Mayor Turner’s “$95,000-a-year internship” story: Is KPRC 2 News trying to meddle with the City Election?

With the city elections less than a month away, the current recycling of “The Sylvester Turner “$95,000-a-year internship” story segment with no new information is becoming unprofessionally redundant and may signify election meddling.

The timeline trailing KPRC 2 News segments on how an intern recommended by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner earns $95,000 a year suggests there might be hidden or perhaps abnormal motives. But the story is substantial and admirably investigative. KPRC 2 reporters had penetrated Mayor Turner’s business and fished out a breaking news report, that an entry-level local government job which he recommendation carries abnormal salary earnings of $95,000 a year.


BY ANTHONY OBI OGBO

In the middle of this storm is a 31-year-Marvin Agumagu who was offered a position in an airport’s Executive Internship Program in rather a suspicious manner, raising concerns about why he was given the salary of a senior staff analyst, $95,000 a year with benefits whereas the average internship makes about $22,000 annually. 

Meticulously, KPRC 2 News might have invested more resources in this story than their coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

But Mayor Turner defended his actions explaining that Mr. Agumagu’s salary was appropriate based on his education and experience. For instance, noted Turner in a statement made available to the media, “He has three advanced degrees, including a bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree and a law degree. He also has experience in international relations and governmental affairs which is an asset for the City of Houston’s 5-star international airports.”

Apparently, Mayor Turner’s explanation was not enough for KPRC 2 News. They had run this same story over three times with different headlines, teasers, powerful promos, and ambiguous story riders. Meticulously, they might have invested more resources in this story than their coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

This sarcastic sub-headline caught my attention, “How much would you pay someone to fetch coffee and make photocopies? $10,000 a year? $20,000 a year?” But KPRC 2 News knew that this was not just a basic internship position. As the Mayor’s camp noted, “The official job title for the Executive Intern is Senior Staff Analyst (Executive Level) with a pay grade of 28. The Department Director chose the job title and pay grade and the Human Resource Department determined both were consistent with the specified duties and responsibilities of the position.”

One of Mayor Turner’s major opposition in the upcoming City general election, Tony Buzbee (Left) has already called for a full investigation into the issue. Currently, the Buzbee campaign has infiltrated the networks with advertisements created off of KPRC 2 News’ consistent bashing of Mayor Turner (right)..

But for the records, approval was done under the City of Houston’s Administrative policy. According to the Mayor, “The process is routine, and I have signed 122 of these reclassifications for each of the 23 city departments since taking office in January 2016.”

Yet KPRC 2 News remained adamant in its story segments, recycling the same content and rewording every sentence to fake freshness.  In fact, they have indirectly fed Mayor Turner’s election opponents with both campaign talking points and advertisement catchphrases.

For example, One of Mayor Turner’s major opposition in the upcoming City general election, Tony Buzbee has already called for a full investigation into the issue. According to Buzbee “The mayor claims he can’t find the money to pay for police, fire, and floods, but based on three emails, he can hire an intern for 95K a year plus benefits.” Currently, the Buzbee campaign has infiltrated the networks will advertisements created off of KPRC 2 News’ consistent bashing of Mayor Turner.

KPRC 2 has indirectly fed Mayor Turner’s election opponents with both campaign talking points and advertisement catchphrases.

Nevertheless, Mayor Turner is not new to such media campaign machinations.  Recall Turner v. Dolcefino when in November 1991, KTRK Channel 13 ran a news story about Turner during a close mayoral race. Turner lost that election and ended up in a very lengthy libel lawsuit with both the TV station and their reporter. 

Mayor Turner (left) has consistently led in the polls. In a recent poll of 501 registered voters that Houston Public Media commissioned together with KHOU, Mayor Turner led his rivals with than a third of respondents (36.5%). Tony Buzbe (right) trails with 22%.

So it could be said that  Mayor Turner again might be under the mainstream media bombardment and as we can see, this trend increases as the polls draw closer. Just two weeks ago, KTRK-TV ran another investigative story linking a rapport between Mayor Turner and Kelsey-Seybold Clinic to a breakfast meeting, campaign donations, and city insurance contract.

It is not a coincidence that all these are coming less than one month when Houston voters will decide the next mayor for another four-year tenure.  Mayor Turner has consistently led in the polls. In a recent poll of 501 registered voters that Houston Public Media commissioned together with KHOU, Mayor Turner led his rivals with than a third of respondents.

At this point, if there are substantial updates in this story, let viewers know if not, KPRC 2 News should wrap it up or shut up

With the city elections less than a month away, the current recycling of Turner’s “$95,000-a-year internship” story segment with no new information is becoming unprofessionally redundant and may signify election meddling. If there are substantial updates in this story, let viewers know, if not KPRC 2 News should wrap it up or shut up.

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Texas Southern University is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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