Real News, Fake News: Texas Week with Rick Casey vs. Trump’s Tweets

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Rick Casey on Texas Week


Rick Casey on Texas Week

KLRN-TV‘s President and CEO Arthur Rojas Emerson knows he made a mistake in preventing Texas Week host and journalist Rick Casey from sharing his “Last Word” commentary with television viewers two Fridays ago.

If Emerson had any doubts, all he had to do was take another call from a friend or colleague offering the same advice: You’ve dug yourself a hole, Arthur, now stop digging.

Emerson can turn this learning moment into new viewers for Casey and, perhaps, new donations to support Casey’s on-air work. He expressed “sadness and regret” for his decision in a Saturday conversation, and restated his respect for Casey and his work.

Casey, as we first learned Thursday from Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia, had recorded his weekly, four-minute ‘Last Word’ commentary chiding U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) for his remarks on the House floor disparaging media coverage of the Trump administration and suggesting citizens instead get their “news” directly from the president.

I tried that Saturday morning, perusing Twitter and @realdonaldtrump in search of news and context about the week’s past events. I didn’t find any, and I won’t waste space here attacking President Donald Trump, his followers, or his adversaries, other than to say the caliber and tone of the content is deeply disheartening.

If there is a single thread running through it all, it’s “Make America Ignorant Again.”

Voters were divided over the choice of Trump or Hillary Clinton for president, giving Clinton the popular vote and Trump the electoral win. Now that Trump is president he continues to wage war on the media. The nation seems equally divided between those in support of his distinctly unpresidential and undemocratic campaign and those ready to defend and support a free press.

It’s only fair that Casey and other journalists report and comment on this strange and disturbing moment in the nation’s political life. Emerson, however, feared Casey’s commentary was unduly partisan and potentially lead to the loss of $1 million in annual funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to KLRN-TV.

KLRN President and CEO Arthur Rojas Emerson.

Courtesy / KLRN

KLRN President and CEO Arthur Rojas Emerson.

“Associating our leaders with those in power in North Korea is name calling, and that’s what Rick did, and that’s what led me to make the decision,” Emerson said Saturday in an interview with the Rivard Report. “Rick tapes his show on Thursday and we edit Thursday night. I came back into town Friday evening and only had 20 minutes to make the decision before the show aired. From time to time, I am going to make a mistake. I certainly should have called Rick before making that decision.

“Rick is entitled to say such things as long as we go with a disclaimer, which you will see on-air going forward,” Emerson added. “Rick can say anything he darn well pleases as long as it is marked ‘commentary.’ We will designate it as such going forward.”

I searched for Casey’s ‘Last Word,’ which is published in the print edition of the Express-News on its Saturday editorial page one day after it airs on KLRN. I only found columns from 2013 and 2014, but here is the link to the posting, although there is a paywall.

I did not interview Casey, but I did speak at length with Emerson, who served as general manager of the Spanish-language Canal 60 Telemundo television station here from 1989-2001. For 15 years afterwards, he ran his own ad agency, which produced political advertising for elected officials in both parties.

He should know that losing public funding was highly unlikely, given what is being said on various PBS news programs by the president and other administration officials, and what commentators such as the New York Times columnist David Brooks and syndicated columnist Mark Shields are saying in response on air.

Even if independent reporting and commentary eventually leads to a cut in funding, Emerson undoubtedly will find new donors willing to step into the breach. A retaliatory funding cut would draw national attention, giving Casey an even bigger audience and attracting new supporters.

Several people told me that Casey invited Emerson into the studio for this past Thursday’s taping to discuss his decision, an offer Emerson declined.

“The show isn’t designed to feature the general manager of the station, and I would make a terrible interview,” Emerson said. “The show is designed to feature the people who are newsmakers. I’m not a newsmaker and don’t intend to be.”

I challenged him on that last claim, but find myself far more interested in Emerson’s renewed pledge to support Casey and his editorial independence than to fan the flames of controversy.

Rivard Report readers of a certain age watch KLRN-TV, but most of our readers do not and virtually none of them watch local network affiliate news. The station’s demographics skew toward highly educated seniors. Who else is at home watching television news on Friday at 8 p.m.?

Few of our readers subscribe to a print newspaper and very few pay subscription fees to read the Express-News online. In this instance that means they miss the work of the finest urban affairs columnist of his generation in San Antonio.

Casey is a St. Louis native who came to San Antonio in the 1960s to attend St. Mary’s University, where he edited the school newspaper and earned an internship at the San Antonio Light, which for newcomers to this city, was the Hearst-owned afternoon daily until its financial collapse in 1993.

Casey’s column in the Light from 1984-93 was a must-read. He was one of the few newsroom names who survived the Light‘s closure and moved to the Express-News when Hearst bought it from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. I was another.

Casey spent a decade at the Express-News before moving his column to the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle. He retired in 2011, moved back to San Antonio, and shortly afterwards, launched Texas Week with Rick Casey.

San Antonio would be a better city if Casey were still producing a regular metro column. It would be difficult to overstate the reach and influence that he and his peers enjoyed in the heyday of San Antonio’s newspaper wars. Those days are gone, of course, but Casey still has an important platform with his weekly program.

If KLRN can ever figure out how to reach a younger audience, new generations of consumers who choose to get their news from real journalists instead of fake news sources or the newsmakers themselves will be introduced to Casey and find themselves better informed about their city and state.

“I have the utmost respect for Rick Casey,” Emerson said Saturday. “I’ve known him for 40 years and he’s a wonderful journalist and commentator. Rick is great asset to KLRN and we don’t want to do anything to do to hurt that relationship.”

We’ll step in for Rick Casey here and make that this week’s last word.

10 thoughts on “Real News, Fake News: Texas Week with Rick Casey vs. Trump’s Tweets

  1. Shame on Emerson! This is how it always begins under a totalitarian regime – muzzle the free press to avoid alienating “Big Brother.” Disgusting and deeply unethical. If this weak-kneed, amateurish endeavor happens again watch for the worst fundraising drive in KLRN’s history to implode!

  2. Lamar Smith has only one rival as far as ignorance goes and that rival is Louie Ghomert. It a close race to the finish and Ghomert is only half a length ahead of Smith. Sad, but it’s a reflection of the unwashed and undereducated in the Hill Country and East Texas.

  3. Over the years, the Republican administrations have worked to slowly decrease the federal funding contributions for both public TV and public radio, and the stations have stepped up their fundraising efforts to handle the gaps. Why the stations continue to put so much effort into pleasing the government to keep what funding is left, I do not understand. If public TV stations can use other funding sources for over 80% of their costs and public radio stations can use other funding sources for over 90% of their costs, why can’t they create a plan to wean themselves from the government trough and become free of the constant pressure from politicians?

  4. KLRN was out of line spiking Casey commentary. Casey’s commentary, at the worst, was a retort to a nonsensical statement made by Lamar Smith. After 8 years of Obama bashing the Republicans are having difficulty having the press reveal alt-facts for what they are.
    Casey’s commentary was perfectly appropriate on s free society.

  5. Excellent as always. People toss this massive basket of lettuce and vegetables at you (some stinky and some downright rotten) and you slice, dice, and make a beautiful salad and presentation that informs us all. Thanks

  6. A textbook example of the way the free press is influenced by authoritarian leaders. It’s the insidious assumption, even if false, that the resources of the government are used to record and document its citizens who protest. Because Nixon proved it, the security apparatus of the feds has the capability to note those who openly oppose the policies and practices of the current political leadership. We know it’s possible. Is it happening now? With right wing paranoiac fantasies touted as fact, and looking at all the other actions taken, I have to conclude that the security agencies of the U.S. are currently documenting those who oppose the policies and practices of the current political leadership. All I can say is “Nevertheless, she persisted”.

  7. My take on Lamar Smith’s “unvarnished” statement is that it’s a reverse of Kellyanne Conway’s silly comment endorsing a clothing line. Smith is endorsing President Trump over commercial news outlets. Each day I check Twitter to see what bizarre idea President Trump has dreamt up.

  8. I think Rick Casey should take his show to another local station or even partner with The Rivard Report to relaunch The 210 Podcast as The 210 Podcast with Rick Casey. As a Texas Week viewer, I feel like there will now be a shadow over the editorial independence of The Last Word.

  9. To my way of thinking this is a sad day for KLRN. I feel that with Rick Casey’s departure under what seems at best to be specious arguments, the KLRN stock, as a resource for even handed news coverage, in my judgement, has tumbled considerably.

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