Category Archives: media news

Happy Trails, Part 172: The road takes another surprise turn

The reporter’s notebook you see here is meant to illustrate the surprise turn my retirement journey has taken.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time this week. I now shall explain.

We took out a subscription this past week to the Princeton Herald, a weekly newspaper that covers the community where my wife, myself and Toby the Puppy live. I asked the circulation clerk for the editor’s name. She gave it to me and transferred me to her desk; the voice mail machine picked up the call and I left a message.

I inquired as to whether the newspaper needed any freelance help from a retired journalist who has moved into this community, and made a few contacts here and there.

It turns out the Princeton Herald has such a need.

So, I am now working very part time for a newspaper … again! The editor, who runs the Herald and several other publications in this part of the Metroplex with her husband, is giving me considerable latitude. I will be able to sniff out my own stories whenever I feel like it. I might get be handed an assignment to cover a city council or another governmental entity. No sweat, right?

Of course, all of this hinges on availability, given that as retired folks, my wife and I might be unavailable, as we would be on the road to hither and yon pulling our RV across the continent.

But … that’s OK with my new boss.

Meanwhile, this retirement journey goes on. Life is so very good.

Time of My Life, Part 40: Sharing experiences with students

One of the many joys of working as a journalist — and I had too many of them to count — was being given the chance to tell young people about the challenges of my craft.

Those opportunities came in the form of “career day” events at local schools. Whether in Oregon or in Texas, there was a time when educators thought enough of journalists and journalism to invite us into their classrooms to talk to students about career potential and what it takes to do what we did.

Over many years standing in front of students, I eventually developed a sort of pre-determined formal introduction. I usually would begin by telling students that “I have the best job in town. I get to report on our community and I get to foist my opinion on thousands of newspaper readers every day.”

I’d get a chuckle out of the students. Perhaps from their teachers, too.

I don’t know these days, given the pummeling that newspapers are taking in the current media market, what print journalists are telling students. I suspect it has something to do with the myriad pressures being exerted on newspapers, how they’re having to compete with the Internet, cable TV and assorted other media outlets.

One particular career day stands out among all the times I got to speak to students. I want to share it with you.

It was in 1983. I was working as editor of a small afternoon daily, The Enterprise-Courier, in Oregon City, Ore. My phone rang one day and on the other end was a gentleman named John Eide, who was the shop teacher at Harvey W. Scott Elementary School in Portland, where I attended as a boy. Mr. Eide invited me back to Harvey Scott School to give a career day presentation.

I hadn’t darkened the door at that school for 20-plus years. For this gentleman to call me and invite me back was a singular honor. It blew my mind.

So, I went back to Harvey Scott School for the day. I walked into the office and got reacquainted with my fifth-grade shop teacher. He then took me to Carl Hendricksen’s classroom. Mr. Hendricksen happened to be my sixth-grade teacher back in the day. To see him, with his hair turned snowy white, absolutely knocked me out!

I spent the day there, talking to students about newspapers, telling them about the challenges I faced each day publishing a newspaper that competed with the then-mighty Portland Oregonian.

Arguably, the highlight of the visit was walking into the school cafeteria. Perhaps others have experienced the same thing. This was a first for me: The cafeteria smelled precisely as I remembered it two decades earlier. It was as if I walked through a time portal and stood in a sort of parallel universe.

Career days such as that one routinely offered me the chance to share the joys and challenges of a career I was privileged to pursue. I hope my successors in the business are able to speak with as much enthusiasm about journalism as I did.

Shepard Smith leaves Fox News … but how did it happen?

Let’s see if we can connect a few dots regarding Shepard Smith’s stunning departure as a lead anchor on the Fox News Channel.

  • Smith went on the air and bid farewell, thanking Fox for giving him the opportunity of a lifetime.
  • He has been critical of Donald Trump, while the network that employed him became a presidential favorite.
  • Smith’s departure apparently caught his colleagues by surprise. Business news anchor Neil Cavuto was stunned into speechlessness.

My thoughts: Was the anchor’s departure totally of his own volition? Was it totally as he presented it today on the air? I’m just asking here.

There seems to be a good bit more to this story than we’ve been told.

Whatever. Shepard Smith is a pro. He’s a first-class broadcast journalist. I am almost willing to bet real American money he ends up on another broadcast/cable network … soon!

Media performing stellar job reporting on this scandal

Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump has introduced a new mantra to describe the news media.

He calls them the “corrupt media.” It’s no longer, he says, just the “fake news media.” He says the media are corrupt and are trying to bring down the presidency.

I want to extend a word of praise for the job the media are doing in reporting on the march of the pending impeachment of Donald Trump.

The president has admitted to soliciting help from a foreign government to get him re-elected, along with finding dirt on a potential political opponent. Trump has actually acknowledged that he is seeking foreign “interference” the likes of which occurred in 2016 when Russians attacked our electoral system.

The media are reporting on all of it. They are telling the nation and the world what we all need to know about the president and the administration.

Donald Trump’s epithet toward the media ranks as just more hysteria from an individual who is sounding as if he is getting frightened at what might loom not far into the future.

The media are doing their job. They are performing magnificently.

Hold on with the ‘Civil War’ criticism

Donald John Trump went on a Twitter rampage over the weekend, blasting out a seemingly endless string of messages expressing rage over the threat of impeachment coming from the U.S. House of Representatives.

One of his many tweets said the following: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,'” Trump quoted pastor Robert Jeffress as saying.

As you can imagine, it drew plenty of brickbats. It’s the “Civil War” reference that has drawn the most fire.

But let’s hold on here. The president didn’t say there would be a civil war that mirrored the actual Civil War that erupted in 1861. He said there would be a “Civil War like fracture” in the country. Do you see the difference? I hope so. Because I generally am not prone to taking up for Trump on these rhetorical outbursts.

However, he has called the whistleblower essentially a traitor because, according to the president, this individual committed an act of “treason” by alleging that the president conspired with the Ukrainian government to help him win re-election while digging up dirt on former Vice President and U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., a potential 2020 political rival.

Hold on here! The whistleblower is not a traitor. He or she didn’t commit a treasonous act. He or she simply reported to the nation allegations that are sounding more credible with each passing day, if not each hour.

Trump’s Twitter appetite is now threatening to swallow him whole as he seeks to defend himself against charges that he broke faith with the sacred oath he took when he became president of the United States.

How long will Trump criticism last? For as long as it takes!

Critics of this blog ask me from time to time: How much more criticism of Donald Trump must we endure from you?

My answer: I will keep it up for as long as this man is in public office. It might even go on after he no longer is president, depending on how loudly he might continue to bitch and moan about the state of play.

I make no apologies for my intense loathing of the notion that Donald Trump got elected president of the United States. It is visceral. It’s personal. It has little to do with policy, given that Donald Trump doesn’t have any core values on which he bases his policy pronouncements.

I’ve offered a good word or two on occasion; come to think of it, I believe that’s all he has earned from High Plains Blogger … a good word or two.

I intend fully to keep hammering away at this individual.

It’s not as if he sees the comments regularly. I doubt he does. He’s got a zillion Twitter followers; I have, shall we say, significantly fewer of them. I do include the president’s Twitter address on items that I post on this blog and distribute through that social medium.

So, I am trying to get Trump’s attention.

Trump won the 2016 election and thus made himself a sitting duck for critics. It goes with the territory associated with being elected to the highest office in the land. Every single man who’s held the office has accepted that fundamental truth … until Trump came along.

Sure, the president has his supporters. They are entitled to express themselves, too.

As for me and the negativity about Trump that this blog presents, I just consider myself as contributing to the vast marketplace of ideas and opinions about the world’s most important politician.

Retirement journey takes me farther than I thought

I want to acknowledge something I realized during a recent foray across the western portion of North America.

It is that my retirement from a craft I pursued with great joy has taken me farther away from it than I could have imagined.

I worked in print journalism for nearly 37 years. My career ended in August 2012. I dabbled a bit here and there part time writing for other media outlets: public TV, commercial TV and editing a weekly newspaper. I kept my head in the game and my hand on the mechanics of the craft.

Then I entered full retirement mode.

In the old days, travels with my wife usually meant picking up newspapers in every community we would visit or pass through. I would bring home an armload of newspapers from which I might glean ideas about layout, or presentation.

This time, after spending more than a month on the road through the western United States and Canada? Nothin’. I didn’t bring home a single newspaper. Indeed, I read only one newspaper during our time on the road … and it was a freebie distributed to all the visitors of a Eugene, Ore., RV park. The newspaper was the Register-Guard of Eugene, which in the old days was considered one of the better newspapers in the Pacific Northwest. It was family owned and was considered a leader in graphic design and presentation of news and commentary.

The Baker family sold the R-G not long ago to GateHouse Media, the outfit that has purchased dozens of newspapers around the country, becoming a media titan in an age of dwindling newspaper influence and importance.

My wife and I spent several nights up the highway from Eugene in Portland, my hometown and where I first fell in love with newspapers. I never laid eyes on The Oregonian newspaper during our visit there.

Oh, the end of an era for me personally!

We visited many cities that used to boast solid newspaper tradition: Colorado Springs; Bend, Ore.; Wenatchee, Wash.; Calgary, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Grand Forks, N.D.; Topeka, Kan.; Tulsa, Okla.

I didn’t read a single word printed in newspapers distributed in those communities.

What does this mean? Hmm. I’ll have to ponder it. I still cherish my memories of toiling at newspapers in Oregon and Texas. I continue to harbor many fond memories of those years. I recall them with glee. However, I no longer am wedded to newspapers as my primary information source … or so it has become obvious, given what I have just reported about our recent journey.

Gosh, am I now dependent on “The Internet” for all my information? To some extent, yes. Although I want to rely solely on “legitimate news sources” that are spread throughout cyberspace.

There remains a glimmer of hope that I haven’t gone totally to the dark side. I do subscribe to the Dallas Morning News. I restarted my subscription upon our return home. It arrived this Sunday morning. I will consume its contents with great gusto.

Whether to impeach and risk a stunning setback

David Brooks and Mark Shields are two of the more thoughtful, insightful and provocative commentators anywhere.

Brooks is a conservative columnist for the New York Times; Shields is a liberal syndicated columnist. Both men are regulars on PBS NewsHour, appearing on Fridays to offer their analysis of the week’s events.

I am posting this segment to illustrate how Brooks (more or less) summarizes my own view of the notion of impeaching Donald J. Trump.

Brooks appears to believe that Trump deserves to be impeached. Trump has asked a foreign government for help with his re-election effort. He has violated the constitutional oath he took when he became president of the United States.

Brooks, though, is leery of the result. He takes care to note that impeachment is a “political” exercise. Its intent is to remove a president from office. He doubts that even if the House of Representatives impeaches the president, the Senate won’t follow suit. He said that it’s a tall order to get 20 Republican senators to flip to the Democrats’ side and vote to convict Trump of a “high crime and misdemeanor” in a Senate trial.

Have a listen. Indeed, listen carefully to what these men have to say.

We need some reasonable discourse. Not more hysteria.

The nation appears to be heading down a dark corridor full of traps and tricks.

‘Fake News’ becomes part of the political vernacular

Donald Trump has done it. He has turned a ridiculous epithet into part of our national vernacular.

I refer to “Fake News,” the term he uses to describe any coverage he deems to be negative. He calls it “fake,” continuing the incessant mantra he began about the time he entered political life in June 2015.

He announced his presidential campaign and not long afterward began hurling the “Fake News” around.

It has stuck. Who knew?

You see, what makes this label so remarkable is its source. Donald Trump once called himself the “king of debt.” He’s actually the “king of fake news.”

He has lied so often, on so many levels that for this individual to accuse anyone in the media of peddling “fake” information simply defies logic.

However, he has gotten away with it!

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, this carnival barker/huckster/charlatan/serial liar managed to get elected president of the United States in the first place.

He has defied every political norm known to most of us. Why, then, should it surprise anyone that he could turn “Fake News” into something ingrained in our national political vocabulary?

I offer a tip of the proverbial hat to a most unlikely recipient of this salute. You’ve done it, Mr. President. You have created a monster in your own image.

Time of My Life, Part 39: Beating out the big guys

Everyone appreciates recognition. We appreciate especially when it comes from one’s peers.

My journalism career wasn’t full of such recognition. I have said I enjoyed some modest success over 37 years as a reporter and editor of daily newspapers. One such moment presented itself early in my careers.

The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association in 1981 awarded the newspaper I was editing at the time its annual award for Best Continuing Coverage of a Single Issue. What made the honor so special was that our newspaper, a five-day-per-week afternoon daily that circulated to about 7,000 subscribers, won out over much larger, more well-endowed newspapers in Oregon.

The issue we covered like a blanket involved a proposed “resource recovery” plant in Oregon City. Officials in the city wanted to build a plant to burn garbage and turn it into energy generated from the landfill. Our newspaper, the now-defunct Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, comprised a staff of six reporters. One of them, David Peters, received the assignment to cover this story for the newspaper.

Dave did a magnificent job!

The plant never got built. The story we presented was thorough in the extreme. We talked to all sides on this complicated issue. We reported every possible benefit and down side of this project.

What made the honor so sweet is that it came to us in 1981, the year that the Portland Oregonian was covering the eruption of Mount St. Helens in nearby Washington state. Oh, did I mention that the Oregonian circulated about 300,000 copies daily, or that it employed a staff many times larger than our little ol’ newspaper?

The state also comprised other much larger newspapers … in Eugene, Salem, Medford, Astoria, to name just a few communities served by healthy daily publications.

ONPA saw fit to honor us.

Yes, that was our moment. I am proud to have played a part in it.