[WB1] Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extended the countywide stay-home order this week to 30 April, saying the extra time is needed to try to prevent a surge in cases that might overwhelm area hospitals. Unfortunately, none of the city, county, or state authorities have been releasing detailed info on the Houston-area’s current ICU utilization, and increasingly the public is being left in the dark. Former Chronicle reporter Mike Hixenbaugh highlighted this lack of transparency in an NBC News report that attempted to piece together some of the missing hospitalization data. This is a poor substitute for better transparency from area leaders, but it’s the best we have right now.
[WB2] The effort by Hidalgo to release hundreds (if not thousands) of Harris County inmates through executive emergency fiat met resistance at the end of the week from a district judge, who on Friday voided Hidalgo’s order to release inmates and threatened strong criminal contempt penalties for anyone in violation.
[WB3] Earlier in the week, a Houston Chronicle headline mischaracterized the planned release of a “handful of Harris County Jail inmates.” As the actual story noted, it was more like a thousand.
[WB4] The above was just one misadventure of several at the middling regional newspaper this week, which featured this selection of “misses”:
- A business feature urged readers to “Look on the bright side of the coronavirus shutdown” (a headline that was later changed). Houston’s largest, most important industry is cratering in a time of unprecedented oil supply/demand mismatch due to COVID-19 and geopolitical games (more on that below), and this is what the area newspaper of record has to offer. When the journalist layoffs come – and they will be with oil prices heading where they area — we’ll try to resist our own “Look on the bright side of newspaper layoffs” feature.
- A “news” story ran with the silly headline “Gov. Greg Abbott keeps calm in COVID-19 crisis. Too calm, some say.” The “some say” technique is, of course, what biased/bad journos use to voice their own opinions in “news” pieces (another trick is to label those pieces “analysis”). So embarrassing. The New York Times actually ran a more balanced piece on Gov. Abbott’s leadership, believe it or not.
- The newspaper’s future poop writer chronicled her terrifying trip to the grocery store. So much drama – nearly 1,300 words worth! The one notable takeaway: Wear a mask when you’re out and about. It’s a good idea, as we’ve noted here for a while. Even Mayor Turner is now on board!
- A retired Chronster was brought back to write another 1,300 word essay on… something. It’s unclear what the point was. Apparently, there’s not enough that’s newsworthy to write about right now in Houston, so a diary-like entry had to be solicited. Okay then.
A recent poll showed that American approval of the media’s response to the coronavirus outbreak was just 44% – the lowest number relative to all the institutions that were polled. Make of that what you will.
[WB5] As noted above, Houston’s largest, most important industry (energy) is about to be pummeled by an unprecedented oil demand/supply mismatch due to COVID-19 and geopolitical factors. The impact on Houston and Texas more broadly will be severe. The downturn here will be prolonged and painful. There’s not much of a “bright side” in our view.
Stay safe friends.