Tag Archives: Digital Age

Repeating the same cliche I’ve been hearing

Good grief. I am now repeating the cliché I keep hearing from family and friends when the discussion turns to the fate and cloudy future of print media.

I have talked about the slow and inexorable demise of quality journalism at one of the newspapers where I once worked, the Amarillo Globe-News.

Then I get the response: It’s happening everywhere!

I guess they intend to make me feel better. It has the opposite effect. That response seems to diminish the agony my former colleagues and I felt while we watched the newspaper decline ever so slowly and steadily.

Now comes news of the death of a community newspaper, the Hereford Brand. Wouldn’t you know it? I am now saying the very thing I’ve been hearing: What’s occurring in Hereford is happening in small towns all across the United States of America.

It sickens me, man.

The social media have helped render newspapers — the products of quality journalism — increasingly irrelevant in people’s daily lives.

Who needs a newspaper when people have those phones in their pockets, or hitched to their belt, or tucked in their purses? They have 24/7 access to cable news shows, Internet sources and any manner of other outlets. They are bombarded with opinion, much of it unqualified. They form their world view on the basis of what pours into those phones or into their laptop or desk top computers.

The Brand will close up officially on Wednesday. Its publisher said declining circulation and advertising revenues have brought about this inevitable outcome.

And by golly, it ain’t unique to Hereford or Deaf Smith County or the Texas Panhandle. It’s happening in communities all across the land.

What’s more, every single one of them is poorer because of this relentless trend.

I am saddened beyond measure and I hate with a passion that I am being forced to acknowledge the sad truth that it’s happening everywhere.

Community journalism takes another gut punch

To those of you who aren’t familiar with the Texas Panhandle, this picture might not mean all that much to you.

Those of us who call the place home — or used to call it home — and worked in the field of print journalism, the photo speaks volumes.

It saddens me greatly.

The picture announces the closing of a community institution in a Texas Panhandle community that once relied on its local newspaper to chronicle its stories, to be the “first draft of history” in the town’s on-going evolution.

Hereford, Texas, sits about 30 miles southwest of Amarillo. The Brand has covered the community for 118 years. It’s going out of business. The owners of the paper cite declining circulation, declining advertising revenue and the unspoken issue of “declining relevance” in the lives of those who once read The Brand.

Man, this really stinks. It’s a continuation, I fear, of what is happening in rural communities all across the nation. The “Digital Age” is inflicting more casualties constantly on once-proud community institutions.

Even in Amarillo, where I worked for nearly 18 years, the Globe-News has vacated its historic location and moved into non-descript offices in a bank tower downtown. It has ceased printing the newspaper in Amarillo; that’s being done in Lubbock. It has hired a regional publisher, a regional executive editor, a regional “director of commentary” and a regional “distribution director.” The emphasis is now on centralizing its daily operations. The newsroom no longer employs photographers, its copy desk functions are being done out of a centralized operation center.

Do you get my drift?

Now this new age of “journalism” has claimed another victim.

The Texas Panhandle has a long and rich tradition of kick-a** journalism. The Amarillo Globe-Times once earned the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, for crying out loud! Communities scattered across the Panhandle’s spacious landscape have been served well by mom-and-pop newspapers that over time have morphed into “group ownership” organizations.

Those communities very soon will have one less newspaper among their ranks.

Sad days, indeed.

Show us your warrant

What’s this? The Supreme Court of the United States has voted unanimously on a ruling that makes sense for Americans? Did hell freeze over or what?

The court ruled 9-to-zip that police need warrants to search people’s cell phones. They can’t just grab them and start poring through text messages, missed calls, voice mails and the other stuff that piles up in people’s cell phones.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/us/supreme-court-cellphones-search-privacy.html?_r=1

What’s more, the ruling has implications to go far beyond the devices people pack on their hips, in their pockets or their purses. It could involve other “smart” devices such as I-pads and laptops.

As the New York Times reported: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, was keenly alert to the central role that cellphones play in contemporary life. They are, he said, ‘such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.’”

Privacy advocates are happy. Heck, I’m happy about it, even though my own phone doesn’t have much in the way secret messages stashed on it.

A back story, here, is the unanimity aspect of the ruling. The court usually splits 5-4 or 6-3 — along liberal-conservative lines. This time all nine of ’em were on the same page.

The Digital Age keeps adding wrinkles that few of us ever imagined when this technology first became available. Even though we can access information much more readily these days, certain principles of privacy and constitutional protection must prevail.

The highest court in America has realized that truth.