Category Archives: media news

Fox hasn’t changed, Mr. President; some of ’em just doing their job

What do you mean, Mr. President, that “Fox has changed”? And you say you’re “not happy with it”?

If you don’t mind my borrowing a phrase: “Big fu**ing deal.”

Fox hasn’t changed, Mr. President. To my way of thinking, it remains uber-friendly to you and what pass for your policies. You still have your friends hosting those talk shows. “Fox & Friends,” Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jeannine Pirro, Laura Ingraham … am I missing someone? Probably.

It’s just that Fox also has some straight-away journalists who manage to do their jobs. Chris Wallace — who comes from solid journalistic stock, given that his dad was the great Mike Wallace — is but one example of what I mean. Shepard Smith is another. Neither of these men is an apologist for you the way Sean Hannity and the “Fox & Friends” co-hosts have proven to be.

I shouldn’t have to remind you, Mr. President, that answering difficult questions from the media is part of the job you inherited when you won that election in 2016. I know, it’s not written anywhere. But it’s in there, somewhere. Believe me, Mr. President. It’s there.

Your predecessors, every one of them from both political parties, have known that to be the case. You are cursed, though, with the thinnest of skins. As Jack Nicholson’s character, Marine Col. Nathan Jessep, said in “A Few Good Men,” You can’t handle truth!

Maybe you’re upset that Fox has a few token liberal commentators on its payroll these days. I saw where you referred to Juan Williams as “pathetic.” Hey, do you say the same thing about Donna Brazile, the former CNN and ABC News talking head? What about Geraldo Rivera, the grandstander who’s been with Fox since The Flood?

The fact that your perception that Fox has turned on you doesn’t make you “happy” doesn’t mean a damn thing. Presidents cannot dictate how the media do their job. The First Amendment protects the “press” and, by extension, all media from any government interference or coercion. You need to read the Constitution, sir. You took an oath to “defend” it; you damn sure need to know what you swore to protect.

So, my request of you, Mr. President, is a simple one. Pipe down. Shut the hell up. Worry about the important stuff … if you care enough to actually serve all Americans.

Perilous times get even more so for newspapers

You’ve known for a time about the state of print journalism around the United States and the world. It’s in peril, man.

The news this week about a mega-merger between two gigantic newspaper chains (they prefer to refer to themselves as “groups,” by the way) tells a grim tale about the state of print journalism.

Gatehouse Media has purchased Gannett Corp. They are merging into a the largest print media company in the country, owning roughly 250 daily newspapers from coast to coast. That’s about one-fifth of all the daily newspapers still functioning in the United States of America.

Gatehouse already has purchased the newspaper where I worked at my last stop, the Amarillo Globe-News way up yonder in the Texas Panhandle. Gatehouse also purchased the rest of Morris Communications’ newspapers as well, including the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The result of that purchase seems to bode poorly for West Texas readers of both papers, as they appear to be morphing into a sort of regional publication.

If I understand this correctly, the combined media conglomerate will retain the Gannett name, even though the Gatehouse hierarchy will run it. That means the Globe-News and other Gatehouse properties will be known as Gannett papers … I suppose.

Just as in a democratic society, more voters at election time usually bodes well for the state of representative government. With more people casting ballots means elected officials can govern with a stronger mandate. The more the merrier in journalism, too.

There once was a time in this country when the landscape was populated by mom/pop newspaper shops, independent voices that were tied directly to the communities they served. The family-owned organizations were the heart and soul of journalism.

Sure, we had the titans of print journalism industry. The Hearst Corporation (for whom I also worked) was one of them; the New York Times had a group of newspapers, as did the Washington Post, Tribune Media, McClatchy, Cox, Knight-Ridder and Newhouse.

I always put my strongest faith in the community-based newspapers. They told the truth, even when the newspapers’ owners had to attend church, PTA meetings and athletic events with the same folks they might anger with their newspaper coverage. They stood their ground, for the most part, and reported the news truthfully, fairly and without outward bias.

Those organizations are vanishing before our eyes. They are being replaced by even bigger newspaper chains, such as Gannett and Gatehouse. Sure, the big chains purport to be dedicated to their communities … but are they really?

Gatehouse has decimated the staffs at both the Globe-News and the Avalanche-Journal. I understand the same thing has happened in other communities. They are centralizing many of their newsroom functions, such as copy editing and page design.

Does all of that serve each community well? Are they getting the TLC they believe they deserve? Nope!

The new day keeps dawning all over again in print media. The Gatehouse-Gannett merger is likely to take a once-proud industry down yet another road toward an uncertain destination.

I wish my former colleagues well.

Stop shifting the blame, Mr. POTUS

For crying out loud, Mr. President. You deliver a decent talk this morning about the need to condemn “white supremacy” and to battle the scourge of hate across the land.

Then you put something like this out there. The Twitter message blames the media, “fake news,” for contributing “greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.”

C’mon! Knock it the hell off, Mr. President!

The media have reported your words, your fiery rhetoric, your declarations that “Mexicans bring crime” to the United States, your insistence on banning entry into the country from residents of certain Muslim countries, your declaration that Africa and parts of Latin America comprise “sh**hole” countries.

Are you saying the media should ignore these things? That the media shouldn’t do its job and report on what flies out of your mouth, or circulates through the Twitterverse?

Mr. President, you do not appreciate a single thing about what makes America great. One symbol of our nation’s greatness, sir, is the existence of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees a free press should be free of government interference or coercion or, dare I say it … bullying from the president of the United States.

Waiting for the ‘perfect headline’ to present itself

I won’t belabor this topic, but it deserves a quick-hit mention anyway.

I am waiting for the chance to use several acronyms in the same headline. I am don’t yet know the circumstance will present itself, but I’m going to look for it.

They are: POTUS, VPOTUS, SCOTUS and FLOTUS, referencing the president, vice president, U.S. Supreme Court and first lady.

I use them individually whenever I write about them on High Plains Blogger. I’ve even written a headline a few times that contains two of them. Three is a stretch. Four seems impossible.

But bear with me. I’m on the hunt. Patience is the key.

Wondering how FLOTUS deals with POTUS’s bullying

If only I could slip into first lady Melania Trump’s skull, even for just a moment, I think I could learn a thing or two about what she really thinks of life with the president of the United States.

The first lady announced her initiative some time ago to crack down on cyberbullying, which has a terrible effect on our nation’s younger generation. It’s a noble cause. It is worthy of the kind of thing that first ladies take on as issues they want to promote during their time in the White House.

However, Melania Trump has been pretty quiet about that initiative. Why do you suppose that’s the case? Oh, wait! It’s probably because her husband keeps up the Twitter tirades, the cyber rants, the outright “bullying” of his political opponents.

Which brings me to the point I made on this blog, along with others around the world, when Melania Trump first announced her initiative: You need to take care of business at home, Mrs. Trump!

Were I to eavesdrop on the Trumps, I am likely to hear the first lady castigate her husband for making her look like a fool. That, of course, presumes she is able to talk frankly and candidly with her husband, the self-proclaimed “stable genius” and the smartest man in human history.

Well, the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to think that she doesn’t have that capability within the residence of the White House. It’s likely a pretty good bet that Donald Trump rules the roost at home much as he tries to rule the West Wing.

The president’s incessant, relentless bullying of foes sets a terrible example for his wife to follow as she seeks to end the bullying scourge among our nation’s children.

Does any of that matter to the Bully in Chief? I’ll give you three guesses … and the first two don’t count.

Twitter tirades reveal deep, sinister weirdness in POTUS

Mr. President, I feel the need to call you out on your latest Twitter tirade, this one against yet another politician “of color.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings is one of the smartest, most astute and erudite members of Congress. Yet you have decided  yet again to go after this fellow in a Twitter rant that questions the quality of life in his Baltimore congressional district.

Your latest rant — not unlike the one you launched against those four Democratic congresswomen (all of color, of course) — was intensely personal.

Oh, and I also noticed you decided to verbalize some alleged concern about President Obama’s “book deal.” You want the Justice Department to probe that matter … which also happens to involve the nation’s first African-American president? Is that right?

Give me a break!

I don’t object so much that you have decided to use Twitter as a forum to make policy pronouncements. That’s your call. What is troubling, though, is that you do so without informing your staff. You catch them flat-footed, unable to respond cogently on what flies into cyberspace from your (allegedly) smart phone.

You also seem hell bent on castigating individuals such as Chairman Cummings and the four members of The Squad in intensely personal terms.

If you would limit your Twitter use to making positive pronouncements, well, that’s one thing. The good jobs numbers are fine. The budget deal that takes the government shutdown threats off the table for two years also is worth commenting on; one can debate the merits of the deal, certainly. Hey, I’d even accept your use of Twitter to argue for your side of the argument.

This constant haranguing, harassment and hassling of politicians — particularly those who, um, represent ethnic and racial minorities is seriously frightening to me.

You were elected to represent all Americans, Mr. President. Your constant use of Twitter to split the nation along racial, ethnic and partisan lines is disturbing in the extreme.

You vowed to cut back on your Twitter use. You pledged to “unify” the country. You said you would act “more presidential.”

On those key pledges, Mr. President, you are zero for three. You are not making America great again.

Et tu, Fox News Channel?

You can quibble till the paint dries about the quality of Fox News Channel’s political coverage. I do on occasion. The network that calls itself “fair and balance” is neither of those things.

However, news hands at FNC are capable of doing good work. They conduct public opinion polling on occasion that raises an eyebrow or two, such as a recent poll showing how Donald Trump matches up against his Democratic opponents.

The most recent Fox poll shows the president, for instance, trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by a margin well outside the margin of error.

The president’s response? He went after the “friendly” network, suggesting it has gone to the dark side by casting him in a negative light. The poll has him “losing big to Sleepy Joe,” Trump said on Twitter.

Good grief, dude. Take a rest from the Twitter machine. I mean, you’ve got important work to do. You are seeking to make America great again, isn’t that right, Mr. President? These constant Twitter tirades make America laughable.

As for what the polls are saying more than a year away from the next election, I’ll answer with two words: President Dukakis.

In 1988, polling had the Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis about 17 points ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush heading into that year’s election campaign season. The election, um, didn’t turn out that way … you know?

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not want Trump to turn those polls around. If anything, I hope whoever he faces next fall widens the gap and trounces the incumbent badly. He needs to back to … wherever.

So, the president needs to chill out. Get to work. Quit busying yourself with idiotic tweets and assorted blathering about polls with which you disagree.

Writing a blog produces occasional out-of-body experiences

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? Or even what you believe an actual such event would feel like?

I get ’em on occasion writing this blog. I’ve been doing this since 2010, fulltime since 2012.

Here’s what happens: I write something on High Plains Blogger and then publish it. I post these items on various social media, including Facebook. Someone comments on it. The initial comment usually is negative. Then someone responds — not to the blog, but to the initial responder. Then Responder No. 1 fires back at the antagonist; Responder No. 2 shoots back.

Then it starts. Back and forth they go. Occasionally, someone else chimes in. Then perhaps a fourth, or fifth individual who happens to be part of my Facebook “friend” network will read these exchanges and decide to weigh in as well.

Oh, boy. Sometimes it gets nasty. As in real personal. There’s a bit of name-calling at times.

I think once or twice I have sought to intervene, usually via “private message” on whatever social medium I’m monitoring. I might tell one of the parties to cool it. Usually, though, I let it ride. I let the combatants have their say.

Eventually one of them gives up. Not surrender, actually. Just decides he or she has had enough of the other person.

Why mention this at all? It’s my way of acknowledging the deep divide that separates individuals or groups of individuals. There’s little I can do about it, short of not posting items that rile folks up. I can’t go there. I have this insatiable need to provide commentary that is sure to invoke the kind of out-of-body experiences I feel on occasion.

I can’t help myself.

For that I apologize. However, I’ll keep on going.

Turning the corner away from an unhappy ending

I am happy to announce that I have turned the corner, put aside the wellspring of anger related to the end of my career in daily journalism.

Many of you know by now that my career came to a sudden halt in August 2012 when I got reorganized out of my job as editorial page editor of the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News. I thought I was doing a pretty good job there, spending nearly 18 years crafting an editorial policy at a newspaper committed to commenting on events of the city and the region that surrounds it.

Silly me. That’s what I get for thinking, I suppose.

I was hurt when it occurred. I was able to carry on, though, thanks to loads of support and love from my wife, my sons, my sisters and my friends.

Quite suddenly, though, I find myself no longer filled with anger or hurt feelings. It took a long while to get past it all. It has occurred.

I feel quite relieved that I am not packing that emotional baggage around any longer.

The company that owned the Globe-News, Morris Communications, sold its entire newspaper group to Gatehouse Media, which then brought in a new management team. The publisher who pushed me out the door “stepped down” from his job and is now pursuing “other interests.” He’s been replaced by someone I do not know.

The fellow who assumed my post at the G-N has left to work elsewhere. His successor and I have actually forged a bit of a relationship.

And you know what? I have actually wished the new “director of commentary,” Doug Hensley, well as he seeks to keep the Globe-News afloat in the roiling and changing media water. He pledges he will do his best. I hope he succeeds.

In the interest of full disclosure, Hensley was kind enough to publish an essay I had posted originally on High Plains Blogger, so that helped thaw the deep freeze I felt toward the newspaper.

However, it is true that I no longer harbor the anger that at times got the better of me over the nearly seven years since I departed the newspaper business.

I am enjoying retirement. I am enjoying writing this blog. I have relocated to a new community and my wife and I are enjoying our new home.

I don’t have time to be angry.

How cool is that?

Lose the ‘fake news’ gag, Mr. POTUS

It won’t happen. I know that. Donald Trump never will stop throwing around the “fake news” epithet whenever he sees fit.

He did so again the other day in Osaka, Japan, in the presence of his BFF Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman/tyrant.

Trump sought to yuk it up about “fake news” media outlets in the United States and made some comment to Putin about whether he has the same argument with Russian media that Trump has with the media in the United States.

Putin mumbled something about his difficulty in Russia. Whatever.

What is so maddening is that Trump continues to get away with using the “fake news” insult with impunity.

This individual is the King of Fake News. Indeed, his “news” really is “fake,” not just because the consumers of the news disagree with its conclusions. It’s fake. As in lies. As in falsehoods.

My goodness, the list is longer than Black Friday shopping lines.

You know how it goes. Trump throws out whoppers, his followers buy into them, the media seek to correct him, the president calls the media “fake news” and the Trumpsters keep on cheering.

Trump cannot get enough of this stuff.

He is the King of Fake News. Yet he has stones to tell the media they convey “fake news.” He calls the media the “enemy of the people” while ignoring that the media’s only role is the report — and, when appropriate, comment — on the news of the day.

Donald Trump knows “fake news.” He didn’t invent it. He has just perfected it and turned it into an art form.