Tag Archives: AGN Media

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.

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.

Time of My Life, Part 34: Remembering an honest pol

My journalism career enabled me to cross paths over the course of many years with some of the more fascinating and occasionally unique individuals one ever could imagine meeting.

I want to tell you about one of them. I won’t speak ill of him because he’s no longer around to defend himself.

I present to you Manny Perez Villasenor. My peeps from Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle know of whom I am writing.

Manny was a Potter County commissioner who I believe it is fair to say was quite unlike any other who served on that elected governing body.

Manny died in 2011. My relationship with him went up and down, back up and then back down repeatedly over the years I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

He was irascible. Also cantankerous. He could get angry at the hint of a negative word. He also could be kind. Manny could be engaging in a sort of clumsy, inarticulate sort of way.

Above all he was honest. Yep, he was an honest politician. I have not just typed an oxymoronic phrase. Manny Perez always told you what was in his heart, on his mind. He didn’t sugar-coat anything that I ever remember.

In this era of the liar in chief, and of politicians at all levels being caught telling lies or “misspeaking,” Manny Perez was at some level the original truth-teller.

Yes, he could be frustrating. Even maddening in his mercurial temperament. If I wrote something complimentary of him, he could not have been kinder,  or more solicitous.

But . . .

When I wrote something with which he disagreed, Manny would pick up the phone and read me the riot act. “I don’t care what the Globe-News thinks of me,” he would rant. “I work for my people” in Potter County’s Precinct 2, he would say. “I never want to speak to you again,” he would conclude. After a lengthy harangue, he would hang up.

Of course, I would remind him that he most certainly did “care” what the paper thought of him, which is why he would bring it up.

A week later, or maybe two, he would call. Manny needed something from the me, or the newspaper. It would be as if the previous tirade he launched at me never occurred.

Manny was a proud Democrat, although given his inability to articulate public policy or to explain in clear, concise terms anything of detail, I never was sure why he adhered to any partisan label.

I think he would consider himself to be a political conservative. He didn’t like spending public money needlessly. He didn’t attend seminars, workshops or various meetings that took him out of his comfort zone . . . meaning anywhere outside of his northeast Potter County precinct.

He and I would have lunch once in a while and he always — as in always — remind me that he didn’t do business with anyone outside of his precinct boundaries.

I’ve moved away from Amarillo. Manny Perez has been gone for eight years. In a strange — and unexplainable — way I still miss him.

The man kept me on my toes. He kept me humble in a way only Manny Perez could do.

Keep fighting the fight, Sen. Seliger

Stand tall, Kel Seliger. I am with you, my friend.

There you go. I have just laid out my bias in favor of the Amarillo Republican who serves in the Texas Senate representing the sprawling District 31 that stretches from the top of the Panhandle to the Permian Basin.

A thorough Texas Tribune feature story tells how Seliger, who’s served in the Senate since 2004, managed to get on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s sh** list during the 2019 legislative session.

The way Seliger tells it, he is voting on behalf of his West Texas constituents and doesn’t really give much of a damn about the political agenda being pushed by Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer.

That, I believe, is what we call “representative democracy.”

Seliger says he’s still “paying penance” in the Senate after Patrick stripped the body’s second-most-senior Republican of his committee chairmanships and his role on other key committees. Patrick blamed his response on what he called “lewd” comments from Seliger toward a key Patrick aide; Seliger believes it’s because he has opposed much of Patrick’s legislative agenda.

Sen. Seliger has occasionally been the lone Senate GOP vote against some legislation, such as the measure to ban cities from deploying red-light cameras aimed at deterring traffic violators. Seliger called it a matter of “local control.” Amen to that, senator!

I’ve known Seliger since 1995, when I arrived in Amarillo to take my post as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. Seliger was mayor of Amarillo at the time. We hit it off right away, developing a thoroughly cordial professional relationship. Over time, it turned into a personal friendship, particularly after he left public office.

Then the senator from Amarillo, the late Teel Bivins, received an ambassadorial appointment from President Bush and Seliger ran to succeed Bivins in District 31. He has served with distinction and dedication to his constituents ever since.

The Tribune article notes that Seliger hasn’t yet committed to running for another term in 2022. He defeated two GOP primary challenges in 2018, winning the nomination without a runoff.

All the while, Seliger has managed to stick it in Patrick’s ear. He was the only Republican senator to not endorse Patrick for re-election in 2018. Why? My best guess is that Patrick is too, um, ideological to suit Seliger’s taste.

Seliger wears his own brand of conservatism proudly. Indeed, he embodies what I believe is a traditional Republican world view, which is that the state need not meddle in matters that local communities can settle themselves.

I believe Seliger is the same man he’s always been. The shift has occurred elsewhere, within the leadership of the Texas Republican Party. I prefer, thus, to stand with my friend as he continues to serve the people who keep electing him to the Texas Senate.

‘Church/state separation’ surely is included in the Constitution

While the president of the United States renews his boast about how he has brought “Merry Christmas” back into fashion during the holy holiday, I am reminded yet again of a phony argument that many on the far right continue to use about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

A former colleague of mine at the Amarillo Globe-News was fond of saying how the Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state.” His argument, preposterous as it sounds, was that if the Constitution doesn’t state it declaratively then such “separation” does not exist.

I sought on more than one occasion to counsel him that the Constitution does not need to make an overt statement to stand on a principle.

The First Amendment says that Congress “shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. Right there, in plain English, is the separation of church and state argument.

I mention it because Donald Trump continues to extol the virtues of Christian belief in a nation comprising people of many religious faiths. It’s laughable that this president, given his sickening personal history, would even venture into that briar patch . . . but he does.

He told the nation just the other day that since he became president, people are saying “God” in public again, as if they ever stopped saying the word. Then he talked yet again about how business owners are instructing employees to wish customers “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season. That, by golly, is the way it should be, according to the president.

I need to remind those who read this blog who might be disposed to side with Trump on this matter that the Constitution is as clear as it can possibly be on the matter of religion.

The government does not require people to worship any deity. None. It declares that the absence of a state religion means that citizens are free to worship as they wish — or not worship at all, if that is their choice.

Church/state separation is a reality in our nation’s governing document. On that score — and, yes, they missed the mark on a few matters in the creation of this great nation — the founders got it exactly right.

Happy Trails, Part 157: oh, the joy of anonymity

It takes me a while at times to recognize blessings when they present themselves, but I surely have found one related to our move from the Texas Panhandle to a small — but rapidly growing — community northeast of Dallas.

Forgive me if I sound a bit high-falutin’. It is not my intention, but please bear with me.

The blessing is in the anonymity I am enjoying in Princeton.

I spent many years in two Texas cities — Beaumont and then Amarillo — working in jobs that elevated my visibility. I wrote for newspapers that were essential to the communities they served. My face was in each publication fairly regularly; my name appeared on the pages’ editorial page mastheads daily. Those who read the papers — and they numbered in the tens of thousands in each region — got to know my name; many of them recognized my mug.

Even after I left daily journalism in August 2012 in Amarillo, I would hear from those who would ask, “Hey, aren’t you the guy from the newspaper?” Yes, I would say, although I might say that “the guy in the paper is my evil twin.”

Indeed, when my wife and I were preparing to sell our house in Amarillo, we moved into our fifth wheel, found an RV park on the east side of town. We checked in and the lady who worked the counter that day recognized my name and chortled, “Oh my! You’re famous!” It turned out she is related to a former neighbor of ours . . . but, I digress.

I no longer have those encounters in Princeton. I blend in. My wife and I are just two new folks strolling around our neighborhood with Toby the Puppy.

We go to the grocery store, we make our purchase, we leave. We’re just two folks doing whatever it is we want to do.

And so . . . I welcome this newfound status of being just another face in the crowd. Don’t misunderstand, I occasionally would get a rush over being recognized, especially when someone had a good word to say about the work I did at those earlier stops on our life’s journey. To be sure, not everyone I met in that fashion was complimentary, but that goes with the territory, too.

That was then. Those days are long gone. My life these days is so much better.

Time of My Life, Part 30: Remembering all those colleagues

When I read stories these days about newspapers’ shrinking newsrooms, I remember how it used to be in print journalism.

I was fortunate enough to be part of two newspapers that sold enough copies each day and raked in enough advertising money to invest deeply in personnel who were assigned to cover specific issues, work specific “beats.”

The most recent present-day tale I read came from Politico and it tells the story of the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, the one-time media titan in a state where presidential politics kicks off every four years with those vaunted Iowa caucuses. The Register, as are all newspapers these days, is retrenching. It is doing as much with fewer individuals to do it.

Read the Politico story here.

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, newspapers were flush with cash. I went from a small, five-day-a-week afternoon suburban daily in Oregon City, Ore., in 1984 to a mid-sized newspaper in Beaumont, Texas. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The Beaumont Enterprise had a huge staff of reporters. They were assigned many specific beats.

The paper had an education reporter, police reporter, entertainment reporter, environmental reporter, courts reporter, someone to cover City Hall, someone to cover county government, reporters assigned to cover surrounding communities, we had a business editor who had a reporter working under his supervision. Then we had a sports department with about 10 reporters, including someone who covered “outdoor sports,” meaning chiefly huntin’ and fishin’. We had a photo staff of around six photographers.

Then, of course, we had copy editors, line editors who assigned stories to the reporters.

Then we had an editorial page staff, of which I was a member. I went to work in Beaumont as an editorial writer. The page had an editor and a cartoonist.

The Beaumont Enterprise, as the saying goes, was a “cash cow” for Jefferson Pilot, the owners who ran the paper when I got there and then for the Hearst Corporation, which bought the paper late in 1984.

I stayed for nearly 11 years before gravitating from the Gulf Coast to the Texas Panhandle. My professional journey then took me to a post where I served as editorial page editor for two papers in Amarillo, the morning Daily News and the evening Globe-Times.

The Globe-News, as everyone called it, was as rich as the Enterprise. The staff there was as diversified and exclusive as the paper I had departed. Its reach was enormous, covering the Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle and a small slice of southwestern Kansas.

Then the bottom started to fall out. It happened in the early 2000s. The Globe-Times was shuttered. The paper began to retrench. I heard that the Beaumont Enterprise did the same thing.

But the good old days were grand, indeed. They brought lots of fun, fellowship with colleagues and a joint pride in being able to assemble a publication each day of the week.

I don’t sense as much pride these days in the publications that employed me. Neither paper has nearly the staff they had back when they were flush with money.

I just recall all those friends and colleagues who have gone on to “pursue other interests.” I think of them often and hope they’re all as happy I am now that it’s over.

Community icon up for sale . . . this is a shame

We have returned to the community we called “home” for more than two decades and I am saddened to know what I know about the place that provided me with a nice income — and untold joy — for most of that time here.

The Amarillo Globe-News building — indeed, the entire complex of buildings — is on the market. It’s being sold. To someone who will make use of the property on the black between Ninth and 10th avenues and Van Buren and Harrison streets.

The Globe-News has vacated the site, moving into an antiseptic suite of offices down the street and around the corner at the 31-story bank building that towers over downtown Amarillo, Texas.

I saw a social media post the other day that said McCartt and Associates, a big-time commercial real estate broker, has listed the G-N site.

I guess the powers that be didn’t take my advice. I sought in an earlier blog post to persuade Morris Communications Corp., which used to own the newspaper but which still owns the physical property, to donate the site to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, which could turn the property into — what else? — a museum honoring the rich tradition of print journalism in the Texas Panhandle.

I thought that Old Man Morris — William Morris III — could make good on his oft-stated pledge to support the community. Hey, here was his chance. He gave up on newspaper publishing, but he could have given the property to the PPHM to do something honorable and noble with a building that used to symbolize an honorable and noble craft.

Indeed, the Globe-News used to have a plaque on the side of one of its buildings honoring the work of the late Tommy Thompson, the iconic editor of the evening Globe-Times. All he did, of course, was win a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, which is the top prize offered by the top print journalism organization in the country, if not the world.

The Pulitzer jury honored Thompson for his dogged reporting in rooting out county government corruption. So he received the 1961 Meritorious Public Service prize.

I was proud to be associated with an organization that could claim such an honor. My association with the Globe-News ended in 2012. I held out hope that he paper would survive and be reborn in this changing media climate. I am fearing far less hopeful today.

Morris sold the paper to Gatehouse Media. The Globe-News’s reporting and editing staff has been decimated. Morris started the gutting years ago; Gatehouse is finishing the job.

Now the paper that once stood proudly on that downtown block is being offered to someone who will do something with the vacant hulk of a structure.

At least, though, those of us who have moved on will have our memories of the pride we threw into our work on behalf of the community we served.

What’s happening to my former employer?

I don’t read the Amarillo Globe-News regularly these days. I see an online version of it on my fancy-schmancy smart phone. So I am able to catch glimpses of its editorials, commentary and news reports when I have the time or the inclination to look at them.

However, an editorial today caught my eye. It makes me wonder: Is the Globe-News morphing into a satellite publication of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal?

Why ask that? Well, the editorial was a lengthy piece praising the selection of new regents to the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents. It caused me a bit of head-scratching.

I worked as editorial page editor of the Globe-News for nearly 18 years when the paper was owned by Morris Communications Corp. I don’t remember writing a single editorial commenting on the quality of a governor’s appointments to the Tech Board of Regents. Why? Because the school is located in Lubbock; its primary concern is with its Lubbock campus. Yes, Tech has a medical school in Amarillo. However, we never saw the need to devote what looked like a lengthy editorial singing the praises of Tech regents, unless they had some connection to the Texas Panhandle; I didn’t detect any such connection in the piece I read today.

Indeed, the editorial noted the appointments include “a woman and two Lubbock businessmen.” That’s critical to the Panhandle? Really?

Morris has sold the Globe-News and the Avalanche-Journal to another company. The new owner has consolidated the papers’ news and editorial staffing. The executive editor lives in Amarillo, but has control of the A-J’s newsroom; the director of commentary lives in Lubbock, but has control of the G-N’s editorial page; the publisher also lives in Lubbock, but has control of the Globe-News overall operation; same for the company’s newly named circulation director.

I don’t like reading commentary about Lubbock-area issues in the Amarillo newspaper. It makes me wonder — and fills me with concern, if not dread — that the papers are morphing into some sort of regional publication.

The Texas Panhandle and the South Plains have issues that are unique to their respective regions. I do not want to see comments on them melded into a single publication.

I have concern that such a melding is occurring.

Time of My Life, Part 26: They kept me humble

I operated under a number of principles during more than 30 years in daily print journalism. I always sought to be fair; accuracy was critical.

I also never took myself more seriously than I took my craft.

The readers of the newspapers where I worked all served as great equalizers. I started my newspaper reporting career full time in 1977 at the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier; I gravitated in 1984 to the Beaumont Enterprise in Texas; and then in 1995 I moved on to the Amarillo Globe-News.

All along the way I contended with readers who shared a common quality. They generally lived in the communities we covered. Thus, they had skin in the game; they had vested interests in their cities and towns.

So if I wrote something with which they disagreed and they took the time to call me to discuss their disagreements I tended to take them seriously.

I tried to learn something about the communities where I worked. Readers often were great teachers. They would scold me. They would chide me. They mostly were respectful when they disagreed with whatever I wrote, how I reported a story or offered an opinion on an issue the newspaper had covered on its news pages.

I always sought to return the respect when they called.

To be sure, not everyone fit that description. More than few of them over all those years were visibly, viscerally angry when they called to complain. I tried to maintain a civil tongue when responding to them. I’ll be candid, though, in admitting that at times my temper flared.

I usually didn’t mind someone challenging the facts I would present in a news story, or in an editorial, or in a column. I did mind individuals who would challenge my motives, or ascribe nefarious intent where none existed.

And every once in a great while I would a reader challenge my patriotism and even my religious faith. That’s where I drew the line.

However, over the span of time I pursued the craft I loved from the moment I began studying it in college I sought to maintain a level of perspective. I took my job seriously. I always sought to remember that all human beings are flawed.

It kept me humble.