Top 10 Media Stories
Alive and wired
1) Perry Blindness In December, state media suddenly discovered that the Texas governor isn't very bright – and that he's lazy, too. It took a spectacular national campaign bungle for reporters to discover what was obvious 10 years ago: Rick Perry doesn't like to work very hard, doesn't care to campaign, and doesn't like reporters at all. So who's the slower learner?
2) Trail Gone Cole Management sent packing longtime KVET-FM talk-show host, country DJ, Longhorn bullhorn, and once dominating radio baritone Bob Cole, in a change that reflected ratings wars as well as changing Austin demographics. Opinionated, orotund, and connected, he'll likely radio-resound again soon.
3) 'Statesman' Switches In a curiously abrupt September departure, Austin American-Statesman Editor Fred Zipp announced his "passion for the job" had diminished and that it was time to do other things. Interim editor and longtime staffer Debbie Hiott assumed the permanent post in November. And John Kelso retired (sort of), and Ken Herman replaced him (sort of) – don't bother to send in the clowns.
4) Enter Laughing Last year KGSR-FM went bouncing around the airwaves to much local consternation (depending on your location), a ratings boost from the burbs, and two (count 'em, two) frequencies. That ended last month when Emmis delivered 102.7FM to the aptly named Comedy 102.7, featuring two-minute bursts of every comic ever recorded – or at least a couple dozen – who seem to have more freedom of profane speech than ordinary announcers.
5) Bull Woofs Local blogger and "investigative reporter" Ken Martin triggered a City Hall uproar via the Austin Bulldog, where he broke the story that City Council members might be privately meeting or emailing with one another more than the law strictly allows. The Travis County Attorney continues to mull the tea leaves, and Place 3's Kathie Tovo in part owes her seat to the Dog Man.
6) Maxey Books It The most notable publication to erupt from the Perry campaign was not the governor's Fed Up! – an exercise in right-wing dog whistles and self-promotion – but former state Rep. Glen Maxey's self-published Head Figure Head, the record of Maxey's attempt to confirm the long-standing rumors about Rick Perry's closeted sex life. Maxey couldn't quite get his first-hand sources on the record, but the loud silence from media that trumpeted Herman Cain's hetero dalliances speaks volumes.
7) Tribune Soars "More Than 5 Million Reasons To Give" reads the headline on the end-of-year fundraising post by editor-in-chief and man-about-everywhere Evan Smith. He's not talking about money, but readers – 5 million unique visitors to the nonprofit news site in 2011. The Trib is not quite breaking even yet, but it's attracting readers and buzz to state political news. Can the site help mark the way to a renewed public journalism? We have to hope so ....
8) NPR Survives Perennial GOP attempts to cut Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding – a greater threat to grant-dependent local stations than to the national network – gathered momentum after an NPR fundraiser was caught on tape dissing tea partiers. Despite lurid headlines, CPB survived – although the pressure didn't help NPR's already timid political coverage.
9) Bad Strategery What's the forecast for a security intelligence company that can't maintain its own security? Austin-based Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting Inc.) – a "global intelligence" firm often cited for expertise on international politics, defense, and security – will find out in the new year, after it was hacked for client info, credit card numbers, and emails by Anonymous activists. Stratfor is repairing the financial and PR damage while waiting for more gigabytes to fall.
10) Dunbar Departs Last but definitely not least, the Chronicle's City Hall Hustler decided in December to hustle in a different direction, taking his political insight and acerbic wit to another Central Texas news venue – online at www.kutnews.org. (He also got married this year – holy smokes, he's a grownup!) We'll miss his columns, his blog posts, his videos, his newsletters, his reporting, and even some of his jokes – but the friendships remain forever. Happy New Year to Wells and Pam, and to all!