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The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily newspaper in Texasmarker, USAmarker. As of March 2008, it is the ninth-largest newspaper by circulation in the United States. With the demise of its long-time rival the Houston Post, its nearest major competitors are located in Dallasmarker-Fort Worthmarker.

The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily paper owned and operated by the Hearst Corporation, a multinational corporate media conglomerate with $4 billion in revenues. The paper employs nearly 2,000 people, including approximately 300 journalists, editors, and photographers. The Chronicle has bureaus in Washington, D.C.marker and Austinmarker. Its web site averages more than 75 million page views per month.

On October 19, 2008, the paper endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, the first Democrat to be endorsed by the newspaper since 1964, in which it endorsed Texan favorite son Lyndon B. Johnson.


1901: Marcellus E. Foster

The Houston Chronicle was founded in 1901 by a former reporter for the now-defunct Houston Post, Marcellus E. Foster. Foster, who had been covering the Spindletopmarker oil boom for the Post, invested in Spindletop and took $30 of the return on that investment — at the time equivalent to a week's wages — and used it to found the Chronicle.

The Chronicle's first edition was published on October 14, 1901 and sold for two cents per copy, at a time when most papers sold for five cents each. At the end of its first month in operation, the Chronicle had a circulation of 4,378 — roughly one tenth of the population of Houston at the time. Within the first year of operation, the paper purchased and consolidated the Daily Herald.

In 1908, Jesse H. Jones, a local businessman, constructed a new office and plant for the paper in exchange for a half-interest in the company.


In 1911, City Editor George Kepple started Goodfellows. On a Christmas Eve in 1911, Kepple passed a hat among the Chronicle's reporters to collect money to buy toys for a shoe-shine boy.

Goodfellows continues today through donations made by the newspaper and its readers. It has grown into a city-wide program that provides needy children between the ages of 2 and 10 with toys during the winter holidays. In 2003, Goodfellows distributed almost 250,000 toys to more than 100,000 needy children in the Greater Houston area.

1926 - 1956: Jesse H. Jones

In 1926, Jesse H. Jones became the sole owner of the paper.In 1937, Jesse H. Jones transferred ownership of the paper to the newly-established Houston Endowment, Inc. Jones retained the title of publisher until his death in 1956.

1956 - 1965: John T. Jones

The board of Houston Endowment named John T. Jones, nephew of Jesse H. Jones, as editor of the Chronicle. Houston Endowment president, J. Howard Creekmore, was named publisher.In 1961, John T. Jones hired William P. Steven as editor. Steven had previously been editor of the Tulsa Tribune and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and credited with turning around the declining readership of both papers. His progressive political philosophy soon created conflict with the very conservative views of the Houston Endowment board.In 1965, both John T. Jones and William P. Steven left the Chronicle. J. Howard Creekmore, president of the Houston Endowment, took John Jones' place at the Chronicle. Everett D. Collier replaced Steven as editor. Collier remained in this position until his retirement in 1979.In 1968, the Chronicle set a Texas newspaper circulation record.In 1981, the business pages — which up until then had been combined with sports — became its own section of the newspaper.

1987: Hearst

On May 1, 1987, the Hearst Corporation purchased the Houston Chronicle from Houston Endowment for $415 Million.

In 1994, the Chronicle switched to being a morning-only paper. With the demise of the Houston Post the following year, the Chronicle became Houston's sole major daily newspaper.


Jack Sweeney is the publisher and president of the Houston Chronicle.

As of April 2006, the editorial board includes: (The previous president was Richard J. V. Johnson, who died in 2006.)
  • Executive Vice President and Editor: Jeff Cohen
  • Opinion Director: John Wilburn
  • Outlook Editor: David Langworthy
  • Editorial Writer: Tim Fleck
  • Editorial Cartoonist: Nick Anderson
  • Reader Representative: Jim Newkirk

The paper employs nearly 2,000 people, including approximately 300 journalists. In addition, the Chronicle contracts with multiple distributors who circulate and deliver copies of the newspaper.

A longtime Chronicle officer was John Hulen Murphy, I, the assistant to Richard Johnson, former executive vice president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association, and a newspaperman, mostly in Houston, for seventy-four years.


  • 2000: Houston's M.marker D.marker Anderson Cancer Centermarker gave the Chronicle its Joseph T. Ainsworth Volunteer Community Award for making the newspaper available at a "greatly reduced rate" to the hospital and its patients. [34010]
  • 2002: Holocaust Museum Houston awarded the Chronicle its "Guardian of the Human spirit" award. The presenter, Janis Goldstein, said the award was given "because the Houston Chronicle embraces the causes most dear to it with a depth and scope that goes well beyond what is expected." Also, that "the Chronicle gives of itself to build a community that will embrace tolerance, understanding, and diversity and will speak out against prejudice and unfairness of any kind." [34011]

Individual awards

  • 1989-1997: Carlos Antonio Rios, a Chronicle photographer since 1978, has repeatedly been honored for his photojournalism by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. [34012]
  • 2003: James Howard Gibbons received third place in the "Hearst Distinguished Journalism Awards," an internal contest held between Hearst's newspapers, for his editorial piece When Will the U.S. Liberate Texas? [34013]
  • 2005: Then-White House correspondent Julie Mason was voted by readers of Wonkette (a Washington, D.C. political blog) the tongue-in-cheek "Best to Sit Next to on the Bus (for more than 20 minutes)." (Mason later left the newspaper and now reports for the Washington Examiner).
  • Leon Hale, a long-time columnist and author of 11 books, recently received the Lon Tinkle Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career from the Texas Institute of Letters, of which Hale is member. [34014]

Pulitzer Prize

The Houston Chronicle is the only newspaper of the '10 largest' in the United States to have never won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

However, the newspaper and its staff have several times been Pulitzer finalists:
  • Dudley Althaus - 1992 finalist in international reporting: "For his articles on the causes of the cholera epidemic in Perumarker and Mexicomarker." [34015]
  • Tony Freemantle - 1997 finalist in international reporting: "For his reporting from Rwandamarker, South Africa, El Salvadormarker and Guatemalamarker on why crimes against humanity go unstopped and unpunished." [34016]
  • Nick Anderson - 2007 finalist for editorial cartooning: "For his pungent cartoons on an array of issues, and for his bold use of animation." [34017] Anderson won the Pulitzer in 2005 when working for the The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky. [34018]
  • Staff - 2009 finalist for breaking news coverage: "For taking full advantage of online technology and its newsroom expertise to become a lifeline to the city when Hurricane Ike struck, providing vital minute-by-minute updates on the storm, its flood surge and its aftermath." [34019]


The Houston Chronicle is divided into several sections:
  • Front Page (A)
  • City and State (B)
  • Sports (C)
  • Business (D)
  • Star (E)
  • Classifieds (F)
On some days, "local" sections (Z) for residents of various Houston-area neighborhoods appear - Depending on one's residence, a customer will receive one of the following sections on Thursdays:

Robert Jensen series on the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.

In the weeks following the September 11, 2001 attacks the Houston Chronicle published a series of opinion articles by University of Texasmarker journalism professor Robert Jensen that asserted the United States was "just as guilty" as the hijackers in committing acts of violence and compared that attack with the history of U.S. attacks on civilians in other countries. The opinion piece resulted in hundreds of angry letters to the editor and reportedly over 4,000 angry responses to Jensen.[34037] Among them were claims of insensitivity against the newspaper and of giving an unduly large audience to a position characterized as being extremist. University of Texas president Larry Faulkner issued a response denouncing Jenson's as "a fountain of undiluted foolishness on issues of public policy", noting "[h]e is not speaking in the University's name and may not speak in its name." [34038]

The Chronicle printed four subsequent opinion articles by Jensen, asserting his case. Jensen is also a regular guest writer on the opinion page and has published several dozen opinion articles on other subjects in the Chronicle.


Light rail controversy

The paper's most vocal critics were conservative talk radio station KSEV and its affiliated weblogs, the now-defunct Chronically Biased and Lone Star Times. Chronically Biased featured a cartoon character named "Captain Chronicle" who espouses light rail transit as the solution to all of Houston's problems (including those unrelated to traffic.) In May 2005 the Harris Countymarker Republican Party joined a short-lived boycott of the newspaper, [34039] called for previously by KSEV hosts. The Republican Party accused the paper of having a liberal political slant, of biased coverage of the light rail project, of supporting Planned Parenthood and of waging a "personal smear campaign" against Houston area congressman Tom DeLay, who was under criminal indictment.

The newspaper also has had critics on the political left. The Houston Press, an alternative weekly tabloid newspaper that often takes a liberal perspective, used to run a column entitled "News Hostage", which often critiqued the Chronicle. Now that paper only occasionally criticizes the Chronicle in its "Hairballs" column.

In late 2002, Chronicle website managers accidentally posted an internal memorandum on its Web site, The memorandum [34040] outlined a draft agenda of coordinated news articles, editorials, and op-eds seemingly intended to promote a hotly contested mass transit referendum to expand Houston's controversial METRORail system on the 2003 ballot, which was later approved narrowly by voters. The memo's anonymous author proposed supporting the referendum and stated:

"Next November, voters in the city and across the Metropolitan Transit Authority service area will cast a truly important vote: They will decide whether Metro should be permitted to expand our rail rail system beyond the 7-mile South Main line. There isn't a more critical issue on the horizon.

I propose a series of editorials, editorial cartoons and Sounding Board columns leading up to the rail referendum, with this specific objective: Continuing our long standing efforts to make rail a permanent part of the transit mix here.

The timing, language and approach of the paper's editorials would, of course, be the decision of the Editorial Board. But I suggest that they could be built upon and informed by a news-feature package with an equally specific focus..."

The memorandum then proposed several "investigative" news stories and editorials designed to examine "the campaign led by Tom DeLay and Bob Lanier to defeat rail expansion." DeLay, a Houston congressman, and Lanier, a former mayor of Houston, had both actively opposed light rail in the past.

The document was online for only an hour, but long enough to be viewed by some readers. Soon after the Houston Review, a conservative newspaper published by students at the University of Houstonmarker (now defunct), printed the memo's full text and an accompanying commentary that criticized the paper for bias toward rail. The Houston Press also accused the Chronicle of having a bias toward rail.[34041] They dubbed the paper Houston's "in-house light rail newsletter," described it as a "tireless promoter of rail," and mocked its editorial board's portrayal of light rail as the key to making Houston a "world class" city [34042] – a claim echoed by the city's former mayor, Lee P. Brown, who campaigned on a platform of bringing light rail to Houston. Other local weekly and monthly newspapers, including the Houston Forward Times, a local African-American weekly newspaper, seized on the controversy, as did local talk radio stations, bloggers, and the conservative Free Republic Internet forum.

The Chronicle's response was initially muted. Its first official response appeared in the "corrections" section later the same week stating: "An internal Houston Chronicle document was mistakenly posted to the editorial/opinion area of the Web site early Thursday morning. We apologize for any confusion it may have caused." Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen, who gave a statement in defense of the memorandum: "I make no apologies for having a thorough discussion of the issue. We have nothing to apologize for…There was an inadvertent posting of it to the Web site, and I'm sorry about that, but I make no apologies for the contents of it."

After the memo's accidental release, the Chronicle's critics noted that its Editorial Board continued being a vocal advocate of the expansion of Houston's light rail and charged that the paper became a partisan participant in the debate over light rail expansion. According to a content analysis of the paper by the Houston Review done to support their allegation of bias, the Houston Chronicle published 5 editorials attacking rail opponents, 6 editorials promoting or endorsing light rail, 6 news stories attacking the motives of rail opponents, 3 news stories promoting a criminal investigation of rail opponents, and 1 staff editorial endorsing a criminal investigation of rail opponents during the course of the election. As the bond referendum approached, the Houston Chronicle requested that Texans for True Mobility (TTM), the main critic of METRORail, provide the paper with a copy of their financial contributor reports. TTM declined, saying they did not believe the Chronicle would adequately protect the privacy of their donors.

The Chronicle responded by making a complaint to the Harris County District Attorney's office asking that Texans for True Mobility be investigated for potential violations of Texas election law. The Chronicle alleged that TTM broke a law requiring PAC to disclose their donors. Violation of this law, a misdemeanor, is punishable by a maximum $500 fine. TTM was a registered non-profit 501 organization and said this status did not require them to disclose contributors like PACs must do. The Chronicle argued that the law covered TTM because it made "paid political moves." Texas campaign law allows nonprofits to run "educational" advertisements, but those advertisements cannot endorse specific political positions or people or make a specific recommendation in a pending election. The dispute was over whether TTM's advertisements, and specifically the slogans "Metro's Rail Plan Costs Too Much ... Does Too Little" and "Metro's Plan Won't Work Here," were specific recommendations on how to vote.

Harris County District Attorney Rosenthal later dismissed the Chronicle's complaint, finding it without merit on the grounds that the statute did not apply. Rosenthal's involvement in the probe itself came under fire by the Houston Press, which in editorials questioned whether Rosenthal was too close to TTM: from 2000 to 2004, Rosenthal accepted some $30,000 in donations from known TTM supporters.

Later that year, the group revealed that that their TV and radio ads were funded by $30,000 in contributions made the day before the election by two PACs controlled by DeLay.

By comparison with TTM, which was extensively attacked in the paper's editorials and covered in multiple news stories, the Chronicle devoted only a portion of one article to the finances of Texans for Public Transportation (TPT), the main pro-METRORail group, according to the Houston Review. The Houston Review further alleged multiple conflicts of interest in TPT's financing. The report involved fourteen METRORail contractors and business interests who stood to gain financially from the project and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the referendum.

Feuds with KSEV radio and Bill O'Reilly

In early 2004 the Chronicle was accused of bias and adding to the family's grief regarding its coverage of the death of Leroy Sandoval, a soldier from Houston who was killed in Iraq. Chronicle reporter Lucas Wall visited the family of Sandoval for an interview about the loss of their loved one.

After the article appeared, Sandoval's family members complained that a sentence alleging "President Bush's failure to find weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq misrepresented their views on the war and President George W. Bush (the Sandoval family was supportive of the war). The next day Sandoval's stepfather and sister called into Houston talk radio station KSEV and explained that Wall had pressured them for a quotation that criticized Bush and then included the line alleging Bush's "failure" against the wishes of the family.[34043]

A bitter on-air showdown ensued between the KSEV radio show host/owner Dan Patrick, and an assistant managing editor at the Chronicle, who defended his reporter's story. The incident prompted Patrick to join the call for a boycott of the paper.[34044] The story was also picked up by the local Houston television stations and, a week later, the O'Reilly Factor. The issue cooled down when Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney contacted the Sandoval family to apologize.[34045]

Patrick and Bill O'Reilly have both been involved in subsequent disputes with the Chronicle over alleged biases and writings pertaining to each other. [34046] In 2005 O'Reilly and then-editorial page editor James Howard Gibbons became involved in a heated exchange carried out over their respective media outlets involving a Chronicle editorial that, according to O'Reilly, seemingly advocated softer treatment for convicted child sex offenders.

[34047] The Chronicle responded to O'Reilly by editorializing against the host and accusing him of misrepresenting their position and misquoting a segment of the editorial. O'Reilly retracted the erroneous quotation but reiterated his criticism by quoting the correct editorial, which criticized Florida's Jessica Lunsford Act, espoused rehabilitation for sex offenders, and argued that "counseling reduces recidivism". The incident also prompted O'Reilly to host a segment on liberal bias at the Houston Chronicle on his March 12 television broadcast, featuring criticisms of the paper by Patrick.[34048]

Purchase of Houston Post assets

In 1995, the Houston Post ceased operations, leaving the Chronicle as Houston's only major daily newspaper, and the Hearst Corporation purchased some of the Post's assets. Houston Chronicle announced it in a way that suggested the shutdown and Hearst's purchase of the Post's assets were simultaneous events. "Post closes; Hearst buys assets," the Chronicle headline read the day after the Post was shut.

Internal memos obtained from by FOIA from the Justice Departmentmarker antitrust attorneys who investigated the closing of the Houston Post said the Chronicle's parent organization struck a deal to buy the Post six months before it closed. The memos, first obtained by the alternative paper the Houston Press, say the Chronicle's conglomerate and the Post "reached an agreement in October, 1994, for the sale of Houston Post Co.'s assets for approximately $120 million." [34049]

No anti-trust charges have been filed against the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Post or against the Hearst corporation.

Tom DeLay poll

In January 2006 the Chronicle hired Dr. Richard Murray of the University of Houstonmarker to conduct an election survey in the district of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, in light of his 2005 indictment by District Attorney Ronnie Earle for alleged campaign money violations. The Chronicle claimed that its poll showed "severely eroded support for U.S. Rep Tom DeLay in his district, most notably among Republicans who have voted for him before."[34050]

Former Texas Secretary of State Jack Rains contacted the Chronicle's James Howard Gibbons, alleging that the poll appeared to incorrectly count non-Republican Primary voters in its sample. Rains also pointed out that Dr. Murray had a conflict of interest in the poll. Murray's son Keir Murray is a Democratic political consultant who works for Nick Lampson, DeLay's Democratic challenger in 2006.[34051] In response, Gibbons denied the methodological flaws in the poll.

See also


  1. Houston Chronicle. Hearst Corporation. Last accessed December 11, 2008.
  2. Houston Chronicle. Handbook of Texas Online. June 6, 2001. Last accessed May 29, 2009.
  3. [1].Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed September 20, 2009."
  4. [2]

External links

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