Tag Archives: mainstream media

Media are supposed to be at odds with government

As followers of this blog know, I enjoyed a modestly successful career as a print journalist, which I pursued with great joy and dedication.

Never once during my nearly 37 years on the job did I ever consider myself anyone’s “enemy.” Certainly not the readers I served while working for newspapers in Oregon and Texas.

The climate today is vastly different than the one I entered in the 1970s. I came out of college intent on changing the world, a la journalists who had done their parts toward that end. I didn’t want to change it to fit my own description of what the world should resemble.

My intent was to report on issues I saw developing and seek remedies to bring changes to flaws I recognized and identified. I don’t believe that’s a nefarious motive.

I just watched a 90-minute documentary on Dan Rather, the former TV news anchor who, in his words, always sought the truth and tried to tell it the best he could. One of the principals quoted in the Netflix piece alluded to the natural tension between government and those who report on it via the media.

The tension was natural, and it was precisely as the nation’s founders intended. Media representatives are assigned the task of rooting out wrongdoing, of reporting on what government is doing well, of telling the human stories that affect every community … and of offering commentary that provides leadership and guidance to a community that seeks it.

I want to take a moment to express my pride in the craft I still pursue and of those who are pursuing full time to this very day. They are facing some ferocious headwinds from those who seek to run our government and therefore set policy on our behalf.

Those of us who know about those forces resisting our best efforts understand fully the need for journalists to keep moving forward. Are we perfect? Do we get it right every single time?

Hell no! We are human beings! We do, though, answer to what I believe is a high calling.

Should I proclaim my political allegiance?

I have been pondering a dilemma I have been facing during this election season, which is to what extent to what extent do I want to wear my political allegiance.

For decades I have forgone the displaying of yard signs at my home and bumper stickers on my vehicles. The answer is obvious: I was a journalist, and my craft presumes that its practitioners take an unsigned oath to keep our allegiance to ourselves.

I honored that pledge religiously for nearly four decades. To be frank, even though I am no longer employed by a media company, I am inclined to keep my pledge intact. I will stipulate that I do contribute freelance articles for a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County, but I am not on any payrolls. That means I am free to speak my mind … if I so choose.

I do write on this blog about my political leanings. You know, for instance, that I support President Joe Biden’s re-election. I oppose vehemently and viscerally the election of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, whose name I have been boycotting any mention on this blog.

I’ll need to stipulate that I know emotions run high on both sides of the chasm. Except that I never — not ever! — would damage anyone’s property if they decided to display a sign supporting the former Liar/Philanderer/Idiot in Chief.

Therefore, my angst at displaying my own allegiance has everything to do with how those on the other side might react.

To be candid, I dislike surrendering my First Amendment right to speak freely and peaceably about my government and the politics that produce our elected leadership. Yes, I am able to do so on this forum and for that I am grateful the founders granted us all that right. I just cannot take that expression to the next level, which would be to display a sign at my home or on my vehicle.

It’s just too weird out there … you know?

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.

Nothing wrong with ‘mainstream’

Conservatives far and wide take great joy in hurling the so-called “mainstream media” epithet at reporters and editors who tell them the truth about their favorite politicians.

I disagree, therefore, that the term should be used in that context. If the right-wingers out there are going to toss the term “mainstream media” at those of us who are (or used to be) employed by media organizations, they should include their pals who toil for conservative outlets, too.

Fox, Newsmax, Daily Wire, the NY Post, DC Examiner are every bit as “mainstream” as any other media organization. If we’re going to lump all media organizations under the “mainstream” umbrella, then for criminy sakes, include the righties, too.

I only would implore the right-wing media, though, to abandon the lies they promote about, oh, the 2020 election and the immediate past president’s non-response to the COVID pandemic.

But they’re still mainstream … you know?

Heartened by media performance

The so-called “mainstream media” are doing the job for which their practitioners signed on as they cover the campaign of the idiot who wants to return to the Oval Office.

I believe they have learned from the mistakes they made when they “covered” his initial campaign president starting with his announcement at the NYC tower that bears his name (for now!).

The media chose to essentially give him a pass on the lies that poured out of his mouth. They gave him space in newspapers and airtime on TV and radio, letting him say things about other politicians, immigrants, war heroes and the dispossessed without challenging the veracity of the claims he made.

Not so in this election cycle, or to some degree the 2020 election cycle when he sought to be re-elected as POTUS.

The four years of the moron’s time as president taught many in the media a bitter lesson, which was that it was duty-bound to call him a “liar” when they detected an untruth spilling out of his overfed pie hole. Only a few commentators, I recall at the time, had the fortitude to call him what he was, is and always will be: a liar.

The media now have the court system to buttress what many of us known all along. A New York court has determined, for instance, that The Former Guy lied to bankers about his wealth to obtain favorable loans. He overstated his self-proclaimed empire, he got caught doing it and has been adjudicated to be a bald-faced liar in a court of law.

Of course, we have The Big Lie, which the former Moron in Chief has used to suggest that the 2020 election was rigged against him. I’ve lost count of the number of court decisions that have declared those allegations to be false. He keeps fomenting The Big Lie and his cult followers continue to buy into it.

Moreover, the media now are reporting the lies up front and with all due vigor and professionalism. They didn’t do so when he first entered the political arena in the summer of 2015.

I am grateful that my former colleagues are doing their jobs now. May they continue to keep us informed … as they must.

Freelance job adds joy to life

One of the purest joys of my gig as a freelance journalist in North Texas deals with the quality of people I get to meet along the way.

Such as what happened this morning when I ventured to a historic cemetery near Princeton, Texas.

They had a ceremony today to lay wreaths on the graves of veterans who are buried at Wilson Chapel Memorial Cemetery. The event is run essentially by the local Daughters of the American Revolution. I walked into the chapel today to introduce myself to some of the DAR members who were meeting in advance of the wreath-laying event. They greeted me warmly, thanked me for being there to cover it for the Princeton Herald, one of the newspapers for which I am writing these days.

I am doing what can best be described these days as “soft journalism.” I write human interest features and report on actions taken by local city councils and school boards. Almost to a person, I am accepted as media representative and no one hassles me, nags me, throws a dig at me or hangs a four-letter epithet on me.

Believe me when I say that back in the old days when I did this full time, earning a decent living for my family, I didn’t always walk into friendly zones. These days it’s vastly different … for the most part.

There was one notable difference, though, that I can relate to you.

I walked into a school board meeting room a couple of years ago for the first time to cover this local school board. I extended my hand to one of the trustees, who promptly pushed me away, muttering something about the nasty organization for which I am working. He said something about a story that was published that cast him in a negative light … and he didn’t like it one single bit.

He blamed me for it! I sought to tell him I didn’t know what he was talking about, that I just started working for the newspaper. That didn’t matter. I was still the bad guy.

Well, several weeks later, this individual approached me, extended his hand and apologized. He said he was sorry for the way he acted when we met the first time. He said there were some issues in his personal life that affected his behavior and said, in effect, that he was acting totally out of character.

Our relationship ever since has been delightful.

I enjoy this kind of relationship with sources in the community. My bosses don’t ask me to dig deeply into reports of corruption. I’m fine with it.

This is a part-time gig. I do it for fun and to earn a little walking-around money. I am not in it to make a name for myself. I had plenty of that in earlier posts back when I did this job for a living.

Therefore … I am living the dream. Truly. I am.

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.

‘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.

Community journalism thrives

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I published a version of this essay a while ago. I submitted a longer version of it for publication in the Princeton Herald. The newspaper published it today, so I decided to send this repurposed and expanded version of the earlier post out for your enjoyment.

Not long ago, I received a heartwarming moment of affirmation. It came from a gentleman I encountered while shooting some pictures for the Princeton Herald.

I was taking some photos of a Habitat for Humanity house that was nearing completion on Harrelson Drive in Princeton. I introduced myself as a representative of the Princeton Herald and told the project managers I had written a story on this particular site about a year ago.

The gentleman to whom I referred earlier heard me greet the managers. He then told me something that thrills me to no end. “I read your earlier story and it motivated me to get involved with Habitat for Humanity,” he said.

My reaction in the moment as I recall it was muted. I thanked him for getting involved, but it didn’t really register to me what his underlying message was when he offered that statement.

It was that community journalism, the kind of craft I am practicing now as a semi-retired journalist, presents these kinds of triumphs all the time. People occasionally are inspired to get involved, to pay back to their communities, based on what they read in the local newspaper. How cool is that?

The name of the gentleman isn’t important. What he said to me is what counts.

I am heartened that the work we do in reporting on our communities can have this kind of impact.

I want to stress something else about those of us who have worked in the media and who do so going forward. Media representatives – even semi-retired folks like me – are operating in a hostile environment. The hostility comes from politicians and their followers – I feel no need to tell you who, as you probably know – contend that the media are the “enemy” of Americans.

Not true!

Not only do they disparage the work, they denigrate the individuals who do their jobs with honor and honesty. We all have heard the language that pours out of some politicians’ mouths.

Community journalism, as I understand the definition of the term, intends to report to those who consume community news on the status of the cities and towns where they live. Those of us who write for community news organizations seek only to hold officials accountable for decisions they make. They make decisions that determine how much we pay in taxes to fund our government; they determine the level of police and fire protection we receive for the money we pay; they decide when to pick up the trash we produce in our homes. These officials also provide clean water we use to bathe and drink; they repair our streets, making them safe for us travel.

Indeed, Princeton is in the midst of a major street renovation program at this very moment.

Community journalism also tells stories such as the one to which I referred at the start of this essay.

How can any of this be seen and described as the work of an “enemy”?

The gentleman I met that day in front of the Habitat for Humanity house on Harrelson Drive likely didn’t intend for me to accept his statement as an affirmation of the work I do for the Princeton Herald.

But I surely did.

He provided hope that all is not lost even in this toxic environment that occasionally causes people in power to disparage the work done all across this great land by media representatives whose only mission is to tell their communities’ stories.

I do so in my community with great pride.


Free press is ‘essential’

President Joe Biden stood at the podium this weekend at the White House Correspondents Dinner and made a stern and steadfast declaration about the value of a free press.

“A free press is essential to a democratic society,” he said, “and it is not the enemy.”

I want to offer a brief endorsement of the president’s statement, as it reflects the kind of understanding that a free, aggressive and unfettered press brings to those in power and to those who make decisions that affect our lives each day.

I feel the need to offer this endorsement because of the pummeling the press has been taking during the past, oh, six or seven years. As a member of what the right wingers and the MAGA crowd calls the “mainstream media,” I have taken great personal offense at the epithets being hurled at hardworking, dedicated reporters who signed on to report truthfully and fairly.

Presidents of both political parties, with one notable exception, have understood the role that a free press plays in holding government officials accountable. Does anyone in power like negative reporting on his or her activities? Of course not! However, to a person — again, except one — acknowledge that criticism simply goes with the territory.

Donald J. Trump launched the war against the media with his proclamation that the media are “the enemy of the people.” He turned “fake news” into a cliche that his followers picked up. I won’t belabor the obvious hypocrisy in that label coming from the godfather of fake news and outright lies. I do, though, want to suggest that news that runs counter to officials’ point of view isn’t “fake”; it is the truth that officials just don’t always want to hear.

President Biden’s inherent understanding of the media’s role in keeping him and the government he inherited accountable for their actions is a welcome return to what has been the standard since the beginning of the Republic.

May the press always remain free of government interference … and able to keep our government’s feet to the fire.