By JOHN KANELIS / firstname.lastname@example.org
I was speaking the other day to a member of my family; we were talking about two issues simultaneously: the growth and maturation of Amarillo, Texas, and the long, slow and agonizing demise of the newspaper that formerly served the community.
It occurred to me later that both trends work at cross purposes. I find myself asking: How does a community grow and prosper without a newspaper telling its story?
That is what is happening in Amarillo, I told my family member.
The city’s downtown district is changing weekly. New businesses open. The city is revamping and restoring long dilapidated structures. Amarillo has a successful minor-league baseball franchise playing ball in a shiny new stadium in the heart of its downtown district.
The city’s medical complex is growing, adding hundreds of jobs annually. Pantex, the massive nuclear weapons storage plant, continues its work. Bell/Textron’s aircraft assembly plant continues to turn out V-22 Ospreys and other rotary-wing aircraft. Streets and highways are under repair and improvement.
Amarillo is coming of age. Its population has exceeded 200,000 residents.
What, though, is happening to the media that tell the story of the community? I can speak only of the newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years before walking away during a corporate reorganization of the newspaper. The company that owned the G-N for more than 40 years sold its group of papers … and then got out of the newspaper publishing business. It gave up the fight in a changing media market.
The newspaper’s health has deteriorated dramatically in the years since then. Two general assignment reporters cover the community. That’s it. Two! The paper has zero photographers and a single sports writer.
The paper is printed in Lubbock. It has a regional executive editor who splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock and a regional director of commentary who does the same thing.
There exists, therefore, a serious dichotomy in play in a growing and increasingly vibrant community. I see the contradiction in the absence of a growing and vibrant newspaper that tells the whole story about what is happening in the community it is supposed to cover.
Spare me the “it’s happening everywhere” canard. I get that. I have seen it. None of that makes it any easier to witness it happening in a community I grew to love while I worked there. I built a home there and sought to offer critical analysis of the community from my perch as editor of the Globe-News editorial page.
I do not see that happening these days.
Meanwhile, Amarillo continues to grow and prosper. If only it had a newspaper on hand to tell its story to the rest of the world.