Category Archives: media news

Sanders’s WH legacy? The destruction of the press office

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving the White House with a remarkably dubious legacy. She has played a major role in destroying the office she is about to vacate: the office of White House press secretary.

Sanders has quit conducting press briefings. She no longer stands before the press corps and answers questions. No doubt some of those questions are aggressive, even hostile. The media have been declared “the enemy of the people” by Sanders’s boss, Donald Trump.

Sanders’s then had to face that group and attempt to convey presidential policy. She did a lousy job of lying on behalf of the president. For that matter, Sanders can be “credited” with being “transparent,” if you want to call it that. She lied quite openly, even in the face of evidence that contradicted her directly.

Sure, she got beat up. Then again, so did a lot of press secretaries over many previous administrations. I wrote a blog post earlier today about one of her predecessors, George E. Christian, who served as press secretary during President Johnson’s second term. The press savaged Christian, too, over the conduct of the Vietnam War. Did that man shirk his duty? Did he ever stop delivering regular press briefings? No. He answered the call.

Sanders chickened out.

Now she’s about to be gone. Who will the president appoint to succeed this individual? My hope would be someone who would have the fortitude and the character to do his or her job, which is report the truth to the media, which then would report it all the public.

I have little faith that Donald Trump will do the right thing.

Trump delivers Twitter to the top of the communication chain

I am going to give credit to Donald Trump for doing something I never thought would be worthy of praise.

The president of the United States has led the way in turning Twitter into a tried-and-true social media phenomenon.

Trump has something like 60 million followers on Twitter. So, when he fires off those tweets, he gets tens of millions of sets of eyes on them immediately. I won’t belabor the point about how mangled his syntax is on those tweets or the ridiculousness of the messages he delivers via Twitter.

However, as I consume the news daily I am struck by the vast number of public officials who make policy statements via Twitter, just like Trump has done since before he was elected. It seems as though every news story I read attributes a statement from congressional leaders, civic activists, former presidents, public officials of all stripes to something they posted on Twitter.

My goodness, these Twitter-attributed statements have become as ubiquitous anything I have witnessed in the past decade. Or maybe even longer than that.

Of course, I am in no position to offer policy statements via Twitter. I just use the platform to distribute this blog and to make snarky comments of my own about this or that issue of the day … or of the moment.

I certainly cannot claim the vast number of followers that Trump can claim.

Yes, the president has redefined a lot of norms associated with public life, politics, policy and worldwide communication. Being a bit of an old-school kind of fellow, I prefer to read position papers from officials in positions of leadership. As we now know, Donald Trump isn’t into such delivering of policy. He is legendary non-reader of details. He gets a policy into his head, then fires off the tweet.

I am shaking my head, to be sure.

However, I cannot help but admire the tenacity with which Donald Trump has used Twitter and the impact his use of that social media platform has had throughout the entire world.

If only the president could learn how to spell and construct sentences that make sense.

WH press flack is leaving; but the lying will continue

I now will join the chorus of those who are saying that Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s pending departure from the White House will be no great loss to the cause of transparency, accountability … and telling Americans the truth about what their government is doing.

Sanders has served for a couple of years as White House press secretary. I was one who thought at the very beginning of her tenure that she could repair the mess left by her predecessor, Sean Spicer.

Oh, my. I was so wrong!

We now have heard, via special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into the Russian collusion matter, that Sanders actually admitted to Mueller’s legal team that she lied on behalf of the president.

Astounding, yes? Yep, it is.

The regular White House press briefings have been relegated to some form of dormancy. This comes after Sanders spent a good deal of her time parroting Donald Trump’s mantra that any news that he deems critical to be “fake news.” She even uses the term “fake news” while talking to the very journalists who were questioning her.

Sanders’s most ferocious critics have suggested she has attacked the First Amendment. Surely she has joined the president in denigrating media reporters, editors and others charged with the duty of chronicling the news coming from the Trump administration.

I am one observer who won’t miss her.

The task now for the president is to find a successor who will talk candidly, openly and — and most critically — truthfully when faced with the media’s often-aggressive questioning.

I know it’s a huge stretch to think Trump will find such a person, given his own paranoia about the media.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s upcoming departure merely closes another dark chapter in the administration she served.

Media morphing continues in the Panhandle

There might be something that I am unable to grasp. If so, then I’ll take ownership of my ignorance. Still, I have to wonder out loud what is happening to the editorial voice of a newspaper that once was a major part of my professional life.

The Amarillo Globe-News — where I worked for nearly 18 years before I resigned in August 2012 — has published yet another editorial praising the exploits of a Lubbock-based institution, the Texas Tech University men’s track and field team.

This editorial, like so many other such commentaries published under the Amarillo Globe-News masthead, seems to affirm what I believe is happening to local journalism in Amarillo: It is melding into some form of regional editorial voice.

Check out the editorial here.

I don’t know exactly how this is going to play out, but the signs are pointing toward a continued diminution of local editorial clout within a news outlet — the Globe-News — that once prided itself on being the voice of Amarillo and surrounding communities.

The “regional publisher” resides in Lubbock, as does the “regional director of commentary.” The “regional executive editor” lives in Amarillo. But all three of these fine individuals seek to spend time in the “other” communities they serve. Still, the editorial page, where I was able to leave something of an imprint during my years in Amarillo, appears to be looking way past the needs of the community and is commenting — as it is doing today — on the exploits of young men associated with a top-tier university headquartered 120 miles south of the Panhandle’s unofficial “capital city.”

Is it because the director of commentary is a Tech grad? Or because he once worked at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, which is the other newspaper owned by Gatehouse Media?

I am a bit reluctant to be overly critical of this ongoing emphasis on Lubbock, given that I no longer live in Amarillo. Still, during the 20-plus years I lived in the Panhandle, I was able to discern a clear difference in concerns between the residents of both Amarillo and Lubbock. Each city has unique traits that define it. Their residents have unique concerns that have next to nothing to do with their regional neighbors.

I understand that Amarillo is chock full of Red Raider loyalists and, just maybe, they’re all worked up over the national championship won by Tech’s men’s track team. But … what percentage of them comprise what is left of the Globe-News readership?

OK. I’m done venting on this matter. Maybe I should just let it go. Maybe I should concern myself with what is happening closer to my new home. It’s just that after investing so much emotional capital commenting on the affairs of a community I grew to love, it is hard for me to watch the Globe-News’s editorial influence on its community continue to dwindle.

Time of My Life, Part 35: This was one memorable encounter

News of the Beaumont Enterprise building heading to the “For Sale” block brings back a flood of memories of great times there and many memorable encounters I experienced while toiling in the Golden Triangle of Texas.

I want to share one of them here. It takes a bit to explain, so bear with me.

I was walking across the newsroom one day, heading for the third-floor elevator. I noticed a gentleman standing next to desk occupied by our newsroom secretary, the legendary Marie Richard, who was on the phone at that moment. I walked past the gentleman, then did a bit of a double-take.

I stood by the elevator, pushed the call button and waited. I then leaned around the corner, got Marie’s attention and whispered — apparently in a “stage whisper” sort of voice — “Is that Jim Lehrer?”, the longtime co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS.

Marie shrugged silently, but then the man standing at her desk said, “Yes. It is.”

Oh, brother. I was, um, a bit embarrassed. I walked to Marie’s desk, extended my hand and introduced myself to one of the great broadcast journalists of his era.

Lehrer then began to tell me why he was standing in the Beaumont Enterprise newsroom. He needed to go the newspaper library, he said, to do research on a book he was writing about when he lived for a time in Beaumont as a youngster.

We walked back to the library and spent the better part of the next hour or so talking about this and/or that. I learned that Lehrer attended middle school and then French High School in Beaumont, that his father drove a bus (either Greyhound or Trailways, I cannot remember) and that Beaumont was one of many stops the Lehrer family made when young Jim was coming of age.

We hit it off well … I believe.

He wrote the book. I believe it was a memoir titled “A Bus of My Own,” published in 1992.

Lehrer returned the next year to be the keynote speaker at the Press Club of Southeast Texas annual luncheon. We shook hands at that event, too.

And, yes. Jim Lehrer remembered this chump editorialist who embarrassed himself at the elevator.

Another community icon about to vanish

I am heartbroken, but not entirely surprised to hear this bit of news: The Beaumont Enterprise’s parent company is planning to sell the structure and move the newspaper into a more, um, suitable location hits me straight in the gut.

I got word of this decision Thursday through — that is correct — social media, which I suppose tells the story of the Beaumont Enterprise’s decline as the newspaper of record for the Golden Triangle region of Texas.

It is where my Texas journalism career got its start in 1984. It’s where I made tons of friends, learned about Texas’s unique political culture, and learned also that gumbo was far more than what you bought in a can of Campbell’s Soup.

My heart hurts over this news.

Social media have played a part in the Enterprise’s diminishing presence in the community. The paper I joined in 1984 was selling about 75,000 copies daily; its Sunday distribution totaled more than 80,000 copies. We sent papers way up into Deep East Texas and into Southwest Louisiana.

Then came the Internet. I left the Golden Triangle in January 1995 for greater opportunities in the Texas Panhandle. As the Internet began exerting its chokehold on print journalism in Amarillo, it began taking its toll in Beaumont as well.

The Enterprise, which once employed more than 300 individuals has seen its payroll dwindle to fewer than 70 people. Hurricane wind and rain destroyed the newspaper’s presses, forcing the paper to print its editions at the Houston Chronicle, another property owned by the Hearst Corp. The Enterprise’s production department disappeared; its circulation department has been reduced to virtually nothing.

Most tragically (in my view) the news staff has been decimated. I don’t know the exact count of reporters and editors on staff at the Enterprise, but I do know it’s far fewer than it was during the heyday of print journalism.

Hearst Corp. execs say they need to move into a location that is more suited for the Enterprise to compete in the digital age. I totally understand the business aspect of the decision, just as I understand why the Amarillo Globe-News — where I worked for nearly 18 years — has vacated its historic location.

There’s a glimmer of good news, which is that Hearst plans to keep the newspaper in downtown Beaumont, given the Enterprise’s longtime presence there. Publisher Mark Adkins said, “We believe in the community here, and want to continue our long history as a part of downtown,. It is important for us to stay here for those reasons. But it is also important to be able to pass on this building to someone that could use it for further development of downtown.”

However, none of this assuages the grief I feel at this moment reading about the pending departure of the Beaumont Enterprise from a building where I practiced my craft for nearly 11 years.

There’s no nice way to say it. This news really sucks, man.

Happy to be relieved of this media stress

Those of us who studied journalism in college and prepared to take up that noble craft never saw it coming. None of us knew in the Olden Days what might lie ahead for media in all forms.

Thus, it is with great relief that I heard this week about another possible mega-media merger involving two significant newspaper groups: Gannett and Gatehouse Media.

I got a message from a good friend, a seasoned reporter in Corpus Christi, who told me about talks involving Gannett and Gatehouse. The Caller-Times’s parent company, Gannett, well might “merge” with Gatehouse, creating — to say the least — a highly uncertain climate among the professionals who work for both media companies.

It’s been an unsteady voyage over many years for media outlets all across the nation, indeed the world!

Merger on its way?

My friend believes he’ll survive the turmoil. He has plenty of skills that he thinks will transfer to whichever company takes the reins at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. But he says the uncertainty among staffers is causing plenty of heartburn, sleeplessness and worry.

I got out of the business in August 2012. The Amarillo Globe-News, the final stop on my 37-year journey in print journalism, was suffering from the consequences of competing in the new media age. The G-N corporate ownership at the time, Morris Communications, sought to make the transition from largely print to mostly digital presentation of news and commentary. It didn’t work out for Morris, which sold all 13 of its newspapers to Gatehouse, which has managed to decimate the G-N reporting and advertising staffs. That all happened, of course, after I bid farewell; I got chewed up in a company “reorganization” launched by Morris.

That was then. The here and now has put me — along with my wife — into a whole new environment. We are retired, enjoying life and watching with a fair amount of trepidation as the media waters continue to roil.

I pray for my former colleagues. I wish them well and hope they and their corporate gurus can look farther into the future than any of us ever did back when we were starting out.

Fox & Friends turns ‘big loss’ into a ‘big win,’ go figure

If you had any doubt at all — which is impossible, of course — about why Donald Trump loves the Fox News Channel, you ought to get a load of some of the commentary that came from the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends,” the network’s morning gab show.

The New York Times published a report chronicling how Trump lost more than $1 billion for a decade leading up to 1994; for eight of those years he didn’t pay any federal income taxes. The report has been seen generally by political, business and media analysts as a big-time embarrassment for the self-proclaimed deal making genius.

Oh, but then the “Fox & Friends” sycophants weighed in the other morning. Ainsley Earhardt gushed to her “Friends” colleagues Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade that the losses show what an “impressive” risk-taker Trump was at the time. “If anything, you read this and you’re like ‘wow, it’s pretty impressive, all the things that he’s done in his life,'” Earnhardt gushed.

No, it’s not impressive, Ms. Earnhardt. It reveals that Trump has been lying through his teeth at Americans about his business acumen.

That won’t dissuade the president’s amen chorus at Fox. They love the guy. They give him a pass on all the hideous behavior he has exhibited during his brief time in politics. One of FNC’s more egregious examples of pro-Trump obsequiousness occurred when commentator Sean Hannity acted as an emcee at a Trump political rally.

So it’s no surprise that “Fox & Friends” would grovel at Trump’s feet when a major American newspaper blows the lid off the president’s miserable business failures.

Hey, I believe we ought to call the “Fox & Friends” critique what it is: fake news!

Some critics actually do hand out credit

I had a fascinating exchange of messages recently with a gentleman who is a frequent critic of this blog. He lives in Amarillo and he thinks I am too harsh and hateful toward Donald Trump . . . and he tells me so quite frequently.

I don’t have a problem with this fellow’s comments. During our brief private exchange of messages, though, I did tell him something I want to share with the rest of the readers of High Plains Blogger.

I told this fellow — who, by the way, I don’t really know — that I appreciate that he is willing on occasion to give me credit for the blog posts with which he might agree. I also mentioned to him that I have a number of critics who don’t extend that courtesy.

Why mention this? I do so to illustrate, I suppose, the ups and downs of writing this blog. Sure, I appreciate the kind words I get from those who might lean in the same political direction that I do. I also appreciate the criticism of those who tilt in the other direction. Many of their critiques are thoughtful and I do heed them.

I adopted the philosophy quite a while ago when I started this blog that I would avoid (most of the time) engaging in a back/forth dialogue with critics. The way I look at it, this blog gives me a forum to throw out my point of view and offers those who care to respond to do exactly that. I believe that once is enough, whether it’s from me or from someone who wants to challenge a point of view I have expressed.

I told my critic, too, that arguing with those with contrary views usually is unproductive. I won’t change their mind; they won’t change mine. So, there’s next to zero point in trying to persuade someone I am totally virtuous and that they’re full of sh**.

This individual and I have expressed a desire to meet one day. That might happen. My wife and I get back to Amarillo on occasion. I do hope our paths cross one day.

As for his criticism, keep it coming . . . especially if he’s willing to give me some credit even once in great while.

Time of My Life, Part 32: In the company of media greatness

The name of a one-time Texas media giant came up today during a discussion I had with a dear friend of mine and it prompts me to look back on an extraordinary meeting I had with this individual back when I wrote editorials and edited the opinion page of the Beaumont Enterprise in Southeast Texas.

You remember the great Molly Ivins, I’m sure. She died of cancer in 2007. She was just 62 years of age.

Ivins was an unreconstructed liberal. And she was damn proud of it! She is the originator of at least two quintessential quips regarding politicians she railed against regularly: She was fond of referring to Texas Gov. George W. Bush as “Shrub”; then she hung the label of “Gov. Goodhair” on Bush’s successor as governor, Rick Perry.

Those legendary nicknames came after I had left Beaumont for the Texas Panhandle. But one afternoon in the Beaumont Enterprise newsroom brought me up close and personal with Molly Ivins.

She had come to Beaumont from Austin to cover the state of politics in the Gulf Coast community. She wanted to watch the Beaumont City Council in action. Ivins was not impressed, as I recall, with the quality of Beaumont’s municipal leadership, let alone its governing body.

I recall one column she wrote at the time in which she ridiculed the late Councilman Andrew P. Cokinos, the youngest of four brothers, all of whom had been players on the Beaumont political stage. She wondered about the middle initial “P.” that all the brothers used. She knew the “P” stood for “Pete,” and poked fun at them in general, and at Andrew in particular.

She wandered into our newsroom one afternoon. My memory is shaky at times, so I cannot recall the precise date of that meeting. I believe it was in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

She held court in the newsroom for well more than an hour. She regaled the journalists gathered around her with story after story of the characters she encountered during her years as a Texas journalist.

She got away somehow with crafting copy that no one else could. She wrote with biting humor, but lurking just below her trademark sarcasm one could find a serious theme to her commentary, as she was a serious journalist, although political conservatives (chiefly Republicans) usually found a way to belittle her.

However, in those days when newspapers actually mattered greatly, when they were relevant to telling communities’ stories, Molly Ivins was a giant among Texas journalists.

To be candid, I always envied her writing skill and more than once I lamented under my breath, “Damn, I wish I could write like that.” I was glad I was able to tell Molly Ivins that very thing to her face that day in Beaumont, Texas.