Tag Archives: media

Happy Trails, Part 26

Retirement has changed many of my habits. I don’t roll out of the sack early every single morning; I am no longer obsessed with the time of the day; indeed, there are times when I forget what day it is.

I also have changed one of my major travel habits.

No longer do I look for newspapers to purchase when I travel around the country. My wife has kidded me at times over the years about how much more stuff we are carrying home than when we leave.

My journalism career seemed to compel me to look at local newspapers. We would stop somewhere, I’d ask for a local newspaper stand and then I would purchase the paper.

Why? Well, I was always looking for new ideas on how to present, say, opinion pages. Since I edited opinion pages in Beaumont and Amarillo, Texas, for nearly three decades, I thought it helpful to see how other newspapers presented their opinions — and the opinions of contributors — to their readers.

These days, my newspaper-purchasing habit has virtually vanished. I no longer work for a living. I no longer have a need to see how other editors do their job. I no longer feel virtually obligated to fill my vehicle with newspapers, to bring them home, cart them into the house and pore over them to search for better ideas.

On our latest adventure, I did purchase one newspaper: the Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial-Appeal. It’s still a pretty good read. So, I read it — and then tossed it.

Life continues to be so very good.

How about those anonymous sources, Mr. POTUS?

This item almost doesn’t deserve comment. Aww, but what the heck.

Donald J. Trump fired of a tweet that cited anonymous sources after, um, blasting anonymous sources.

It’s become normal, I guess, for the president to do this kind of thing. Do as I say, not as I do.

* He blasts Michelle Obama for not covering her head while touring a Muslim country, only to have his wife do the same thing during his recent journey to Saudi Arabia.

* He rips into Barack Obama for all that golf he played as president, then hits the links with reckless abandon when he takes office.

* Trump leads rally crowd chants of “lock her up!” for her use of private e-mail account while serving as secretary of state, then he blabs to Russians about classified security information.


The president retweeted a Fox News report that cites an anonymous source relating to his son-in-law’s current difficulty with “the Russia thing.” He did so just days after tweeting a rant equating anonymous sources to “fake news.”

Here’s a suggestion for the president: Take a breath and be sure about what you’ve put into the public domain before firing off another of those nonsensical tweets.

Trump increases pols’ antipathy toward media

What is it about politicians who make lame jokes and then fail to own them?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is just the latest in a long and growing line of pols who have committed that transgression.

But here’s the deal: Abbott’s lame joke is speaking to a larger — more serious — issue involving the media and the politicians they cover.

The governor this past week signed into law a bill that reduces the amount of money that concealed handgun carry applicants must pay to obtain their license. Then he went to a shooting range, fired a few rounds at a target and then joked that he would carry the target around “in case I see any reporters.”

Few folks are laughing.

You see, it’s the context of Gov. Abbott’s remarks that are so damn troubling.

We can thank the president of the United States for it.

Donald Trump has all but declared war on the media. He calls them the “enemy of the people.” He accuses mainstream news outlets of producing “fake news.” He refuses to answer tough questions from the media. He calls news media outlets “a disgrace” and calls reporters “among the most dishonest people” anywhere. He reportedly told the then-FBI director that reporters should be jailed if they report on leaked classified material.

Trumpkins show up at his rallies wearing t-shirts that suggest journalists should be hanged.

Now the governor of Texas makes a goofy joke that seems to suggest it’s OK to shoot reporters. He won’t take it back. He won’t apologize for the hideous timing of the remark, coming as it did just two days after a Republican congressional candidate “body slammed” a reporter for asking him about the GOP health care overhaul.

Is this the era into which we have entered? That it’s OK to intimidate reporters for doing their job? That the First Amendment protection of a “free press” isn’t to be taken seriously, let alone literally?

Mimi Swartz, writing for Texas Monthly, has asked the governor to take it back. You can read her essay here. I don’t expect Abbott to do as she asks.

Sadly, neither do I expect the president of the United States to back off his own campaign against the media assigned to report his actions to the people he governs.


Trump needs to deal with hard truth about leaks

Donald Trump says the leaks that have sprung throughout the White House are the product of “fake news” and conspiracy mongers intent on destroying his presidency.

I’ll offer another take on it. The leaks just might be the product of individuals within the White House who are concerned about the direction the country is heading under the 45th president’s leadership.

Someone or several individuals are blabbing to the “enemy of the American people” media representatives who are reporting this leaked information to the public. Instead of dealing openly and publicly about the crux of the issues being reported, the president is lashing out. He is attacking the media. He is alienating himself and his inner circle even more from the media representatives assigned to report on their activities.

How can this possibly be constructive? How can it possibly end well for the president?


Trump tweeted upon his return from Europe and the Middle East that “fake news is the enemy.” His outright dismissal of mainstream news outlets, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, suggests that these organizations are fabricating these reports. He accuses them of violating every known principle of sound journalism. By doing so, the president demonstrates time and again that he doesn’t understand the role the media play (a) in informing the public and (b) holding public officials accountable for their words and deeds.

The president returned from his overseas trip and did not conduct a press briefing. He stiffed the media seeking to ask him questions about his meetings with international leaders and, yes, about the ongoing “Russia thing” controversy with which he must deal.

No, this kind of spiteful relationship with the media cannot end well for the president.

If he keeps it up, I am prepared to predict that it will not end well. Not at all.

Did this politician attack a media ‘enemy’?

Just how testy is the political climate getting in these United States of America?

Let’s consider this for a moment: A Republican candidate for Montana’s at-large congressional seat allegedly assaulted a reporter, “body slamming” him, breaking his eyeglasses and possibly inflicting some injury to one of the reporter’s elbow.

Montanans are going to vote Thursday to decide who should replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the U.S. House of Representatives. The GOP candidate is Greg Gianforte; the Democrat is Rob Quist.

A reporter for the Guardian, Ben Jacobs, wanted to question Gianforte at an event in Bozeman, Mont., about the Congressional Budget Office scoring of the GOP health care overhaul legislation. Gianforte didn’t want to talk to Jacobs, which is when he assaulted him, according to eyewitnesses, telling Jacobs to “get the hell out of here!”


I worked in daily journalism for nearly 37 years. I had my share of strained relationships with news sources over that time. They included individuals of both political parties. They were members of Congress, judges, county commissioners, city council members, school board trustees. We would have strained exchanges caused by some difficult questions I would ask them.

No one ever, not a single time, ever so much as threatened to attack me — even though I once angered a Texas state district judge enough that he looked for more than a year for a way to sue me for libel; he came up empty when he couldn’t find a lawyer to represent him. For the life of me, this apparent encounter between a congressional candidate and a member of the media seems to suggest that the coarsening of media-politician relations has reached some sort of undefined level of hostility.

What do you suppose is the source of this intense anger? I’ll venture a guess. It might be a result of the kind of atmosphere prevalent at Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign rallies in 2016. You’ll recall the kind of response Trump would elicit from crowds when he spoke of the media, which he labeled “dishonest.”

Once elected, the president then referred to the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

Might this have been the response of an American politician lashing out at an “enemy”?

Spare me the gag lines, Mr. President

I’m not sure how I am going to write this blog entry.

I am laughing out loud.

Donald J. Trump has been whining about the coverage he’s been getting from the media, calling it the most unfair in U.S. history.

Here’s how Politico reported what the president told U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates: “Look at the way I’ve been treated lately,” Trump said, as some in the audience burst into laughter, “especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

A friend of mine noted on social media that Trump, student of history that he is, is absolutely certain of what he said. My friend was joking, of course. Trump is no student of anything, let alone presidential history.

Unfair treatment? Hardly.

Were the media giving kid-glove treatment to, let’s see:

Harry Truman, for relieving Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command during the Korean War?

John F. Kennedy, for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba?

Lyndon Johnson, for his prosecution of the Vietnam War?

Richard Nixon, for the Watergate scandal?

Gerald Ford, for his occasional fits of clumsiness?

Jimmy Carter, for his occasional fits of self-righteousness?

Ronald Reagan, for the Iran-Contra debacle?

George H.W. Bush, for reneging on his “read my lips” pledge to never raise taxes?

Bill Clinton, for messing around with that 20-something White House intern — and his subsequent impeachment?

George W. Bush, for failing to find weapons of mass destruction after going to war in Iraq?

Barack Obama, for enduring the “fake news” about his place of birth, which — by the way — was fomented by Donald John Trump?

These men — Democrats and Republicans — have plenty in common. They assumed the presidency knowing full well that the media would be looking carefully at every single thing they do. The media would expose every misstep, mistake, misstatement.

That’s how it goes. That’s a condition of the job to which they were elected or to which they ascended through other means.

However, for Trump to assert that he’s been given the worst treatment in the history of the presidency is — dare I say it candidly? — yet another fabrication.

There. I got through it. I’m proud of myself.

Happy Trails, Part Nine

More than two weeks into this full-time retirement life and I’ve made a bit of a discovery.

I am suffering not one bit, not a single hint of separation anxiety from my previous life.

That’s right. I do not miss waking up early each day, getting myself cleaned up and throwing on clothes suitable for the workplace. Nope. None of that has overtaken me.

I retired officially from the final part-time job I was working in late March. I clocked out, shook a couple of colleagues’ hands, hugged my boss’s neck and said goodbye.

Then my wife and I hit the road the next morning for the Hill Country and then motored west with our pickup and fifth wheel to Ruidoso, N.M. We have two more road trips already planned out and are beginning to formulate a travel plan for one or two after that.

I had anticipated some angst after leaving the working world. I hit it pretty damn hard for nearly 37 years in a pressure-packed environment. I lived by deadline working for four daily newspapers: two of them in Oregon, my home state and two others in Texas, where my family and I moved in 1984.

But it hasn’t occurred. Not a single time have I missed the grind. Not once have I wished, “Man, if only I could be back on the job reporting or commenting on this or that issue.”

It hasn’t happened. I don’t expect it will.

I told a member of my family this week about that lack of separation anxiety. My family member has been retired for a number of years and she has adapted quite smoothly to a life of relative leisure. I am not sure she quite gets why my own transition into this new life has gone so smoothly. Her expression seemed to suggest: Well, what in the world did you expect?

I believe I’ve just answered that question. I expected to miss my former life more than I do. I am glad, though, that I do not.

Three of the four part-time jobs I worked since leaving daily journalism were media-related gigs. I don’t expect any of them to return, although one of those jobs might — I want to stress might — return in some form. If it does, it will have to be right. It will have to be something that will make it worth my time and effort.

In a perverse way, my time actually has gained even greater value as my wife and I continue this journey toward points unknown.

Small-town paper makes it … big time!

I love hearing stories like the one that brought a lot of attention to a small Iowa town and the newspaper that serves its residents.

The Storm Lake Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Big deal, you say? Damn right it is!

The winner of the prize is a fellow I don’t know, although I feel a certain kinship with him. Art Cullen is his name. I have had a long personal friendship with his brother, Jim, with whom I worked at the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise. Jim moved eventually to Austin, where he covered state government for the newspaper. He now is editor of the Austin-based Progressive Populist.

His brother Art’s big prize speaks to the value of community journalism, the kind practiced by small newspapers all across the nation.

Taking on the big interests

The Pulitzer committee recognized Cullen “For editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”

Those “powerful” interests are important at many levels to the readers of the Storm Lake Times, given Iowa’s heavy reliance on farming and ranching.

It’s also fascinating to me that the Pulitzer committee gave Cullen the award over finalists from the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post. It simply shows that size — meaning the amount of corporate funds and resources — matters less than the quality of one’s work.

We hear all the time about reports from vaunted big-city media organizations. You know, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times … and on and on.

It gladdens my heart to know that a 3,000-circulation newspaper — which is published twice each week — has received such high praise from a panel of peers who recognized the courage it takes to challenge such important players in the community it serves.

I offer my own congratulations to Art Cullen and his colleagues at the Storm Lake Times.

Opinion pages heading for oblivion — maybe

I am a dinosaur. I believe in what we know to be “traditional journalism.”

It includes newspapers — although not exclusively, to be sure — with pages that contain straight news; some pages contain entertainment; they all have advertising, which businesses purchase and which gives newspapers their profitability.

They also include pages of opinion. They are editorial pages and related pages with other commentary submitted by, oh, syndicated columnists and local contributors; these pages also include letters from readers who want to express themselves on the issues of the day.

Well, it now appears that traditional newspapers are receding into our memory.

The Poynter Institute is telling us that newspapers — a little at a time — are ceasing to publish daily opinion pages. They are reverting to a “digital first” model. They need to save money, given that advertisers aren’t spending as much money on print publications these days. Newspapers need to keep pace with the change in the industry, so they’re going to this digital model.

It saddens this dinosaur.

I became a reporter in the mid-1970s aiming to chronicle events in my community and report them to people who had an interest in being informed.

My career gravitated over time to the opinion pages.

I would assume the role of editor of a small suburban daily in Oregon City, Ore. Then I would move to Beaumont, Texas, to write editorials for a larger newspaper; I eventually became editor of that page. After a period of time, I would move to Amarillo to become editor of two papers’ editorial pages.

I saw my role in opinion journalism as a complement to what those publications did on their news pages. It was to provide perspective, context and, yes, opinion about the issues on which the papers were reporting.

It was a valuable task. I was proud of my craft.

So, it saddens me terribly to read about newspapers forgoing daily print opinion pages in favor of this digital “product.”

The Poynter article discusses big changes underway at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which has scrapped a daily print opinion page in favor of a digital presentation, “We have decided that our highest engagement comes from enterprising, in-depth, explanatory reporting,” editor George Stanley said in a phone interview. “So we are keeping that intact.”

The editor of the paper makes no apologies for it. Nor should he, I guess, given that he still works for an employer who made this decision.

I came of age in journalism during its heyday. A couple of young reporters for the Washington Post were digging for information about what a president of the United States was doing to subvert — allegedly — the U.S. Constitution. I wanted to take part in that craft, even if I couldn’t do it at Ground Zero of what was an exciting time to practice it.

I have never lost my love of that work and what it represents. However, I sure understand that it is a new day in journalism, the craft I practiced for nearly 37 years.

Perhaps it’s time to admit that I am glad to be gone from it and that it’s a better fit for youngsters.

McCain to Trump: Don’t go after a ‘free press’

I’ve never really considered John McCain to be a friend of the press.

Silly me. I guess I was wrong about the Republican U.S. senator from Arizona. He is now telling the president of the United States to back off from his declared war against the media, which Donald Trump has labeled as the “enemy of the people.”

“That’s how dictators get started,” McCain said.

Well …

McCain denies calling Trump a would-be dictator, insisting he’s just spelling out what has happened throughout history. Dictators seek to weaken — if not destroy — the press, giving them an avenue to complete power.

McCain detests Trump, it seems quite clear. The senator’s loathing of the president, though, seems well-earned.

Candidate Trump once declared that he didn’t consider McCain — a decorated Navy pilot and one-time Vietnam War prisoner — a “war hero.” Trump said McCain was a hero only because “he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured, OK?”

Some of us thought that ridiculous assertion would doom Trump’s presidential candidacy. Hah! It didn’t happen. It seemed to energize his supporters.

McCain, though, has kept up his drumbeat of criticism of Trump. I happen to applaud the senator’s verve as he challenges Trump’s ignorance about Russia and now about the dangers of seeking to weaken the Fourth Estate.

Those of us toiled in the craft of reporting and commenting on events of the day don’t consider ourselves to be “enemies” of the people. I have never thought of myself to be anyone’s enemy, although I am certain some of individuals I’ve encountered along my lengthy journalism journey perceive me as their enemy.

As Sen. McCain has noted correctly, the president ought to tread carefully if he continues this fight with the media.