Category Archives: media news

Once-great newspaper signs off … forever

Friday the 13th turned out to be a bad day for those of us who still love newspapers and wish for an improvement in the medium’s constant decline.

The Medford (Ore.) Mail-Tribune signed off for the final time this past Friday, ending an era of great journalism in the southern Oregon community.

The news came earlier in the week from the newspaper’s owners, who delivered a terse announcement that the paper would cease publishing.

The Mail-Tribune used to be one of the state’s great mid-sized newspapers. I remember competing against that paper when I worked for a small suburban daily paper in Oregon City. The Mail-Tribune consistently scored well in statewide contests measuring papers’ journalistic quality.

No longer.

This one hurts in a way I cannot quite grasp. I never lived in Medford. I passed through there many times over the years I lived in Oregon, where I was born and reared. I once crashed my dad’s car there while carrying my wife and two small sons, but … well, that’s another story.

Medford now has no newspaper to chronicle its story, to keep residents informed about the Boy and Girl Scouts, the 4-H clubs and, yes, about the hard news that occasionally rocks communities such as Medford.

The media landscape continues to evolve in ways none of us imagined when we pursued our print journalism craft oh, those many years ago. The change has claimed many victims over the years. More victims will fall, of that I am absolutely certain.

Still, I know I don’t speak just for myself when I express sadness when a once-formidable newspaper simply calls it quits.

Yes! on this Person of Year


Time magazine gets pounded whenever it makes what many think is a dubious selection for its Person of the Year.

Not this time.

Indeed, the magazine hit it far out of the park by selecting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Spirit of the Ukrainians as its Person of the Year for 2022.

We know the story about Zelenskyy and about how he has stood up to the illegal, immoral and unjust invasion of his country by Russian military personnel under the command of the thug/goon/tyrant Vladimir Putin.

What many of us might not know has been the undying spirit of the people President Zelenskyy governs. Ukrainians across the country have rallied behind their leader. They have shown remarkable courage and resilience against the war crimes committed against them by Putin’s military machine.

We all considered the Russian army to be invincible. It damn sure isn’t! It has been routed on the battlefield by Ukrainian forces and by the Ukrainian civilians who have risen to resist the invaders.

The courage that Zelenskyy has shown will be written in history books as a shining example of statesmanship and unblinking courage.

Well done, Time. You chose wisely.

Enjoying the after life

No, I am not dead. Not by the longest shot imaginable. I am delighted to report that there once was a time — long ago — that I wondered whether I would enjoy my life once I quit working full time.

I am even more delighted to tell you that the answer is yes. Not just yes, but hell yes. I am enjoying myself more than I could have imagined when I was full of piss and vinegar.

Time has this way of tempering one’s passions. It tempered mine, to a degree, particularly the passion I had every day as I prepared to go to work as a newspaper journalist. It did temper my passion, though, for commenting on issues of the day. I remain dedicated to that proposition more than ever … or so it seems. The difference now is that my commentaries are solely my own and I do not answer to an editor of a publisher.

That is not to say that I am free of restraints. Good taste and societal norms do keep me reined in a bit … but it’s only just a bit.

I remain delighted and full of energy to keep writing this blog and keep my head in the game.

One of the things I learned a decade ago when my career ended that there surely is a post-journalism after life. I am living proof that it exists. Unlike the big after life, I am still around to tell you about it.

I just wanted to share the good news with you.

Everyone is famous … for 15 minutes!

Andy Warhol clearly was ahead of his time.

The avante garde artist once declared that “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” I don’t believe he foresaw the advent of social media when he made that declaration.

But it has happened. Social media in all its forms have delivered fame to many millions of human beings who don’t deserve it, but who have it anyway.

Who knew?

To be brutally honest, the instant — if fleeting — fame is one of the aspects I detest about social media. I get that it’s an efficient way to get messages out there. I heard today how retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who got crossways with Donald Trump over the Ukraine matter that led to Trump’s first impeachment, continues to use Twitter to deliver his version of the truth.

Many of these instant celebrities have used social media, namely Twitter, just to promote themselves. That’s fine. I use Twitter, too, although my roster of followers is nowhere near where it is among many millions of others.

Thus, I cannot claim any sort of “fame.” No worries. I don’t intend to seek it.

I’m just going to sit on the sidelines and watch others grasp for fame. Many of them will get hold of it. They might keep it for a while.

I just wonder what Andy Warhol would be thinking today as we all watch his prediction pan out. He is likely laughing out loud!

No ‘non-politics’ pledge this year

Years past have seen your friendly blogger — that’s me! — pledge to move away from politics during this holiday season.

I won’t make that pledge this year. I had only mixed success in keeping previous promises. This year I will forgo doing what appears to be the impossible … which is set politics aside in this period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

However, I am making this pledge, which I am comfortable with, as I believe I can keep faith with it. Blog posts during this period will not contain the occasionally personal rhetoric I spew when referencing Donald J. Trump, the man I still consider to be an existential threat to our nation’s political fabric.

Accordingly, I don’t expect to be so visceral and angry even when referencing those who follow what passes for the former POTUS’s ideology. It is terribly tempting to speak the ugly truth about those who I believe hold treasonous views about our democratic process.

I’ll refrain from snorting fire.

That all said, I will continue to speak what I consider to be the truth about them, their cult leader, the misguided notions that come forth. I just won’t use angry rhetoric.

I also realize that having laid down that stipulation, readers of this blog will interpret my comments as being, well, unkind. That is their problem. Not mine.

If I sound unkind or mean, it’s all unintended. Therefore, I will offer a pre-emptive apology of a type I detest hearing from those in the news. If I offend you, I am sorry.

Feeling happy … and sad

A longtime colleague and friend has called it a career in print journalism and to be brutally honest, his announcement fills me with happiness for what awaits him but sadness over a revelation contained in his announcement.

Tom Taschinger served as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise from February 1995 until just the other day. That’s nearly 28 years in the saddle; his career spanned 40 years all told. Taschinger and I didn’t work together in Beaumont; he succeeded me after I departed the Gulf Coast in January 1995 for the Texas Panhandle. We knew each other well, though, as he served as editorial editor of the neighboring Port Arthur News during my time in Beaumont.

I wish him all the very best as he enters an exciting new phase of his life.

But he declared that he would be the “last full-time editorial page editor” of the Beaumont Enterprise. Thus, I feel a tinge of sadness.

You see, when I arrived in Beaumont in the spring of 1984, the then-executive editor, the late Ben Hansen, informed me that I would be sitting “in the catbird seat” writing editorials in a “great news town.” He was so right. Those were the days when communities, such as those served by the newspaper, depended on the opinion pages for leadership, for a touch of guidance … if only to remind readers that they should take the “opposite approach” to whatever solutions the paper sought to offer.

We offered those opinions. We sought to guide the community. We sought to provide a forum for debate and discussion. Now, to hear that my old buddy is leaving a post that will be filled with part-time help leaves me with a sense that he and I are part of a sub-species of journalist that has entered the “endangered” list of professions.

I left Beaumont for Amarillo and worked at my craft for nearly 18 more years. The newspaper where I served as opinion editor until August 2012 no longer publishes a daily opinion page. It has no opinion editor. I don’t even know who writes editorials for that once-vibrant newspaper.

I know it’s a sign of a changing media era. The Internet has consumed much of what Tom Taschinger and I used to pursue with great joy.

I am left, therefore, to shrug and wish my old pal safe travels as he continues his journey toward parts unknown.

Changing reading habits

Once upon a time, when I was a full-time journalist working to improve my performance at my craft, I would travel to here and there and pick up newspapers along the way.

My goal was to read them, to glean some ideas I could take back with me to the newspaper where I worked.

Man, those days have disappeared. So has the habit of reading newspapers around the country.

My wife and I just returned from a two-week journey to the Pacific Coast. I didn’t pick up a single newspaper. Heck, I barely saw a single newspaper.

We ventured through cities with strong newspaper traditions: Albuquerque, Phoenix, Bakersfield, Sacramento to name just four. We stayed for a few nights in Santa Cruz, Calif., which has a paper I would read when we visited my sister and her family; not this time! I had no interest in seeing the San Jose Mercury-News, or the San Francisco Chronicle.

I did pick up one newspaper along our nearly 3,800-mile trek. We stopped for a bite in Memphis, Texas on our way home. I saw a copy of the Red River Sun, which I believe has replaced the Childress Index as the paper of the region. It contained a lot of community news: reunions, award ceremonies, city and school news. Hey, it’s the kind of thing I am writing these days for the Princeton Herald!

But I am a freelance writer these days, which kind of frees me of the responsibility of looking for ways to improve the newspaper for which I write; that task belongs to my bosses.

It’s not that I miss the opportunity to see what other newspapers are doing to present their news and commentary. It’s just that I am still getting accustomed to the idea that I no longer have to worry about the hassles associated with persuading my bosses to implement the changes I pick up along the way.

Yep. Life continues to be very good.

Newspapers: Where are they?

NEEDLES, Calif. — My wife and have ventured through much of southern California and tonight I just thought of something I haven’t seen with my own eyes.

The sight of people reading newspapers.

Not at breakfast in a tiny diner in Keene, Calif. Not at any of the truck stops and travel centers we visited on our journey. Nowhere, man!

There was a time when we would travel to hither and yon and spot newspapers spread out on people’s tables at restaurants. I would spot a newspaper — sometimes crumpled up — on the floor of men’s restrooms. We would stop for gasoline along the way and would see news racks full of newspapers waiting to be purchased by those wishing to learn what was occurring in their community or their nation or around the world.

These days? Newspapers are MIA!

OK. It’s a sign of the times. Newspapers are becoming part of our history. I consider it a glorious part, too. They are fading faster than yesterday’s news.

It makes me sad.

However, they still have their place as a chronicler of a community’s life and its future. I am delighted to be a freelance writer for a company that owns a group of weekly community journals that do that for our communities in North Texas.

If only there were more of them out there.

Twists and turns on journey

This retirement journey I’ve been on for about the past decade keeps twisting and turning along a strange ride toward, well … I’m not entirely sure where it’ll end.

You might know that I have been working as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times for the past couple of years. The newspaper is part of a group of suburban weeklies owned by husband and wife who live in Collin County.

Well, beginning just the other day, my assignment changed. I am going to cover city government, school issues and writing features for Princeton, where my wife and I have lived for nearly four years.

Yes, the Princeton Herald is my new assignment headquarters. An opening occurred at the Herald, so I asked my bosses if I could be considered to fill the hole on the staff. They said yes. That was that.

This is an exciting new challenge for me, inasmuch as I do not yet know all that much about the politics that drive policy at Princeton City Hall. I now will get to learn about policymakers who determine the taxes I pay to live in my new hometown. I also will get to examine — and report on — the politics that drive public education policy in this rapidly growing community.

This is an exciting new venture for me. I have told my bosses how much I appreciate the faith they place in me. I won’t let them down. Furthermore, this post-full-time-journalism retirement will proceed along this course for as long as my bosses want me to keep reporting or — God forbid! — I am no longer able to do what I love to do.

Fighting internal battle

Those among my friends who know a lot about me likely presume that I tend to think the best in people … until others prove my initial belief in them is wrong.

They would be correct in making that assumption.

With that said, I must declare that I have been in the middle of an internal struggle as I seek to maintain that generally optimistic view of our fellow travelers. Yes, I want to maintain what I consider to be a charitable view of others.

It’s the current mood out there that has tainted damn near everything for me. Political adversaries no longer are just friendly foes; they are enemies. Make no mistake about the source of that visceral anger. It comes from the MAGA crowd, the individuals who parrot the nonsense spewed forth by titular head of today’s Republican Party, the 45th president of the United States.

The anger is pervasive. It permeates so much of, well, damn near everything. The 45th POTUS told us during his inaugural speech about he intended to stop the “American carnage.” He waved the clenched fist, which has become a sort of symbol of the rage he embodies to this day.

Meanwhile, instinctive optimists such as yours truly are caught in the maelstrom that threatens to suck us under. We get pulled into the negativity that emanates from others. I can’t speak for others, but from my perspective, I dislike the feeling that keeps boiling up within me. It goes against my nature … you know?

A few of my journalism colleagues over the years have dismissed my optimistic view of others. They all cling to some notion that they needed to reserve a level of “cynicism” when encountering sources or assessing the context of a discussion. I would suggest to them that I know the difference between “cynicism” and “skepticism.” Accordingly, I was able to maintain a certain skeptical eye.

The mood out there has gone beyond simple skepticism and has devolved into a cynical view I find unhealthy.

Thus, I shall fight to retain — or recover — my instinctively positive view of the world … even as the forces around me seek to drag me down.