Byline Watch: Video catches moment Shoal Creek Saloon wrecked by floods

As heavy rains swelled riverbanks throughout Central Texas on May 25, many businesses along Shoal Creek were flooded in downtown Austin. New video shows just how quickly Shoal Creek Saloon was inundated by the creek that shares its name.

from Michael Theis’ Austin Business Journal RSS Feed


Byline watch: Houston oil exec charged with assaulting Austin gay couple

The president of a Houston oil company has been charged with misdemeanor assault after attacking a gay couple in Austin in April, according to reports.

from Michael Theis RSS Feed


Granny flats, millennial apartment boom and Dubai rentals: What I wrote this week – June 8-12, 2015

In my continuing effort to keep this blog semi-regularly updated, here’s a list of articles I wrote this week. As you can probably tell, I am my newsroom’s chief aggregator and press release re-writer, picking up stories that fall in between the beats of our small team of beat reporters. Here’s this week’s crop of stories:



Digital Turbine shares drop; company misses revenue expectations

Whole Foods Market reveals name of new, lower-priced chain of stores

Austin’s millennial boom has huge impact on multifamily development, report says

HomeAway aims for Dubai vacation rental market in new partnership

ERCOT CEO to step down

To fight affordability crunch, report urges allowing more ‘granny flats’ in Austin

Austin landscape business featured on ‘Yard Crashers’ episode

Summit Hotel Properties sets huge portfolio sale, filings show

Austin startup brings drone footage to U.S. Open

Open letter to Google: Please let me change the dates on my photos

Dear Google Inc.;

I need to change some dates on some images. But you’re not making that easy.

First, let me just say that I have quickly fallen deeply in love with your new Google Photos image hosting service. The sheer simplicity of it, coupled with its uncanny ability to search for and retrieve every photograph I’ve ever taken of – say – a bicycle or a cat or cats and bicycles in the same photo is at once unnerving and extremely cool. And the Assistant feature is pretty cool, too.

Once introduced to its prowess, I went and uploaded every single photograph I had on my laptop that wasn’t already on Google Drive. It’s a photographic record of thousands of images that dates back to 2001.

I'M A TRENDSETTER YOU GUYS This may well be my first selfie taken with a digital camera, circa Summer 2003.

But there is a small batch of roughly 50 images thus uploaded that you seem to think were taken on the day I uploaded them, this past Saturday. I’d like to correct the record on these images, but unfortunately, all of my Binging has yet to produce a straightforward way to do this. (This is not a straightforward way to do that, by the way.)

One of the images that Google thinks was taken over the past weekend. One of the images that Google thinks was taken over the past weekend.

I understand it’s still a new thing, and I also understand that I am just some dude with a blog. I also understand that with my commitment to your app so far demonstrated, it is unlikely that I’m backing out of your ecosystem anytime soon. Still: I’d really like to have this feature sooner rather than later. For one, I am in the (slow) process of developing, scanning and uploading a backlog of old-fashioned analog film I’ve built up in my nearly 20 year career behind a camera. Those scanned images invariably have EXIF data that points to a rather recent creation date, and I will want to update that information to the best of my ability.

Yours in photography,

Michael Theis

Time to dust this thing off

It’s me. After years away, I am back to reclaim this little chunk of the Internet that is my personal blog.

Quite a lot has happened since I filed my previous post four years and 11 months ago. For starters, the resumé section of this blog became sorely out of date. I’ll fix that properly before I even post this. But here’s the career primer:

Three years at a slowly-imploding hyperlocal venture

In September 2010, I began working for, AOL’s network of hyperlocal news websites. I moved to Virginia and launched Fredericksburg Patch, overseeing its operations in its first year. In January 2012, I then moved back to my hometown of Hyattsville, Maryland to run that city’s Patch site. I continued to work for Patch as it slowly unwound under the weight of its own expansion. As it circled the drain, I was tasked with the management of more and more Patch sites in Washington, D.C.’s Maryland suburbs. Still, my sites had good metrics and I more-often-than-not met or exceeded my traffic goals.

I quite liked working for Patch. If you met your goals consistently, regional management didn’t really meddle with your site too much. As a result, I was free to spend my time doing a lot of engaging reporting on municipal policy. I also began to develop my skills as a data journalist, and produced my first interactive maps.

Also, and this is important, they paid me more than I had ever been paid as a journalist before. Heck, they raised my pay every year and had nice performance bonuses. As a journalist who started his career in the mid-‘aughts, and whose career was punctuated by layoff-induced dishwashing stints, that was a welcome first for me.

I even bought a friggin’ car.

Then, in early August 2013, I listened in as Tim Armstrong straight-up fired a guy out of nowhere on a conference call about the “future” of Patch. Long story short: there was not much of a future for Patch, at least for about 800 of us. Some were laid off shortly thereafter, a small group were kept on indefinitely. I was one of the lucky ones who was given 60 days notice as part of the transition team.

I essentially had 60 paid days to get my resumé circulated to the wider journalism world. I used my time wisely, and when my last day came around I had landed a new job as…

Digital editor of the Austin Business Journal

Yes, two weeks after I was laid off, I shoved as much of my life as you can fit into a 2004 Pontiac Vibe – which, incidentally, is a lot – and drove to meet my girlfriend, who had shoved as much of her life as you can fit into a 2004 Honda Civic, and – along with our two cats – we drove south by southwest for three days to Austin, Texas. Three nights in a La Quinta Inn later, and we had our first apartment.

The photographer wasn't the best

The couch, on the other hand, we had to buy in Austin.

I’ve been working at the Austin Business Journal for a year and a half now, overseeing the digital operations of the editorial side of the office. I coordinate coverage with reporters, photographers and editors. I assign, edit and post stories. I write up press releases that don’t need the expertise of our beat reporters. I aggregate relevant stories from other news outlets for our audience. I manage the editorial social media channels. I compose and send our daily and weekly email newsletters. I also occasionally shoot and edit photos and video for our coverage. And I also make a lot of maps, as part of my ongoing effort to create a new field of journalism: cartojournalism.

In short, I wear a lot of hats.

The newsroom is friendly, as are the folks in the non-editorial side of the office. Indeed, I’ve found the Austin Business Journal to be the most-transparent news operation I’ve ever worked for. Each month, the entire staff is updated on the just about everything everyone is doing, how well they are doing it, and what they will be doing next. I’ve never worked at a newsroom that clued reporters in to the finances like is done here. It’s a breath of fresh air, for sure.

The future

Anyways, that pretty much catches you up on my professional life. From here forward, I’ll be using this site to do whatever I want with it. It’s not like I have an audience clamoring to read my missives. Calm down.

But I should post more often.


Tennant, Manchin statements punt to legislature

While marking a visible difference in legal opinion, statements made by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant appear to agree on one thing: the law is convoluted, and the legislature can change it, perhaps in a special session.

Earlier in the day, Manchin told reporters that he has asked state Attorney General Darrell McGraw for a second opinion on the state’s election law. Tennant had previously declared, that because of a quirk of timing and a confusing election law, that the seat had to be filled by appointment. After Manchin’s comments hit the wires, Tennant released a statement which, while recognizing the legal authority of the attorney general in this matter,  firmly stated “while I welcome the opinion of the Attorney General’s Office, I stand by my original interpretation of state code and our review of the appropriate case law.”

She stated that her office has been evaluating the legal requirements and timelines for various election scenarios and has contacted the attorney general and offered their election law expertise.

“I have said time and again that I do not personally agree with this section of code. In fact, I would like to see the people of West Virginia go to the polls as soon as possible,” wrote Tennant. “I have always been an advocate for voting whether it be satellite precincts, vote-by-mail, or internet voting for our military and overseas voters.”

The big news that the AP seems to be focusing on is that Manchin has said that he would run for the seat if a special election were held. I would venture to say that most West Virginian’s are not surprised by this, but it is nonetheless newsworthy for the grim and awkward dance that is filling the late, and openly beloved Sen. Byrd’s seat.

The larger story is slowly focusing itself on the legislature and how, or if, they are open to changing the law. They have a special session coming up on July 19, and the matter could be addressed there. Tennant also issued a call for a special session as early as possible to examine the section of state code that deals with the succession process. “I believe by working with the legislature we can clear up the confusion in the code and pass a law that works for West Virginia voters.”

Innovative use of multimedia by a newspaper…in 1924

I’ve been poking around the video vaults over at recently. Much of this is due to the fact that I have been itching to edit video for about six months now, ever since my 2004 Canon Optura 10 died for the last time.’s large and downloadable cache of public domain documents, ranging from videos, to e-books, to archived websites, make it an excellent resource for any videographer searching for production elements (or inspiration) on the cheap. Recent excursions into’s vaults have me working on some re-edits of Things To Come, which is basically a British Metropolis (as well as another movie which George Lucas must have seen before he conceived the Death Star).

Then I stumbled upon this fascinating piece of newspaper cinematography from 1924, a early example of a newspaper attempting to engage its readers with motion-picture content (sound like a familiar topic anyone?) Try pitching this to your editor on Monday and see what looks you get: readers send in descriptions of their bizarre dreams which the newspaper then makes into a movie starring the dreamers.


The challenges which news organizations face are not new. As new communication avenues have opened up, newspapers have often been at the forefront of that change, be it dabbling in early radio ventures (mobile journalists should dig the picture showing how they did live remotes in 1922), interpreting dreams for the big screen, or today, with multimedia and social journalism.