Tag Archives: mainstream media

What took so long to build has collapsed in virtually no time at all

It took print journalism, chiefly newspapers, nearly two centuries to attain what used to be a virtually exalted status among their consumers.

And yet, the craft has all but collapsed in virtually no time.

What took years to erect has all but vanished in the blink of an eye.

That observation came from a dear friend of mine with whom I used to have a professional relationship when I worked in Amarillo as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. My friend was a freelance columnist; he had a regular day job, but wrote for us because he was good at it. Our professional relationship ended when I left the newspaper in August 2012. Happily, our personal friendship remains intact.

We were visiting the other evening when he made that stunning observation. His point is that newspapers climbed for a long time up a proverbial mountain to attain an important status in people’s homes. Readers of newspapers depended on them for news of their community, of their state, nation and the world around them. If you wanted to know what was happening in the world, you collected your newspaper off the porch, opened it up and spent a good deal of time reading what it reported to you.

We believed what we read. I mean, if it’s in the daily newspaper then it had to be true. As my friend noted, it took a long time for newspapers to achieve that status.

Then it all changed. Rapidly! Dramatically! Newspapers fell with a loud thud!

The Internet arrived. I can’t remember when it happened, but suffice to say it was the equivalent to the “day before yesterday.” Cable TV exploded. Social media burst forth, too.

All of that media took huge bites out of newspapers’ influence in people’s lives. Has print journalism become less reliable, less believable, less credible than before? I do not believe that is the case. Americans are still reading some first-class reporting from major newspapers that remain important purveyors of vital information.

And yet, we hear the president of the United States refer to the media as “the enemy of the people.” Right-wingers blast what they call the “mainstream media.” They accuse newspapers and other legitimate media organizations of peddling “fake news.” The attacks have exacted a terrible toll on newspapers.

The smaller papers, those that tell us about our communities? They are struggling. Many of them — if not most of them — are losing the struggle. The Amarillo Globe-News, my final stop in a career that I loved pursuing, has been decimated by competing media forces and — in my view — by incompetence at the top of its management chain of command.

My friend’s analysis, though, rings so true. It saddens me beyond measure to realize that it has taken so little time for it all come crashing down.

Trump engaged in frontal assault against freedom of the press

Leave it to Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” a staple of Donald Trump’s favorite news/opinion cable TV channel, to put it in perspective.

Wallace said this to a gathering at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.: “I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.”

Oh, brother, is he ever!

The man who played on his “experience” as a reality TV celebrity host, who once courted the media because they found him, um, entertaining is now launching a full frontal assault on the constitutional guarantee of a free press.

He routinely bullies cable, broadcast and print media representatives. He accuses them of peddling “fake news.” He curries favor with media outlets and then blasts them to smithereens when they don’t do his bidding; Wallace and the Fox News Channel serve as a prime example. Trump has labeled the media as the “enemy of the people” and has applauded right along with the know-nothing faithful who cheer his frightening rhetoric.

Presidents dating back throughout the history of the republic all have noted the adversarial relationship with the media that is built into the presidency. None of them — not until Donald Trump came along — has blathered the kind of incendiary rhetoric toward the media that this president has spewed forth.

As a former full-time print journalist, I — along with many of my former colleagues — take this kind of treatment personally. Now that I am writing for myself, I still take it personally.

Moreover, I continue to salute and honor the great work that media organizations of all stripes continue to do in reporting the goings-on regarding this presidential administration.

The good news for all of them — and the rest of us — is that Donald Trump won’t be president forever. He’ll be gone from the halls of power and will no longer be able to bully the media.

I am waiting for that moment of deliverance from this attack on our essential press freedom.

Fox to POTUS: We don’t work for you!

I’m in a shout-out frame of mind.

Thus, I want to say “good show!” to some of Fox News Channel’s top guns for firing back at Donald Trump’s bitching about what he seems to suggest is a growing “disloyalty” among Fox News’s talking heads.

Longtime journalist Brit Hume brusquely told Trump: “We don’t work for you.” Indeed, the network does not work for Trump, although a few of its commentators occasionally act as if they do.

Trump, though, is griping about the news coverage that Fox is providing.

As The Daily Beast reported about Trump’s recent Twitter-tantrum: The president concluded by complaining that Fox News was “letting millions of GREAT people down” and that he needs to “start looking for a new News Outlet” since the one-time channel “isn’t working for us anymore!”

Fox does have some hard-nosed reporters and news anchors on its staff. I continue to hold up Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday.” It also has Shep Smith and Brett Baier on anchor desks during the week day.

I won’t offer any commentary on the alleged “work” done by, oh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, the “Fox & Friends” co-hosts, or Laura Ingraham. They all are full of opinions and express them regularly. They are entitled, certainly.

However, for Trump to suggest that a major news and opinion outlet should be “loyal” to him is disgusting and disgraceful beyond belief.

The pros at Fox are doing their job.

If only Donald Trump would realize the fundamental truth about Fox. The network might produce more “friendly” or “favorable” coverage than other news outlets, but it does not work for the president of the United States.

I’m glad to hear the Fox superstars pushing back on Donald Trump.

NY Times tells us what we know: Trump is a fraud

Donald Trump campaigned for president on a number of themes.

One of them extolled his business acumen, his genius at making money, the risks he took while building an empire from scratch.

Well, is he the brightest business mind in human history? No. He isn’t. The New York Times report published this week tells us that the future president lost $1 billion in investments for 10 years — from 1985 to 1994. In eight of those years, he lost so much money that he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

Trump calls the story a figment of “fake news.” His lawyers say the Times has committed a form of defamation.

I’m going to believe the New York Times reporting on this matter. The newspaper obtained copies of Internal Revenue Service tax records, not those returns, mind you. But the story appears to be sufficiently sourced to give it credence.

So, is Trump a fraud? Is he a phony manipulator? Is he nearly the brilliant business mogul he portrayed himself to be? Yes, yes and no.

Many of us have suspected as much already. I am one of those who have wondered all along about whether Trump is the “stable genius” he claims to be.

It’s always good to note, though, that politically normal times have given way to something I cannot yet define. Trump is revealed to be full of deceit, double-dealing, duplicity and his political base loves him even more!

As he campaigned for the presidency in 2016, he made outrageous proclamations that would have — should have — doomed his candidacy. They only strengthened him. He told us he “could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes.” Good grief, man! He could have been right all along!

Trump’s friends on the Fox News Channel are crowing about the president’s bold business endeavors and are saluting him for the losses he accrued. I won’t join that amen chorus.

I’ll sign on with another chorus, the one that speaks to the countless lies he told in pitching himself as a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

Astonishing!

Time of My Life, Part 30: Remembering all those colleagues

When I read stories these days about newspapers’ shrinking newsrooms, I remember how it used to be in print journalism.

I was fortunate enough to be part of two newspapers that sold enough copies each day and raked in enough advertising money to invest deeply in personnel who were assigned to cover specific issues, work specific “beats.”

The most recent present-day tale I read came from Politico and it tells the story of the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, the one-time media titan in a state where presidential politics kicks off every four years with those vaunted Iowa caucuses. The Register, as are all newspapers these days, is retrenching. It is doing as much with fewer individuals to do it.

Read the Politico story here.

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, newspapers were flush with cash. I went from a small, five-day-a-week afternoon suburban daily in Oregon City, Ore., in 1984 to a mid-sized newspaper in Beaumont, Texas. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The Beaumont Enterprise had a huge staff of reporters. They were assigned many specific beats.

The paper had an education reporter, police reporter, entertainment reporter, environmental reporter, courts reporter, someone to cover City Hall, someone to cover county government, reporters assigned to cover surrounding communities, we had a business editor who had a reporter working under his supervision. Then we had a sports department with about 10 reporters, including someone who covered “outdoor sports,” meaning chiefly huntin’ and fishin’. We had a photo staff of around six photographers.

Then, of course, we had copy editors, line editors who assigned stories to the reporters.

Then we had an editorial page staff, of which I was a member. I went to work in Beaumont as an editorial writer. The page had an editor and a cartoonist.

The Beaumont Enterprise, as the saying goes, was a “cash cow” for Jefferson Pilot, the owners who ran the paper when I got there and then for the Hearst Corporation, which bought the paper late in 1984.

I stayed for nearly 11 years before gravitating from the Gulf Coast to the Texas Panhandle. My professional journey then took me to a post where I served as editorial page editor for two papers in Amarillo, the morning Daily News and the evening Globe-Times.

The Globe-News, as everyone called it, was as rich as the Enterprise. The staff there was as diversified and exclusive as the paper I had departed. Its reach was enormous, covering the Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle and a small slice of southwestern Kansas.

Then the bottom started to fall out. It happened in the early 2000s. The Globe-Times was shuttered. The paper began to retrench. I heard that the Beaumont Enterprise did the same thing.

But the good old days were grand, indeed. They brought lots of fun, fellowship with colleagues and a joint pride in being able to assemble a publication each day of the week.

I don’t sense as much pride these days in the publications that employed me. Neither paper has nearly the staff they had back when they were flush with money.

I just recall all those friends and colleagues who have gone on to “pursue other interests.” I think of them often and hope they’re all as happy I am now that it’s over.

‘Fake news’ a product of Trump himself? Well, golly!

This is getting good.

As more details come out about special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report into collusion, obstruction and other matters, the more we learn about the “fake news” hoax that Donald Trump keeps alive.

Mueller seems to have concluded that the “fake news” Trump kept criticizing was quite true. The only fake news was coming from the Trump administration.

Imagine that, will ya?

Those of us who know better likely aren’t terribly surprised to hear this kind of thing from the special counsel. Trump is the godfather of “fake news,” given his own penchant for lying and as well as his defamation of others, such as lie he perpetuated about Barack Obama’s place of birth.

The matter about why he fired FBI director James Comey is a shining example of “fake news” originating from within the White House. White House press flack Sarah Sanders said Comey had lost confidence of his key aides within the FBI. Wrong! He was fired because of the Russia investigation.

Fake news!

Will any of this sink into Donald Trump’s thick, but vacuous skull? Heavens no! It still remains worthy of note.

Donald Trump is the King of Fake News. The media he loathes and calls the “enemy of the people” are doing what they need to do, which is expose Trump as the liar he has proven to be.

Media are ‘all Democrats, all liberals’? Eh?

Joseph DiGenova is sounding like a crackpot.

The former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia is a frequent contributor to the Fox News Channel, the conservative-leaning cable network that gives Donald Trump all the support it can muster.

DiGenova is right at home with the network.

Yet he goes on the air and declares there’s a “civil war” commencing in the United States. Then, in a fit of hilarious irony, he declares that the media are “all Democrat” and “all liberal.” He claims the media are hell bent on destroying Donald Trump and his presidency.

Do you see the irony?

DiGenova is a contributor to a key player in what conservatives like to call “the mainstream media.” Yep, I consider Fox to be part of the media “mainstream,” given the network’s popularity among a large segment of Americans.

So, why is DiGenova blathering about the media being “all Democrat”?

No, sir. They are not!

Trump escalates shameful war against media

Donald J. Trump’s shameful war against the media is proceeding  unabated.

He calls The New York Times the “true enemy of the people.”

Why? Because the Times is doing its job. It is reporting the news regarding the Trump administration. It is seeking to chronicle what the president knew about possible “collusion” with Russian government agents in 2016.

Throughout all the Twitter tirades that Trump has launched against the media, he never seeks to refute specific elements of the reporting that’s been published. He simply denigrates the work of professional journalists with epithets like “loser,” “fake news,” and of course, “enemy of the people.”

He told us he would be an “unconventional president.” That is one campaign pledge he has kept. He is unconventional in the extreme.

Trump has declared war against the media. No president in modern history — with the exception, perhaps, of Richard Nixon — has been so wrong about the media’s role as watchdog and their responsibility to hold government officials accountable.

Donald Trump keeps shaming himself and his high office.

Disgraceful.

Time of My Life, Part 22: Career ruined penmanship

These were the tools of my craft. They allowed me to chronicle the events and examine the people who made our communities tick.

They also contributed to the destruction of something that once gave me a source of pride: my penmanship.

My wife and I signed a whole lot of documents today while closing on the purchase of our new home in Princeton, Texas. Our daughter-in-law was there, too, and the title officer complimented her on her penmanship.

That was when I piped up and told her how my career ruined my own handwriting. “What did you do?” the title officer asked. I told her I was a journalist for nearly four decades.

You see, one of the challenges of doing what I did was to write fast and furious to make sure I got everything that was said or that I was able to record all the events I witnessed. Those events at times come and go quickly and you need to be alert to capture all the salient points that you might want to record as you report on them.

I interviewed plenty of men and women who were equipped with machine-gun mouths. They fired facts, figures, assorted data, cracked quips, made critical points in rapid-fire fashion. I had to capture them all.

So when you have to write quickly, well, you get my drift. One has no time to make sure you write capital letters as you were taught how to write them in the third and fourth grade. Yep, they used to teach that stuff in the old days. No longer.

I usually fared pretty well at report-card time. The teachers graded me highly on my penmanship.

Then I enrolled in college, studied journalism, embarked on my career and, as they say, the rest is history. My once-neat penmanship became history in the process.

I got into my share of beefs over the course of 37 years with the subjects of some of the reporting I did, and the commentary I offered. We’ve all heard about reporters’ notes being subpoenaed by courts when someone wanted to challenge the accuracy of what was reported. I never had my notes summoned.

Damn, I wish I could have had the pleasure of giving up my notes and then daring the lawyers and the judge to try to discern what I wrote.

Only I knew.

All that said, it certainly was a hoot trying to keep up with those events as they unfolded.

Time of My Life, Part 21: What goes around, comes around

It’s no secret that newspapers are cutting staff to maintain their profitability in the face of the changing media climate that has produced declining circulation and advertising revenue.

The Amarillo Globe-News in Texas is no exception — quite obviously! — to that trend. The G-N, indeed, managed to eliminate its entire photo staff over time, instructing the reporters it has left on staff to shoot their own pictures while covering events.

Well, guess what! That isn’t a new notion for some of us who got their start in small-town newspapering back in the day.

My reporting career began full-time in the spring of 1977. I got hired at the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier as a temporary sports writer; the sports editor, one of the very few women in the business, had taken maternity leave to give birth to her daughter. The editor of the paper needed someone to fill in. I applied; he hired me; then a position opened up on the news staff and I was allowed to stay after the sports editor returned from her leave.

Part of my job was to take pictures along with reporting on events I was covering. Football games? Basketball games? Wrestling matches? I packed my notebook and pen — and a camera! Then I became a general assignment news reporter, so I took my camera to city council, school board and county commission meetings. I had to take what we called “wild art” photos we would publish without a story accompanying them.

I knew how to report on those events and how to write about them in cogent manner. Photography was a brand new concept. I had to learn about “photo composition” and how to eliminated “dead space” in pictures.

That was just part of it. I also had to learn how to develop those pictures. Yes, we had dark rooms back then. They had basins filled with smelly chemicals into which we had to dump our film. Then we had to dry the film on lines strung across the dark room. Once the negatives were dry, we then had to print what we called “contact sheets,” which were “positive” reproductions of the images on the “negatives.”

Yes, those were days when reporting and writing also include plenty of picture-taking. We were well-rounded back then, just as reporters today are being asked to become more well-rounded now.

I hope the kids today have as much fun as I did back in the journalism “stone age.”