Category Archives: media news

Impeachment fatigue is setting in

I am considering whether I want to take a break on this blog from commenting on the impeachment of Donald John Trump.

I am running out of ways to express what already is known: that I believe Trump is unfit for the presidency; he deserves to be impeached; congressional Republicans are all wet in their defense of this guy.

The world out there is huge. It is full of issues, crises, good news, tragedy and other matters that deserve High Plains Blogger’s attention.

I cannot promise that’s what will happen. I am just suffering what can be described only as impeachment fatigue.

Your blogger will have plenty to say when the Senate trial commences. There might be a comment or two coming from this venue before then.

I am just worn out.

Trump’s Twitter rampages are expanding … imagine that

Donald John “Tweeter in Chief” Trump keeps setting unofficial records via the Twitter device that he must sleep with at night.

He reportedly launched 60 or so tweets in a three-hour span to complain about impeachment, Democrats, the “fake news,” Time’s teenage “Person of the Year,” and whatever else got under his orange-tinted skin.

Think about this for a moment. This is the president of the United States. He vows to “make America great again.” He says that “I, alone” can cure the ills of the nation.

How does someone with all that heavy-duty responsibility find the time to pound out misspelled, mangled-syntax, incoherent messages via Twitter?

Oh, I get it. He’s not actually working as president of the United States. That explains it.

Facebook becoming infected with negativity during The Season

I’m getting a bit of buzz from my network of Facebook friends who are complaining about the negativity they’re seeing on the social medium as we enter the Christmas holiday season.

I am going to agree with them … to a point.

I use Facebook to distribute by blog. Facebook will get this post, too, as soon as I’m finished with it. I won’t refrain from posting political commentary on this blog, which then will shoot into cyberspace via Facebook and other social media. What it produces in the way of commentary, of course, depends on who’s responding to any particular blot post.

What I have sought to do during my involvement with Facebook is to avoid getting tangled up in too much negative give and take. I post the comments, folks respond either happily or angrily. If they like what they read, that’s nice. If they dislike what I post, that’s fine, too.

As for the complaints that are sneaking into some of my Facebook friends’ comments, I will honor their concern only insofar as to avoid engaging in rhetorical swordplay with those who oppose whatever thought I toss out there.

I acknowledge also that I occasionally get a bit too wrapped up in Facebook rants. I read ’em. I might acknowledge some of ’em. I won’t get into the type of name-calling and insult games that some of my cyber acquaintances play.

Go for it, boys and girls. Just count me out.

This impeachment debate is getting personal … and graphic

I just performed a rare — for me, at least — social media act.

I severed a social media relationship based on something this individual posted. I don’t like admitting it, but I am doing so now.

Here’s my side of the story.

The impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s conduct as president has drawn some amazing commentary on both sides of the great divide among Americans. It has stormed onto social media in ways I did not expect.

This evening on Facebook, I got a message from someone I know — although not well — that made me wretch. It contained an encrypted picture that had a note that it contained a graphic image; I had to click on a link to view it, so I did.

It turned my stomach. It showed a terrible image of what was described as a U.S. envoy being tortured; juxtaposed with that image was a picture of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch with a caption that said she had her “feelings hurt” by Donald Trump.

I put the encryption back on the picture and then “unfriended” the person who posted it from my Facebook network.

Yes, this is the kind of anger that the Donald Trump Era of Politics has brought us. I do not like it. Not in the least.

Although I have to say that the debate over Donald Trump’s fitness to serve as president and the inquiry into whether he should be impeached is revealing a lot about people I thought I knew. I am finding that some of my many acquaintances harbor some pretty nasty tendencies, such as the picture that one of those individuals posted on a social media platform.

I have lived through two serious presidential crises. The first one involved President Nixon and the Watergate scandal; the second one concerned President Clinton and the White House intern scandal. Nixon was on the way to getting impeached, but he resigned the presidency; the House impeached Clinton but he was acquitted by the Senate at trial.

In neither of those crises do I remember the intensity being exhibited by partisans on both sides of that divide. However, the image I looked at today — yes, I saw the warning, but looked anyway — goes so far beyond the pale that I parted company with someone who I thought was better than that.

I am afraid this tumult is going to damage a lot more relationships.

Happy Trails, Part 174: So-o-o glad to be retired, especially these days

My retirement journey has settled us into a very good place. We are living much nearer to our granddaughter; we have lots of time on our hands; we get to sleep in if we choose to do so; we are free to travel for as long as we wish.

Moreover, I am free of the tension, turmoil, tumult and tempest of working in a changing media environment.

I have been following lately the big media merger involving GateHouse Media and Gannett Corp. GateHouse took over control of Gannett to form the largest print media country in the known universe.

What’s next for the new media titan? Layoffs, man! Apparently lots of ’em to boot.

I left my last job in print journalism in August 2012 at the Amarillo-Globe-News in Texas under unhappy circumstances. As I look back on that sudden departure, I am filled with gratitude that it happened when it did, even though I still sting a bit over the manner in which it occurred.

However, my place now is so good that I am nearly compelled to reach out to my former employer and thank him for saving me from the misery he and other newspaper executives inflicted on those who have toiled in the trenches to produce a newspaper worth reading.

The GateHouse-Gannett merger is bound to produce a lot more misery. It likely will affect people I know who are still in the business. I acquired many great friends during my 37 or so years in the business. They are fine men and women who work hard at their craft. They love what they do even if they think much less of the execs for whom they do it.

Is that a dichotomy? No. They invoke what I consider to be a universal axiom made famous by Rotary International, an organization to which I have belonged for more than 25 years and which adopted a simple slogan as its worldwide mission: Service Above Self. They sign on to serve their communities, even when their own careers might be placed in jeopardy.

This latest pending wave of layoffs — and I believe the reports that they are coming — only affirm my comfort in the place where I have landed as a retired print journalist. I just hope and pray that those who get pink-slipped will land softly and take their myriad talents to their next great adventure.

What does future hold for Amarillo’s daily newspaper?

I chatted this morning over KETR-FM public radio at Texas A&M University-Commerce about the state of journalism in one of the Texas communities where I worked before my career ended in August 2012.

On the weekly broadcast “North by Northeast,” we talked about the decline of daily newspaper circulation and the struggle that many print media are having as they transition to the “digital age” of news and commentary.

Well, we didn’t discuss it on the air today, but I want to broach this subject briefly here.

The Amarillo Globe-News seems infatuated with reporting on issues involving Texas Tech University, which is headquartered about 120 miles south of Amarillo in Lubbock. I see the G-N on my smart phone daily. I am able to read headlines and I look occasionally at stories under those headlines.

I am struck by the preponderance of stories related to Texas Tech. Sports coverage, general news coverages, features, editorials, guest commentary … a whole lot of it relates to Texas Tech.

I’m wondering: Why? What is happening here?

I’ve reported already on this blog about how the newspapers — the Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — are being managed under a “regional” operation. The papers have a regional executive editor, a regional associate editor/director of commentary; they have combined their business operations, their production ops, circulation and some advertising functions.

It’s the news and editorial coverage that piques my interest.

So much of it these days relates to Texas Tech. Back when I worked at the paper, we hardly ever gave Tech any notice. I mean, the university is way down yonder; the Panhandle is served by West Texas A&M University and the newspaper concentrated its higher education coverage on WT and on Amarillo College.

Texas Tech seemingly has supplanted WT and AC in garnering the attention of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I keep feeling the rumble in my gut that is telling me that something is going to happen to the Amarillo Globe-News … and that it won’t be a good thing for the future of print journalism in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

I want in the worst way to be wrong.

Time of My Life, Part 42: I met him before he was famous

Chris Matthews is celebrating 20 years as host of an MSNBC news/commentary talk show, “Hardball.” He has been getting salutes from fellow media stars, politicians and entertainers.

I don’t qualify as any of those categories of individuals, but I want to offer a salute of my own.

You see, I met Chris Matthews once before he was, well, “Chris Matthews.”

It was the summer of 1992 in sweltering Houston, Texas. Matthews and I worked for the same media corporate employer, the Hearst Corporation. I was attending the Republican National Convention at the Houston Astrodome while working as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise; Matthews was there as a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner. He hadn’t yet made his big splash on cable news TV, although Matthews was a frequent guest — as I remember it — on the PBS program “The McLaughlin Group.”

The Hearst Newspapers had a work station deep in the bowels of the Astrodome. We all had our areas where we could organize our notes and send stories back to our newspapers through the primitive computer systems we used at the time.

One morning, I went to the small coffee bar we had set up in our work stations. Who do you think joined me there? Chris Matthews, that’s who. We chatted for a few minutes. I told him I enjoyed publishing his column in the Beaumont Enterprise; he thanked me for the exposure was getting in Southeast Texas. We had a laugh or two about what we had seen the previous day. Then our encounter ended.

My recollection of this guy, whose media personality is loud, brash, borderline rude is that he was much quieter when he was chatting with a fellow Hearst-oid. Yes, he is a gentleman.

OK, I admit to being a bit star struck as I recall that brief meeting. I doubt Chris Matthews would remember it, given the journeys our respective lives took after that encounter in the Houston Astrodome.

If he would remember, I would be flattered to the max. If he doesn’t, that’s all right. I do.

Happy 40th birthday, NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’

I am a giant fan of National Public Radio. My staple most mornings is to listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast while traveling in my car while running errands.

I learn more from that broadcast than I ever learn from the morning drive-time idiocy I hear on commercial radio channels. For instance, I learned this week that “Morning Edition” has turned 40 years of age.

Its first broadcast occurred the morning after the Iranian militants captured those 53 Americans at the embassy in Tehran.

But during the discussion of “Morning Edition’s” 40th birthday, I heard a fascinating discussion of how politics has changed since NPR first went on the air with its morning talk show.

It came from Ron Elving, a contributor to NPR, who noted that in 1979, Congress was full of “liberal Republicans” and “conservative Democrats” who liked each other’s company. These days, according to Elving, both major political parties have been hijacked by ideologues on both ends of the spectrum: liberals are now called “progressives” and occupy much of the Democrats’ congressional caucus; conservatives have done the same thing to the Republican’s congressional caucus.

What’s more, neither side wants to commune with the other. Members of Congress, particularly those on the right, bunk in their offices at night. They choose to make some sort of goofy political statement, rather than becoming involved socially with their colleagues in their own party, let alone those in the other party.

Politics has become a contact sport, the NPR talkers said to each other, lamenting the demise of a kinder, gentler time in D.C.’s political life.

So it has gone over the past four decades.

NPR itself has become a whipping child for those on the right, who accuse the network of harboring a sort of “liberal bias,” in my view is a creation of those who want the media to present the news with their own fiery bias. NPR takes great pain to ensure that it presents the news straight down the middle lane.

As I listened to the “Morning Edition” talkers this week reminisce about how much politics has changed over the past 40 years, I found myself longing — yet again! — for a return to the way it used to be inside the halls of power.

It well might return if Americans awaken on Election Day 2020 to the damage that the politics of resentment and anger is doing to our public institutions.

WH press secretaries: from bad to worse to utterly abysmal

I never thought I would see the day when a White House press secretary could make Sean Spicer look good.

Consider this:

Spicer was the first White House press flack hired by Donald Trump. Spicer “distinguished” himself at his first press briefing by challenging media reports about the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd, contending that the president drew the largest such gathering in the nation’s history. It didn’t go well for Spicer after that. He resigned and now he’s on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders succeeded Spicer and became a shill for the serial liar who hired her. Sanders ended up suspending the White House press briefings altogether. She quit, too.

Now we have Stephanie Grisham, who this weekend said that former White House chief of staff John Kelly was — get ready for this one! — “totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.”

Wow, man!

The “genius” of Donald Trump? She’s saying the president is a “genius”? The guy who cannot spell his way out of a third-grade lunchroom? The individual who conducts presidential policy nearly exclusively via Twitter? The candidate who launches into nonsensical, irrational, incoherent tirades at campaign rallies? The guy who cannot string two sentences together?

I know next to nothing about Stephanie Grisham, other than she has yet to answer questions in a roomful of reporters assigned to cover the White House.

Her statement about John Kelly — the decorated combat veteran, the retired four-star Marine Corps general, the Gold Star dad whose son died in combat in Afghanistan — confirms to me that her bulb is as dim as the one burning inside the skull of the president.

Happy Trails, Part 173: Back in the game, kind of …

This retirement journey on which my wife and I have embarked has taken its share of peculiar and surprising twists and turns. They’ve all been good and have brought us joy.

This latest twist compels me to tell you that I am returning — in a manner of speaking — to where my print journalism career began 40 years ago.

I am back to reporting on community news. It’s not a full-time gig by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. It’s a free-lance affair. I get to choose the stories I want to cover for a group of community newspapers in Collin County, Texas. The publishers are giving me free rein.

I have informed them that my wife and I might not be available all the time. We plan to be on the road during RV traveling season — which is essentially every season except winter, during which time we’ll have our fifth wheel parked, winterized and in a state of hibernation.

But this new gig figures to be a great ride for as long as it lasts. I do not yet know when I’ll call a halt to it. Maybe I’ll check out of this world with my notebook and pen in hand.

I started my professional journey in late 1976 on the copy desk of the Oregon Journal, which was Portland’s evening newspaper. I gravitated in early 1977 to the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, an after suburban daily newspaper about 15 miles south of Portland. I took a job as a temporary sports writer, replacing the sports editor who was on maternity leave after the birth of her first child.

I covered high school football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, track and field.

The editor who hired me said there was a chance I could stay on if an opening occurred. It was a gamble to leave a permanent full time job for one that might end in a few months. It worked out. An opening occurred. I got hired permanently.

I got to cover police news, the courts, city councils, school boards; I wrote feature stories and I developed pictures in a dark room.

I gravitated eventually to opinion journalism, working on editorial pages in Beaumont and Amarillo in Texas. However, reporting and writing news stories is like, well, riding a bicycle. You do not forget how to do it.

My task now will be more limited. For one thing, dark rooms no longer exist in newspaper buildings; it’s all done digitally. I’ll take pictures with my I-phone and send them in via e-mail.

But I get to cover community news in Princeton, where we now live and in neighboring Farmersville, a town of about 3,200 residents just east of us.

I will have to learn a bit more about these communities as I work my around them, learning the names of the movers and shakers, gadflies and assorted soreheads.

I am grateful to my new employers for this opportunity to (more or less) get back in the game.

Am I living the dream? You bet I am.