Tag Archives: AGN Media

Congratulations to the media for standing tall

Newspapers across this great nation have spoken with one voice. They have spoken not just on behalf of those who publish the printed word, but also for those who speak to Americans through various broadcast media.

I am proud that one of the newspapers where I worked for about 11 years joined the chorus that stands up to those on the right and the far right who have declared the media to be the “enemy of the people.”

The Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise spoke out. They did so acknowledging what many of us know already: The media are the people’s ally, not their enemy.

Read the Enterprise’s editorial here.

Donald J. Trump has led the “enemy” call. He rails that the media are purveyors of “fake, fake, disgusting news.”

As if this president is the only man who’s ever had to deal with criticism. All of his predecessors — Democrat and Republican — have licked the wounds inflicted by criticism, some of it harsh. Did they declare the media to the people’s enemy? No. They took their lumps and went about the business of trying to govern.

The media’s role is clear. It is to demand accountability from those who purport to do things on the public’s behalf, but who on occasion end up doing things to the public.

I regret that another newspaper where I worked during my journey through print daily journalism — the Amarillo Globe-News — chose not to join the chorus. That’s their call. I wish the editors there had made another choice.

This campaign was initiated by the Boston Globe. More than 200 newspapers around the country joined the Globe. They have spoken as one. I am proud of them all.

As the Enterprise said in its editorial: A free and vigorous news media is not just a good idea in America or any other country. It’s vital to helping people create the kind of lawful, prosperous society they want, helping ensure that injustice or corruption are exposed instead of excused. Anyone like our president who calls American journalists the “enemy of the people” is undermining this cornerstone of democracy.

Some answers, please, Texas Tech regents

So, now there appears to be a bit of suspicion associated with the announcement that Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan is retiring at the end of the month.

The Tech Board of Regents voted 5-4 to seek “new leadership” in the chancellor’s office.

That hardly constitutes a consensus. Still, Duncan decided to go after regents completed an executive session.

Here is how AGN Media reported it.

I am going to say a good word or two about the chancellor.

First, he has done well by the university he has attended and represented in the Texas Legislature — and then led as its chancellor for the past four years. I am a big fan and supporter of this man who, while serving in the Texas Senate, emerged almost every legislation session as one of Texas Monthly’s top legislators.

He has been an adamant proponent of the proposed Tech college of veterinary medicine planned for Amarillo. That’s a big deal, man!

There reportedly have been reports of financial impropriety. Tech regents and administrators have pushed back on those reports. They say there’s nothing wrong.

Still, the regents want “new leadership.” I believe the public deserves a more complete explanation of what they want, of what they expect and where Duncan fell short.

They’ll need to make the case that the university needs a new man at the top of the administrative totem pole.

I will continue to wish Chancellor Duncan all the very best and I’ll offer him, yet again, a word of thanks for the leadership he gave to a major Texas institution of higher education.

‘Interesting’ doesn’t begin to say enough

“Interesting” is such an, oh, interesting adjective. It usually says not a damn thing about the subject being addressed.

Such as the editorial in today’s Amarillo Globe-News that talks about an “interesting” tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding his apparent skepticism about the effectiveness of red-light cameras in cities throughout the state.

The editorial is attached to this link. Take a look.

I can’t tell if the Globe-News no longer favors the red-light cameras, which I suppose makes the editorial “interesting.”

I’ll fill in a blank or two.

The red-light cameras are doing what they’re supposed to do in Amarillo. They are deterring idiotic motorists from disobeying the red lights’ instructions to stop, do not proceed until the lights turn green.

As for cities’ “raking” in big money, I need to remind y’all that the Legislature instituted some strict provisions in allowing cities to install the cameras. Any revenue derived must first pay the vendors for the cameras and then be earmarked specifically for traffic-safety improvements. Amarillo recently coughed up some dough to do precisely that.

Gov. Abbott thinks there’s “no evidence” that the cameras are making our streets safer. That’s not what I have heard from Amarillo city officials. He ought to talk to them directly.

The governor might get some “interesting” details.

Worst or best names?

A letter to the editor in today’s Amarillo Globe-News comes from a man who, I think, understands why the weird names on the finalist list being considered for Amarillo’s new baseball team may produce one of the potentially “best” team nicknames of all time.

Here’s the letter; it’s brief:

Regarding the recent letter to the editor in Amarillo Globe-News (Letter: ‘Sod Poodles’ has competition for worst name in minor league baseball, Aug. 3, amarillo.com) about “Rocky Mountain Oysters” being the worst name in professional baseball, it is just a matter of opinion, but I think “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is one of the best minor league baseball team names.

Ever.

And “Toledo Mud Hens” runs a close second.

The letter is signed by Dick Novotny of Amarillo.

I think the man gets it.

I admit to being initially turned off by the list of finalists when the Elmore Group — owners of the AA team that will play ball in Amarillo beginning next spring. Then I started thinking about it. I also heard the team’s justification for going with the goofy names.

It made sense. The team owners want the team name to become some sort of brand for the outfit that will play ball. They point out that many other minor-league franchises have fielded teams with strange-sounding names. The two of them noted in the AGN Media letter are good examples.

I have heard already of the Mud Hens. I understand that the Mud Hens are popular in Toledo, Ohio, irrespective of the name of the team.

I’m still going to go with Sod Poodles as the new team’s name. Who knows? Perhaps the Sod Poodles will emerge eventually as the “best minor league baseball team name … Ever.”

Why endorse in primaries?

A newspaper editorial endorsement for a political primary election brings to mind a decision I made several years before the end of my own journalism career.

It was that we shouldn’t make such an endorsement unless a primary race was tantamount to election, meaning that there would be no contested two-party primaries for that particular office.

The endorsement that got me thinking about the issue came from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which recommended former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in that state’s Republican primary.

Read the endorsement here.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to work for newspapers in Beaumont, Texas and in Oregon City, Ore. We made primary endorsements at those newspapers.

Then I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. After a period of time, I persuaded the publisher that primary endorsements were not nearly as relevant as general-election endorsements. So, why do them, especially when the candidates had another election in the fall?

Amarillo is in the middle of heavily Republican territory. In many instances, particularly in Randall County — which comprises the southern half (roughly) of Amarillo, Democrats damn near never run candidates for local offices. That means the GOP primary means the winner is all but assured of election, barring a surprise and successful write-in campaign.

We elected then to endorse only in those primary races featuring contests in just one party. That meant the Republican Party.

I came to realize that primaries are essentially a political party function. They are run by the political parties. The local party chairs are in charge of managing the ballots and ensuring that all the fees are paid.

If by chance there would be contested primaries in both major parties, we would take a pass on offering a recommendation in the primary; we preferred to wait for the general election campaign to make our recommendation known.

That was then. I now wonder whether newspaper endorsements mean anything any longer. Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided in 2010 to forgo any editorial board interviews with Texas newspapers; he was angry at the way newspapers treated him. The Globe-News that year endorsed former Houston Mayor Bill White, as did the vast majority of Texas newspapers. Gov. Perry won big anyway.

Donald Trump got few newspaper endorsements in 2016. You know how that election turned out.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d do it the way I decided to do it. No primary endorsements unless a party’s primary meant virtual election to office.

I also might give serious thought to giving up on the idea of offering endorsements for any race … ever!

I mean … what’s the point?

Media ‘infatuation’ with Beto? Here’s a possible answer

Many conservatives, including those in the media, are wondering about a so-called Texas “media infatuation” with Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke.

The Amarillo Globe-News today took note of that “infatuation” in an editorial. The paper stated: While there is a large degree of media infatuation regarding O’Rourke (precisely why is a good question), at least the duo have agreed to a series of debates.

I might have a possible explanation.

But first, let’s examine whether there is, indeed, an infatuation at play any more than there was one when O’Rourke’s Senate foe, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, took office in 2013. Cruz became an instant media darling not long after taking his seat. It became apparent to many of us that Cruz’s fixation with the media had more to do with personal ambition than anything he sought to do for the state he was elected to represent.

But the media played along. It became something of a joke that the “most dangerous place in Washington was anywhere between Ted Cruz and a TV camera.”

Now he is running for re-election. The media are giving his opponent plenty of coverage as he barnstorms our vast state.

O’Rourke, a Democratic U.S. representative from El Paso, is conducting plenty of what are called “media events.” He takes part in town hall meetings, he makes speeches, he is taking selfies with fans and supporters in places like Pampa, Perryton, Plainview — where Cruz figures to do well on Election Day.

Does this constitute an “infatuation”? No, it doesn’t. It merely suggests that a candidate is doing his public relations advance work that gets the media interested in the first place.

My former colleagues at the Globe-News need to remember that the Cruz Missile did precisely the same thing six years en route to winning a hotly contested Republican primary and then the general election in 2012.

And it only intensified once the man became a U.S. senator.

Texas AirHogs speak Chinese?

I saw a story in the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News and chuckled quietly as I pondered how I might respond to it.

You can read the story here.

It’s about an independent baseball team that plays its home games in Grand Prairie, near Dallas. They call themselves the Texas AirHogs. But here’s where the chuckle comes in: Its roster is populated by Chinese athletes who are getting some playing time while preparing for the Asian Games in 2020.

There’s more. This team used to play some of its home games in Amarillo. The team once was based exclusively in the Panhandle, then it decided to split its “home” schedule between Amarillo and Grand Prairie.

Over time, the team decided to move exclusively to Grand Prairie, where it now is a training ground unit for the Chinese national baseball team.

My head is spinning over this one.

And it damn sure makes me glad that Amarillo is on the verge of welcoming a AA major-league-affiliated minor-league team that next spring begins playing hardball at the downtown Amarillo ballpark that is now under construction.

There won’t be this kind of Mickey Mouse baseball going on with a team associated with a bona fide Major League outfit. They will play baseball in a shiny new park, ushering in a new era for the city’s profound image makeover.

Good luck, Grand Prairie. Amarillo’s fortunes have taken a significant turn for the better.

POTUS seeks to control news information flow

Donald J. Trump’s reported anger over first lady Melania Trump’s desire to watch CNN aboard Air Force One brings to mind a curious conversation I had with a key staffer who worked for U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican who represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

Trump wants all the TVs on the presidential jet to be tuned to Fox News, his favorite news/commentary network. He considers CNN and other news networks to be purveyors of “fake news.” What makes ’em “fake”? They report news the president deems to be negative. I presume he’s issued the same edict for the TV sets throughout the White House.

So, negativity equals “fake news.” Got it?

OK, back to my conversation with the Thornberry staffer.

We were visiting some years ago. I was working for the Amarillo Globe-News. This individual was talking about a news report she heard. She then told me in a hushed voice over the phone that she heard the report “on NPR.”

Oh, my! Heaven forbid! A staffer for a conservative Republican member of Congress would get her news from National Public Radio! She didn’t want it heard, I guess, by her fellow staffers that she was listening to NPR.

I laughed at her over the phone. She happens to be a friend and we have had a very constructive and productive professional relationship over the years.

I was able to needle her about NPR and the myth that the publicly funded radio network was somehow a progressive mouthpiece for left-leaning politicians.

It isn’t. Public radio reporters and other staffers have informed me over the years about how they were schooled in the manner they should describe public policy. For instance, one NPR news hound informed that the Affordable Care Act would not be referred to on the air as a “reform” measure; “reform” connoted an improvement over the current system. The term that NPR reporters were instructed to use is “overhaul.”

Are we clear? Good!

Journalism craft in serious trouble

This is not a scoop. Many of us have known this already: Journalism as we’ve known the craft is in serious trouble.

I noticed an article in The Nation that takes note of the recent sale of the New York Daily News, a newspaper that has won the Pulitzer Prize. It has just laid off roughly half of its newsroom staff.

The Daily News, though, is merely the latest in a long and growing line of once-great media organizations feeling the pinch, feeling the burn and feeling the pressure to find a business model to operate in a changing media climate.

It makes me grateful for my own departure from the craft I enjoyed and loved for so many years, even under the painful circumstances that brought it about. I resigned in August 2012 after being “reorganized” out of the job I did there for nearly 18 years. Yes, I’ve commented already on that. The truth is that in a perverse sort of way I am glad it happened, given the misery that has been inflicted on many of my former colleagues who have remained at their post.

John Nichols’s story in The Nation can be read here.

It’s a fascinating description of what has happened to a craft that brought many of us into it back in the day. Many of us answered some kind of call to make a difference. We wanted to help shape the world, to chronicle the news in our communities.

One of the dirty little secrets about newspapers is that they used to be a highly profitable business. Yes, they were labor-intensive. Newsrooms were full of reporters who covered various beats. They had editors who sought to improve the quality of the stories they would tell. There were photographers who provided visual images to to accompany the printed word.

With all that manpower on board, newspapers often operated at incredible profit margins, often exceeding 30, maybe 40 percent.

Those margins shrank in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Newspapers then had to reduce the overhead to maintain their amazing profitability. Believe me, I had a front-row seat as this happened, not just in Amarillo, Texas, where my career ended, but in Beaumont, Texas, where I also worked for nearly 11 years.

I went to work at the Amarillo Globe-News (which also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for Meritorious Public Service) in January 1995. When I got there, the paper published two editions daily — morning and evening. It had a combined daily circulation of more than 60,000 copies; its Sunday circulation hovered close to 80,000.

Those numbers have plummeted. So has the newspaper’s revenue and so has its labor force. It now publishes a morning newspaper with a staff that is a tiny fraction of the staff it used to employ. It has no staff photographers; its copy-editing functions have been centralized; it no longer prints the paper in Amarillo.

This circumstance is not unique to Amarillo, Texas. It has happened in communities across the land.

Am I sad? Of course I am. Am I glad to be gone from that madness? Boy, howdy!

Get ready for it: Amarillo Sod Poodles

I am getting a bit of enjoyment reading the smattering of letters to the editor of the Amarillo Globe-News from baseball fans arguing against Sod Poodles as the name of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball next spring in Amarillo, Texas.

One of them appeared today. There have been some others. They cannot stand the name that emerged as one of the finalists selected by Elmore Group, owners of the team that will move from San Antonio.

I hated the name when I first saw it, too. Then my mind changed. I now have become something of a fan of the name. Sod Poodles supposedly is some sort of historic, Old West reference to prairie dogs. I keep hearing from lifelong Texas Panhandle residents that they’ve never heard of the term … until now!

The team owners wanted to choose from among five names that would cause fans to talk about the team. I believe Sod Poodles is the name that will have fans talking the most vociferously.

I don’t know what the team ownership will decide. They’re supposedly polling the public for its preference. They’ll announce the “winner” later this year. I am not certain of this, but I am betting the Elmore Group is under no obligation to certify and release the ballot results while announcing its decision.

Just a note to suggest that my hunch is that the team owners are going to go with their gut on this one.

You go, Sod Poodles!