What If Local Reporters Could Keep Their Houston Neighborhoods Straight?

WHAT IF LOCAL REPORTERS COULD KEEP THEIR HOUSTON NEIGHBORHOODS STRAIGHT? Screenshot of KHOU Report on Shooting in Independence Heights, HoustonMaybe by being more specific and accurate about the locations they describe, suggests Christopher Andrews, teevee news reporters could help Houston learn a little more about itself: “I sometimes wonder how much more we as citizens could learn about our cities if our local news media accurately described the neighborhoods in our cities. A shooting occurred in the Independence Heights neighborhood of Houston early Wednesday morning. Independence Heights is a neighborhood just north of Houston’s I-610 loop. It is home to what most claim was ‘Texas’ first self-governing African-American community.’ When Houston’s local news media covered the shooting, it was described as a shooting ‘in the Heights-area.‘ Would viewers not know where Independence Heights is located? Well, sure, it was near the Heights. But how close is near? Another outlet described it as ‘north Houston.’ Again, how far north of Downtown Houston is ‘north Houston’? Houston is a gigantic city, so north Houston should be more than a few miles from its center. The site of the shooting is approximately a half mile north of Houston’s I-610 loop, which serves as the northern border of what is known as the Houston Heights neighborhood. (To be technical, Sunset Heights is the subdivision name north of the Houston Heights proper.) This is part a further trend in Houston of simply attaching ‘-Heights’ to neighborhoods or developments in hope of invoking the charm of the Houston Heights proper. (I’m sure this can be said of many other neighborhoods in other cities as well.)” [Not of It] Screenshot: KHOU

35 Comment

  • It’s funny, just yesterday while watching the news yet again breathlessly report some robbery/shooting/911 call/whatever in “Southwest Houston”, I thought it might be a fun exercise to begin tracking these, mapping the actual locations when they give hints, and create a shaded map for how the local news sees the city. For bonus points, it would be interesting to see if and how they change the designation depending on the type of story.

  • I have a similar reaction every time I see a news headline like “Man shot in Southwest Houston”, only to look up the address and see it is in Alief. And it’s almost always in Alief.
    I breathe a little sigh of relief, then grumble about news reporters not being specific enough.
    Then I feel a little guilty about using specificity to try to maintain an invisible security barrier between Westbury and Alief. Some man got shot. Sure, it didn’t happen next door, but it happened. Living in Alief shouldn’t be a death sentence.

  • The misspelling of the street name further illustrates the sloppy reporting. The screenshot shows “Courtlandt” whereas the street is Cortlandt in that area. Courtlandt Place is a different neighborhood/street altogether.

  • I’m in complete agreement that TV and print reporters should use more specific (and accurate) neighborhood descriptions. It helps educate everyone on the different parts of town as well as makes the reporting more relevant. Plus, using correct neighborhood names help ground the historical nature of these places. Rice Military is a distinct spot in town as is Timbergrove Manor, Oak Forest, Eastwood, Afton Oaks, Idylwood, and Trinity Gardens.
    As noted in the main body, I dislike hearing something as generic as “north Houston” since this can mean anywhere from north of downtown to just south of The Woodlands.

  • There’s a phenomenon called Gell-Mann Amnesia. Whenever you come across journalism on a subject you know well, you find so many errors of fact and analysis, that you are shocked and appalled at just how little the writer understands about what he or she is writing about. You then move on to the next story about a subject you DON’T know well, and fail to apply any skepticism regarding the reporter’s expertise.

  • The media also uses the term “Southwest Houston” to refer to things that happened in Greenway Plaza. I guess “Southwest Houston” to them just means anything that is west and south of Downtown. Unfortunately, that’s not specific enough to be very useful to anyone watching the news.

    And good point about Courtlandt. I saw the screenshot and wondered why they were claiming Courtlandt was near the Heights.

    But then again, if they were qualified enough to do better reporting, they probably would have a better job and not work for local TV news.

  • They should just be more general.
    “Top news: Man shot in solar system.”

  • It would be pretty great if reporters cared about neighborhoods. ABC 13 has run more than one story about the FEMA site at Leonel Castillo Community Center in the Near Northside, and calling it “heights area.” http://abc13.com/news/fema-sets-up-disaster-recovery-center-in-heights-area/784360/

  • Most news reporters hop from city to city until they get an anchor gig, then they finally stay put. For this reason, many of our local reporters are new to the area and don’t understand the geography themselves. It is thus no surprise when they mispronounce the “Brah-zus” River, and put “the” in front of bayou names (ex. “the Buffalo Bayou” – heard this a lot during recent flooding).

    Most of the time you have to sift through several paragraphs of a news report to get details on where the event actually occurred. It also does not help that the English language dictates that all nouns be capitalized in a headline. The most maddening for me is “South Houston,” since I live out that way. “South Houston” is a separately incorporated area on the SE side of town, while “south Houston” could be just about anywhere south of Midtown. Yet for a murder in either area, the headline will read, “Two Joggers Gunned Down in South Houston” – and you have no choice but to read on to determine the exact locality.

  • Nevermind this blog constantly pushing the I-69 naming convention for US-59/Eastex/Southwest Freeway.

    If the news media use I-69, would think it was a joke or the reporter messed up saying 59.

  • I highly doubt the news media is interested in promoting neighborhoods by attaching them to nearby desirable locations in hopes of “invoking the charm”. That is total BS! Whoever wrote this seems to be more worried about what their friends and family think of where they live than anything else. Though reporters could improve on being a bit more specific rather than invoking panic for folks in the general geographic area that they are reporting about. However, I do agree with Memebag that learning of these senseless crimes not actually having been committed in my neighborhood proper is not comforting at all. Neighborhood names and locations truly are invisible barriers. Anyone hung up on this type of detail really lives in an imaginary world where they believe citing neighborhoods accurately somehow protects them from the evils of crime. Wake up man! Wake up!

  • On a side note, (well, slightly I suppose), when reporters and traffic reporters get Richey Street and Richey Road mixed up. That makes me nuts.

  • Looks like Planning Department staff need more to do.

  • This is such a pet peeve!!

    It seems that pretty much everything is considered “Southwest Houston.” I’ve seen the Galleria, Upper Kirby, West U & Greenway Plaza referred to as SW Houston. I’ve also seen numerous locations up & down Memorial Drive referred to as ‘west’ Houston. Maybe somewhere out beyond the Beltway, but definitely not by the park!

    I agree that it’s because so many reporters these days are transplants from other cities. Still – you’d think part of the job is learning some of the local geography & vernacular…sheesh!

  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “the Buffalo Bayou.” Most people in Houston do not a) listen to newscasts, nor b) have any fucking idea the difference between “South Houston” and “south Houston”– let alone, possess an ear to hear that subtlety when it has been spoken! For the record I had no clue where the school was (and really care less now the same). And the typo– a simple common/predictable human error– hasn’t made a single impact upon any decision process of mine. And, I will bet, neither the Astronomical Majority of the People in the Solar System.

  • My favorite is when “southwest Houston” is Montrose.

  • the heights borders the following now: Dallas is the north border, San Antonio is the West border, South Cancun and East Miami. Off the Chain ridiculous.

  • Then people go and make up a new name like EaDo and people think you’re talking about a sushi place off Kirby.

    I’m still pushing for the development of a neighborhood on top of all of the surface lots NE of the ballpark to be referred to as either “Sobering Heights” or “Bondsman’s Acres”.

  • In real estate it’s Location, location, location.
    In news it’s Sensation, sensation, sensation.

  • HouCynic, regarding your comment about charm; In my post I was referring to developers who add names like “Heights” to the end of any new apartment complex or shopping center, like the new “Studemont Heights” townhouses soon to be built near the Kroger on Studemont. I didn’t mean to imply that the media is doing this.

  • As a native Houstonian, I would consider this near the heights. Most people in the world consider something half a mile away near something. It seems that you are just angry that your neighborhood was associated with this tragic event (Interesting that is what upsets you about this event). Sorry that the areas surrounding the heights to the north and east (and still parts of the heights frankly) are ghetto.

  • Excellent point, Memebag. It’s worse than just the inability to discern neighborhoods, though. In many cases, a shooting in “SW” Houston is barely reported by the news outlets. The Chronicle is the worst on this. They can write in depth articles about new restaurants Inside the Loop, but they refuse to do anything ore than half-assed paraphrased police reports for crimes.
    I’ve vowed that, if ever someone is trying to kill me, I’d relocate to the Museum District. Get myself gunned down directly in front of the MFAH. Then maybe the Chronicle and the other the news outlets will care. (And so would HPD, more than if I was shot in Southwest Houston, but I digress)

  • My God, WTF cares. If you’re familiar with Houston you know where they’re talking about. It’s not like they said it happened in Tomball. Fit the record Montrose is technically SW Houston. Get a map.

  • Shamefully, Houston is no bastion of media excellence. Just have a look at chron.com at any desperate moment, if you can stand to. If the ad-bombed site doesn’t crash your browser the superfluous drivel or community college journalism embodied by the peppering of misspellings and run-on sentences sickens you pretty quickly.

  • Understanding and communicating spatial relationships is tricky. Random minor neighborhood names would probably not be helpful in communicating where an incident occurred. The news that matters (traffic reports) generally contain a cardinal direction and a major roadway intersection. I’ve heard from more than one person that they learned the overall geography of Houston from traffic reports.

    If it were important for TV news to get neighborhood names right, neighborhoods should probably get corporate sponsorship. TV seems to like getting those names straight.

  • It’s a balancing act. If they get too specific (address! intersection!) the newscasters know that the overwhelming majority of the metro which has no relation to that spot will tune out. If they are too vague (somewhere in the solar system!), once again they run the risk that the audience will feel no connection to the dateline location of the story and will also tune out. But there’s that sweet spot (southwest Houston!) where a large wedge of the viewing audience will think “I live/work/school sometimes in what I think of as southwest Houston” and sit up and pay attention. Gotcha, TV viewers!

  • Reporters and like Realtors. If they were smart, they’d be doing something else.

  • YOU care, Shannon. You’re the one who’s constantly making blanket statements about neighborhoods you haven’t visited in years.

  • I have been appalled for years at the inaccurate reporting of neighborhood news in Houston; both print and broadcast media. For years the Village and all the neighborhoods east of Kirby were referred to as West University. I had someone insist that North and South blvd was in West U. If some one is taking on the responsibility of reporting news in Houston they should learn about the City.

  • A few weeks ago there was a story/crime (and I can’t remember the specifics now) on the local news that they reported to be in “SW Houston”. It happened in the Museum District!

    Also, there is a lot of confusion about geography/locations even among people who live in said locations. There was a brief thread on the Eastwood Civic Association facebook page about the difference between Eastwood and “EaDo”. A local claimed that the area is not called EaDo, it’s called Eastwood! Another asks how Eado and Eastwood are two separate, non-contiguous areas in the East End. They are totally ignorant and they probably live in the area.

  • What??? the name of the neighborhood is Independence Heights, they didn’t just tack “Heights” onto a random word to make it marketable. That seems to be the major complaint . It was annexed by the city of Houston on December 26, 1929.

    “The Heights” is a neighborhood, and It had its own municipality until the City of Houston annexed it in 1919. So if someone gets their knickers in a twist about Independence Heights trying to ride some kind of “Heights” coattails, they should be darn sure to include all the other wannabes (ie Norhill, Woodland, Sunset, etc).

  • How does it even matter? All of it will be torn down eventually anyway.

  • The very same way they have connected norhill heights to woodland heights and the rest of the other heights hoods,they are finally doing it to independence heights.everyone should know by now,there’s a reason investors are talking to the residents of independence heights,buying up everything and have signs saying we will pay cash for your home.independence heights is prime real estate.a investment company bought some land in the hood and sold it to a out of state development company.few years ago cnn ranked the heights as one of the hottest hoods in America.the heights chamber of commerce was at the opening of that big gym they built two years ago,i got a postcard with my name on it to be there.

  • The area between 59 and W Alabama btwn Shepard and the Menil has recently been referred to North University a couple times bc it sits just north of Rice University. I think the name makes sense bc despite apt building efforts, it’s not “really” Montrose, Upper Kirby, Museum District or even Midtow. It’s a bit of a nowhere’s land in the middle of prime real estate just waiting to be developed.

  • Just stick with accurate neighborhood names. There is a good percentage of folks that don’t know the difference between north versus south let alone left and right without a GPS.