Just when you think the local newspaper is dead… (updated)

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We have to admit that the Chronicle has surprised us.

We thought they had largely given up on the watchdog journalism business (in favor of the user-submitted party photo online business), and suddenly *BAM* three provocative stories.

Here are links and excerpts:

  • Overhaul of mall prompts lawsuit (Nancy Sarnoff and Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle)

    Mayor Bill White, who has been personally engaged in the effort to redevelop the mall, said his counsel to TIRZ board members has been that they should resign at the point they become serious about submitting their own proposals for development plans to avoid “the appearance of impropriety.”

    Memo to watchdog journalists: Follow up. Dig deeper.

  • Metro light rail tactic raises funding concerns (Carolyn Feibel, Houston Chronicle)

    “By Metro not putting these bonds in place the taxpayer is potentially liable,” said Peter Brown, a Houston City Council member and mayoral candidate. “We do these for every major project at the city of Houston. Metro has been planning the light rail project for a long time, and if they needed to find protection for the taxpayers through another means they should have taken that up with the Legislature this past session.”

    We eagerly await the “Me too!” from the other candidates. However, perhaps Gene Locke, as a METRO legal eagle, will have a different perspective from the others! That would be a change of pace.

    Psst… local media… that’s a cue for you to ask followup questions of the mayoral candidates.

    Psst… everyone else…. Please comment with your thoughts on Frank Wilson’s financing schemes.

  • Metro and Med Center settle lawsuit over stray current (Carolyn Feibel, Houston Chronicle)

    The two institutions agreed that the Metropolitan Transit Authority will pay for annual testing around the tracks for 10 years, followed by tests every three years for another 10 years. Metro will not pay any damages now but could have to repair any problems revealed by future tests.

    “If we test at a certain location and we determine that the rail operation is the source, we will remediate,” said Pauline Higgins, Metro’s senior vice president and general counsel.

    THAT is some clumsy writing. But as above, psst…. memo to watchdog journalists: Follow up. Dig deeper.


UPDATE: Chronicle urban affairs reporter Mike Snyder emails the following in response to this post:

Watchdog reporting: Digging below the surface to examine the policies and actions of public agencies and officials and hold them accountable.

Here are a few recent examples not mentioned in your post today. There are plenty of others.

A closer look at why local jails are overcrowded:


Exposing a formula for allocating federal hurricane recovery funds that treats empty prairie the same as a densely populated city:


Did the criminal justice system fail a murdered child?


Please stop suggesting that the Chronicle has abandoned watchdog reporting. Do we do less of it than in the past because we have fewer journalists to do it? Yes. Could we do it better? Obviously. [ … ] But for those of us trying to do the kind of work that attracted us to this business, it’s discouraging to see bloggers continually reporting that we have forsaken serious journalism in favor of cleavage photos.

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