Chronicle gets mixed review for memogate coverage

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The Houston Chronicle gets a mixed review from Texas Media Watch‘s Sherry Sylvester for its recent coverage of the Dan Rather fake memo flap.

Sylvester blasts the Chronicle for ignoring Marian Carr Knox:

The elderly National Guard typist, Marian Carr Knox, made national news when she told reporters that the documents were phony. Knox, who lives in Houston, told the Washington Post and Matt Drudge that she had called the Houston Chronicle to tell her story, but they didn’t call her back.

As Anne Linehan suggested earlier, perhaps the Chronicle‘s voicemail wasn’t working. And maybe that’s why they missed the Enron story as well. Someone at 801 Texas Avenue really should call in the phone company. In any case, the Dallas Morning News managed to scoop the Chronicle on a story the local newspaper should have owned.

Sylvester goes on, however, to credit the Chronicle for its background on Bill Burkett:

The Houston Chronicle also published an important piece on Burkett, who has been a bitter and frequent critic of Bush over the years. The Chronicle noted that many of Burkett’s charges failed to check-out. Demonstrating how far off a national news report can drift, on September 17 the Washington Post published a piece on Burkett entitled “Suspected CBS Source is Well-Regarded Texan.” The much better researched story about Burkett ran in the Houston Chronicle the same day. It was headlined “Texan has history of attacks on Bush.”

More of this kind of reporting from journalists who knew the players and their backgrounds would have saved the national media a lot of time and surely resulted in some glory for the Texas press.

It really is disappointing (if not surprising) that the Texas press didn’t do a better job on this story. Texas newspapers could still redeem themselves, however. Documents were obviously faked, and laws broken. Getting to the bottom of who did what would be some nice journalism. It might even produce that elusive first Pulitzer for the Chronicle.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX