Tag Archives: Internet

The scourge of doctored ‘photographs’

Oh, how I fear “photos” such as the one pictured here.

It’s fake. Phony. Doctored. It purports to show Donald Trump lending a hand to someone trapped by Hurricane Harvey’s floodwater. It’s not. The original is of some Austin Fire Department personnel in that boat helping the individual who was caught by Mother Nature’s wrath.

The picture is just one of those scourges that media folks — and that includes bloggers such as yours truly — must deal with on occasion.

This image is quite obviously doctored. The president is depicted in a suit and tie with no life jacket. That’s a serious non-starter.

But the Internet has produced its share of curses in this new media age. The ability to transmit doctored images intended to put individuals in a negative light or in a falsely positive light is just one of those curses.

We full-time bloggers need to be careful about these images. I work for myself. I have no one but myself to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Doctored images present immediate challenges that can bite us hard where we don’t like being bitten.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am happy to acquaint myself with much of this 21st-century technology. However, not all of it gives me pleasure. It does keep me more alert to the potential danger that these images can present.

Yearning for a simpler TV-viewing era

Our move from Amarillo to Fairview has been mostly seamless, mostly smooth, mostly simple and straightforward.

Except for one element that has become part of modern living.

TV viewing.

I am officially longing for the days when we sat on the couch, able to watch three — maybe four, if you include public television — programs on our TV. When you wanted to change the channel, you lifted yourself off the couch, walked to the set and turned the knob next to the big ol’ picture that was filled with hot tubes inside.

No more.

Today, we watch TV programs that are delivered on a variety of platforms, networks, “streaming” services. You name it, someone will have a way to get it to you.

If you can find a service that works well all the time.

We made the move to Fairview and installed an Internet/TV service packaged together. We were obligated to purchase this service. It ain’t cheap, man! But we did as we were instructed.

My problem at the moment is that we cannot get all the televisions in our new home to operate fully and flawlessly at the same time. Indeed, at this very moment, two of the three TV sets in our home have been rendered inoperable because of the technology associated with the TV service for which we are paying a handsome monthly fee.

I’m a fairly well educated individual. I consider myself to possess above-average intelligence. However, when I get a TV “technician” on the phone and he starts talking me through some of the issues that might be preventing us from getting TV service, my mind freezes up. My brain vapor-locks.

The young man might as well be speaking Martian to me.

High-tech gadgetry — which I consider this new-fangled TV service to be — is intended to expand our entertainment options. I get it. First things first, however. The first order of business is to get it to work right.

To get to that point, I guess I need to become fluent in Martian.

More pain gets inflicted in the media

Oh, the hits just keep coming.

The San Antonio Express-News — the newspaper of record for Texas’s second-largest city — has announced another round of layoffs. It doesn’t stop. The reductions are costing communities the services of valuable craftsmen and women with decades of experience reporting on the issues of the day.

When will it end? Ever? Well, it has to end, likely when the last reporter checks out for the final time. Will he or she please be sure to turn out the lights?

The Internet is the culprit. The villain. The bogeyman.

It has spawned a whole new array of “news and information” outlets. Cable news has joined the fray. Righties have their own view of the “truth,” as do the lefties. They hunker down and consume only the “information” that comports with their world view.

It sickens and saddens me at the same time.

I once was a victim of the changing climate. I was told during a company “reorganization” that I no longer would do what I had done at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years. I wrote editorials and columns for the paper. The publisher at the time decided to reshuffle the deck. After interviewing for my own job, I got the news: We’ve offered it to someone else and he has accepted.

I quit on the spot.

Not long after I left the G-N in the summer of 2012, I scored an interview with the Express-News. The editorial page editor flew me to San Antonio, where I spent the day talking to him, the paper’s publisher and the EPE’s editorial page staff members.

The fellow with whom I interviewed made quite a point of telling me how the Hearst Corp. was reinvesting in the Express-News, restoring positions that had been cut. Times were good in the Alamo City, he said.

I didn’t get the gig. The paper was “going in another direction,” the e-mail message told me.

It’s all good now.

I want to re-share with you a quick story. I was at my post at the Amarillo newspaper. A gentleman called about a letter he had submitted. I chose not to publish it. Why? It was full of falsehoods.

His response was classic. “I know it’s true,” he said. I asked, “How do you know that?” He said, “Because I saw it on the Internet.”

I laughed out loud into the phone.

It’s a brand new, and damn scary, world out there.

What will become of ‘newspapers’?

I feel the need to put the word “newspapers” in quote marks because of a trend I am sensing.

It is that “newspapers” as we have known them — and some of us have revered them — are on their last legs. At least that is my sense.

Friends ask me all the time, even though I’ve been out of the full-time newspaper game for nearly six years, what I project for the craft I pursued for nearly four decades.

The term “newspaper” will become obsolete. Media organizations are going to have to come up with a new name for their method of distributing information and reporting on the news of the day. As a matter of fact, many newspapers no longer refer to the place where reporters and editors work as “newsrooms”; they call them “information centers,” or terms such as that. News “copy” is now called “content,” and newspapers themselves are now referred to as “the product.”

When will this occur? I don’t know. I fear the pace of that day’s arrival might be accelerating. The Salt Lake Tribune recently announced widespread layoffs; it is just the latest major metropolitan daily newspaper to scale back its work force in the face of plummeting circulation and advertising revenue.

So many others have gone through it.

The Amarillo Globe-News is one of them. I worked there for nearly 18 years. Then I quit in August 2012 in the midst of a company “reorganization.” Just this past year, the paper quit printing its daily editions in Amarillo; it’s being done in Lubbock, at the presses of another newspaper under the same corporate ownership.

Then in October of this past year, Morris Communications sold its entire chain of newspapers to GateHouse Media. The consolidation has continued, with the Lubbock and Amarillo newspapers operating under a single senior management team: a regional publisher and editor, both of who split their time between Amarillo and Lubbock.

Do you see a trend here? I don’t know where this will all end. I probably shouldn’t even care — but I do, having devoted my entire professional career to newspapers as we all knew them, grew up with them, loved them and hated them.

I will mourn the day they disappear.

Pain continues in newspaper industry

My heart sank again this week when I learned of the huge layoffs at the Salt Lake Tribune, once known as one of the nation’s better newspapers.

The paper released roughly a third of its newsroom staff. Many of those who were let go are among the best journalists in Utah.

Is any of this new? Sadly, no. It is happening across the country. Major metro papers are feeling the pain, along with mid-size papers and the mom/pop shops.

The culprit? The Internet!

The solution? It’s harder to identify.

Media outlets, namely newspapers, are continuing to struggle to find a business model that fits in this new Information Age … or maybe I should call it the “Disinformation Age.”

The Salt Lake Tribune is suffering from plummeting revenue as readers no longer subscribe the printed paper and advertisers look for other outlets to hawk their wares.

This sickens me.

I came of age professionally at a time when newspapers attracted young Americans who wanted to do good things. They wanted to make a difference in their communities. I admit to being smitten in the early 1970s by the reporting performed in Washington, D.C., although I had begun my college studies before Watergate and the fallout it produced.

There’s no intent to disparage the quality of the reporting being done now, today, as it regards what is happening in D.C. Newspapers are continuing to report and they’re continuing to fulfill their mission.

Since newspapers and other media are for-profit organizations, they need to make money to survive. If readers stop reading, and advertisers stop advertising, then it follows naturally that newspapers are going to struggle.

That story is unfolding in Salt Lake City and in communities across the land. It’s happening in Portland, where I grew up reading a newspaper that achieved the greatness to which its publisher and editors aspired. It’s damn sure happening in Beaumont and Amarillo, Texas, where I toiled for three decades; both cities’ newspapers are decimated shells of their former selves.

Newspaper owners, I am saddened to say, have yet to adapt to the changing business climate that has stripped them of their livelihood.

There will be more sad stories to tell.

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?