It’s a simple enough job description: Figure out what’s true, then tell it.
It might sound easy, but the proof of how hard it is lies in how few do it really well. This week, journalism lost two who were among its best: longtime CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, killed in a car wreck on Wednesday, and New York Times media columnist David Carr, who collapsed in the offices of his beloved Times on Thursday night. This week’s playlist is dedicated to these two great reporters. First up: Steve Swallow’s composition “Falling Grace,” played here by Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez.
The easiest way to enjoy the playlist is to download Spotify, a free program. But even without it, you can still follow along. Here are the other selections for the week:
Carr wrote twice about the Tribune in the Times — once at the very beginning of things here, and again late last year. Those two stories, written five years apart almost to the day, were close upon our birthday and fifth anniversary, so we remembered Edgar Meyer playing the Bach Suites for Solo Violoncello on double bass. Here is the fifth movement — “Gavotte I & II” — from Suite V.
Simon’s last piece for 60 Minutes aired just last week. In it, he interviewed Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, an Academy Award-nominated film about civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., with a focus on his relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Texas connection is there, but we went with John Coltrane playing “Alabama,” written after the bombing by white supremacists of a church in Selma killed four girls.
Here in Texas, just five weeks into a legislative session that normally doesn’t really get going until a couple of months in, there was plenty of news to report. Reporter Jim Malewitz wrote about Texas’ only radioactive waste dump, which signaled last week its willingness to take high-level nuclear waste. Andrews County in West Texas, where the storage facility is located, has expressed its support for the plan; others worry about safely getting it there, whether by rail or road. We just looked up David Bowie singing “Underground.”
On Tuesday, Alexa Ura filed another story about the embattled, scandal-ridden state Health and Human Services Commission. A questionable no-bid contract has brought the massive agency under closer scrutiny, uncovering the purchase of some really nice office chairs and, more recently, the decision to spend a cool $36,000 on fancier badges, which had us hearing “Badge” by Cream.
It was a bit of a surprise when former candidate for vice president and conservative activist Sarah Palin, in Texas this week, approached us about publishing a column for TribTalk, our companion op-ed site. In it, Palin makes the argument that the “drill, baby, drill” philosophy of exploiting the nation’s considerable fossil fuel resources is the right thing for America. We remembered Mahalia Jackson singing the Gospel standard “Dig a Little Deeper.”
In an interview with Texas Politics Project director and regular Tribune and TribTalk contributor James Henson, House Speaker Joe Straus said, “Texas House members aren’t going to be bullied." Intimidation — political and even physical — has been a tactic of varying success this session. It’s tough going for politicians these days, which somehow reminded us of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
On Thursday, there were two big stories we were watching. In the state Senate, twin gun bills received a lengthy committee hearing on their way to a vote before the full chamber, and the results of a commissioned investigation into admission practices under outgoing President William Powers at the University of Texas at Austin were released. Some form of open carry — likely permit-based, as with current concealed carry licenses, appears to have good chance of making it all the way to law, but some see a thornier path through the House for campus carry, so we summoned up Luther Allison tearing it up on “Living in the House of Blues.”
The investigation into admission practices at UT-Austin found influence has come into play, but not very often — “it’s not as dirty as [UT System Regent Wallace] Hall said it was, but it’s not squeaky clean, either,” was how Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey put it in a column. That reminded us of “Squeaky Clean,” performed by T.S. Monk, drummer son of Thelonious Monk.
On Friday, at a judge’s recent suggestion that they’d better do so, prosecutors sharpened their charges against former Gov. Rick Perry, indicted after vetoing funding for the public integrity unit. The two counts alleged abuse of power and coercion of a public official, but the revised filing provided the clearest look into the case the state will make, so we pulled out the Rolling Stones’ “Shine a Light” from their 1972 album Exile on Main Street.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.