Tag Archives: journalism

Any regrets on this choice?

This question has come to me more than once over the many years of my life in Texas.

It goes something like this: Do you regret moving from Oregon to Texas, given the strange political climate that has overtaken the Texas political leadership?

My answer: Not one bit. Not for a single moment.

My wife and I forged a fabulous life in Texas, living in three distinct communities. We moved to the Golden Triangle in 1984 with our two young sons. We then relocated in 1995 across this vast state to the Texas Panhandle after our boys had left home to attend college. Then came the final move to the Metroplex to be near our granddaughter, who came along in March 2013.

We came to Texas to move my career forward. We succeeded. It was a bit of a leap of faith, given that I had lived virtually my entire life in Portland, except for two years I spent in the Army. Kathy Anne had spent the bulk of her life there, too.

My career enabled me to have a ringside seat to watch the Texas political climate change. My craft as an opinion writer and editor for two mid-sized — but solid — daily newspapers gave me an up-close look.

Now, to be sure I need to state that politics hasn’t swallowed me whole. I worked hard at my job at the Beaumont Enterprise and the Amarillo-Globe News. When I went home to my bride, I left the travails of the day behind.

I don’t object to the questions about the decision my wife and I made together to uproot ourselves from what we knew in Oregon to what we would discover in Texas. It’s understandable that some might wonder if I question the wisdom of that decision.

All told, our life in Texas has given us a great ride. Yes, I am still struggling to find my way along the rest of the journey alone, as my bride is now gone. I learned long ago that I am an adaptable creature who isn’t hidebound by old habits.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, once said “There’s more to life than politics.” He was speaking to me at the time … and I nodded in agreement.


Blog passes milestone

Boasting is not my forte, but I do feel the tug to brag … but only just a little.

High Plains Blogger just passed a significant milestone. My most recent post was the 601st consecutive day I have been able to post a commentary.

Don’t stand and applaud, please.

Just understand that writing this blog is important to me. I wrote opinions on all manner of issues for many years during my full-time career as a newspaper journalist. My career ended more than a decade ago, but my desire to keep writing has remained intact.

Therefore, I want to share this bit of good news … at least it’s good news to me.

I am asked on occasion: How do you write so often? The best answer I can find is: It’s what I do.

There is no special talent. I can’t identify any truly great work in all the items I have posted since I began writing this blog in 2009.

I simply take great joy in posting these musings. It keeps me alert. I intend to keep High Plains Blogger active for as long as I can string sentences together.

More good news? I am still willing and able.


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.


Battles waged over time

I fought many battles with readers of publications where I worked during my nearly 37 years as a full-time print journalist.

One kind of fight is what I want to highlight with this blog post.

Occasionally I would get caught between two extremists — one on the far right and the other on the far left. They would accuse me of being in cahoots with those on the “Other Side.”

It was a fight I was destined to lose every … single … time.

There was a physician in Beaumont who was an avid anti-abortionist. He thought — incorrectly, I must add — that because I was pro-choice on the issue that I was “pro-abortion.” Indeed, I have that squabble these days with some readers of this blog.

But back to my point … which is that the physician, who happened to be a pretty good writer, would submit articles for my consideration to appear on our opinion pages. I would submit them and would draw fire from pro-choice readers asking, “Why do you let that crackpot have any space on your page?” 

I would answer that his opinions are his alone and he is entitled to express them, as long as he doesn’t tell outright falsehoods. The doctor didn’t do that. Therefore, I would consider each piece on its merits and would determine whether they saw print.

I moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in January 1995 and found myself caught in the middle of a spat between two men, one of whom was a staunch Democratic Party activist, the other was an equally staunch religious leader who adhered to, um, a more conservative world view.

They both considered me to be the Spawn of Satan, for vastly different reasons. I was destined to be vilified by both of them. Get this, though: I actually was more dialed in to the lefty’s world view than the other gentleman. It’s just that my giving the righty any space in the paper was tantamount, in the lefty’s mind, to knuckling under to the other side.

I don’t really miss that kind of fight, now that I have stepped away from the daily grind. These days I am content to be a semi-retired blogger who dabbles now and then with covering community news for a group of weekly newspapers and for a public radio station.

I like it this way.


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.


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.


Memoir: It’s back!

I have written about this already, but I feel the need to give you an update on the progress I am beginning to make — yet again — on a project I decided to undertake.

A memoir of my career is in the works. What’s new about it? Well, I had put it on ice for far too long. I would get busy, distracted, tired out and wouldn’t spend the time I needed to complete it.

It’s going to be a compilation of the people I met and some of the cool things I was able to do and places I was able to see while working as a newspaper journalist for nearly 37 years.

My bride gave me the idea to write it and to give it to members of our family. Kathy Anne and I soon will celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary, a fact I just thought I’d throw out there, as it has no particular significance to the memoir I am writing, except that the memoir was her idea in the first place.

My career enabled me to meet some fascinating figures. Some of them were historic figures, indeed. You’ll read about a couple of presidents of the United States, one foreign head of state, a few who wanted to be POTUS. You’ll read about notable journalists with whom I had the pleasure of meeting and — in a couple of cases — actually get to know on a personal level.

I once stood in the same room with one of history’s most iconic and revered figures. I didn’t meet him, but just standing about 40 feet away was enough to overwhelm me. Spoiler alert: That person was Nelson Mandela. 

I don’t have a title for this piece of work. I’ll come up with one about the time I finish it. I once wrote that I wasn’t sure I could ever finish it. I have changed my mind. It’ll come to an end.

Here’s what I wrote earlier about it: Memoir in the works | High Plains Blogger

I once was the model of self-discipline. Once I set my mind to something, nothing stood in my way. That drive has waned just a bit as I have grown older.

But the way I look at it all right now, at this stage of my life, I realize that I have lived most of my life already. The clock is ticking, which means I have to get busy and finish this project.

Therefore, I will do so.


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.


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.