Tag Archives: AGN Media

Lamenting media’s sorry state

It is time for me to lament the sorry state of three newspapers where I worked full time as a print journalist.

Two of them are still in “business,” but barely so; the third one — the first newspaper that hired me as a young sportswriter — is gone, kaput, history.

I started work at the Oregon City, Ore. Enterprise-Courier in the spring of 1977. My first job was a temporary gig; it became permanent when a staff member resigned, and I took his place. I stayed there until the spring of 1984.

I moved to Beaumont, Texas, to work for the Beaumont Enterprise. I stayed at the Gulf Coast newspaper until January 1995.

Then I moved to the other end of Texas, to the Panhandle, to work for the Amarillo Globe-News, which at the time published two daily newspapers. The afternoon paper was folded into the morning paper in 2001. I stayed there until August 2012.

Since my departure, the Globe-News and — I must add — the Enterprise have devolved into shadows of their former solidness. Neither paper achieved true greatness, although the Globe-News — or more specifically, the p.m. Globe-Times — was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service in 1961.

That was then, when the communities served by newspapers depended on them to tell the communities’ stories. They were part of people’s lives. Their readers depended on them to keep them informed, to tell them about the world we all call home.

Alas, no more.

It has gotten so bad that I no longer look to either the Globe-News or the Enterprise to see what is happening in the communities where my family and lived. How sad is that? I’ll answer it for you. It’s very sad … at least it is to me.

The media climate has destroyed a once-great American institution. I was so very proud to be a part of it as I practiced my craft with great joy and dedication to following the rules of accuracy and fairness.

It’s not all gloomy, though. I remain in the game as a freelance reporter for a chain of weeklies in Collin County. I still am having more fun than I deserve.

Americans across the land have turned to other sources for information. Is it as reliable as the info we provided in Oregon City, in Beaumont and in Amarillo? I fear it is not.

That is to the shame of those who have wrecked what used to be the pride of many communities … and to those who have embraced this new media climate.

He was a consummate pro

A friend and former colleague told me a brief story about a man whom I saluted with an earlier blog post that I want to share here.

John Ward died recently at the age of 70. He served for 22 years as Amarillo’s city manager, which by itself is an astonishing length of time, given the brutal and unforgiving nature of the work one must do. He had to work with governing councils comprising individuals of vastly different priorities and personalities … led by mayors with widely divergent points of view.

Ward got into a snit with a reporter at the Amarillo Globe-News over some information the reporter sought, my friend said. Ward resisted handing it over, apparently believing it wasn’t public information. Ward was mistaken.

He turned the info over to the reporter after my friend insisted he do so. My friend noted this about Ward: He could have held a grudge over being shown up by the media, but he didn’t. He put it aside and carried on in his role as city manager and worked with the newspaper on all matters the paper was reporting on as it regarded city affairs.

That’s what a trained professional does. He might resist a request. If he comes out on the short end of that kerfuffle, he forgets about it and goes about his or her job.

Indeed, it is the kind of public official who earns the respect of those who take it upon themselves to seek information that could be sensitive in nature. I have known too many folks in public life who take these dust-ups personally.

Their lingering anger serves them, the media that cover them — and the public to whom they answer — poorly in the end.

John Ward knew that intuitively and served the city with competence and devotion to the tasks he undertook.

40 years ago … my life changed

Holy mackerel, man! This landmark anniversary almost got past me, but I won’t let it go without offering a comment on how a single move from one state to another changed my life.

I grew up in Portland, Ore. I lived there for the first 34 years of my life. I met the girl of my dreams there. I married her. We brought two sons into the world. I started my career in journalism there.

Then it changed in late 1983 with a phone call from a former boss of mine. He had gravitated to Beaumont, Texas. He wanted to know if I would like to work with him on the Gulf Coast at a newspaper that was healthy, vibrant and a chronicler of a tremendous “news town.”

I interviewed for the job. He offered it to me. I accepted his terms. I moved from Portland to Beaumont in March 1984. My career got the boost it needed.

I landed in a great news town, as my boss had stated. In my first week on the job, voters there cast their ballots on a street-naming referendum. Beaumont’s Black community wanted to change the name of a major street to honor Martin Luther King Jr.; the referendum failed narrowly.

Did I suffer culture shock? Yes. I wasn’t used to racial politics. I ran smack into it in Beaumont. I adjusted nicely, I am happy to report.

I did enjoy modest success from 1984 on to the end of my full-time career.

My family joined me a few months after I got to what I call The Swamp. My sons came of age in Texas. My bride and I carved out a wonderful life here.

We stayed in Beaumont for nearly 11 years. Then we moved again. To Amarillo about 700 miles northwest of our home. Culture shock again? Yep! We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years. I enjoyed more success there. We made many friends in both of our stops in Texas.

My career ended in August 2012. I was “reorganized” out of my job. I quit on the spot and got on with the rest of my life.

What did all of this teach me about myself? It taught me that I am an adaptable creature. My years in Oregon gave me a comfort level I thought I would be reluctant to let go. I had spent two years away from home serving my country in the Army. Perhaps my time in the Army prepared me unknowingly for what would happen 14 years after I returned home when I got the call to move to a part of the country that was vastly different from what I knew.

Then opportunity knocked. I answered the proverbial “door.”

Have I reached a new comfort level in my new home state? Yes. Texas’s politics has changed dramatically since our arrival here 40 years ago, but I am not one to move on just because politicians who represent us make decisions with which I disagree.

I am still keeping up the fight. I will do so with this blog for as long as I am able.

The past 40 years have zoomed by. I am trying to slow it down a bit. Wish me luck on that effort.

Media falling asleep

A longtime acquaintance of mine takes time every week to review the contents of the Amarillo Globe-News, a once-thriving newspaper in the city my wife and I called home for more than two decades.

It’s now a battered shell of its once-proud self. My friend noted the absence of a major breaking story that should have raised an eyebrow or two in what passes for the newsroom at the AGN.

What was missing: The story this week in so many print and electronic media sites about the demotion of former Rear Admiral and current Congressman Ronny Jackson after the Navy OIG found multiple unacceptable aspects of his service.

Jackson is serving his second term as a Republican congressman from the 13th Congressional District. He moved to the Texas Panhandle to run for the office when Mac Thornberry announced his retirement from Congress.

Dude once served as White House physician for two presidents: Barack Obama and the idiot who succeeded him. The Navy inspector general stripped Jackson of his rear admiral rank, busting him to captain after probing many allegations of serious misconduct.

This is the kind of story that should be splashed all over the front page of the local newspaper … except that the 13th District doesn’t have a local newspaper based in Amarillo. 

Jackson is a disgrace to his office and to the uniform he once wore. He continues to tout himself as a rear admiral on his website. The guy doesn’t even have the decency to tell his constituents the truth about his post-military standing. “As a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral with nearly three decades of military service I understand the commitment and sacrifices made by servicemen and servicewomen to serve our country,” the two-term Texas representative writes on his congressional website.

I am left to ask: Does character matter any longer to what passes for a formerly great political party … or to the media outlets that report on the conduct of those in power?

Death of ‘local news’?

I am going to salute a young man I have known for some time, as we were colleagues in the Texas Panhandle … I worked for the newspaper and he worked for a local broadcast outlet.

Here is what Kelly James posted today: I’m calling it. Time of death for local news was 2/27/2024 at 5pm, 6pm, 9pm and 10pm. While homes were literally being lost to fire in Fritch and surrounding communities, all of the local stations were not doing their jobs. If there’s even a hint of severe weather, their coverage is wall-to-wall. But people actually losing their homes and possibly their lives is not important enough to interrupt Wheel of Fortune or Entertainment Tonight. Before anyone offers any excuses, let me just say, I’ve been there before. It can be done. It just takes guts and integrity to do the job. They should all be embarrassed. I am for them.

Guts and integrity? It doesn’t even require either of those traits. How about a commitment to the craft they chose to pursue?

Kelly James is rightfully angry and indignant, however.

The wildfires in the Texas Panhandle have been astonishing in their scope. Last I heard, a fire that was burning northeast of Amarillo had consumed 300,000 acres of grassland was “zero percent contained!”

I spoke today with a former colleague of mine and she reported that air quality had gone from fair to intolerable. “There were ashes falling from the sky,” she told me. The smoke is burning people’s eyes. I mentioned something about “65 mph wind gusts.” Her response? “They weren’t ‘gusts.’ The wind was constant.”

According to my friend, Kelly James, the TV news outlets were asleep on the job. They were derelict in their duty to report the news to a public that needed to know what in the world is happening to its communities.

James didn’t mention the Globe-News. Hmm. I guess it’s a given that a once-substantial newspaper — that has become a mere shadow of itself — is unable to do the job of reporting local news.

What we have here is the demise of what used to be a staple of every community in the land.

Good bye, local news.

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.

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!


Reflections of good times

As I watch the media landscape buckle and change in real time before my aging eyes, I am thrown into wistful thoughts of how it used to be when I was a whole lot younger, full of piss and vinegar and wanting to make a difference in my world.

I don’t wake up a single day ever regretting the decision I made to pursue a career in print journalism.

The journey began with a conversation I had with my father at dinner shortly after I returned home from a tour in the Army. I was re-enrolling in school and Dad asked me about my major. He said I should pursue journalism because the letters I wrote home from overseas were so “descriptive” that he shared them with friends and family.

So … I marched down that road. I never looked back.

My career took me to four newspapers: two in Oregon and two in Texas. It enabled me to do things that not every human being can say they did. I met important people along the way. I sought to help bring policy changes in communities where I lived and worked. I had some modest success along the way.

These days, as politicians — particularly on the far right — declare the media to be the people’s enemy, I continue to look back with great pride at what I did, at who I angered (and the reasons for their anger) and whether I made a difference.

I made mistakes. No one’s perfect, as they say. I learned from each of them. I also learned about the communities I called home during my nearly 37 years pursuing a craft I loved with all the professional passion I could muster.

Two of the papers where I worked no longer exist; the Oregon Journal and the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier closed up in 1982 and 1988, respectively. The other two, the Beaumont Enterprise and the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas are mere ghosts of what they once were. I fear their presence in their respective communities might be ticking down rapidly.

It is not fun at all to watch this change chip away at formerly grand community institutions. It is inevitable nonetheless.

They took me on one hell of a great ride … and I will never, ever surrender the joy I had throughout that entire journey.


Once-solid newspaper on its way out

Another newspaper that once boasted of winning journalism’s top prize is heading for the crapper.

How do I know that? Because the Amarillo Globe-News has informed its subscribers they no longer will have what is left of the newspaper tossed on their yards the day it is published — in Lubbock! Ohhh, no! It’s going to be mailed to subscribers via the Postal Service. The paper is terminating its carrier service.

Stick with me for a moment as I explain why this sounds like the death knell peeling across the Texas Panhandle.

A few years ago, the Globe-News shut down its presses and farmed the job of printing the paper to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, about 120 miles south of Amarillo on Interstate 27. That meant the deadlines for getting “late-breaking news” into the G-N would be pushed back. The paper needed time to get the pages assembled and then shipped to Lubbock, where it would end up on printing plates.

Bottom line? There would be no late-breaking news in the Globe-News.

Now they have added the mailing element to a newspaper that has been stripped of its viability because it cannot report news that happens at midnight.

I once worked for a newspaper in Oregon City, Ore., that around 1983 decided to start mailing its copies to subscribers. I left the paper in early 1984 headed for the Golden Triangle region of Texas. The experiment failed miserably. The paper folded in 1988 and vanished into the void.

A similar experiment is about to commence in Amarillo around the third week of July, as I understand it.

All I can do these days is sigh and bemoan what has happened to a news organization that once displayed a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service it won in 1961 for exposing government corruption in the region. That, folks, is the highest honor a newspaper can earn. The Pulitzer Board is still making that award, but in Amarillo and in the Panhandle, it is a distant memory now.

The days of great daily community journalism are long gone.

What does mailing the paper mean to those who still read the Amarillo Globe-News? It means they now will get a sheet of newsprint that is worth even less than it was before.

I detest bringing bad news to my friends in the Panhandle, but the end is approaching … rapidly.


Great story on the fall of a media ‘giant’

The Texas Tribune has published a wonderful story about the pending demise of the Canadian Record, an award-winning weekly newspaper that has “suspended” its print editions … maybe only temporarily.

Nic Garcia wrote the piece.

Texas news desert expands after Canadian Record stops publishing | The Texas Tribune

The Record’s owner, Laurie Ezzell Brown, is trying to find a buyer. She admits to being weary of the grind and wants to spend time with her children and grandchildren.

Garcia alludes to the demise of many newspapers that serve rural communities. I would just add this mild critique, which is that he didn’t mention that the Texas Panhandle’s significant urban community — Amarillo — is suffering from the same lack of local news coverage as communities such as Canadian.

Same for Lubbock further down the highway from Amarillo. And other larger cities as well.

The era of printed newspapers is fading away … rapidly, it seems.

It saddens this old newspaper hand terribly.