Tag Archives: public radio

This retirement journey keeps taking strange twists and turns

Retirement is so much cooler than I thought it was when I entered this world just a few years ago.

I have been able to devote more time to this blog. I have been able as well to sleep in if I choose. My wife and I have taken our fifth wheel recreational vehicle on lengthy and not-so-lengthy trips to hither and yon. We have been able to spend more time with our precious granddaughter.

I also have just begun a gig as a freelance reporter for a couple of Collin County weekly newspapers.

What’s more, today I got to participate in a live radio broadcast. Yes, a live event. It went on the air as we spoke the words. Did it make me nervous going in? Uhh … yes. It did!

However, it worked out far better than I expected it would.

I’ll now set the stage.

Mark Haslett is a friend of mine who works as news director for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. He plays host to a weekly radio show called “North by Northeast.” It airs each Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Did I mention it’s a live show? Oh, yeah. I forgot.

Well, I also write for KETR-FM’s website. Haslett asked me to be a guest on his show. I agreed, knowing it’s a live event and also knowing it would give me the heebie-jeebies.

I have spoken on the radio before. It was in 2008 in Amarillo, at High Plains Public Radio. Haslett worked at HPPR then. National Public Radio wanted to talk to journalists who worked in vastly different political environments during an election year; NPR sought out someone who worked in a Republican-leaning “red” area and a Democratic-leaning “blue” region. I got the call to talk to NPR about the Texas Panhandle’s outlook for the upcoming presidential election. NPR did a great job of editing the audio we produced, making me sound cogent and coherent.

This live gig was a different animal. There would be no editing.

Haslett and I talked about Texas politics, the curious recent controversy involving the lame-duck Texas House speaker, the state of journalism in today’s changing media climate and I even got to share a couple of extraordinary experiences I enjoyed during my 37 years working as a print journalist.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this wonderful new experience was that it went by like lightning. They told me at KETR this morning that it would fly by rapidly. Oh, man … they were so right.

Before I could barely catch my breath, the hour was done. Haslett signed off. I leaned back in my chair and heaved a sigh of relief that I didn’t mess up.

Could I do this again? Yes. Probably. Just not right away. I have great admiration for those who talk for a living. I prefer simply to write.

UT hazing case brings disgraceful behavior front and center

Blogger’s Note: This blog post appeared originally on KETR-FM’s website.

I guess I missed out on a lot of “fun” while attending college back in the day.

The “fun,” had I joined a fraternity at Portland (Ore.) State University, would have included hazing. You know, things that involve sleep deprivation and assorted other forms of what would qualify as “torture” if it was being done to soldiers captured by the enemy on the battlefield.

Nicholas Cumberland died Oct. 30, 2018 after being hazed at the University of Texas by the Texas Cowboys, a fraternal group that UT-Austin has suspended for six years. Cumberland died in an automobile accident. He had been subjected to the kind of activity that clearly should be considered torture. The university has just released a report detailing the incident and the punishment it has leveled against the organization linked to the tragedy.

I find this kind of activity to be reprehensible. I’m an old man these days, long removed from my own college days. I was a young married student when I enrolled at Portland State. I lived with my bride and would go home each day after class. Thus, I avoided being sucked into the kind of activity that fraternities do to their members.

As KTRK-TV reported: “Cumberland was paddled so hard, he had ‘significant bruising on his buttocks nearly a month after the Retreat and car accident,’ records allege.”

Yes, the young man was on a “Retreat” when the vehicle he was in rolled over.

We hear about this kind of thing all the time. It’s certainly not unique to UT-Austin, or even to any public college or university in Texas. My hope would be that university educators and administrators everywhere in this nation would be alarmed enough to examine how their own fraternities conduct themselves.

A report by the UT-Austin Dean of Students Office notes that the Sept. 29, 2018 retreat included students bringing, among other things, “copious amounts of alcohol.” They also brought a live chicken and a live hamster, presumably to arrange for the frat pledges to kill the animals in bizarre fashion.

I get that I didn’t get to experience the full breadth of college life back when I was trying to get an education. I had seen enough already, having served a couple of years in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. So, I wasn’t a totally green homebody when I enrolled in college upon my return home.

I still cannot grasp the “benefit” accrued by hazing students to the point of killing them.

Perhaps the death of Nicholas Cumberland could prompt university officials to take a sober look at certain aspects of campus life and whether some elements of it result in campus death.

Happy 40th birthday, NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’

I am a giant fan of National Public Radio. My staple most mornings is to listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast while traveling in my car while running errands.

I learn more from that broadcast than I ever learn from the morning drive-time idiocy I hear on commercial radio channels. For instance, I learned this week that “Morning Edition” has turned 40 years of age.

Its first broadcast occurred the morning after the Iranian militants captured those 53 Americans at the embassy in Tehran.

But during the discussion of “Morning Edition’s” 40th birthday, I heard a fascinating discussion of how politics has changed since NPR first went on the air with its morning talk show.

It came from Ron Elving, a contributor to NPR, who noted that in 1979, Congress was full of “liberal Republicans” and “conservative Democrats” who liked each other’s company. These days, according to Elving, both major political parties have been hijacked by ideologues on both ends of the spectrum: liberals are now called “progressives” and occupy much of the Democrats’ congressional caucus; conservatives have done the same thing to the Republican’s congressional caucus.

What’s more, neither side wants to commune with the other. Members of Congress, particularly those on the right, bunk in their offices at night. They choose to make some sort of goofy political statement, rather than becoming involved socially with their colleagues in their own party, let alone those in the other party.

Politics has become a contact sport, the NPR talkers said to each other, lamenting the demise of a kinder, gentler time in D.C.’s political life.

So it has gone over the past four decades.

NPR itself has become a whipping child for those on the right, who accuse the network of harboring a sort of “liberal bias,” in my view is a creation of those who want the media to present the news with their own fiery bias. NPR takes great pain to ensure that it presents the news straight down the middle lane.

As I listened to the “Morning Edition” talkers this week reminisce about how much politics has changed over the past 40 years, I found myself longing — yet again! — for a return to the way it used to be inside the halls of power.

It well might return if Americans awaken on Election Day 2020 to the damage that the politics of resentment and anger is doing to our public institutions.

POWs helped build this N. Texas community

Note: I wrote this item for KETR-FM based at Texas A&M-Commerce. I want to share it on High Plains Blogger.

Who knew that German soldiers who fought against our guys during World War II would play a part in building a North Texas community?

Not me, certainly. At least until recently.

I followed some signs the other day in Princeton pointing me toward a World War II POW camp. About three left turns later, I found myself pulling into a city park that is still under development, with an estimated completion date of July 2019.

All I found was a Texas Historical Commission marker noting the existence of the POW camp that actually functioned as such from February 1945 until the end of World War II in August 1945.

Prior to taking prisoners of war from European battlefields, the site is described as a “migrant” camp established in 1941 with the help of the great Sam Rayburn, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who hailed from nearby Bonham in Fannin County.

It fascinates me to realize that German prisoners of war – men who had been captured trying to kill Americans – actually were put to work on North Texas farms and in Princeton itself. According to the historical marker inscription: “While here, the German soldiers worked on Princeton area farms, providing valuable labor assistance. For many years following the prisoners’ release in 1946, the site again served as a camp for migrant workers.”

There’s a certain poetic irony in the work the Nazi soldiers did on our area farms. Why? The North Texas agriculture community’s ranks of able-bodied men had been depleted because those sons of farming and ranching families answered the call to fight in defense of their way of life against, oh, Germans, Italians and Japanese.

That’s not where the poet aspect of this historic episode ends, however.

Again, according to the Historical Commission plaque: “Not only did the prisoners work in the field, but they also did stonemasonry work in downtown Princeton. Others helped construct a park in Princeton built in memory of the men who served in the armed forces during WWII and a shrine to perpetuate the memory of those who lost their lives in the war.”

Ponder that for a moment. I do not know whether the German POWs knew in the moment that they were would build a park memorializing Americans who were sent to Europe to save the world from the tyrants who sent them to war against us.

I am going to presume that they had to know something was afoot when they went to work in Princeton.

Can it possibly get any more poetic than that?

Learning my way through North Texas

My new gig as a blogger for a public radio station has set me on a course to learn more intimately about Collin County and much of the rest of North Texas, where my wife and I now call home.

KETR-FM, based at Texas A&M University-Commerce, has given me a chance to write for its website. I’ve submitted three posts already. More will be on the way.

The next one is going to bring a challenge or two.

Mark Haslett, news director at KETR-FM, has given me an idea to examine. It’ll be about traffic, road construction and what in the world is happening along U.S. 380, the highway that cuts through several North Texas counties. Indeed, it runs about a half-mile north of where my wife and I live.

The highway is undergoing major work at this moment, and likely for past the foreseeable future. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is the lead public agency with responsibility for all that road work.

I’ve put in a phone call. I am awaiting a call back from NCTCOG’s media relations fellow. I am confident it will come soon.

Why is this a big deal? I’ve written before how much I learned about all the communities where I lived and work. Whether it was in Clackamas County, Ore., or in the Golden Triangle of Texas or in the Texas Panhandle, I took away a good bit of local knowledge from each place.

I now intend to launch my learning curve in North Texas.

My new “career” as a blogger continues to bring rewards. They’re difficult to quantify. The knowledge I will gain about my new home still will be of considerable value.

Beginning a new gig

I am proud to announce that I am starting with yet another blank slate. So . . . I believe I will announce it.

Beginning next week I will be given the opportunity to share some thoughts, musings (some might call it spewage) with readers of a website associated with a university in Commerce, Texas.

Texas A&M University/Commerce operates a public radio station on its campus. KETR-FM is its call sign. The station’s website is going to include an essay from yours truly. It will be the first of what I hope is many such essays.

KETR news director Mark Haslett, a friend of mine from Amarillo who moved to Commerce some years ago, is giving me considerable latitude to write about whatever moves me in the moment.

This is an exciting new opportunity for me. You see, even though I have retired from full-time journalism, I continue to have this itch to string sentences together. I cannot stop commenting on issues of the day and the individuals who give them life.

So that’s what I will do for KETR-FM.

This isn’t my first post-newspaper gig. I wrote for a time for Panhandle PBS, contributing features for its website; Panhandle PBS is associated with Amarillo College and is the public TV station that serves the Texas Panhandle. Then along came KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, which offered me an opportunity initially to write features about issues that had been previously reported; they called it “Whatever Happened To . . . ”

Both of those gigs ended after a time, giving more opportunities to concentrate on this blog, which I have enjoyed writing for about a decade.

Now comes this latest venture.

Given that my wife and I have now settled in Princeton, we live in an area covered by KETR-FM. My goal over time is to learn enough about this part of Collin County to contribute essays on local happenings, growth trends, possible problem areas associated with the growth that is accelerating rapidly in this part of the Metroplex.

Until then I have been given plenty of room to roam. So, I’ll take my friend Mark Haslett up on his offer.

Here we go.

NPR: masters of audio editing

My career in print journalism enabled me to do some very cool things, see some fabulous places, cover compelling stories — and it exposed me to the magic of other media.

I want to offer a good word or three to National Public Radio.

I was given an opportunity, as the editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, on three occasions to take part in NPR interviews. Two of them involved the 2008 presidential election. NPR wanted to chronicle the outlook on the election as it appeared to us in the Texas Panhandle; the other party in the interviews was Kevin Riley, editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. NPR sought the views of editors from disparate regions of the country: heavily Republican Texas and “swing-state” southern Ohio.

The other interview involved President Obama’s economic stimulus package and its impact on our respective regions.

Here is what I wrote in February 2010:

NPR reaches out to the heartland

What I want to recall briefly here is how deftly NPR edited my comments to make them suitable for airing on the public airwaves.

High Plains Public Radio — an NPR affiliate — had a recording studio in downtown Amarillo. I was able to go to the studio and take part in the interview with the Washington, D.C.-based “Morning Edition” program.

What astounded me at the time — and still boggles my mind to this day — is how well NPR edited my comments. They eliminated the occasional stammer and extraneous verbiage without changing the context of my statements to the NPR interviewer. Kevin Riley, the other person being interviewed, sounded much more comfortable with radio. As for myself, it’s not my thing and I was nervous as the dickens every time I took part in this process.

It’s a remarkable skill that continues to amaze me.

NPR receives criticism from time to time, mostly from conservatives who allege the network has a “liberal bias.” My own experience with NPR did not reveal any such bias. I found NPR to be professional to the “nth” degree.

Moreover, the editors at NPR exhibited a magician’s skill at making a nervous newspaper editor sound like an experienced hand at radio.

HPPR quenches news junkies’ thirst

I am a happy radio listener.

High Plains residents — those of us who like news, information and well-reasoned analysis of current events — are getting an additional treat on our radio dial.

It’s called 9.49 Connect. It’s an expanded news offering provided by High Plains Public Radio. When HPPR’s morning news shows go off the air — while being broadcast simultaneously on 94.9 and 105.7 FM — 94.9 Connect stays on the air with more news and commentary.

HPPR rolled out its expanded news offering this past week. In doing so, it has decided to quench the thirst for news junkies such as yours truly.

National Public Radio for too long has gotten a bad rap by those who suggest it is some sort of “liberal organ” that only squishy lefties would appreciate.

Wrong, man! Double wrong! Triple wrong!

If you’ll pardon my lifting a common mantra from the 2016 presidential election, NPR “tells it like it is.” So does its affiliate station, HPPR, which is headquartered in Garden City, Kan.

I am happy to sing the praises of a non-commercial radio station, given that public radio relies on listener support and corporate “underwriters.”

And make no mistake, its news presentation strides down the straight and narrow. It doesn’t pepper its coverage with buzz words and partisan rhetoric, which I suppose is what its critics — mainly those on the far right — wish it would do.

Only they want the news slanted in their direction.

High Plains Public Radio has just enhanced the quality of life for public radio listeners — and news junkies — across our vast region.

Thank you, HPPR.

NPR far from being a ‘propaganda’ vehicle

I hate disagreeing with one of the great editorialists of our time, but I feel the need to make a point or two about a news medium that is about to expand its presence in the Texas Panhandle.

Paul Greenberg, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a man I consider to be a friend, has referred to National Public Radio as “National Propaganda Radio.”

Ouch, man!

Greenberg is a noted conservative columnist who works these days for the (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. So, his view of NPR perhaps is tainted a bit by his own political leaning.

The Panhandle version of NPR, High Plains Public Radio headquartered in Garden City, Kan., is set to launch an expanded news/information service that will be located at 94.9 FM on the radio dial. It will broadcast news 24/7. HPPR is having a ceremony on Monday at its downtown Amarillo office to mark the occasion.

This is a big deal on a number of levels.

Understand that the Texas Panhandle is as right wing in its outlook as any region in the country. It once was known to be fertile ground for isolationist groups such as the John Birch Society, the folks who disdain the United Nations, fearing it’s a cover for a worldwide takeover of every nation’s sovereignty.

But HPPR sought contributions from listeners in the region to launch the all-news system. It received them.

Public radio long has been the bogeyman of right wingers, who insist that it’s nothing but a liberal mouthpiece, that is spouts lies, tilts the news toward the left, that it serves as a propaganda organ for squishy liberal thinkers.

As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: buffalo bagels!

A friend and former colleague of mine who used to work at HPPR in Amarillo once told me that NPR’s gurus made sure that on-air news presenters and reporters avoided using the term “reform” to describe the Affordable Care Act. “Reform,” my friend said, implies an improvement over existing policy and NPR wanted to be sure to avoid the appearance of bias in its reporting of this highly controversial public policy. NPR’s preferred term was “overhaul,” he said. Fair enough.

I learned long ago when I started my career in print journalism that bias — without exception — is a product of one’s own world view. If you disagree with someone else’s view, then that person is “biased.” One rarely sees or hears of people acknowledging their own bias. I received a good bit of that sort of criticism during nearly four decades in journalism, most of which I spent writing opinions for newspapers.

Do I have my own bias? Sure I do. Do I gravitate toward certain news media over others because I perceive some media taint their news with “bias”? Yes again.

Public radio, though, is a different animal altogether. Its presentation of news is as fair as fair gets. It even has fans and followers who often don’t want to acknowledge it.

I recall a conversation I had with a key aide to U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Clarendon Republican who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 1995. This source — who also happens to be a friend — actually whispered to me over the phone that many on Thornberry’s staff “listen to NPR.”

Why are you whispering? I asked. My friend said, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s just what we do around here.”

Fear not. NPR isn’t out to poison anyone’s mind. It’s here only to provide news we can use … in whatever way we choose.

And it damn sure isn’t propaganda.

HPPR set to deepen its news footprint

I came home this evening from work and found a nice surprise that had come in today’s mail.

It was an invitation to the launch of High Plains Public Radio’s brand new all-news programming that begins March 6.

This is a big deal, folks, one that makes me happy in the extreme about the quality of news that will be available to public radio listeners in Amarillo and much of the rest of the High Plains.

It will be at 94.9 FM on the radio dial.

Here’s what I understand about it.

HPPR, which broadcasts news from National Public Radio, will continue with its regular morning and early-evening news content, with features such as “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” being broadcast daily.

But when the HPPR broadcast at 105.7 FM turns to music in the morning at the end of “Morning Edition,” the 94.9 FM channel will continue to offer news, features, commentary and assorted items from throughout the region and, oh yes, the rest of the world.

I spoke with Wayne Hughes of Amarillo, the former head of the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association — and a longtime contributor to HPPR — about this several months ago. He told me of the fundraising effort that was underway in the region to pay for the new operation.

Given that public radio doesn’t broadcast “radio advertising” in the fashion that privately owned stations do, it must rely on listeners to donate; yes, public radio has its share of corporate sponsors, too.

Why am I so excited about this?

Well, I am not much of a classical music fan. My taste in music is limited basically to classic rock ‘n roll. Our classic rock offerings in Amarillo are a bit limited.

However, I am a news junkie. I like getting my news via public radio when I have the radio nearby — and have it turned on.

The all-news station is going to fulfill my craving for news.

I’ve written before about public radio and the value I believe it has brought to the region since it started in the 1980s. The late Levi Bivins, along with his brother Mark, and Jay O’Brien all were instrumental in launching HPPR in the first place.

I am indebted to all of them for the hard work they performed in assuring quality public radio listening to those of us who aren’t all that nuts about morning drive-time blather on many of the commercial stations.

HPPR is now set to take the next big step in its evolution.

I am one listener who is mighty excited to welcome it.