Top 10 Media Stories

More is Less

In a year that saw Austin legend Molly Ivins pass away (see "Top 10 State Stories"), there was little cause for celebration in media circles.

With Ivins' death, wit and style moved a ­little farther to the back of the bus, driven by in-depth reports on Anna Nicole Smith's baby and sightings of Bigfoot. Real journalists were mocked, scorned, and fired in 2007. Revelations about nefarious government activities and environmental crises were ignored in favor of live coverage of Paris Hilton going to jail.

All in all, it was a dreary year for the Fourth Estate.

1) Riots in the Streets Media outlets around the country gobbled up the tale of a Mexican-American man torn limb from limb by a liquored-up mob of Juneteenth revelers in East Austin. The story was just too good to be true. And it turns out it wasn't. In the process, the stories ended up revealing far less about race relations and far more about the media's pack mentality and salivating desire for blood.

2) Damn That Media It turns out all the world's ills, from the inability to capture Osama bin Laden to genital herpes, can be blamed on the media. Who knew? Media-hating is the great uniter. The right wing smirks at every new revelation revealed by the liberal America-haters. The left wing mocks the Britney-fixated cowards. Meanwhile, the public yawned at attempts to develop a shield law to protect journalists' freedom.

3) Musical chairs As they say in the finance game, media properties were in play: KEYE was sold to the same private equity firm that gobbled up Chrysler. KXAN was for sale, and then it wasn't. Border Media sold off a bunch of radio stations. The list goes on and on. The one consistent factor: Not one transaction resulted in a better media outlet.

Top 10 Media Stories
4) Air America Crashes The Great Radio Hope for progressives continued to spiral into oblivion. Management filed for bankruptcy. Al Franken left to run for Senate. Ratings plummeted. In Austin, KOKE dropped the network when it was sold to a chain specializing in Spanish-language formats. Few wept.

5) KXAN Reborn After a meltdown in '06, KXAN bounced back into the TV news competition with a new set, new graphics, and a new commitment to "Austin News." First sign of the new commitment to "Austin News" was a trip to Afghanistan. Otherwise, the station stuck to the rigid TV news format, except now the anchors stand and talk a lot, instead of sitting and talking. Radical!

6) The Statesman Lives! The Austin Ameri­can-Statesman emerged from its Eisenhower-era schnooze with a snappy new look. Now the paper uses colorful graphics on Page 1 to tease high school football coverage and that swell fitness column. Editorial occasionally showed signs of a pulse, including the once-a-decade look at the University of Texas football program's extravagant budget. And yet – cruel irony – circulation and reader interest continued to slide.

7) The Incredible Shrinking Media Job security became a running joke in the industry. The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chron­icle, and San Antonio Express-News all slashed staff. Radio stations like rocker KLBJ-FM continued to jettison old-timers. TV newsrooms look like junior-college journalism workshops. And local advertising agency icon GSD&M, once a bastion of creativity and energy, cut staff and switched management after losing a string of big accounts.

8) Diversity Reigns No, not in terms of race. Most media outlets remain lily white. But the selection and variety of ways for the public to gather information continued to explode. The New York Times ditched its pay service, opening its doors to the great unwashed; The Wall Street Journal is sure to follow. Blogs, podcasts, and social network sites like Facebook created new ways to flood data to anyone interested in finding it.

9) FCC Slapdown The Federal Communi­ca­tions Commission relaxed rules prohibiting conglomerates from buying multiple properties, while ignoring the plight of smaller players. Government regulators were far more concerned about the utterance of even a single nasty word, which has left FCC-governed broadcasters shaking in their weenie boots. One casualty was KVET icon Sammy Allred, who was canned after muttering one too many bad words.

10) New Technology Flounders HD radio was a bomb. Only one TV station, KEYE, made the move into HD. Copyright fees threatened to gut Internet radio. And satellite-radio pioneers XM and Sirius, unable to make it on their own, tried to merge, reminding everyone that cool technology is no guarantee of success.

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