Tag Archives: Internet

Parkland reveals disgraceful aspect of Internet

We’ve all known how the Internet reveals evil intent as well as producing positive impact.

I present to you the Parkland, Fla., massacre and the outrage it has produced among high school students in that community as well as around the country.

It appears some right-wing trolls are spreading lies about the students, calling them “actors” hired to present anti-Donald Trump rhetoric while standing up for the FBI.

I have insufficient knowledge of the English language to express my utter disgust at these Internet trolls.

A gunman opened fire on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He killed 17 people: 14 students and three educators. Police arrested the gunman and he now is accused of 17 counts of premeditated murder. The shooter reportedly plans to plead guilty so that he can avoid a death sentence.

But what about the students who are rallying this week in Tallahassee, Fla., to lobby state lawmakers to take action on gun violence? Are they “actors”?

No. They are not. They are survivors of a hideous act of violence committed against them and their friends and mentors.

That didn’t prevent an aide to a Republican Florida legislator from fomenting the lie that they are “actors.” The legislator fired the aide on the spot. He’s not alone, though. Other disgraceful trolls have sought to undermine the public statements of these students by alleging that they are hired by political interests that favor stricter gun control laws.

I am reminded of what a letter writer told me once while I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I rejected the letter because it contained falsehoods. When I spoke to the writer over the phone to tell him why I was rejecting his letter, he answered that he knows its contents were true “because I read it on the Internet.”

I laughed out loud.

On this matter — regarding the lies being told about these grieving students — I would laugh, except that it’s not funny.

It is an utter disgrace.

Big change is coming to local media outlet

I heard the news this morning via a text message from a former colleague.

The publisher of the Amarillo Globe-News — where I worked for nearly 18 years — is “stepping down.” Lester Simpson, who ran the paper for more than 15 years, is leaving to, um, pursue other interests. The announcement came today; Simpson’s last day on the job is Friday.

I will not comment in any detail on Simpson’s tenure at the Globe-News. I’ve already shared with you the circumstances of my departure from that organization in August 2012. It was an unhappy event that has led to a glorious post-journalism life for my wife and me.

I also have commented on this blog about the state of the Globe-News, how I perceive it to be in dire peril. Its decline occurred on Simpson’s watch as publisher. Enough said there.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

The paper is owned by someone new. GateHouse Media purchased the entire Morris Communications group of newspapers this past fall. Morris had owned the Globe-News since 1972, when it purchased the paper from S.B. Whittenberg.

Print media all across the country have undergone immense change over the past decade. The Internet has taken huge bites out of print media’s income base; advertisers have bailed from newspapers, along with subscribers.

I have no clue on how GateHouse intends to wage that struggle. My hope for the community is that it does a better job in fighting that fight than Morris ever did.

The Texas Panhandle deserves to have a strong media voice chronicling events in its various communities. There once was a time when the Globe-News was a significance presence in communities ranging from Perryton to Plainview and from Farwell to Childress. That’s no longer the case.

Morris Communications sought to achieve greatness as a media company, but to my mind usually fell woefully short. It couldn’t execute a strategy. The Globe-News sought to cultivate a TV audience on its website; it hasn’t worked. On my last day on the job there, Aug. 31, 2012, Simpson told me “radical changes” were coming to the paper; the only radical change I’ve seen has been the precipitous decline in the paper’s ability to cover the life of the communities it used to serve.

So … the winds of change continue to sweep through what used to be the Texas Panhandle’s preeminent media organization.

I wish those who remain at the Globe-News well as they continue to fight under new leadership.

Once-flourishing craft is in serious peril

I am saddened by what I see happening to the craft I pursued for 37 years.

It’s in trouble. Print journalism as I pursued it is being eaten alive by technology it never saw coming back in the 1970s when I entered that line of work.

I won’t buy into the nutty notion that newspapers are no longer viable purveyors of information. They continue to do great work covering the news of the day. They continue to keep the public informed on policy matters that have direct impact on citizens of this country.

Nor will I accept the “fake news” mantra that keeps pouring out of the pie holes of conservative politicians who seek to discredit the media that are merely doing their job.

What is happening to newspaper saddens me because it need not happen in the manner that is occurring.

I want to point to the last stop on my career, the Amarillo Globe-News, as an example of what I see transpiring. The newspaper that once won print journalism’s greatest honor is now a mere shadow of its former self.

In 1960, the Globe-News actually comprised two newspapers: The Daily News and the Globe-Times. The Globe-Times captured the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service by exposing county government corruption. The paper was led by the legendary editor Tommy Thompson. If you look at the G-N’s building on Van Buren Street, you’ll see a plaque commemorating that honor.

But …

The Van Buren Street building is vacant. The paper’s new corporate owners, GateHouse Media, decided to move what is left of the newsroom across the parking lot to the company’s other office building facing Harrison Street. That structure has an inscription over its front door: “A newspaper can forgiven for lack of wisdom, but never for lack of courage.” That quote came from another legendary figure, Globe-Times publisher Gene Howe.

I was proud to work for the Globe-News for nearly 18 years. My career ended on Aug. 31, 2012. I resigned after being phased out of my job in a corporate reorganization.

The paper has continued to wither since then. It’s not because of my absence, but rather because — as I have viewed it — the paper has not kept pace with the changing information trends sweeping the world.

It sells far fewer copies each day than it did a decade ago. It publishes its daily editions with far fewer employees than it did even five years ago. The Globe-News no longer operates a printing press in Amarillo; its editions are printed in Lubbock and then shipped back to Amarillo for delivery to what remains of its subscriber list.

The newsroom used to operate in a different building from where the advertising department works. That was by design. When I arrived in January 1995 I was told that the newspaper wanted to keep the functions separate to protect the integrity of the news-gathering team. There would be no pressure to publish stories that advertisers might want.

Today? The depleted newsroom staff now sits side by side with an equally depleted advertising staff in the first-floor office space on Harrison Street.

My, how times have changed.

I am acutely aware that other media markets are undergoing tremendous pressures as well. Some major metro markets no longer even have newspapers delivered daily to subscribers’ homes.

They face pressure from the Internet, from cable TV news, from the plethora of outlets that provide information that could be legit — or it could be, um, fake.

Meanwhile, newspaper reporters and editors continue to do their jobs the way they were taught to do them. The problem, though, is that much of the public isn’t paying attention.

And a once-flourishing and proud craft is paying a grievous price.

I look at what is left of the place that served as my last stop on a career that gave me so much happiness and satisfaction — and I am saddened.

Needing to hide frustration with Internet lingo

I need to learn to disguise my frustration with Internet jargon, lingo, terms of art.

Today was a bit of a shopping day for me. I ventured to a couple of locations in Amarillo to find a gift for my much better half. One of them was Barnes & Noble, the famous bookseller.

I asked about a particular book. The young man looked it up online. “I’m sorry to tell you we’re sold out,” he said. “But I can order it for you.” I asked if it would get here by Christmas. “Oh, no.”

Then I mentioned that she has this Internet tablet. He asked if it was equipped with a “Nook” or some other kind of hookup.

That’s when I let it slip. I answered in a voice that dripped with exasperation: “I … don’t … know.”

My answer, or more to the point the tone of my voice, drew out-loud laughter from the six other customers who were gathered around the Customer Service kiosk.

A young man standing next to me said he understood my exasperation. A lady pointed to a man standing next to her who I presume is her husband and said “That sounds like someone I know pretty well.” The fellow about whom I think she was referring laughed … again!

This new Information Age has created a language that many of us don’t yet understand. I’m getting a bit more conversant in some of it. I am able to talk to the company that “hosts” my blog domain and am able to ask fairly intelligent questions. Two years ago I would have had the tech on the other end of the phone pulling his or her hair out by the roots.

My sons and my daughter-in-law know how to speak this language. I am guessing that very soon my 4-year-old granddaughter will be fluent in Internet-speak; indeed, her brothers already have learned the language.

Me? I’m going to work first on masking my ignorance.

The plug is pulled; goodbye, land line

It is done. My wife and I have taken a huge step deeper into the 21st century.

Our land line is all but disabled. I removed the modem that powers the land line and will return it to our service provider Friday, along with the cable TV boxes.

But this land line termination is a big deal for my wife and me.

It’s all we’ve known for our entire lives. Speaking only for myself, a telephone hooked up to an outlet that comes from the wall has been a sort of life preserver. It’s kept me grounded. It has reminded me that I have this way to communicate immediately with whomever.

That era has passed. A new era has begun. We now rely solely on our cellular telephones to talk to folks. Oh, and we have the Internet. Social media communications devices are at our disposal, too. However, I am not going to use “text messaging” as a conversational tool.

This land line termination hasn’t quite hit me the way I expected it to do.

I once declared my intention to be the last person on Earth to own a cell phone. I declared victory some years ago and purchased one. I’ve become much more comfortable with the device on my person as I go through each day of my life. I don’t break into a cold sweat, though if I leave it at home while I go about my usual errand-running.

Retirement has brought a new way of living each day for my wife and me. I’ve gotten used to waking up each morning when I damn well feel like it. I have grown quite accustomed to not reporting for work every morning. I am quite comfortable shopping for groceries in, say, 10 a.m. on a Wednesday.

Our grand relocation strategy, moreover, is beginning to take some form. The to-do list of things we need to finish at our current home is shrinking. We’re better able now to identify the tasks that remain ahead of us.

One of them has just passed. We have pulled the plug on our land line. I am feeling strangely free. I’m no longer tethered to a telephone.

I’m still processing it all. Is there any sign of initial anxiety?

Nope. None.

***

I wrote about this event four years ago. I was full of angst and anxiety then. It seems to have gone away … mostly. However, it’s still a big deal.

Why is the land line so hard to cut?

Internet can be addictive … you know?

SALLISAW, Okla. — My name is John and I am addicted to the Internet.

There. I said it. I admitted it. Is that the first step toward a cure? I have no earthly idea if that puts me on my way. I’ll deal with it.

We came to this place near the end of our latest two-week sojourn in our pickup with fifth wheel in tow. We had spent a miserable previous day getting a major repair done to our RV, so we decided to pull up to a municipal park just north of this quaint eastern Oklahoma community.

We wound our way back into the woods, found Brushy Lake Park. Set up our RV site. Paid the fee. Then I sought to open up my laptop to write a blog about, oh, this and/or that.

Oops! No cell phone service. No service means no Internet. No Internet means so surfing the universe of information and opinion for grist upon which to comment.

For the briefest of moments, I felt — how do I say it? — a bit lost. I love writing this blog. I love doing so from different locations where my wife and I end up. I was unable to do so for an entire evening.

I got over my Internet separation anxiety fairly quickly. I figured, “What the hey?” I’ll get back into The Game as soon as we depart and return to within some cell phone service network — and I’ll reconnect with the Big Ol’ World of Internet.

I’m savvy enough about the Internet to know that I should take every single thing I read on it to the proverbial bank. I know a lot of it is merely someone else’s opinion.

However … I did experience a bit of withdrawal until I was able to return to what passes in this day and time as The World.

Oh, the park where we spent the night? It was beautiful, quiet and full of peace.

‘Do you miss what you did?’ Yes … and no!

People who know me through the work I did for nearly four decades ask me the same question, albeit a bit differently, all the time.

“Do you miss it?” they ask. “It” is my career in print journalism. It was my craft for nearly 37 years. It was my identity in three communities where I worked: first in Oregon City, Ore., and then in Beaumont and Amarillo, both in Texas. People who said they “knew” me actually only knew my work. My picture appeared in newspapers alongside my columns; my name appeared on editorial page mastheads.

Did they “know” me? Not really.

But the craft I enjoyed so much is changing rapidly. Newspapers no longer distribute as many copies each day. Publishers say they’re committed to what they call “the print product,” but many of us believe differently.

The changing times have claimed many talented print journalists. One of them recently called it a career. He walked away from a job at a major metro daily newspaper to take a job with a public television station.

The bad news is that the newspaper has lost an astonishing talent. The good news is that this young man is going to continue a new form of journalism, which he will meld into TV production.

His story will end up well, no matter where his life’s journey takes him. He’s got a long way to go before it’s finished.

But as I grow older and am farther removed from the career I enjoyed for so many years, the less connected I feel toward those who still practice this noble craft. Sure, they remain friends. I have many of them scattered throughout the country.

However, as I count the number of people with whom I have shared this craft — and this includes men and women who are much younger than I am — the list of former print journalists is outpacing those who are still hard at it.

I remain proud of the career I pursued. I also am proud of those who continue to fight through the amazing change that is occurring within the craft.

They still are answering a noble calling, which is to report the news fairly and without bias. Whether they report for a newspaper, or for a public TV station, or for an online “publication,” they are performing a priceless public service to a public that still relies on them for information in its purest form.

Do I miss working in that environment? Yes — even though I spent the bulk of my career writing opinion. Do I miss the media tumult that broke out just a few years before my career came to its sudden end? Not in the least.

Those who are still hitting it hard have earned my respect and admiration.

Those who have gone on to — as they say on occasion — “pursue other interest” have my best wishes.

My own future lies with this blog.

Taking a one-day break from politics and public policy

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I am going to join some of my fellow social media pals and refrain from talking politics today.

There. That’s the extent of my mention of the p-word.

Instead, I’m going to concentrate my energy on other matters.

I might watch a football game or two … but don’t hold me to that.

Dinner awaits. It won’t be a huge affair for my wife, son and me. It’s just the three of us, so we have decided to go easy on ourselves.

I’m going to scroll through the Internet throughout the day to catch up on the news. I won’t mention any of it here today. Tomorrow is another day.

I might even brush up on social media-speak. For example, I don’t yet know how to use the word “meme” properly. I’ll take a minute to look it up. My trusty American Heritage desk dictionary likely doesn’t even have it listed. I guess I’ll go online to find the meaning of the word. Wish me luck there.

I believe, though, I’ll spend the bulk of my day giving thanks quietly.

Thanks go to the fact that we live in such a wonderful and, yes, a great nation. I always give thanks to my family, who I cherish more than life itself. I am thankful for the good health I continue to enjoy.

I will give thanks, finally, for the opportunity I am granting myself to forgo commenting on the many things that have caused me great anxiety over the past few months. (See? I didn’t mention the p-word.)

That, too, can wait for another day.

Until then, let’s all enjoy this uniquely American holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Trump saw it on Internet, which makes it true?

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Ezra Klein has hit on a matter that ought to send chills up the spines of even the most ardent of Donald J. Trump’s supporters.

Writing on Vox.com, the bright young journalist/researcher writes about something Trump said this past Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Trump said the guy who rushed the stage in Dayton, Ohio, where he was speaking was a follower of the Islamic State. How did he know that? He saw something on the Internet, Trump said, which meant it just had to be true.

Is Trump too gullible to be president? That’s the question Klein seeks to answer. He seems to believe Trump’s gullibility disqualifies him categorically for the presidency.

As if he hasn’t disqualified himself already with all the countless earlier idiotic pronouncements he’s made.

The Internet is a valuable source for information. It’s also a source for nonsense.

For more years than I care to remember — perhaps ever since the Internet came on the scene — I’ve adhered to a certain policy: It is to believe the tiniest fraction of 1 percent of anything I read on the Internet. You cannot take seemingly anything at face value if you read it “on the Internet.”

I actually have spoken with people who submitted letters and essays to the newspaper where I worked with information that looked patently absurd, but who swore to me that it was true “because I saw it on the Internet.”

Trump’s assertion on national television Sunday morning that the stage rusher was an ISIS supporter based on Internet chatter demonstrates way beyond the shadow of any doubt of Trump’s unfitness for the office he is seeking.

The guy who rushed the stage? He’s an Italian-American named Thomas DiMassimo, a Christian … who denied immediately any ISIS allegiance. He said he was was just trying to make a scene.

Mission accomplished, dude.

 

Internet proves, um, wrong!

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Back in the day — when I toiled at a daily newspaper — I actually had the following exchange with a reader of the paper who had submitted a letter to the editor and asked me to publish it.

Me: Are you sure about your facts here? This stuff looks kind of fishy to me.

Reader: Of course I’m sure. It’s the truth. I got it on the Internet.

Suffice to say we didn’t publish the individual’s letter.

The Internet is a lot of things. The purveyor of the whole truth all the time, though, is not one of them.

Breitbart.com posted a story that has Amarillo abuzz with concern. It describes the city as a haven for Middle East refugees and that the city is being “overrun” by them.

Not so, says Mayor Paul Harpole.

I’ve got to give Amarillo Globe-News reporter Kevin Welch huge props for exposing this nonsense.

Harpole said the city is working to control all immigrants, which include refugees. The issue isn’t limited to just those fleeing bloodshed and misery in the Middle East.

But according to the Welch’s story, Brietbart.com and some other conservative websites are disseminating bogus “information” about the state of affairs in little ol’ Amarillo, Texas.

It’s been a given for years that Amarillo has been a magnet of sorts for immigrants. Community faith-based and secular organizations have done a lot over the years to welcome immigrants, as Welch reported.

The city, though, isn’t being swarmed, swamped and swallowed up by hordes of refugees, as some Internet sites have said.

The fallacy of this kind of alleged “reporting” contains several lessons.

One of them ought to become required of all who consume news and commentary. It is that the Internet is a source for fiction far more frequently than it is a source for fact.