Category Archives: media news

Learning things daily

One of the wonderful hallmarks of my journalism career, which I pursued with great joy for nearly 37 years, was the learning I gained from the communities I covered as a reporter and then as an editor.

I was able to work for several newspapers during my time in the reporter’s and later the editor’s saddle. In Oregon, then in Texas, I settled into new communities and sought about learning the ins and outs of each community that read the words that I produced.

Even though my full-time career ended abruptly in August 2012, I have been able to keep learning about the communities I get to cover in my “semi-retired” state.

I work these days as a freelance reporter in Collin County, Texas, covering Farmersville (primarily) and also Princeton (where I live). I write for a group of weekly newspapers owned by a husband and wife who also live in Collin County.

That’s not all! I also get to cover issues involving a much broader community for KETR-FM public radio, based at Texas A&M University-Commerce. My work is published on KETR, org, which is the website run by the public radio station.

My latest assignment for KETR, org has me covering the status of the Hunt County jail in Greenville. I won’t divulge what I have learned, as I don’t want to scoop myself or, more to the point, my bosses as the radio station.

I merely want to relish in the knowledge that one is never too old to learn new things about new places. I am now approaching 74 years of age. I have seen a lot of things in my life, met a lot of interesting and provocative individuals along the way.

However, I can say with tremendous joy in my heart that I continue to learn about the communities I cover for the news organizations that are willing to allow this ink-stained wretch to keep pursuing the craft he loves.

Yes … I am living the dream.

No thank you …

I have reached my boiling point with these so-called social media “friends” who scour the Internet looking for people with whom they allegedly want to become acquainted.

An individual who presented herself as an attractive young female asked if we could “chat.” I asked “her” what she wanted to talk about.

“She” said she wants to “get to know” me better.

I hit the ceiling. I responded with this: “I have more than enough actual friends with whom I have trouble staying current. I don’t need or want any more Internet ‘friends’ who have no interest in me. Look elsewhere. Good bye.”

I probably shouldn’t have responded to this individual … but what the hell. I just had to get it off my chest.

This is my way of saying, I suppose, to anyone on the hunt for pigeons to lure into some sort of Internet relationship that I ain’t your guy.

My new life remains a work in progress. I intend to get it all sorted out in due course. I’ll just have to stipulate that it won’t be via any sort of “come on” from someone who more than likely is not the individual “she” purports to be.

Media conspiracy? Non-starter!

As I listen to Donald Trump’s idiotic rants about “media conspiring” to keep him from being elected to public office, the more I am drawn to a piece of wisdom a newspaper editor once told me.

He said that publishing a newspaper each day was nothing short of “a miracle.” Which means to me that just getting a newspaper out the back door and onto people’s front porches each day required every bit of know-how an editor and his or her team of reporters could muster.

OK, let’s establish off the top that Trump doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Let’s also establish something else … which is that your blogger acquired a good bit of inside info on publishing a newspaper during the nearly 37 years I spent pursuing my craft.

When I cite the editor’s contention of a “modern miracle” occurring, consider all the things that could go wrong during the publication of a newspaper. The presses could explode; electricity could fail; storms could erupt; a reporter might die on deadline as he or she is writing the lead story for that day’s newspaper.

I have been accused of conspiring against portions of a community. I have told accusers the same thing every time: I don’t have time to conspire against anyone; I am too busy just getting a newspaper published to think about how to damage a segment of my community. My answer usually didn’t dissuade the accuser. Whatever …

But in the larger debate, the media have become targets of the MAGA morons who insist that they — the media — have the authority, the ability and the wherewithal to conspire against right-wingers.

B … S!

The nature of the craft I pursued simply made such conspiracies impossible. The editor who told me about the daily “miracle” was onto something. It takes a journalist every bit of intellectual firepower just to get his or her work out the door.

Social media: warning, warning!

I feel the need to use this blog to vent about social media and the threats they pose to individuals of a certain age and demographic … such as yours truly.

Here’s the deal. I am a 73-year-old male who admits to being a bit too involved with at least one social media platform; that would be Facebook. 

Lately, say, within the past four or five months, I have been getting these “friend” requests from individuals who send them to me accompanied by a picture of an attractive — in some cases drop-dead gorgeous — females.

I don’t know these individuals, obviously. It’s tempting to engage them and I am willing to acknowledge that temptation. I prefer not to do so, believing that there’s a chance that the individual seeking my “friendship” might be looking for something other than an individual with whom she can converse.

As those of you who have been following this blog know, I have been writing about the journey I have undertaken since the passing of my dear bride, Kathy Anne. My journey remains a trek without a clear destination, which I suppose brings me to the point of this blog.

It is that social media in all their forms can become predatory weapons for those willing to use them in that fashion. I am not a Snap Chat or Tik Tok participant, nor do I use Instagram all that much; Twitter is fading away and LinkedIn is for professionals and I am a semi-retired former full-time journalist.

I also am alert enough — and perhaps even cynical enough — to presume that the individuals seeking to become “friends” have no relationship with the pictures they send me via Facebook. Put another way, I am immediately suspicious of a picture of a gorgeous female, thinking that the sender of the “friend” request might be some toothless, hairy-backed knuckle-dragger looking to play a dirty trick on this old fella.

I know I’ll get to where I am intended to go eventually. This journey is taking its natural coarse and I trust the forces that are guiding it — and me. I am just trying like the dickens to keep social media temptations at bay.

So far, so good.

Do I miss the old days?

My friends pepper me with questions all the time about what I used to do for a living.

One question recurs more often than you might think: Do you miss the old days when you were under constant deadline pressure?

My answer might surprise you. At one level, I do miss the pressure; it was how I made my living, which turned out to provide a nice lifestyle for my wife, my sons and for me.

I miss the being asked to make a phone call or three to subjects of our newspaper reporting and commentary and to get a comment from them. Our sense of fairness in reporting required us to get the point of view of the individual being examined. So, we did … or, shall I say, I did.

That was then. The present day provides a whole new environment for newspaper reporters and editors. The pressure comes from media we don’t yet understand. At the end of my joyous ride as a full-time journalist, I was working for a company that owned that Amarillo Globe-News that did not grasp what it needed to compete in this new media age.

The result was chaos and confusion and we all had to deal with it in the trenches.

I do not miss that part of the craft I pursued with great joy and fulfillment. 

My life has taken on a different meaning in my semi-retirement phase. My blog keeps me busy commenting on issues of the day, on various slices of life and lately, of course, on a personal journey I am undertaking as I search for an end to the tragic darkness that has shrouded me since February.

While I surely miss many aspects of the life I once knew, other aspects of that life are better left for others to pursue.

I had one hell of a ride for much of the time on the front line of daily journalism. Now, though, the journey toward places unknown awaits. I intend to be ready for whatever the future brings.

When to close an ‘open meeting’

I tend to view the provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act through a fairly strict prism, meaning that exemptions granted should be interpreted strictly.

What do I mean? The act allows governments to close their meetings to the public when discussing pending litigation, real estate transactions or personnel matters. It’s the last of those provisions that has caught my attention.

The Princeton City Council plans to go into closed session soon to discuss who it wants to select as its Place 4 council member, replacing Keven Underwood, who resigned from the council after serving nearly three years; Underwood is battling some health issues … and I certainly wish him well as he continues that fight.

But is a city council member the same as, say, the police chief, the fire chief, the city manager or any other full-time paid staffer who draws a paycheck from City Hall? I submit that, no — he or she is not the same.

Which brings me to my point about the Open Meetings Law. Its exemptions are understandable and are more or less clearcut.

I long have interpreted the law to exempt discussions involving the disciplining of city employees, or their hiring and firing. I never have considered a member of the governing body to fall under the “personnel” provision used to talk about a pending appointment to that very governing body.

I am going to presume the Princeton City Council consulted with its legal counsel on this matter before deciding to go into executive session to talk about Underwood’s successor. And that the city attorney gave his blessing to the decision to keep it secret.

I also get that the council members are entitled to speak candidly about potential applicants and perhaps don’t want their true feelings about an individual to be known by everyone in town.

It’s just that the city council is not a “paid position” the way someone who answers to a municipal administrator is paid. The city councilman or woman is the “boss” at City Hall … and doesn’t belong in the same category of employee as the people who report to the council.

Thus, these laws designed to keep matters crystal clear at times get a bit murky.

To watch or not watch GOP debate

I want to be candid: I do not yet know at this moment whether I intend to watch the Republican Party’s presidential primary debate tomorrow night.

The so-called “frontrunner,” Donald John Trump, says he won’t attend. Which brings me to this: What’s the point of watching if the main man ain’t there?

GOP operatives say Trump is scared sh**less of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has made Trump’s unfitness for office the focal point of his campaign. Christie no doubt will push hard on that notion in Trump’s absence.

I have no clue what runs through what passes for Trump’s mind. He doesn’t have a heart, so there’s no need to wonder about that, right?

Well, I reckon I’ll probably watch it just to get a grip on how far the rest of the field will go in taking down this charlatan/fraud/pretender.

Then again, a major part of me also wants to see how Trump would defend himself against the allegations that will bombard Trump’s empty podium.

‘Protecting’ Bidens? Seriously?

The conspiracy theorists who populate the MAGA crowd really and truly just crack me up!

They contend with a straight face that journalists are “protecting the Bidens” from exposure for the crimes they reportedly have committed. Bribery, extortion, money laundering. They say it all leads to the top of the family food chain, which in this instance means also to the top of the U.S. government.

Wow! I now want to explain a little something about journalism and those who practice an honorable craft.

I keep my hand in the career I pursued for nearly 37 years. My days as a full-time journalist are long gone, as I am now an old man who still reads the news daily and enjoys the rough and tumble of journalistic combat.

OK, what do I know about the craft? It is populated by highly competitive individuals. Newspapers compete against each other. So do TV networks, streaming services, digital outlets. Those who continue to work in journalism vie with each year for recognition among their peers for the good work they do.

I offer this as my way of telling you the conspiracy theorists ignore the competitive nature of journalism, even in the form it is taking these days. No journalist worth a damn is going to sit on a story involving a politician with whom he agrees politically because he doesn’t want to “embarrass” him or her.

A journalist is going to expose anything he or she believes is worth reporting to the public. That is part of the job they all sign on for when they hit the streets in search of the next big scoop.

I also must remind everyone who reads this blog that journalists are not bound by ideology. They do not just “seek out conservatives” because they work for the “liberal media.”

Let me toss out a few names for you: John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Jim Wright. Oh, wait … Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton! These all are prominent politicians, all are Democrats, all are so-called members of the “liberal elite.” They all were targets of aggressive journalists looking for the truth behind the assorted allegations that rocked their respective careers.

You can spare me the bullsh** notion that the media are “protecting” President Joe Biden and his son because they want to protect the president. In the real world of gumshoe journalism, such an allegation is as phony as it gets.

The ‘O’ is vanishing

We called it “The O,” or the “Big O” back in the day, but these days the “O” is a shadow of its former self and is vanishing into history’s dust bin.

The O is The Oregonian, the newspaper of record for my hometown of Portland. A friend sent me a story from Editor & Publisher with a distressing story about the Oregonian’s plans to quit daily distribution of a newspaper that once was considered a “cash cow” for Newhouse Corp., the company’s corporate owner. The Oregonian is about to end 142 years of daily newspaper distribution.

No more, man.

A paper that once distributed more than 250,000 copies daily and 400,000 copies on Sunday is suspending publication for four days weekly effective Jan. 1. The culprit? That damn Internet!

I don’t know how to react, other than with profound sadness at the state of the industry that gave me a wonderful career. I practiced my craft for nearly 37 years, and I actually got started with the Oregonian Publishing Co., which used to operate the afternoon Oregon Journal until it folded the paper into The Oregonian in 1982. I worked on the copy desk at the Journal until the spring of 1977 when I took a job as a temporary sportswriter for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier.

The temp job became permanent, and I was on my way to a career that gave me more enjoyment and fulfillment than I probably deserved.

Now comes this terrible news out of my hometown. The Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal — both owned by Gannett/GateHouse — have effectively become a regional newspaper covering the Willamette Valley, according to E&P. The Medford Mail-Tribune shut down earlier this year. All three of those publications once were award winners of the first order..

The Oregonian’s circulation numbers are about a tenth of what they once were. The paper’s sales continue to plummet. What’s next is the unthinkable: shutting it down altogether.


Hold ’em accountable

The seemingly pending demise of local journalism in communities across the country has me dismayed almost beyond measure.

I have been sharing email messages with a longtime Texas Panhandle journalist who endorsed my concern over the slow, steady and agonizing degradation of the Amarillo Globe-News, the newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years before my career came to a halt in August 2012.

What is happening in the Panhandle is a tragedy. There’s no other way to describe it. The Canadian Record, a weekly newspaper of longstanding fame and tradition, shut its doors earlier this year, leaving that portion of the Panhandle with no voice.

The Globe-News no longer publishes a daily editorial page and it has gone to mailing its editions to consumers, a decision that, in my view, makes delivery of timely news an absolute impossibility.

The biggest loser in all of this, according to my friend and former colleague, are those who demand that local politicians be held accountable. My friend wrote this:

“The worst part of all this is that for a democracy to survive at its best, there needs to be scrutiny of the decisions of public officials, otherwise it’ll be easier for more of them to succumb to temptation with impunity, with little to no oversight. The public gets the short straw and honest, efficient government at all levels suffers terribly. There goes democracy as it’s supposed to work.”

The media are supposed to function as the public’s eyes and ears. It reports on what government does, what those who run our government say and on the results of those decisions to those of us who rely on government.

The media also are charged with being the voice of the public that consumes what the media report and then speak out either in favor of or against what government is doing for — or to — them.

This is what we always tried to do at every stop I made along my way through a modestly successful — and wholly gratifying — career in print journalism. We occasionally reported and commented on matters the public didn’t want to hear; and they let us know when that occurred. We also received applause when we earned it from the public that thanked us for being there for them.

That element is being stripped away piece by piece by this new age of journalism that is taking on a totally different look from what I remember.

It’s about the accountability … stupid!