I'm still puzzling through this story from yesterday.
It's not the Super Bowl or the All-Star Game.
But the big Enron trial coming up in January featuring former head honchos Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey as defendants will draw scads of media attention, and Houston's civic leaders want to make sure the city comes off looking good.
Earlier this month, Houston's image makers from the Greater Houston Partnership, Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, City Hall and county government met to begin forming a strategy to "tell the other side of the story," according to minutes of the meeting.
Frank Michel, City Hall's communications director, said the meeting was a brainstorming session that included some wild ideas that were thrown out pretty quickly.
He quickly dismissed as "ridiculous" the idea of tracking down reporters and TV crews, he said.
"I said we weren't going to stalk the media," Michel said Thursday.
He added that whatever approach is taken, it won't be a heavy-handed public relations operation to combat any ugly impressions. Instead, he said, the group will focus on how to help the media do their job.
That includes making parking available — but not free — for those covering the trial, setting up a tent near the federal courthouse so the media don't have to stand out in the rain, and meeting with TV stations to find out what sort of technical help they may need.
As long as it's not so obvious that the attempt itself is a story.
On its face, there's nothing wrong with city leaders and civic boosters being logistically prepared, said Scott Libin, a faculty member at journalism's Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. And he was glad to hear that the committee noted in the minutes that there is a "fine line" between hospitality and undue influence.
But, he said, he hoped local leaders aren't trying to turn every restaurant server into a goodwill ambassador for the city. Local leaders shouldn't fall for the false dichotomy of "positive" or "negative" stories, because good stories are much more complex than that.