Tag Archives: AGN Media

Canadian teen’s loved ones get punched in the gut?

I will have to step aside for any detailed analysis of what the Texas Attorney General’s Office has concluded about the mysterious and heartbreaking death of a Canadian High School senior, Thomas Kelly Brown.

The expert on this tragedy is my friend and former colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who wonders aloud whether how in the world the AG’s office could find that “there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that foul play led to the death of Thomas Kelly Brown.”

He disappeared on Thanksgiving Day 2018. His body was discovered near Lake Marvin. His laptop and other personal belongings were found miles away from where police found Brown’s body.

So … the AG’s office says that Brown did not die as a result of someone doing him harm. No evidence? Good … grief!

As Jon Mark Beilue said in his social media post: These findings go “beyond the pale.”

The powers that be — the AG’s office, the Texas Rangers, the Hemphill County Sheriff’s Office — all need to come up with some plausible explanation for what happened to this young man.

Here is Beilue’s rant. It’s worth your time to read it:

“…There is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that foul play led to the death of Thomas Kelly Brown…”

You mean except for the fact that his body was found near Lake Marvin and his vehicle was found miles away with video evidence of it being driven that night, or that his backpack and laptop computer were found several more miles away?

Who wrote this, the Attorney General’s office of Texas or Deputy Barney Fife? Unfortunately, it was the former in an announcement on Wednesday.

As someone while with the Globe-News who wrote multiple stories on Thomas Brown, the Canadian senior who suddenly went missing in the early hours of Thanksgiving 2016, this is beyond the pale.

It is absolutely unconscionable that a reasonable person would not conclude that foul play was involved. This whole case has all but screamed of foul play since the very murky outset. Investigators said time and again they knew it to be foul play, but could not bring sufficient evidence.

Suppose the powers that be go ahead and tell the public exactly why a reasonable person should not conclude foul play was involved? Or is this just a way of throwing up your hands and saying we can’t solve it.

I feel for those closest to Brown in all of this. I can’t imagine what this latest bit of news brings. I could go on and on, but just leave it at this. To paraphrase the AG report: “Any reasonable person can conclude that someone got away with murder in Hemphill County in the death of Thomas Kelly Brown.”

Thomas Brown’s family and all of those who loved him have been kicked squarely in the gut.

Bush library and museum produces a delightful surprise

I made a trip into Dallas today with my brother-in-law to show him the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. But when we walked in I received a peculiar surprise from one of the docents who greeted us.

She asked where we lived. I told her I live in Princeton and said my bro-in-law lives in Dripping Springs. Then I said, apparently with a joking tone in my voice, that I go back a ways with President Bush. “Oh, really?” she answered. “Tell me about that.”

I told her about the time in the spring of 1995, while I was working at the Amarillo Globe-News, I had the chance to interview the then-Texas governor in his State Capitol Building office in Austin. I mentioned that we chatted for more than an hour and that I came away impressed with the governor’s grasp of Texas government policy; he had been elected only a few months earlier and took office that January, the same month I started work as editorial page editor of the Globe-News.

She then told me to fill out a special card and give it to one of the receptionists at the welcome desk. They would forward it to the president’s staff and perhaps, maybe, possibly the former president himself might see it and respond in some personal manner to what I had written on the card.

The card asked for my name, address, phone number, e-mail address and then asked me to tell my “story” on the space provided at the bottom of the card. I mentioned that I interviewed the president, that we chatted for a good while and that it was “one of the highlights of my career.”

I mentioned to the docent that I doubted the president would remember my name, but that he might remember it he were provided some context associated with my name. She agreed, assuring me that President Bush is “very good with names.”

My wife and I visited the exhibit during the Christmas holiday to see a special display provided there. I did not fill out the card that I filled out today. Hence, the surprise at visiting the George W. Bush library and museum.

We shall see if he responds. As I told the docent, “If the president still drank, he is the kind of guy I would love to have a beer with.”

I won’t hold my breath. Still, it was nice to relive that true story.

Amarillo College, city score a winner with free bus rides

When I heard of this news item from up yonder in Amarillo, I’ll admit to a reaction that might seem a bit unflattering.

It was: What took ’em so long to enact this one?

Amarillo City Transit, the public bus transportation system, is soon to offer free transportation for Amarillo College students. The idea is so brilliant yet so simple, I was struck by the length of time it took for someone to pitch it to the City Council.

Who might be the biggest beneficiaries of this initiative? I figure it’s got to be the students who attend classes at AC’s main campus on Washington Street, just south of Interstate 40. You see, parking at that campus has been a serious problem for as long as I can remember.

I have known several AC presidents over many years, starting with Bud Joyner; then along came Fred Williams, Steve Jones, Paul Matney and now Russell Lowery-Hart. They all grappled with the parking nightmare at the main campus, as did the AC Board of Regents. College enrollment grew, but the parking capacity didn’t keep pace.

The way I figure it, if the college and the city promote this new benefit aggressively and effectively, it will fill the buses with students coming into town to attend classes. It also well could alleviate the parking problem with fewer motor vehicles being crammed onto the parking lots and along the city streets surrounding the campus.

I also must admit to a failing of my own. You see, I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years and I don’t once recall ever having a discussion with my boss, or the editorial board, or with college administrators and city officials about enacting such a plan for students.

So I’m left to ask while kicking myself in the backside: Why didn’t I think of this idea long ago?

I am hoping this idea works well for the students … as well as for the college.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 163: Not missing work … in the least

This ain’t exactly a flash, but I’ll offer this note nonetheless.

Retirement has proven to be everything it is cracked up to be — and then some!

I say this as someone who for 37 or so years relished my craft as few others have done. It’s not that I was a brilliant print journalist; I didn’t win a lot of prizes or receive tons of professional acclaim. I did enjoy modest success and I am proud of whatever contributions I was able to make in pursuit of the career I chose.

To that end, I half-expected to suffer some form of separation anxiety from work when my career ended in late August 2012. It wasn’t an entirely unexpected end, but it came a bit earlier than my wife and I had anticipated.

Still, when it happened I went on down the proverbial road and have looked back with decreasing frequency as time has marched on.

Why tell you the obvious? Why say it here?

It’s just that I keep hearing news reports about the state of print media and how vastly different a form it is taking than what I encountered when I walked into my first newsroom in the early 1970s.

A friend told me recently that the last newspaper on my journey through print journalism is suffering plummeting circulation numbers. The Amarillo Globe-News is printing about 20 percent of the total daily copies it was printing when I joined the staff in early 1995. For dinosaurs such as me, that is, um, hard to swallow.

However, I no longer have to worry about my professional future. I am done working for a living. I am free of the hassles, the deadlines, the whims and preferences of my bosses (except, of course, for my wife). I still write, but I write for myself. I can say whatever I feel like saying, within reason, quite obviously.

I don’t know when this event might occur, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, I might decide — if our paths ever cross — to thank the fellow who reorganized me out of a job in 2012. He spared me the misery he and his corporate partners inflicted on so many of the colleagues I left behind.

I know it’s a form of damnation with faint praise. However, it is sincere. Retirement has made me a happier man.

Having trouble letting go

I must admit to a peculiar circumstance that I will not define as a “problem.”

It is an unwillingness to let go of affairs occurring in the city where my wife and I used to live. I refer to Amarillo, Texas, way up yonder in the Texas Panhandle, on the Caprock … in a place I used to “affectionately” refer to as the Texas Tundra.

We moved away a little more than a year ago, yet I am continuing to devote a bit of High Plains Blogger’s posts to events that occur in the Texas Panhandle’s unofficial “capital” city.

You know what? I am going to keep both eyes and both ears attuned to what’s happening there. Why? The city is undergoing a significant change of personality, if not character. I want to watchdog it. I want to keep my channels of communication open to the community my wife and I called home for 23 years.

The truth is my wife and I lived in Amarillo longer than have lived in any community during our nearly 48 years of married life together. We were married in Portland, Ore., but moved to Beaumont 13 years later; we stayed on the Gulf Coast for not quite 11 years before heading northwest to the other end of this vast state.

I enjoyed some modest success during all those years as a working man. Retirement arrived in 2012. We stayed in our home until late 2017. We moved into our recreational vehicle, then sold our house in March 2018. Our granddaughter’s birth in 2013 and our desire to be near her as she grows up lured us to the Metroplex … but you know about that already.

But Amarillo retains a peculiar hold on my interests.

I am delighted with the progress of the city’s downtown redevelopment. The city’s baseball fans are turning out in droves to watch the Sod Poodles play AA minor-league hardball. Texas Tech University is marching full speed toward opening a school of veterinary medicine at Tech’s Health Sciences Center campus at the western edge of Amarillo. The Texas highway department is going to begin work soon on an extension of Loop 335 along Helium Road. Interstates 40 and 27 are under extensive construction.

I want to keep up with the progress that’s occurring in Amarillo.

I also intend to stay alert to problems that might arise along the way.

So, I intend to declare my intention to devote a good bit of this blog for the foreseeable future on matters affecting a fascinating — albeit at times infuriating — community.

Although we no longer call Amarillo our “home,” the community is not far from my heart.

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?

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.