Tag Archives: AGN Media

Media relevance vanishes

A quick return to a community where my wife and I lived for nearly half of our married life together has produced a series of bittersweet memories.

We came back to Amarillo, Texas, for a quick visit with our son and to acquaint our new Ford pickup with our new travel trailer. We didn’t get out too much to mingle with friends, but we see did a number of them at a Rotary Club luncheon.

I must have heard a dozen references to the job I used to do in Amarillo, which was to edit the opinion pages of a once-vibrant newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News.

That paper, or what’s left of it, has become a non-presence in the community that once relied on it to tell the Texas Panhandle story, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows.

“Man, we sure miss you,” came one greeting. “Why don’t you move back?” another friend said. “I once read the newspaper to know about the community, but I can’t find anything in it that tells me what I want or need to know,” yet another friend said.

Hey, I don’t say this to shore up my own ego. I want to relate to you what I sense is missing in a city of 200,000 residents that once turned to its newspaper of record to report on what is happening around the corner, or at city hall, or at the county courthouse.

I went shopping for a copy of the Globe-News. I couldn’t find one anywhere on sale. Surely, they still peddle the newspaper … somewhere! Don’t they?

It’s always good to see good friends and to catch on their lives. The good feelings are diluted by the bitter feeling that boils up when I realize that such a big part of my professional life no longer matters to the people I enjoyed serving.


I saw ‘woke’ before I ever heard the word

Hey, something just occurred to me that I want to share with this post. It made me chuckle when the thought entered my pointed head.

You’ve heard the term “woke,” right. I take it to be a sort of put-down on those with progressive/liberal leanings. Here’s a quick story that I want to share.

I was working at the Amarillo Globe-News in the early 2000s when the publisher decided to move our opinion page operation into the newsroom; it had been next to the publisher’s office in an adjacent building.

So, we made the move. My two staffers and I set up shop in a corner of the AGN newsroom. I dug into my box of mementos and found a bumper sticker that one of my sons’ high school teachers had given him … to give to me! It said: I don’t believe the liberal media.

Maybe you’ve seen stickers like it. I taped it to a window on my new office.

It didn’t take 24 hours for a colleague at the newspaper to tell me how she was “offended” by it and that others in the newsroom were offended, too. She told me to take it down or else she would take it up with the management of the newspaper.

Like the dumbass I was in the moment, I reacted two ways. My jaw dropped because I couldn’t believe I was hearing such nonsense. I told my colleague that the sign is a “joke on me. It is intended as a barb that someone was leveling at me because of my political leanings.” She wasn’t convinced.

Well, I took the sign down. I put it away. I kept it hidden from view during the time we were stationed in the AGN newsroom. We didn’t want to offend anyone … you know?

Talk about an “I wish I woulda said this” moment. I should have dared her to take it up with human resources, or even the publisher. I should have shooed her away and told her to take it up with the executive editor at the time. But … I didn’t.

Now I understand better what “woke” means. It reared its ugliness in front of me before I knew what “woke” meant.


Milestone ahead!

I am approaching a milestone date and I want to forewarn you of the event. I have written about it before, starting with some bitter feelings toward my former employer and the circumstances leading up to my departure from a career that brought me great joy, a bit of success and a whole lot of fun.

It was Aug. 30, 2012 when I got called into the office of a new hire at the Amarillo Globe-News. The newly installed “vice president for audience” told me, “There is no easy way to say this, but we have decided to offer your job to someone else, and he accepted.”

Hmm. I knew who the “someone else” was, but I asked if it was him. My colleague said yes.

We exchanged a few words, I rose from my chair, went to my office, called my wife and said, “I’m out.” I called my sons to tell them the same thing. I collected my thoughts and went home, but not before visiting with the publisher of the newspaper on my way to the car. We had a tense conversation. He asked me to come back the next day to “think about” my next move. I didn’t need to think about it. I quit.

I came back the next morning, cleared out my office … and was gone.

The publisher had implemented a strategy that sought to reorganize the newsroom at the AGN. He told us all our job descriptions had been rewritten. We could apply for any job we wanted. I chose to seek the one I had done there for nearly 18 years. He had something — and someone — else in mind for me and my AGN career. So, he acted.

The years since my departure from full-time print journalism have been a joyous ride. Some of it has been a bit uncertain. However, I have not only survived, I consider myself fortunate to have been spared the misery that has befallen daily newspapers in the decade since and the unique misery that afflicted the Texas Panhandle’s premier newspaper.

This blog has been a lifesaver for me. I get to keep pontificating about issues of the day. As I have told you already, I have a couple of fun freelance gigs that keep me busy near the North Texas home my wife and I purchased a few years ago.

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Thus, it has been a rapid 10 years since my life changed.


A couple of quick post-scripts …

The VP for audience and I have become friends and we stay in touch. He moved on not long after he gave me the news I didn’t want to hear. I reached out to him not long ago to reconcile and to inform him I harbored no hard feelings toward him.

The publisher? He “stepped down” from his post a while ago after the paper was purchased by another company. He and I never forged any kind of relationship during the years we worked together. We don’t speak now. That’s fine with me, too.

Life is so good.


Saddened by newspaper images

The images I keep seeing of the place where I spent the longest stint of my newspaper career keep tugging at my heart.

The Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News buildings have been vacant for some time. What’s left of the newspaper staff moved into a suite of offices in a downtown bank tower. Someone reportedly has purchased the G-N site, which will become a place that manufactures lubricants.

The images just tear my guts out.

The press room still has paper in the presses. I saw one picture of encyclopedias piled up. Another one had bound volumes of old editions. The newsroom looks like the staff fled the building in haste, leaving paper and assorted trash strewn across the floor.

I would pay real American money to know what the G-N’s final days were like as the company that purchased it from the owners for whom I worked got ready to vacate the site.

Next month marks a decade since I walked off my job after nearly 18 years as an editor of the opinion pages. I don’t miss it these days. I got over the pain — and the embarrassment — associated with my sudden departure from a career I pursued with great joy for nearly 37 years.

To be candid, seeing the images of what is left of the Globe-News only heightens my relief and happiness at being away when the end arrived.

Life goes on.


Stop the presses … no, wait!

This bit of news from the Texas Panhandle hit me like a punch in the gut. It comes from the company that owns the newspaper where my daily journalism career came to a screeching halt nearly a decade ago.

The Amarillo Globe-News is ending its daily page of opinion. It will run that form of community journalism one day each week: Sunday only, man! I want to emphasize the term “community journalism” for a reason you’ll notice in just a moment as you finish reading this post.

The newspaper announced it today. The statement includes this item: This comes as we make a more concerted effort to re-invest in local journalism, with the recent addition of a reporter dedicated to covering breaking news and trends along with agriculture and West Texas environmental issues.

It wants to “re-invest in local journalism.” What that statement tells me is that dodo birds who run the newspaper place little “local journalism” value one editorials. That is a terrible shame.

You see, there once was a time when communities relied on opinion pages to lead them, to provide some form of wisdom, to offer talking points, if not outright ideas for solving community issues.

Those days appear to have been cast aside.

Read the entire statement here: Amarillo Globe-News shifts to Sunday-only opinion section, re-invests in local news – Amarillo Globe-News (newsmemory.com)

I wrote opinion pieces and edited opinion pages for the bulk of my 30-plus-year career in daily journalism. That is why this news hurts, why it cuts me to the quick.

You can spare me the lecture about how “this is the national trend” and that “the Internet has changed everything.” Man, I know all that.

There once was a time, not many years before I got reorganized out of my job as opinion page editor at the Globe-News, when I made a concerted effort to limit all of our editorial commentary to local and state affairs. That was our contribution to furthering the cause of community journalism to a region that still sought leadership from the newspaper.

It now appears that people who did that job for the communities they served — as I did with great joy and commitment — have been placed on an endangered species list.



Take the man’s money, play by his rules

A friend and former newspaper colleague once told me after I left daily journalism and got my blog going full blast that my blog proved something about me he suspected from the day I began working with him at the Amarillo Globe-News.

It was that “you didn’t believe half the stuff you wrote for the newspaper,” my friend said.

Well, my friend — who’s also out of the daily journalism grind — is every bit as astute as I knew him to be when we first met in early 1995.

I make no apologies for writing editorials and for editing pages for a newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, with a strong conservative tradition. My friend was right, that I didn’t adhere to much of what I wrote on behalf of the publisher, to whom I reported directly.

I told my then-boss that there were some lines I could not cross. They dealt with capital punishment, gun control and abortion. The newspaper opposed gun legislation, it favored capital punishment and was anti-choice on the issue of abortion; I tilted in the opposite direction on all three issues.

He hired me anyway and for that I am grateful.

I made a brief return to daily journalism at the end of 2021. The Dallas Morning News hired me as a temporary, part-time editorial writer. To his great credit, the editorial page editor for whom I worked told me he “never would ask” me to submit an editorial with which I disagreed in principle.

I am grateful also for the leeway he extended.

This is all part of what I have known since another ex-colleague and still-friend told me years ago. “If you take the man’s money,” he said, “then you have to play by the man’s rules.” 

Fair point. I now work for myself writing on High Plains Blogger, although my freelance work for the weekly Farmersville Times and for KETR-FM public radio allows to go back to what I learned how to do at the beginning of my journalism career. Which is to write straight news stories.

I learned that skill a long time ago. I also have learned that one never loses one’s touch.

And so … this gig keeps on producing more fun than I ever thought was possible.


Curiosity leads to some answers

My curiosity over the possible future of a building where I once worked is beginning to produce some potential answers. I am getting a nice buzz about what I am hearing.

The Amarillo Globe-News building on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Harrison Street now belongs to a new owner. It is a company that makes petroleum-based lubricants.

I am curious about the fate of an inscription on the Harrison Street side of the building. It reads: “A newspaper can be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for lack of courage.” The iconic message is attributed to the late Gene Howe, publisher of the Globe-News.

I want the inscription preserved forever. I learned today from a longtime friend and a former colleague at the newspaper that the owner of the building is interested in keeping it, too.

My friend believes the engraved wisdom will remain on the side of the building and that the new owner of the building will seek some sort of historical grant to preserve the exterior appearance of the building.

That means Mr. Howe’s wisdom will remain where it has been for decades.

The owners have uncovered a lot of material left behind when the Globe-News staff vacated the building a few years ago. He told me of the discovery of the Pulitzer Prize medal the paper won in 1961 for its uncovering of corruption in county government. He mentioned old newspaper articles and handwritten notes on them from the late T. Boone Pickens, who criticized the publisher of the paper, Garet von Netzer, over the tone of the articles the paper printed … presumably about Pickens!

This is all valuable stuff, man!

My hope now is that the building will be refitted to accommodate the offices of the new lubricant-maker but will retain the personality that made it such an iconic structure in Amarillo.

To my way of thinking, it starts with Gene Howe’s wise words.


Save the message

The building where my full-time journalism career came to an end has changed hands, with a new owner taking possession of an iconic structure that sits on the fringe of downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The Globe-News building has been purchased by a company that manufactures lubricants. Strange, I know. However, this blog post isn’t about that change of occupants. Instead, I want to wonder aloud about an aspect of the Globe-News building that I hope the new owners can preserve.

On the Harrison Street side of the building, an inscription is carved into the stone face. It comes from a comment attributed to the late Gene Howe, publisher of the Globe-News. It states: A newspaper can be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for lack of courage.

Those were words of wisdom that many of us took seriously. Indeed, after I started work at the Globe-News in January 1995 as editorial page editor, I decided to include the message on the editorial page masthead. We strived to meet that standard every day.

The building where I worked for nearly 18 years is vacant. The corporate owners sold the paper some years ago. The new owners then gutted the staff in all departments and moved who remained into an office suite in a downtown building.

The inscription carved into the stone building front, though, needs a permanent home. I did some sniffing around and learned today that there has been some discussion about whether they can remove the slab with the engraving from the building and find a spot for it in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on the campus at West Texas A&M University. Whether it’s just idle chatter or something that could result in a serious move remains to be determined.

I found out today from a former colleague that the PPHM already houses many of the print archives, photo negatives, bound volumes and assorted artifacts from the Globe-News’s glory days.

Indeed, I also learned that the new property owners recently uncovered the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service medal the newspaper won in 1961, when the late editor Tommy Thompson uncovered county government corruption. The medal, too, is now in safe keeping!

I intend to continue sniffing around my old haunts. The engraving means a lot to those of who worked inside that old building. It should mean a great deal to the community that benefited from the effort to keep the faith with what those words urged us to do.


Lamenting newspapers’ demise

This is the Gospel truth, so help me: I detest writing critical items on this blog about newspapers that provided me with great joy and satisfaction as I pursued a craft I loved so very much.

Still, it pains me terribly to watch the demise of what used to be a mainstay in people’s homes. Daily newspapers everywhere in this great land are withering up and dying before our eyes.

It’s a slow and painful death to be sure.

I have commented on the end of Saturday publication of the Amarillo Globe-News, the last stop on my daily journalism career. The newspaper ceased the Saturday edition this weekend. Amarillo, Texas, is far from the only community watching this happen to their newspapers.

Cities far larger than Amarillo (population, 200,000) are seeing the same thing happen. The city of my birth, Portland, once was where The Oregonian published 400,000 copies every Sunday; daily circulation was around 250,000. Today? It’s a fraction of those amounts. The newspaper doesn’t even deliver to every subscriber seven days a week, although it does publish papers every day, but sells most of them from news racks.

Newspapers used to be what we called “cash cows” for their owners. They operated with enormous profit margins, exceeding 30 or 40%. They did so while paying huge amounts of overhead to salaries employees. Publishing a newspaper was labor-intensive to be sure, but the owners made tons of dough while publishing them.

Those days are long gone.

I am proud of the craft I pursued. I did so in good faith as a reporter and then as an editorial writer, and then as an editorial page editor. No one ever called me the “enemy of the American people.” Indeed, those with whom I toiled to publish newspapers all felt as I did, that we sought to tell our communities’ stories with honesty and fairness.

I believe we succeeded.

I remained saddened by the demise of daily print journalism as I remember it when I took up this craft.

I came of age in journalism about the time that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were telling the world about the 1972-74 Watergate scandal. Their reporting for the Washington Post sought to hold those in power accountable for their actions. They exposed some monumental corruption.

Sitting on my bookshelf at home is a first-edition copy of “All the President’s Men,” the story that the two journalists told of the scandal that brought down a U.S. president and sent many of his top aides to prison.

A publisher gave me this book as a Christmas gift and wrote on the first page of what he called his “favorite book.” He continued: “This is really where it all began for great journalism!” I aspired to make a difference in the world the way these men did. I didn’t get there, but I managed to carve out a modestly successful career that made me proud of the path I took.

I just am saddened to see newspapers dying before my eyes.


Retrenchment continues

A newspaper that employed me for nearly 18 years and which served as the dominant source of information for the Texas Panhandle and three nearby states has taken quite possibly a step closer to oblivion.

It saddens me greatly.

The Amarillo Globe-News has suspended one day of publication; it no longer publishes a Saturday edition. The end of the Saturday newspaper was effective yesterday. The paper announced it was “combining” Friday and Saturday editions into a Friday newspaper, which is a kinder/gentler way of telling readers that they no longer will receive a Saturday edition of a once-solid newspaper.

Oh … sigh.

I practiced my craft at the Globe-News for nearly 18 years. Then I walked away in August 2012. I haven’t looked back too often. When I have, though, I see things that distress me. The newspaper has changed corporate ownership twice since I departed. Morris Communications sold its entire newspaper holdings to GateHouse Media, which then merged with Gannett Corp.

The retrenchment has commenced in the Panhandle just as it is in communities across the country.

I don’t like what I fear is going to happen eventually to a newspaper that in 1961 earned a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service but which is now devolving into a shadow not just of what it was during those great days but also of what it has become just in the past few years.

The newspaper that once covered communities throughout every county in the Panhandle, into eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle and even a sliver of southwestern Kansas now barely covers events inside the city of Amarillo. It now employs a tiny fraction of the staff it once boasted. Advertising revenue has plummeted, along with paid newspaper circulation.

Hey, it’s not unique to that region. It’s just that it hurts me, your friendly blogger, to watch it happen in a place that brought me great joy during the final stage of my print journalism career.

I am not looking forward to what I believe lies ahead for the Amarillo Globe-News.