's Web site, Statesman.com, continued to gain traction, becoming one of the most widely read newspaper sites in the country. Frequently, the site's staff-written blogs featured interesting local stories that couldn't unseat the wire reports and press releases in the newspaper.
5) KOOP Riseth: Not one but two fires in its headquarters suggested that maybe the Almighty was out to smite little KOOP, the often-beleaguered or self-besieged community radio station. But the station rose from the ashes to occupy swanky new facilities on Airport Boulevard.
6) Off With Their Heads: After the May sweeps ratings period, both KEYE general manager Mike Reed and KXAN general manager Carlos Fernandez were axed within a few days of each other. Dozens of TV ad sales people rushed to update their résumés.
7) Radio Daze: CBS sold its local stations to Entercom. Industry giant Clear Channel moved to go private. All signs point to a seismic shift building in the industry.
8) KXAN News Meltdown: Reporters and production staff fled KXAN under the rule of new news director Bill Seitzler, who was also accused of sensationalizing the news product. In October, Seitzler abruptly quit.
9) Air America Woes: Hailed as the great hope to bring a progressive voice to radio, Air America stumbled and bumbled into bankruptcy. Local affiliate KOKE continued to treat the network like a forgotten wart, running week-old ads and transmitting a signal that can barely be heard north of 35th Street on a clear night.
10) Anchor Games: With as much fanfare as local TV can muster, veteran anchor Ron Oliveira began reading the news for CBS affiliate KEYE, a year after leaving ABC affiliate KVUE. KEYE ran ad after ad promoting its "trusted" anchor; audiences skipped to reruns of Gunsmoke.