Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

Not all government officials view the press as ‘enemy’

Donald Trump’s vendetta against the media, his spiteful message of the media allegedly being the “enemy of the people,” hasn’t filtered down to all levels of government.

And that, I want to declare, is a very good thing.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel this week was honored by a county commission for its reporting on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla.

A former colleague and a friend was part of the team that collected the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting and commentary on the massacre that erupted on Valentine’s Day, 2018. The Sun-Sentinel walked away with the highest honor given by the Pulitzer board: the award for Meritorious Public Service.

Today, the Broward County Board of Commissioners took time to honor the Sun-Sentinel for the work it did reporting on the hideous eruption of gun violence.

My friend, Rosemary Goudreau O’Hara (she’s in the center of the picture linked to this post), called attention to the recognition today on her Facebook page. The Broward County Board of Commissioners declared today to be Sun-Sentinel Day in Broward County and gave the newspaper’s team a plaque to commemorate it.

This is precisely the kind of recognition that many in journalism appreciate beyond measure. It is heartening to me, even though I sit in a faraway peanut gallery seat, to realize that government officials are able to give the media the bouquet they deserve.

That’s what happened in Broward County, Fla.

As O’Hara said today on her Facebook post: This was such a nice thing to do. It’s unusual, too, for government to applaud the Fourth Estate for watchdogging government, especially when everybody doesn’t like the coverage. With our president calling the media the enemy of the people, it means a great deal that the Broward County Commission today recognized the South Florida Sun Sentinel for our reporting on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It’s Sun Sentinel Day in Broward!

These elected county officials have demonstrated their understanding that a free, unfettered and aggressive press is essential to the society we cherish.

Congratulations to the Sun-Sentinel staff and many thanks to a county government board for giving that staff the honor it has earned.

Community icon up for sale . . . this is a shame

We have returned to the community we called “home” for more than two decades and I am saddened to know what I know about the place that provided me with a nice income — and untold joy — for most of that time here.

The Amarillo Globe-News building — indeed, the entire complex of buildings — is on the market. It’s being sold. To someone who will make use of the property on the black between Ninth and 10th avenues and Van Buren and Harrison streets.

The Globe-News has vacated the site, moving into an antiseptic suite of offices down the street and around the corner at the 31-story bank building that towers over downtown Amarillo, Texas.

I saw a social media post the other day that said McCartt and Associates, a big-time commercial real estate broker, has listed the G-N site.

I guess the powers that be didn’t take my advice. I sought in an earlier blog post to persuade Morris Communications Corp., which used to own the newspaper but which still owns the physical property, to donate the site to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, which could turn the property into — what else? — a museum honoring the rich tradition of print journalism in the Texas Panhandle.

I thought that Old Man Morris — William Morris III — could make good on his oft-stated pledge to support the community. Hey, here was his chance. He gave up on newspaper publishing, but he could have given the property to the PPHM to do something honorable and noble with a building that used to symbolize an honorable and noble craft.

Indeed, the Globe-News used to have a plaque on the side of one of its buildings honoring the work of the late Tommy Thompson, the iconic editor of the evening Globe-Times. All he did, of course, was win a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, which is the top prize offered by the top print journalism organization in the country, if not the world.

The Pulitzer jury honored Thompson for his dogged reporting in rooting out county government corruption. So he received the 1961 Meritorious Public Service prize.

I was proud to be associated with an organization that could claim such an honor. My association with the Globe-News ended in 2012. I held out hope that he paper would survive and be reborn in this changing media climate. I am fearing far less hopeful today.

Morris sold the paper to Gatehouse Media. The Globe-News’s reporting and editing staff has been decimated. Morris started the gutting years ago; Gatehouse is finishing the job.

Now the paper that once stood proudly on that downtown block is being offered to someone who will do something with the vacant hulk of a structure.

At least, though, those of us who have moved on will have our memories of the pride we threw into our work on behalf of the community we served.

Community journalism takes another gut punch

To those of you who aren’t familiar with the Texas Panhandle, this picture might not mean all that much to you.

Those of us who call the place home — or used to call it home — and worked in the field of print journalism, the photo speaks volumes.

It saddens me greatly.

The picture announces the closing of a community institution in a Texas Panhandle community that once relied on its local newspaper to chronicle its stories, to be the “first draft of history” in the town’s on-going evolution.

Hereford, Texas, sits about 30 miles southwest of Amarillo. The Brand has covered the community for 118 years. It’s going out of business. The owners of the paper cite declining circulation, declining advertising revenue and the unspoken issue of “declining relevance” in the lives of those who once read The Brand.

Man, this really stinks. It’s a continuation, I fear, of what is happening in rural communities all across the nation. The “Digital Age” is inflicting more casualties constantly on once-proud community institutions.

Even in Amarillo, where I worked for nearly 18 years, the Globe-News has vacated its historic location and moved into non-descript offices in a bank tower downtown. It has ceased printing the newspaper in Amarillo; that’s being done in Lubbock. It has hired a regional publisher, a regional executive editor, a regional “director of commentary” and a regional “distribution director.” The emphasis is now on centralizing its daily operations. The newsroom no longer employs photographers, its copy desk functions are being done out of a centralized operation center.

Do you get my drift?

Now this new age of “journalism” has claimed another victim.

The Texas Panhandle has a long and rich tradition of kick-a** journalism. The Amarillo Globe-Times once earned the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, for crying out loud! Communities scattered across the Panhandle’s spacious landscape have been served well by mom-and-pop newspapers that over time have morphed into “group ownership” organizations.

Those communities very soon will have one less newspaper among their ranks.

Sad days, indeed.

There can be no doubt: POTUS is a danger to the nation

I hereby declare my implicit trust in the veracity of a book that’s about to hit the shelves across the nation.

Bob Woodward has written a tell-all book titled “Fear” that details what others have said, have written that Donald J. Trump is a threat to the nation’s security.

Imagine that. I never thought in a million years I would be concurring with such an assertion about the president of the United States of America.

My bigger point, though, is that Woodward’s work has become legendary in the world of print journalism. The man is known as a meticulous gatherer of information. He uses multiple sources before putting something into print. He takes contemporaneous notes. He makes recordings.

And yet, we hear from the White House — including from the president — that Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is making things up.

This man built his entire reputation on a record of accuracy and credibility.

I remain steadfast in my belief that he is telling us the truth about the White House in a state of near panic. Chief staff members cannot conceive of a president being so unaware, so non-inquisitive, so uncaring about the details of foreign or domestic policy.

Think, too, about the idea that the president would blurt out some idiotic notion of assassinating the leader of a sovereign nation, which is what he reportedly did regarding Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.

Perhaps most shocking is that Donald “Stable Genius” Trump had to ask why the United States maintains a military presence in South Korea, to which Defense Secretary James Mattis reminded him that the U.S. forces are there to “prevent World War III.”

Frightening … in the extreme!

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.

Events give media chance to shine brightly

I never got the chance to serve on a Pulitzer Prize jury, to select winners in print journalism’s top prizes.

This year is going to produce a Pulitzer juror’s “nightmare,” if you want to call it such. The media, namely the folks who work in the print end of it, have distinguished themselves grandly while covering compelling issues of the day.

Were it not for the media, we wouldn’t know about the various crises threatening to swallow the Donald J. Trump administration whole. Many of print journalism’s top guns — at the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Washington Post — have been distinguishing themselves with top-drawer reporting that would give Pulitzer jurors fits. It’s interesting in the extreme to me that so many of the cable news outlets keep referencing stories that have been broken first by print organizations.

Then something else happened this summer.

Two killer hurricanes boiled up out of the warm water offshore and delivered death and destruction, first to the Texas Gulf Coast and then to the Caribbean and to all of Florida.

Reporters, photographers and their editors all have worked very long days and nights trying to cover the story of human misery. Newspapers from the Coastal Bend, Houston and then to the Golden Triangle have answered the call. Indeed, one of my former employers — the Beaumont Enterprise — has called at least one of its veteran former reporters out of retirement to assist in telling the community’s story as it seeks to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s savage wrath.

The story of media intrepidity is being repeated now in Florida as that state struggles to regain its footing in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s own brand of immense savagery.

There you have it: severe political tumult and potential constitutional crises and Mother Nature’s unimaginable power have combined to create circumstances that make the media answer the call to duty.

To think, as well, that the president of the United States refers to these dedicated men and women as “the enemy of the American people.” Donald Trump knows nothing about the dedication to their craft — and in many instances the heroism — they exhibit in trying to report important issues to a public that wants to know what’s happening in their world.

Good luck, Pulitzer jury, as you seek to find winners in this most eventual period in history.

To my former colleagues, I am immensely proud of you.

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.

Climate change not a local matter?

My hometown newspaper, the (Portland) Oregonian has just announced that climate change won’t be on its agenda of important issues on which to comment in 2015.

I have a single initial response: Wow!

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/12/why_climate_change_will_not_be.html

The editorial, while written well — as always — seems to miss a fundamental point about climate change as it affects a coastal state, such as Oregon.

The issue is a local one that well could impact many thousands of people living in that state.

The editorial, in part, states: “Our editorials, like those of other news organizations, reflect a set of values with which regular readers are surely familiar. However, ideology has nothing to do with the scarcity of climate-change editorials. We seldom discuss climate change, rather, because we focus almost exclusively on state and local matters. Weighing the costs and benefits of climate-change policy is best done at the federal and international levels.”

” … we focus almost exclusively on state and local matters,” the editorial states.

Roll that one around for a moment.

Climate change, as I understand, is having an impact at many levels all around the world. One of those levels — pardon the pun — is the rising sea level of the oceans and the affect it will have on coastal regions.

Oregon has about 300-plus miles of coastline facing the Pacific Ocean. Its coastal region would seem to be as vulnerable to the shifting tides, not to mention the intense weather changes that many scientists attribute to climate change. They’re as vulnerable to these forces as, say, Texas, another significant coastal state.

The Oregonian sought input from its readers on the issues they thought the paper should emphasize. Those who responded didn’t think much of the climate change crisis. The Oregonian, therefore, responded to those who answered their question.

Does that represent a complete, fair and comprehensive view of the paper’s entire readership? I rather doubt it.

Still, my hometown paper — which has been honored with Pulitzer prizes in recent years for its editorial leadership — has chosen to skip what I believe will become one of that region’s primary issues in the coming decades.

Good luck, home folks.