and other fishy goings on in the local press
BY GABRIELLE COSGRIFF
Houston Post columnists Lynn
Ashby and Donald Morris seem,
at first glance, to represent two
vastly different philosophies-
Morris, the conservative prophet-of-doom
moralist; Ashby, the light-hearted iconoclast-punster. But, on closer inspection,
the two are depressingly similar in their
Ashby's periodic dives into local issues
invariably muddy the waters with simplistic sarcasm. He did it last summer
with a mangled attack on the U.S. Justice
Dept. intervention in local elections,
with his turning-the-tables 'men's advocate' piece on Nikki Van Hightower,
Eleanor Tinsley's office space, coddling
prisoners in Texas jails and, most recently, his reductio ad absurdum on the city
council's proposed hiring of aides (Jan.
"After careful study," declaims Ashby, "I suggest that each member have a
staff of at least 45, plus part-time help
during the campaigns." He swings right
into his well-worn formula: let's give
them four-story office buildings in their
districts, use of the contra-flow lane to
the airport, their own plane, etc., right
down to the last whimsical touch, "after
they vote themselves season passes to
No matter that there are arguments
on both sides of this issue, and most
issues he deals with, Ashby has an infallible instinct for the cheap shot.
Morris works the same side of the
street—he just starts at the other end of
the block. The ex-C.I.A. operative (identified as such when deemed relevant)
makes much of journalistic integrity. He
reminds us often of our national folly
and short-sightedness, which usually
translates into caveats against liberalism
and other related emotional disorders.
(He has made occasional stabs at humorous writing, but these are mercifully
rare and inflict no real damage.)
In a recent column, "Chappaquiddick
—a real non-issue" (Jan. 7) Morris takes
to task the authors of Chappaquiddick
Revisited, Richard L. and Thomas L.
Tedrow, for verging "perilously close
to yellow journalism" in their treatment
and analysis of that incident. Of course,
in describing their proximity to that
jaundiced state, Morris finds it neces
sary to rehash all the juicy details.
"The evidential web is damning,"
he concludes. "The authors might have
strengthened it even further had they
managed a more objective tone . . . There
is evidence the girl survived the crash
and was trapped in an air bubble in the
inverted car for a time (people have survived many hours under such circumstances) before she drowned. But to dwell
on this while concurrently having
Kennedy on a telephone seeking advice
about his political career is inexcusable;
it is just such gratuitous slime which has
hampered rational consideration of Chappaquiddick in the past."
Morris' "objective tone" and "rational
consideration" are his standard red herrings. The end result of his analysis was to
make available to his readers the "gratuitous slime" he sanctimoniously condemns.
It's bad enough to be exposed to this
kind of journalism from Post employees, but do we have to take it
from their overlords too?
Henry E. Catto Jr. is the son-in-law
of Oveta Culp Hobby and a member of
the board of directors of the Houston
Several weeks ago, the Post published
a piece on its op-ed page, written by
Catto and headed "Phoney foreign euphemisms should carry warning labels."
The piece was first published in the Washington Post (December 13) under the
headline "On our way, semantically, to
His premise was that the press has
developed "a sharply heightened sense
of skepticism . . . when dealing with statements by U.S. government figures" but
that they "swallow uncritically the most
transparent propaganda if it comes from a
He makes some points which, if left
unembellished, could be persuasive. It's
the overkill that undermines his argument.
For example, he asks why did not the
American media find out if the "students" holding the Americans hostage
in Tehran were really students. Did they
attend classes? Good point. But then:
"Is the whole scene a bizarre fraternity
initiation? Do these students engage in
terror for credit? If so, what are they
taking, American Humiliation 101?"
"Socialist" is next. Catto points out
that socialist is used to mean communist.
Good point. What he neglects to consider
is that socialist can also mean socialist.
(Even Freud allowed as how a cigar can,
on occasion, be just a cigar.)
"The unwary," says Catto, "conjure
a picture of gentle Fabians taking tea in
their London salons, clucking earnestly
at capitalist outrage. Or of Harold Wilson puffing benignly on his pipe . . .
'Socialism' is a euphemism used by the
communist propaganda apparat." (Shades
of James Kilpatrick, who likes to call
He then takes off after "the Soviet
lap dog, Fidel Castro" and "the rancid
ravings of the ayatollah" and concludes
with "misrepresentation and manipulation from abroad must be avoided; to do
otherwise is to go, semantically, to
Catto's pompous hyperbole guarantees
that, in spite of some valid points, his
diatribe goes, semantically, nowhere.
Lest anyone feel that the name of
The Houston Post has been
changed to The Whipping
Post. . .
Arthur Wiese, Washington bureau
chief, did a concise, information-packed
article (Jan. 20) on the Iowa caucus,
with a clever illustration of the candidates by Howard Paveglio.
Post reporter Janis Parks did a nice
review of Ray Bradbury's The Martian
Chronicles, a six-hour, three-part adaptation on NBC of his famous stories. Parks
felt that the roles of the women in "this
often splendid program" were sadly
in need of updating (for a story supposedly set in 1990).
"The role that added insult to injury,"
said Parks, "was drawn by Gayle Hunni-
cutt. . . Ruth Wilder, pretty as a picture,
bounces all over the universe with two
kids in tow and voices no more fear and
questioning than if the Wilders were
moving to Akron."
By the way, how long do you have to
write about TV at the Post before you get
to be called a TV writer? Parks has been
doing this job for a long time now and is
still called "Post Reporter." Her predecessor, C. W. Skipper, was TV Editor.
Vicki Macias surfaced from doing Post
TV logs to write a sensible, thoughtful
review of "The $5.20 an Hour Dream,"
a two-hour CBS movie (air date Jan 26).
Linda Lavin starred as a divorced mother
who seeks a better-paying job on the
all-male assembly line.
About that movie: Twiss Butler, Bay
Area feminist, is to be applauded for publicizing it locally, as is Kathy Bonk from
National N.O.W. for coordinating the
national PR campaign. Butler prevailed
on KHOU-TV to promote, not only the
film, but the issues it raised—women in
blue collar jobs and unions, non-payment
of child support and the effects on children of mothers who work outside the
The station cooperated fully, and Butler got together a panel of women to appear on Nancy Carney's Morning Show
the day before the film aired. They were
Helen George, program manager of the
Neighborhood Center Child Care Association, Diana Osborne, chief steward,
Communications Workers of America and
president of the Houston Coalition of
Labor Union Women, and Carro Hinder-
stein, an attorney. Butler also arranged
for attorney Jo Ann Doughtie to be
interviewed by Bill Balleza on News-
center II at noon that day, to talk about
child support and fair employment
Ann Hodges, TV editor of the
Houston Chronicle, devoted a little over
a column inch to the movie. Her big
story that day was the 10-year celebration of Marcel la Perry's Econocast,
a commercial for Perry's Heights Savings
Then there's Post reporter Pamela
Lewis, who did a splendid interview with
Gloria Steinem (Jan. 20) in town recently
to publicize changes in the format of
Ms. magazine. Steinem is always articulate and quotable, but it was a mark of
Lewis' research skills (she came by way
of the Post library) that she drew out
some facets of Steinem's background
and philosophy that were new, at least
to this writer.
One wishes the same could be said of
Barbara Karkabi's Steinem interview in
GOOD EVENING. "MARVELOUS"MARK HERB.
CHATTING WITH MEDIA CRITIC ALBERT
SCHOENEELD, AUTHOR OF THE /4j'IDEL>
PRAISED REPORT, "FUTURE SCHLOCK. "
ON THE BASIS OF YOUR
LATEST RESEARCH, U/HAT
SORT OF MEDIA TREND5
DO YOU FORESEE FOR
THE DECADE AHEAD?
WELL, MARK, TO BEGIN
UIITH, HUE foresee AM
INCREASE IN MOOD
CIALLY IN THE BIO -
f PdRJNO VIE "JO'S, THE MEDIA SPOTTED APPROXIMATELY 7500 TRENDS. UJE THINK THE
TREND IS TOM/ARDS EVEN MORE TRENDS,
PERHAPS UOOO BY 1989, 'REFLECTING THE
RESULTS OF OVER 9^00 INDEPENDENTLY