Change in sign-off adds to confusion

Faith in the Malaysian government’s ability to communicate clearly what might have happened to a still-missing Boeing 777 jetliner might be about to vanish into thin air.

Consider this: The government now has changed its findings into what allegedly was said aboard the Malaysian Air Flight 370 moments before it went silent and then apparently crashed into the Indian Ocean.–sector.html

Someone on the flight deck had supposedly said “All right, good night” on March 8. Not so, says the government, which issued a statement Monday that said the more formal final sign off was, “Good night Malaysian three seven zero.”

Why is this important?

From where I sit, if the government cannot get straight something so simple and declarative as the crew’s final message — which had been received by the control tower in Kuala Lumpur — then its ability to transmit any information to the grieving families and the rest of the world is now in serious doubt.

Malaysian authorities have been pounded by critics over the way it has handled this tragic event. It notified family members via text message that the plane likely was lost and that all 239 people aboard were “lost.” They have been slow to inform China — given that two-thirds of the people aboard MH 370 were Chinese nationals — of the progress of the search, which has angered the government in Beijing. They changed the search area to a spot 700 miles north of where they thought the plane went down, saying that it traveled faster than earlier thought, burned fuel more quickly and went down sooner than they had thought.

Now this.

Satellite pictures have indicated possible debris from the aircraft southwest of Perth, Australia. Several nations have deployed sophisticated equipment and trained personnel to look for the jetliner. They’re trying to locate the flight data recorder by listening for “pings” that authorities now believe may cease in a few days when the batteries expire.

Meanwhile, all this stumble-bumming around has created a climate for crackpot conspiracy theories that do nothing but add to waiting family members’ unimaginable grief.

Time is running out.

Matney sets record for loyalty

If you want to craft the ideal spokesman for a public institution, someone whose love for it is beyond reproach, who speaks with intelligence and clarity, and who means every single word of what he says about the place he runs, you would use Paul Matney as your template.

Matney announced today he is retiring after more than three decades working on behalf of Amarillo College.

The past five years of that service have been as president of one of the premier junior colleges in Texas.

Man, what a loss for the school with which Matney has had a love affair ever since he enrolled there fresh out of high school.

Paul Matney has been one of my better friends since my arrival in Amarillo in January 1995. He was a trusted source for perspective on the school, on Amarillo, public higher education, the Panhandle, on Texas politics and occasionally on how to live a good life.

He earned the trust, respect and admiration from folks all across the spectrum.

I want to share one tidbit that, for me, testifies to the universal respect Paul has enjoyed in Amarillo.

Some years ago, I was sitting at the table with some other local residents at the Good Scout Luncheon sponsored by the Golden Spread Council of the Boy Scouts. One of them was Tom Roller, a local real estate broker and at the time the chairman of the Potter County Republican Party. I mention Roller’s partisan affiliation only because Matney is an unapologetic Democrat.

Matney was serving as acting AC president when he walked by our table. He greeted us all individually and walked on. Roller turned to the person sitting next to him and said, “That man should be the next Amarillo College president. I hope the regents appoint him to the job permanently.”

Roller’s off-the-cuff endorsement told me clearly that Matney’s credentials as an avid AC advocate and spokesman were unassailable. Indeed, over the years I have listened to Matney speak on AC’s behalf at luncheons, seminars, press conferences or in informal gatherings of individuals just standing around.

The man is a treasure to the college he loves so much and to the place he calls home.

The college board of regents will need to look hard to find someone to step into the enormous void that Paul Matney will leave.

Well done, my friend.