Tag Archives: AGN Media

Two quick Bush stories tell a bit about these men

I want to share two quick stories I have about men named Bush.

The first one is about George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States who died Friday at age 94.

President Bush went to Amarillo in 2007 to speak to the community about leadership. They had a reception and lunch at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. Because I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News at the time, I got invited. We had lunch, then we got to stand in a long line.

At the head of that line was President Bush. He was meeting and greeting those who got to stand in that line. It was your classic “grip and grin” session.

My time came. I walked up to Bush and said simply as I extended my hand, “I just want to thank you, Mr. President, for your long and distinguished service to this country.” He bowed his head slightly as he said, “Thank you for that, sir.” We exchanged a couple more thoughts, then we turned to face the photographer who took our picture.

We were gripping and grinning at the camera. I cherish that picture to this day. Why? I had this feeling in the moment that the former president actually appreciated the expression of thanks from a complete stranger — me. Believe this: I offered it sincerely and with maximum gratitude.

A dozen years earlier, in 1995, I had the pleasure of meeting the newly elected governor of Texas, George W. Bush. I flew from Amarillo to Austin to meet with Gov. Bush in his Capitol Building office.

I arrived at the Capitol and found my way to the governor’s office. I was shown the way to the governor’s receiving room just outside the actual office. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and I told him that one of my sons had expressed many times his admiration for the governor’s father, the former president.

Gov. Bush nodded and said, “Your son has picked a wonderful man to admire.”

I was told I would get 30 minutes with the governor. I interviewed him on the record for about an hour plus 20 minutes.

The younger Bush clearly adored his father, whose pride in his son was well-known.

Now, to give you an idea of how effective a politician George W. Bush had become, there’s this addendum:

Gov. Bush was running for re-election in 1998. He came to Amarillo to be interviewed by the Globe-News editorial board. He walked briskly into our conference room, pointed at me and said in a loud voice, “There’s a good man. So, tell me, how’s your son?”

“W” learned well from Bush 41.

Media leadership takes another hit

The new owners of two West Texas newspapers appear to be watering down their commitment to the communities the papers serve.

Now, I say this from afar. I no longer live in West Texas. I have watched all this play out from my new residence in Collin County. However, I have a keen interest in the future of one of those communities and, yes, of the other one as well.

GateHouse Media purchased the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal from Morris Communications in the fall of 2017. GateHouse made some promises about its commitment to community journalism. Morris, meanwhile, got out of the newspaper publishing business totally.

So, what has happened to the new owners’ commitment to community journalism? A friend of mine sent me a note informing me today that the Globe-News and the Avalanche-Journal now have a “regional associate editor” who’s in charge of running both papers’ opinion pages.

Follow me here: Amarillo and Lubbock are 120 miles apart at both ends of Interstate 27. The new “director of commentary” lives in Lubbock. He’s going to continue to live there, or so I gather; that means he’ll drive to Amarillo during part of the week. I suppose he’ll need to show himself in Amarillo to pretend to be a member of the community.

The days he spends away from either community, though, is going to diminish the each paper’s editorial voice. It will water down its leadership in both communities. The editorial page of the G-N and the A-J will be muffled to a significant degree. One individual cannot pretend to know all there is to know about two communities that have disparate interests, differing power structures, different sets of movers and shakers, varying concerns.

This is an absolute shame.

I long have subscribed to the belief that newspapers that pursue a cogent and lively editorial policy are an essential element to any community’s well-being. Sure, readers complain about what a newspaper thinks about an issue; they take the editor and publisher to task. Or, they might agree and applaud with whatever position the opinion page has staked out.

Opinion pages promote community discussion and debate.

The West Texas newspapers already have a “regional” publisher who lives in Lubbock and commutes to Amarillo, along with a “regional” executive editor who lives in Amarillo and commutes to Lubbock. Now they have what used to be called an editorial page who lives in Lubbock.

GateHouse Media’s so-called commitment to the communities it pledged to serve is facing a serious challenge with the way it is structuring the leadership of two once-stellar voices for their respective regions.

Man, I hope I am wrong. If I am, I’ll swallow the crow whole.

I fear I am not.

Thank you for your service, Justice Johnson

It is with a touch of sadness and a bit of pride as well that I have just learned that a member of the Texas Supreme Court is retiring at the end of the year.

Justice Phil Johnson is calling it a career.

I’ve known Johnson for several years. I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News and Johnson was chief justice of the 7th Court of Appeals based in Amarillo. Thus, he became a source for me. We developed a nice relationship over the years.

Why the sense of pride?

Well, it goes like this. When the vacancy occurred on the state’s highest civil appeals court 13 years ago, I authored editorials for the newspaper urging Gov. Rick Perry to look past the I-45/I-35 corridor from where all Supreme Court justices hailed. I checked out the histories all the remaining eight justices and learned they all came from communities within that swath that runs through Central Texas.

The newspaper urged Gov. Perry to look westward. Johnson expressed an interest in getting appointed.

To his credit, Perry did appoint Johnson to the court.

Now, I am not going to take credit for the appointment. It’s likely no more than a coincidence. After all, Johnson did have one powerful friend in the Texas Senate, fellow Republican Bob Duncan — a former law partner of Johnson in Lubbock — who very likely made it known to the “right people” that Gov. Perry needed to appoint Johnson to the Supreme Court.

So, I’ll take all the credit I deserve for Justice Johnson’s appointment.

I also want to wish this good man well as he rides off into retirement.

Wanting to share some wisdom from a friend

I feel an overwhelming need to share something that a friend and former colleague posted on social media.

Her name is Beth Butler. We worked together for a few years at the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News. She left quite a few years ago. I stayed on until Aug. 31, 2012.

Beth posted this item on Facebook:

I have never met a single person who believes we should throw the borders wide open, much less give cars to immigrants (legal or not). I have never talked to anyone in real life who thinks no more newcomers should be allowed into the U.S. I have never met a Democrat who thinks it’s great that Steve Scalise got shot. I’ve never met a Republican who thinks mailing pipe bombs is a good way to solve political disagreements. These people are extremists. They are not rational. They do not represent America. Why are we letting them set the tone?

Please, please, please let’s stop reacting emotionally. We will not agree on everything. None of us can have everything our way, but we can work together to find workable solutions. If we keep letting the lunatic fringe define our positions, we will destroy this country and one another.

Republicans running for public office are “defining” the views of Democrats, but they are lying their backsides off in the process.

The nation’s top Republican, Donald Trump, is leading the amen chorus of lies.

My friend’s brief message is calling them out. I want to thank her for doing so.

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.