Tag Archives: journalism

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’

Happy Trails, Part 119: Smiles reveal relaxed attitude

A recently retired friend of mine posted a picture of himself on social media. My first thought when I saw the picture was: Man, he looks mighty relaxed.

I sent him a message that “retirement suits” him.

So it is with many of my friends who now are retired from varied careers. It seems to me that no matter what they did when they were working for a living, they all seem so much more “relaxed” now that they are free to come and go as they please.

I know that makes me sound like Captain Obvious. It might not seem that way to my younger friends who are still hard at it, still working for The Man, still waiting for the next paycheck.

So maybe this message is for them.

I “retired” from daily journalism on someone else’s terms. I wasn’t able to walk away on my own terms. Still, even though my career ended suddenly and quite unhappily in the manner that it did, I discovered something rapidly as I began transitioning into full-time retirement: I didn’t actually miss working nearly as much as I thought I would.

Indeed, I had many acquaintances tell me as we encountered each other that I was “looking really relaxed.” Some would comment that my face revealed a new outlook on life. They suggested I was smiling more broadly, that I actually had a bit of a spring in my step. My wife was one of those who said I became a different — and more pleasant — person once I stopped reporting for work.

I used to have this crease in the middle of my forehead that seemed almost permanent. When I was working full time, I found myself scowling even when I was relatively calm.

That forehead crease has all but disappeared.

It’s been nearly six years since I walked away from my last full-time job. I’ll admit there were times, especially in the months immediately after it came to a close, that I did look back. I would wonder: What the hell happened back there?

Those days are long gone. I, too, am relaxed.

I feel as relaxed as my newly retired friend who seems to have adjusted immediately to the good life.

Happy Trails, Part 69

Blog-writing remains one of my current passions.

It gives me immense satisfaction in this era of retirement. I wrote opinion articles for many years as a print journalist. Then I stopped being a print journalist.

But I didn’t stop writing opinion pieces. I just post them now online. They get distributed via this blog platform. I have my share of subscribers to the blog and for that I am grateful. My aim is to grow that subscriber list.

I distribute the blog posts through various social media. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are my main vehicles of conveyance.

Here’s one aspect of that process that I want to discuss briefly: Facebook prompts some serious arguments among those who read these posts on that medium.

To be candid, I have a sort of out-of-body experience as I watch these folks argue among themselves.

Someone might comment on a blog post; someone else then might respond Person No. 1’s comment; Person No. 1 then might respond to the response.

And … off they go.

They’re snarling and growling at each other. Occasionally, these exchanges get intensely personal. I have read actual name-calling, although those instances are rare. What happens is that someone might insult some else’s intelligence. In one recent exchange, one of the quarrelers accused  another one of being unable to understand what he reads; thus, one guy accused the other one of being a dim bulb.

I have no particular desire to stop these exchanges. I just choose to stay away from them. No, I don’t mean to suggest that I “stay above” these arguments. I just don’t have the stomach, let alone the time, to engage in continual back-and-forth arguments that at times seem as though they have no end.

One of the lessons I carried with me from print opinion journalism to full-time blogging is that nothing I write is going to change anyone’s mind. We all have our biases. We have our own set of values, most of which were formed when we were, oh, much younger … if not when when we were children.

I prefer to state my case on this blog. And then walk away to the next topic. Oh, I might quibble and quarrel with someone, but I’m only good for about three or maybe four responses; and, yes, I’ve gone beyond that a time or three. Then I’ve had enough.

The way I see it, my relative lack of fighting spirit preserves the love I have for this new retirement adventure.

Oh, how I love blogging.

Students kick new life into gumshoe journalism

Pittsburg, Kan., has become the print journalism capital of America.

It’s because a group of high school students demonstrated to a local school board and the school system’s superintendent that they didn’t do their due diligence in hiring a school administrator.

Man, I love this story.

Six students at Pittsburg High School, who happen to serve on the staff of The Booster Redux — the school newspaper — managed to dig out the truth about the resume presented by the school’s new principal.

Amy Robertson was hired as the principal. Then the students begin sniffing around about the school Robertson had listed on her credentials. It turns out that Corllins University — which Robertson listed as where she earned her masters and doctoral degrees — is nothing more than a degree mill. It ain’t accredited, or legit, the students learned.

Students show up their elders

The students, though some vigorous gumshoe reporting — and the help of the Internet doing basic Google searches — managed to show up the school board and the superintendent, who should have vetted the principal properly before hiring her.

And what, in this instance, constitutes proper vetting? Nothing more than checking to determine the quality of the school that Robertson had listed as providing her education.

The students did the school board’s and superintendent’s job for them.

Get this from the Kansas City Star: “On Wednesday, Destry Brown, the Pittsburg schools superintendent, said the district was reposting the job and from now on will be doing a background check and vetting credentials before any candidate is hired.”

Background check and vetting credentials? No spit, folks.

What gives this story its additional legs is that the student  reporters employed basic journalism principles in rooting out an important story. It gives some of us old-school journalism dinosaurs hope that the profession is about to jump off its death bed before it is overcome by “click-bait journalism” preferred by too many publishers these days as they stagger away from traditional print journalism to something called “the digital product.”

The students didn’t expect this kind of attention. The national media have jumped on this story, I believe, because it speaks to old-school journalism values exhibited by a group of young people who — one might surmise — are more attuned to social media and other 21st-century technology.

Nice going, students. You have made many of your journalism elders — including yours truly — quite proud of you.

Journalists enter increasingly hostile environment

Those of who toiled as journalists — whether print or broadcast — have been forced to cope with the perception that the public hasn’t thought too much of us and the work we do.

There was a longstanding joke in the old days that reporters and used-car sales reps battled it out for the bottom spot on the public opinion totem pole.

These days, we now have the president of the United States tossing dung on top of reporters, calling them the “enemy of the people,” accusing them of outright dishonesty, suggesting they conspire to make up “fake news” and peddle it as the real thing.

Man, it’s even tougher these days to do the job I did for nearly 37 years.

I recently made the acquaintance of two young reporters for the Amarillo Globe-News, my final stop along my lengthy journalism journey — which ended on Aug. 31, 2012. They are both earnest and eager young reporters. I don’t know this as fact, but my sense is that the AGN is their first job out of college.

It’s a different type of profession now than it was when I got pointed in that direction way back when, before The Flood, or so it seems.

I never considered myself to be anyone’s “enemy.” My desire was to make a difference in the world and to chronicle events in my community and report them to the public. I spent most of my career in opinion journalism, but many of the principles that apply to reporting — such as fairness and accuracy — surely applied.

That was in the early 1970s. I had just finished a two-year hitch in the U.S. Army. I came home in the late summer of 1970, settled in with Mom and Dad and prepared to re-enroll in college the following January.

One evening, at dinner with my parents, Dad asked me if I had considered what my college major should be. I said I hadn’t thought it through. He asked, “Have you considered journalism?” I asked him, “Why that?”

He complimented me on the letters I wrote from Virginia and Vietnam, where I had served during my time in the Army. He called them “descriptive” and said he would share them with family members and friends. He thought journalism would be a good fit, enabling me to put my writing ability to good use.

“Sure thing, Dad,” I said. “I’ll consider that.” I did. I enrolled. I signed up for some mass communications classes. The bug bit me in the rear and, by golly, I was hooked. Of course, I learned right away that journalism isn’t just about whether one can write clearly; one needs to be able to learn how to gather information and determine its importance to the public.

I wonder today how many parents are having that kind of discussion with their college-bound children. I wonder if moms and dads are telling their kids to pursue this craft. Or have they bought into the tripe being peddled by the president that to be a reporter is to declare war on “the people,” to be their “enemy.”

For that matter, did those two young reporters I met recently whether they got that kind of pep talk from Mom or Dad at the dinner table.

The craft is changing rapidly. Newspapers are emphasizing their “digital content.” They are becoming — to borrow a distasteful term — “click whores” that are more interested in how many people click on their websites than in the number of people purchasing a newspaper.

I do wish all young reporters the very best as they seek to make their own way in this changing — and increasingly hostile — climate.

Penmanship: It’s a goner

My day is almost over, but before “I lay me down to sleep,” I want to offer this minor regret about the craft I pursued for 37 years.

My handwriting has gone straight to hell.

I was blessed with good penmanship as a child. I got good grades from my elementary school teachers who used to actually grade students’ penmanship. My parents both had exquisite penmanship. I have in my possession a stack of letters Mom wrote to one of her brothers in the late 1940s. Her handwriting was impeccable.

I came of age with that kind of handwriting. I was inducted into the Army in 1968 and wrote letters home constantly. Dad would share them with friends and other family members.

I came home from the Army in the summer of 1970, re-enrolled in college in January 1971 and started taking mass communications classes.

I became a reporter, which required those of us in the profession at the time to learn how to write rapidly. I had to take copious notes from subjects I would interview. When one has to write like that so frequently, it stands to reason that one’s penmanship is going to suffer.

I finished school, got started in journalism. I kept writing quickly. My handwriting kept deteriorating.

Now? It’s shot all to hell. My wife needles me good-naturedly about it on occasion. She remembers my good penmanship.

Yes, I know that penmanship no longer is even taught in school these days. Children operate handheld “devices” to communicate. Many of them can’t tell time by looking at an old-fashioned clock dial.

My handwriting got so bad that I actually fantasized about some judge issuing a subpoena ordering me to turn over my notes. Hah! Go ahead and try to decipher this scribble, Your Honor!

But I do regret that I no longer can write with precision.

Mom and Dad no doubt would be unhappy with this admission.

Still relying on time pieces

watch

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

Take a good look at the watch you see in this picture.

I’ll have more to say about that in a moment.

I’ve decided that I likely will be addicted to knowing what time it is even after I enter full retirement mode. My reasons are simple and quite justifiable.

For nearly 37 years — as I toiled in daily journalism — I performed under deadline pressure. As a reporter I had to get stories turned in by a certain time — or else face the editor’s wrath. As an editor, I had to oversee other reporters’ deadline performance. As an opinion page writer and editor, I always had to get my work done by a certain time every day.

I lived by the clock. I looked at my wrist constantly. Am I late? Do I have more time?

This morning, I awoke to discover that my battery-powered Citizen watch — a nice watch, but nothing gawdy — had quit overnight. The battery croaked. Oh my goodness! What to do?

I thought about it for all of about 5 seconds. Then I went to my drawer and pulled out the watch you see in this picture. It’s a very old Bulova. It’s one of those self-winders. I set the time, strap it onto my wrist, jiggle my wrist two or three times and off she goes — the watch, that is.

Mom gave it to me in 1980 after Dad died. That was more than 36 years ago, which makes the watch old just by that measure. Except that Dad wore the thing for as long as I can remember before that. He wasn’t wearing the watch when he died suddenly in a boating accident all those years ago.

Mom wanted me to have it. I accepted it with great gratitude — and I cried like a baby, too.

It still works. It keeps perfect time. I took it to a jeweler here in Amarillo to see about having it cleaned. He removed the back of the watch, took one look at it, and put it back together. Then he said the watch’s innards are too delicate, too old to mess with. “When it stops working, that’s it,” he said. “You’ll just have to retire it.” It’s been semi-retired ever since, sort of like me.

I don’t see myself going without a watch on my wrist. It’s who I am. Sure, I could tell time by pulling my fancy-shmancy I-phone out of its holster. I’d rather not do that.

I know a lot of retired folks who no longer wear watches. What’s the point? they ask. Why do I need to be anywhere? Members of my immediate family are like that. My sons don’t wear watches, either. They rely on their big-time telecommunications devices to keep them on schedule. My granddaughter — who’s all of 3 years of age! — already is becoming tech-savvy. Will she ever wear a watch? I, um, doubt it.

I’ll stick with the old way of telling time. It’s worked well for me for more than six decades. Why change now?

Words ‘I am retired’ flowing more easily

retirement.pic_

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

You might not think this is a big deal, but it is to me.

The words “I am retired” are flowing more easily out of my pie hole these days.

I get asked frequently by customers at the auto dealership where I work: “Do you do this full time, part time or what? Are you retired?”

My answer: “Oh I’m retired now.”

Actually, my presence at the auto dealership reveals that I am not yet fully retired. I’m getting there, slowly but inexorably.

I’ll admit to being a bit uncomfortable saying “I am retired” when I first started collecting my Social Security income. My discomfort wasn’t anything that I can identify. I didn’t have pangs in my gut. I didn’t stutter when I said it. I didn’t flinch, wince or grimace at the sound of the words.

It was just a strange set of words coming from me, of all people, a guy who had worked pretty damn hard for nearly 40 years in daily journalism. Then it ended. I was sent out to pasture, along with a number of other, um, more mature fellow practitioners of this noble craft.

I have admitted already that I wasn’t ready for the day I tendered my resignation after being told someone else would be doing the job I had been doing at my last newspaper stop here in Amarillo. Instead of seeking another job at the Globe-News, I decided to quit.

Boom, just like that, my career was over.

The onset of retirement is sounding more comfortable to me these days. I’ve still got a couple of part-time jobs that keep me busy. There’s the Street Toyota auto dealership customer service gig; there’s also my freelance writing gig at KFDA NewsChannel 10.

However, I am feeling more retired these days than not.

What’s more, I am quite comfortable saying it out loud.

Ain’t it cool?

Hey … what day is it?

retirement.pic_

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

I once knew this guy, the late Neil McKay, who was fond of poking fun at people.

“Aww,” Neil would say, “he doesn’t even know what day it is.” He meant the jab in a sort of kind-hearted way.

If he were around today, he could say that very thing about me.

It would be true … almost!

Back in the day, when I was working full time for a living, I had to know what day it is. It was imperative. I lived on deadlines and getting my work done by a certain time and a certain day — or else. Journalism makes those demands on those who practice the craft.

Now? I’m hard-pressed on occasion to keep ’em straight.

I’m aware that today is Friday. In fact, I rolled out of bed this morning knowing it. But the days do arrive when I cannot quite grasp the day of the week.

I end up looking at my watch — yes, I still wear one of those things on my wrist — to make sure I know the day.

The notion of retirement is freeing me of the time-sensitive obligations that tie down most of you working stiffs. Even though I’m there yet and have not arrived at the “fully retired” stage of life, I find myself grasping at times for information that I had locked in my noggin.

The day of the week? Gosh, I don’t know. Let me check.

My major concern these days — other than planning the next RV outing with my wife or awaiting the next visit with our granddaughter — seems to be ensuring that I am able to see the sun rise the next morning.

Four years and two months into this new, semi-retired phase of life, I’m happy to say … so far, so good.

Feeling more ‘retired’ these days

whyretire

This is the latest in an occasional series of blogs commenting on upcoming retirement.

I’ve mentioned already that I have assumed a new status at one of the four part-time jobs I’ve been working during the past year.

The new on-call/as-needed status means that I’m spending more time at home working my three other jobs, all of which allow me to work from my study.

One of them does require that I leave the house to interview subjects for news stories I write.

But here’s what I’ve discovered about this new phase of my life as I inch toward full retirement: I like the untethered feeling.

What’s more, I’m getting more comfortable with it.

Yes, I have errands to run and things to do around the house. I get to keep posting items on this blog, which gives me great joy as I’m able to comment on this and that.

These days, though, my wife and I spend a good deal of time talking to each other about our future. The conversations almost always involve spending more time with grandchildren, traveling in our recreational vehicle, sprucing up our home and just feeling good these days about our lot in life.

I’m not yet ready to jettison the rest of my jobs. They all involve journalism, which for decades — while I was working full time for The Man — defined me to my friends and acquaintances. It doesn’t define me that much these days, which is the way I want it to be. Still, my work with two TV stations in Amarillo and a weekly newspaper in New Mexico give me great pleasure.

My former career is getting much smaller in that proverbial rear-view mirror. That’s all right, too.

Life is good.