Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

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.