Last August, I was standing with Houston TV journalist Isiah Carey after a live broadcast of his Isiah Factor: Uncensored show in the parking lot of the Ragin Cajun Restaurant when it happened. A guy drove up, leaned out the window and asked him about his infamous "bug in mouth" YouTube video.
In fact, the FOX 26 KRIV reporter says he gets asked about it everyday.
"I was walking along Hollywood Boulevard in LA one night while covering Empire and out of the blue two Californians came up to me [and] asked if I was the bug reporter," Carey told mikemcguff.com. "They were so excited and asked to take pictures. A third person also approached me in Los Angeles that same night with the same question. That video gets new life every month."
At first, Carey was distraught when the old outtake from his days at KARK 4 in Little Rock, Arkansas showed up online and went super viral. He wouldn't even talk about it. Then he embraced it. A decision that has put him on the cover of The Houston Press and all the way to a guest spot on Comedy Central's TOSH.0.
"It's a badge of honor now because it allows people to see me as a regular person just like them...a person who could also lose it from time to time," Carey told me.
In a time when local television news stations across the country race to show you the latest viral video, Carey is the viral video. But not in just the obvious way. It's also because Carey is very local. Check out his YouTube channel at "TheHoustonFactor" and you'll see Houston-area stories he's covered that have hundreds of thousands of views.
Local is a mindset that Carey embodies. When many TV stories are now about the latest diet crazes or plastic surgeries sweeping the US, Carey is all about the "L" word. When it hits quitting time, Carey doesn't stop working when he retires to his home in The Woodlands. Sometimes he covers a story with just his phone.
"It means keeping my phone on around the clock, taking time to hear any stranger on the street out, and most importantly following up," Carey explained. "It takes a lot of time and effort but it's worth it."
While originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Carey might as well hail from the Houston area in terms of sources and his caring attitude about his adopted community.
"I bought a cash SUV to use for carrying my news equipment and it also helps with taking some of the miles off my everyday car," Carey admitted.
"The Factor Mobile" as I just dubbed it, was at the Isiah Factor: Uncensored broadcast that hot August night. In its cargo bay were air conditioning units. Carey was in the process of organizing this donation for some elderly viewers to beat the summer heat. He was about to personally deliver them that weekend. This is why in the past I blogged Isiah Carey is the new Marvin Zindler.
Clearly KRIV management has noticed Carey's work ethic since they've given him his own news segment. It's a block of time where Carey covers what he wants and is usually getting help for viewers in need.
Fighting for the little guy...just like Marvin.
That segment led to the Isiah Factor: Uncensored which took over the last half hour of the station's 9pm newscast Friday nights last summer. The live show tackled the hot news stories of the day with general conversation and lively debates. The show returns tonight for election time.
"We usually pick the big story and dive in deep with colorful experts who are not the usual talking heads," Carey said.
The "Uncensored" title came from the fact the show is live and anything can happen.
"We are live from a restaurant/bar, and at times, guests will partake in food and drinks which loosens them up and has led to heated arguments," Carey said. "Rapper Willie D of the Geto Boys called Donald Trump an 'asshole' on air. People just seem to be very comfortable in the setting even though we're completely live."
The show has made some unforgettable TV moments for FOX 26 staffers.
"My favorite show moment was getting the brutal honest truth from a Houston billionaire about which races would be willing to do manual labor in one of his warehouses," Carey said. "That billionaire was Farouk Shami. He was brutally honest and said what he felt."
"Had to put my vote in for this on - Nikki Araguz on the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) or more popularly known as the 'bathroom ordinance,' where trans-genders would be allowed to self-identify whether they choose to use the men’s or women’s public restroom," KRIV Vice President & General Manager D'Artagnan Bebel told mikemcguff.com.
|Carey ready to go live. Howard Dorsey communicates with the station for time cues.|
FOX 26 KRIV assistant news director Howard Dorsey says he came up with the idea for the show more than a year ago.
"The show had to be gritty, relevant, and compelling," Dorsey told mikemcguff.com. "It had to have a dash of social media, the hot talker of the day, and some sports (we called it the two minute drill). The key ingredient would have to be the host of the show, if it was going to work. Isiah Carey was hands down the guy.
"I believe Carey’s range is unlimited. He wears many hats, and is an awesome storyteller. We sat down one day and hammered out a format to pitch to my News Director Bob Morford and the General Manager D’Artagnan Bebel."
|Laura Reynolds of 610 KILT and CBS Houston.|
The FOX Television Station believes this kind of programming is important to keep connected with Houston television viewers.
"We are facing ever increasing competition for peoples’ scarce time and their information consumption and behaviors have been radically altered with the advent of digital and social media," Bebel told me. "If we are to remain relevant to our consumers as a provider of information, we must innovate and have a strong brand in the digital and social space, or go the way of the dinosaurs.
"Isiah has been very successful in building a strong brand as a reporter. We simply recognized that and capitalized on it by coming up with a brand name for him (originally THE ISIAH FACTOR). As any smart brand does over time, it evolves and creates brand extensions. Initially the once a week segment in the newscast, and the summer run of half hour news specials."
SEE MORE Isiah Factor: Uncensored PHOTOS HERE
Tonight, Isiah Factor: Uncensored returns in time for the Houston political season:
Mayoral Debate with top 4 candidates only who we determined as: Chris Bell, Adrian Garcia, Bill King, Sylvester Turner
This will be on a Special Edition of summer show “ISIAH FACTOR: UNCENSORED”
9:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. LIVE on KRIV Fox 26
(This will be the last debate before Election Day, Nov 3)
In the event that no candidate receives 51% of the voters and it goes to a Runoff Election between the top two candidates on Dec 12, FOX 26 has planned the following Runoff Debates.
Mayoral Runoff Debate in partnership with Texas State Senator Senfronia Thompson
Location: Forest Brook Middle School
Mayoral Runoff Debate in partnership with The Marque Business Social Club
Location: The Marque Club