Tag Archives: AGN Media

First-class wordsmith gets back in the game

I recently lamented the retirement of a man who has lent his wonderful written “voice” to the Texas Panhandle.

Jon Mark Beilue worked for the Amarillo Globe-News for 37 years before retiring in July from his post as a columnist. I have good news for readers of this blog: Beilue is getting back in the game, this time as a columnist for West Texas A&M University.

I want to share this bit of good news because I have used this blog to bemoan the gutting of the Globe-News — first by Morris Communications and then by the company that purchased the G-N a year ago from Morris, GateHouse Media.

WT announced Beilue’s new writing gig in a press release, which stated in part: “We are excited to welcome Jon Mark to the WTAMU family and to share his many talents with the people of the Panhandle,” Dr. Walter Wendler, University president, said. “West Texas A&M University has many interesting stories to tell, and there is no doubt that Jon Mark will tell them well.”

Read the entire WT statement here.

WT plans to distribute Beilue’s columns weekly to area newspapers. If the folks who run the Globe-News have a brain in their heads, they will make sure this fine journalist’s words are published on the pages of a newspaper in dire need of institutional knowledge of the community.

Beilue provides it. He lived his entire life in the Texas Panhandle, absent his four years as a student at Texas Tech University down the road a bit in Lubbock.

And as WT noted in its release: His talent with words is well known across the region and has been recognized at both the state and national levels as far back as the 1980s until his retirement in 2018.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Jon Mark Beilue is a community treasure. I am delighted to know that WT has decided to put him back on display.

Well done.

Reporter fired for wearing MAGA hat? Duh!

What in the name of MAGA-mania was this guy thinking?

A reporter for a Minnesota TV station was fired this past Thursday because he wore a Make America Great Again gimme cap … while covering a Donald J. Trump political rally in Rochester, Minn.

Yep, this guy violated what usually is considered a cardinal rule of journalism. You do not reveal your political bias while you are on the job reporting on political events.

KTTC-TV in Austin, Minn., has a policy that prohibits such blatant bias on the job. So, when James Brunner, a multimedia journalist for the station, showed up at a Trump rally wearing the MAGA hat, it went viral on Twitter. It got back to his bosses at KTTC. They fired him.

Holy cow, man!

I have long had my own political bias. Never did I display it while reporting on or commenting on the news of the day at any of the newspapers where I worked. Not in Oregon or in Texas.

I didn’t even plaster bumper stickers on my cars, which I also always assumed were against the rules. Interestingly, I did see some political bumper stickers on vehicles driven by non-newsroom employees at the Amarillo Globe-News, my last duty station before I retired; I always thought even advertising sales reps shouldn’t be allowed to display their bias on the job.

This fellow, Brunner, has learned a tough — but totally necessary — lesson about the fine line journalists must walk when they are on the job, reporting on politics and policy.

West Texas journalism takes a jaw-dropping plunge

I am just now picking my jaw off the floor.

A friend of mine has just informed me of something that GateHouse Media, the new owners of the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, have done. It has posted a job opening for a “regional associate editor” who will be in charge of the opinion pages of both newspapers.

Ponder that for a moment.

The G-N and the A-J already have a “regional” publisher and a “regional” executive editor. The publisher resides in Lubbock; the exec editor lives in Amarillo. They spend time in the “other” city, I guess to make sure they’re “in touch” with them.

Now we have this idiotic notion of hiring someone who will serve as a regional “director of commentary.”

GateHouse purchased the papers from Morris Communications while promising to maintain a local journalistic presence, committing itself to local news.

What absolute and utter crap!

This latest decision by GateHouse tells me something quite different. GateHouse is trying to run the papers on the cheap. Why hire two people for these executive posts when they get can away with hiring one individual to cover both of them?

Oh, but what’s the cost? It’s plenty! I’ll speak to the commentary that both papers will deliver to these respective communities.

GateHouse seems to presume that Amarillo and Lubbock are identical. That they have identical needs and concerns. That their local issues mirror each other.

Good grief! They do not! How in the world does a regional director of commentary acquaint himself or herself fully with each community by having to split the time between them? He or she cannot do the impossible! GateHouse, though, is asking whoever they hire to do precisely that.

I worked as editorial page editor of the Globe-News for nearly 18 years. It was all I could do to stay current with issues involving Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. To ask the new person to develop cogent editorial policy for two disparate communities 120 miles apart is a prescription for the destruction of both communities’ editorial voice.

In the old days, that voice was a critical component of daily journalism’s relevance to the needs of a community.

I believe I am hearing the death knell of daily journalism as we’ve known it in a part of the state I grew to love.

Not a museum, but it’s a step toward preserving history

The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum administrators might have read my blog, or they might have been thinking about it already.

I’ll go with the latter, out of a sense of humility.

The Amarillo Globe-News has revealed that the PPHM along with Amarillo National Bank are joining hands in an effort to preserve the newspaper’s archived text for posterity.

This is good news for those of us who loved the G-N, who loved working there (as I did for nearly 18 years) and who cherish the history that was recorded by the once-towering presence in Amarillo and the High Plains region of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico.

The PPHM will store the bound volumes and microfiche at a site away from the G-N’s former offices at Ninth Avenue and Harrison Street. The G-N recently vacated that site for new office space in the 31-story bank tower that soon will carry the name of FirstBank Southwest.

I had pitched the idea of converting the Ninth and Harrison building into a museum that would display the history of the newspaper. I get that the cost could be prohibitive to do such a thing.

But at the very least the newspaper’s new owners, GateHouse Media, have worked out an agreement with PPHM and ANB to store the archived material suitably.

As I understand it, the bound volumes and the microfiche have been moved to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal operation 120 miles south of Amarillo. PPHM will locate an estimated 150 file cabinets full of clippings, photos and photo negatives to the downtown Amarillo site.

That’s a start. Perhaps it will lead to something even more grand … such as a museum! I won’t hold my breath.

For now, though, I’ll just applaud to decision to maintain the history that the award-winning newspaper recorded while chronicling the evolution of the region it once served with pride and distinction.

Newspaper surrendering its local franchise

I am not the least bit crazy about critiquing the newspaper where my career ended.

However, I’m going to bite down hard and offer this brief observation about how the newspaper is surrendering its relevance to local readers.

The Amarillo Globe-News is going through a transition at this moment. It has turned the lights out at the building where it was headquartered for decades and has moved into the 31-story bank tower that dominates the downtown Amarillo, Texas, skyline.

The Globe-News physical presence has been absorbed into another corporate entity.

But it’s also doing something else I find totally repugnant. Its editorial page has been co-opted by “canned editorials” that the paper’s publishers are printing in the space that used to be the domain of the newspaper’s locally driven editorial policy.

The paper’s director of commentary, David R. Henry, has left the paper to work for Amarillo City Hall. The newspaper had ceased commenting on exclusively local issues for some time prior to the director of commentary’s departure. Now, though, it is running editorials that (a) reflect the corporate ownership’s conservative editorial philosophy and (b) have not a damn thing to do with issues relevant to Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

My hope is that GateHouse Media, the paper’s new owners, wise up to the need to restore the paper’s local relevance on its editorial page. Given that I know not a thing about GateHouse, my hope must stand on its own.

A couple of years before I left the paper, I embarked on a policy to localize the paper’s editorial policy. I actually kept a log of editorial topics published daily. My goal was to concentrate on local/regional issues; state issues became No. 2 on our priority list. My thought, which I shared with the publisher (when we still had a relationship), was that readers didn’t really care what we thought about national or international issues. They were getting their fill of others’ perspective on Obamacare, taxes, world peace and climate change. They could turn only to the Globe-News for commentary on issues close to home.

We sought to deliver that message to them. We were successful in that effort.

I recall a couple of months when we published only local/regional editorials for the entire month. The publisher said he was pleased with that result.

Then I got “reorganized” out of my job. I resigned from the Globe-News and the editorial policy we had pursued gave way to another editorial strategy. Fine. That was their call.

Now, though, the Globe-News’s editorial policy reflects, well, no interest in what’s happening locally.

It’s a shame. However, it can be corrected. I hope the correction occurs soon.

A newspaper museum in our future … perhaps?

One of the many cool aspects of running a blog is that I get to toss ideas out there for discussion purposes.

With that, here’s one I hope sticks to the proverbial wall.

The Amarillo Globe-News has vacated its longstanding home at the corner of Ninth and Harrison in downtown Amarillo. It’s going to produce a newspaper in a sterile bank tower down the street and around the corner.

The Harrison Street building need not stay dark. Has anyone begun pondering the idea of turning that venerable structure into a museum honoring the accomplishments of a once-great community institution?

The Texas Panhandle already is home to one of the great historical museums in the state: the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, based at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

I throw this idea out there not knowing a damn thing about the practicality of such a notion, or even if there is the slightest bit of community interest in it becoming a reality.

The PPHM would need to negotiate the transfer of the property from the former owners of the Globe-News, Morris Communications, which a few months ago got out of the newspaper publishing business. Yes, the company sold its newspapers to GateHouse Media, but it retains ownership — from what I understand — of the physical property.

The company chairman, William Morris III, always talked about giving back to the community when he owned the paper. Here’s a chance for Old Man Morris to deliver on that noble rhetoric.

How does one fill such a building with artifacts from the grand old days of newspaper publishing? Well, PPHM has a staff of well-educated folks who make a living looking for such memorabilia.

My suggestion? Turn ’em loose to find hot-lead presses, manual typewriters, typesetting devices used for offset presses, cameras that used actual film. Somewhere in the bowels of the darkened building are bound volumes of every edition ever published by the Daily News, the Globe-Times, the Sunday News-Globe — all of which were published under the name of Amarillo Globe-News.

The families of longtime Globe-News legends — the likes of Wes Izzard, Gene Howe, Tommy Thompson, Putt Powell, S.B. Whittenberg — undoubtedly have treasures they might be willing to put on display.

There. That’s my thought.

Oh, I also have a pica pole and a proportion wheel — the ink-stained wretches of the industry know what they are — that I would be happy to donate to a new museum.

They’ve made the move to the tower

I guess I was a day, maybe two, late in assessing the future of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I conjectured that a move was upcoming. Then I saw a story today on Page 1 of the Globe-News. They’ve made the move. It’s done.

The newspaper, a longstanding institution in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle, now is tucked on an upper floor of the FirstBank Southwest Tower in downtown Amarillo.

It’s still a sad move. It saddens me terribly that the newspaper that once was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in journalism excellence will no longer be visible to onlookers.

I don’t know what the future holds for daily journalism in Amarillo. The trend doesn’t portend a bright future. The paper has slashed its staff; it has cut it resources; it has scaled back its presence; it prints the daily editions in Lubbock.

Does it cover the news with the depth and breadth it once did? No. Not by a long shot.

But now the Globe-News is ensconced in a skyscraper with a bank’s name on it! The paper’s long-standing office at Ninth and Harrison has gone dark.

Dammit!

The media hits just keep comin’

The media hits just keep comin’

I no longer have many friends left at the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years. They’ve all gone on to, um, “pursue other interests,” retired or have been laid off as the newspaper industry continues to struggle in this new media environment.

Here, though, is what I have heard … and I believe this is firm: The newspaper is going to vacate its remaining structure at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Harrison Street, a building it has occupied since 1950. The newspaper will set up its offices in that 31-story bank building formerly known as the Chase Tower, but which will be known soon as the FirstBank Southwest Tower.

This is a profoundly sad development.

Since the early 20th century, the Amarillo Globe-News has been a physical presence in Amarillo and, by association, in the Texas Panhandle. The newspaper reported on community affairs as far away as Dalhart, Perryton, Plainview and Dimmitt. It has retrenched.

The paper even had a presence in Oklahoma Panhandle communities, such as Guymon, Boise City, Woodward. It sold a few copies daily in Liberal, Kan., too, along with running a news bureau out of Clovis, N.M.

It has slashed its physical presence. Its footprint is a lot less visible.

Now the newspaper that once won a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service is going to be absorbed by another corporate identity.

Those of us who grew up revering newspapers, who practiced the craft of print journalism, who once were associated with media organizations that everyone in the community knew about — even if they didn’t necessarily embrace it — should be saddened by this impending turn of events.

The Harrison Street Building has an inscription over its front door. It says that a “newspaper can be forgiven for lack of wisdom, but not for lack of courage.” It came from the late Gene Howe, the publisher of the Amarillo Globe-Times, the one-time evening newspaper.

They were words to live by if you sought to tell the community’s story to readers who wanted to know about it. The words won’t disappear even after what is left of the Globe-News’s staff leaves that old building for the final time; I trust they’ll continue to appear on the newspaper’s Opinion page masthead.

However, there is something profoundly sad about a newspaper that lacks a physical presence in the community it serves. I get that it will still be there, somewhere, hidden on some upper floor of a skyscraper that will carry another company’s name.

It will not be the same.

Communities still need newspapers of record

A friend and former colleague posted this picture on social media, noting that the building appears to be “crying.”

It sits at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Harrison Street in downtown Amarillo, Texas. It currently houses what is left of the Amarillo Globe-News, where my friend worked for more than 20 years and where I worked for nearly 18 years.

It symbolizes a once-proud community institution. The Globe-News once stood tall as a pillar of the community it served with distinction and pride. Indeed, back in the good old days, the evening edition of the Globe-News — the Globe-Times — earned print journalism’s highest honor: the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service.

The editor of the Globe-Times, Tommy Thompson, uncovered corruption in county government. He and his staff hammered at the issue. Their hard work brought about reforms and needed change. The Pulitzer board recognized that effort by bestowing the paper with its highest honor.

That was in 1960. It seems as though it happened even longer ago than that.

Print journalism is undergoing enormous change at this moment in history. Amarillo is enduring some serious pain and suffering. It now functions with a staff that is a fraction of its historic size. The corporate ownership changed in 2017. Morris Communications, which owned the paper since 1972, sold to GateHouse Media. Morris is no longer publishing daily newspapers. GateHouse’s goals for the G-N and for the Lubbock Avalance-Journal, which it purchased, are not entirely clear.

Amarillo no longer has a newspaper that stands tall as the publication of record. Neither does Lubbock. The G-N closed its printing presses a couple of years ago; it now prints its editions in Lubbock.

The papers now are being led by “regional” executives: a publisher who resides in Lubbock but spends part of his week in Amarillo; and an executive editor who lives in Amarillo but spends part of her week in Lubbock.

Two men with a combined 60-plus years of experience in Amarillo have left the business. The newspaper is going to feel their absence in ways they cannot yet measure or define. Take my word for it, the paper’s mission will suffer.

I regret to note, further, that none of this is unique to the Texas Panhandle or the South Plains. My most recent experience in print journalism, though, involves Amarillo, a community my wife and I grew to love when we moved there in 1995. My newspaper career delivered many more good times and enjoyment during the years I spent at the Globe-News.

Then a lot of things changed.

Now I am watching from some distance as the newspaper that drew many craftsmen and women together and delivered many shared experiences struggles to find a new identity.

I am having serious doubt that the Globe-News will find it.

Recalling profound tragedy’s impact on us all

9/11 is seared into our memory. Most of us likely recall where we were when we heard the news.

I was at work the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 at the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News. A colleague came to work, stuck his head in my office and asked, “Did you hear the news? Someone flew an airplane into the World Trade Center?”

My first reaction? “What’s the weather like?” My colleague said it was clear and sunny in New York. “What kind of idiot would fly into a skyscraper?” I asked, rhetorically.

I turned on the TV. I watched the coverage of the burning WTC tower. Then the second plane plowed into the neighboring tower.

That … changed everything.

The entire nation knew at that moment we were under attack.

All of this occurred, of course, before the media were declared to be the “enemy of the people.” We all did what we do. We started gathering information, making phone calls to local sources to try to chronicle the events and their impact on our communities. We did that in Amarillo.

I won’t equate our efforts with those who ran into the burning buildings, but our attempt to keep our community informed of the events of the day were critical (a) to those who consume the news and (b) to those who seek to explain it.

I was proud to help provide some commentary, context and wishes of solidarity to the nation that was under siege from forces we hadn’t yet identified fully in the moment.

It was one of those days one never forgets.