Hello again from your new editor. I think this is week six since my start. I’m hanging in there.
My introductory tone is meant to be just that. I’m still figuring out what you readers want to see in your paper, where things are located – even whether I want to move to this area or resign to my daily 15-mile commute from the Big Airport (one way).
Let’s start there. The commute thing has been an easy transition. As I said, I live quite close to IAH (Bush Intercontinental Airport).
Close enough to count the elephants painted on the fuselage of the double-decker Emirates plane as it flies over the house.
My “pig trail” strategy to this commute is wise advice for other commuters. Granted, most of The Leader staff live near the office in places like Oak Forest “West,” Brookwood Estates, Shepherd Forest, Shepherd Park Plaza and the Heights proper. Their commutes are like: “Cross the bayou, turn right” or “Leave driveway, turn on Rosslyn for three minutes.”
A little jealous, but I cracked the traffic code: Avoid schools and grocery stores. And roads with the numbers “45” or “610” in their names. As a bonus, my back roads provide an opportunity to scout the “Leader zone” for potential story ideas. (Did you know the lot across from St. Pius is for sale? And a new church will appear on Tidwell soon, with what looks like a three-story condo down the street planned as well.)
It still takes me 45 minutes to get to work and another 45 back home – but it’s a peaceful 45 minutes. I don’t mind telling you the secret: Pinemont and Parker. I do have to port around the Candlelight communities via TC Jester, which swings me half a mile west when I need to go east. This is due to a gap in Rosslyn Road at Candlelight Place, preventing its completion through to Pinemont by a few hundred feet and a flagpole.
On the Pinemont side of this great divide, there’s a sign urging drivers to “ignore MapQuest directions” with a way out and around to the tantalizingly close back yards of Candlelight. There’s a story here, about this Rosslyn roadblock. We’ll get to that at a later time; I think we’ve talked enough traffic for now.
The “Leader zone,” as I call it – the area where we circulate and concentrate our primary coverage – encompasses a mere slice of northwest Houston. The actual map is somewhere on our website (www.theleadernews.com) perhaps in our media kit. The lines have retreated significantly since my first run in this newspaper in the early 90s; at any rate it does not represent any given municipality or socio-economic delineation of some sort.
The lines are simply throwbacks to when weekly, community-based newspapers divvied up sections of town for their portion of the pie. We still have the independent Northeast News over on my side of town. A large New York-based outfit has control of some of the other neighborhood papers (now mostly online rather than print) encircling Houston.
For our purposes, the “borders” include anything inside a box from – roughly – US 290, I-10, I-45 and Tidwell/Little York on the north. The bulk of our advertisers, news sources and readers are within this wedge-shaped box.
Even as we eclipse Chicago and take the third spot on the list of America’s megacities, living in Oak Forest doesn’t mean not being a part of the Houston metro. Sometimes, what happens in Spring Branch, or Sugarland, or Santa Fe – matters right here along TC Jester. We’ll strive to balance the locally relevant with what’s happening in our town, state, nation and world around us.
Here at The Leader, we like to be in the business of telling stories from the northwest side – the good and the bad. For example, if we can zero in on a crime-ridden street, it may bring about a reaction from community leaders to work on solutions.
That success, in turn, can be told in the paper, too. But not if those community leaders choose to exclude local media from the storytelling process.
I recently attended an event where local police were meeting with community movers and shakers, a sort of meet-and-greet format where past and present crime trends were being discussed. One absentee business owner mentioned a northwest side street that was once “the most dangerous in the city” and is now seeing vast improvements. That’s great!
My ears perked up for a “bad neighborhood turned good” story. I approached the business owner and let him know I was with the local paper. He said he had seen plenty of “negative” articles (written years ago) from our paper about the neighborhood in question. After that, even as I was expressing interest in telling the positive angle of the story, he was terse, cut me off and showed no interest in taking part.
Keep in mind he was just moments before standing in a room full of people, telling this success story and urging that it be told to others. But, evidently in his eyes, not through the local paper.
We’re working to build trust within our community, so we can share as much information as possible. All of us at The Leader are from this area (if you count Katy and Aldine) and we all have a stake in Houston’s well-being.
I’m looking into new ways to spread news from local governments and non-profit entities, which comes into the email box faster than we can possibly ever print. A big part of media’s job is to be the liaison between the government and the people. We take that seriously here at The Leader.
I’ll end with examples of some of the things that have found their way to our in box. Most of these are from full-length press releases by talented public relations professionals, but to print those releases verbatim runs into space issues for us. I hope our readers find these links helpful:
* Texas Comptroller Announces Opening of Texas ABLE Program: It gives Texans with disabilities and their families the opportunity to save money for disability-related expenses in a tax-advantaged account without losing their eligibility for certain public benefits such as SSI, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicaid. (www.TexasABLE.org)
* Precinct 4 staff is kind enough to send us a calendar of events for Doss Park, on Frick Road near where I lived while attending Eisenhower High School. The website has a calendar option where you can set the filters for the parks and activities of your choice: http://www.hcp4.net/calendar.
* A team of prominent psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health specialists has joined Houston Methodist to offer a specialized program for the increasing number of adults disabled by overlapping medical and psychiatric conditions. (www.houstonmethodist.org)
* The Houston Health Department (HHD) recommends area residents take precautions against heat-related illnesses as temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s during the next few days. To see a list of heat-related health and safety tips, visit http://www.houstontx.gov/health/NewsReleases/prevention_heat_related_illnesses.html.