Tag Archives: mainstream media

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.


Hey, media! Where’s the outrage?

Well now, it appears we have a fascinating discussion brewing about the way the media treat athletes caught doing illegal acts or making public demonstrations about serious policy matters.

If you’re Black, the media are going to climb all over you. If you’re white … not so much.

Consider the cases of two Black football players, Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick. Vick was convicted of sending pit bulls to their death in dog fights. Kaepernick was vilified because he chose to take a knee during the National Anthem to protest police conduct against Black citizens. Vick and Kaepernick are Black.

You with me so far?

Now we have Brett Favre, another former pro football quarterback, who’s accused of stealing money intended to help poor Black residents of Alabama and Mississippi. Where’s the outcry? Where is the condemnation?

Oh, wait. Favre is white.

Brett Favre got caught red handed and nobody cares (deadspin.com)

I want to make another point. None of us wants to see dogs tortured, but … they aren’t human beings. No physical harm was done to anyone when Kaepernick launched his star-spangled protest.

In the case of Favre, people are suffering because someone — allegedly it’s Favre — stole money from accounts set aside to help those individuals.

Is that how you cover the news fairly? Hardly.


Reporters mustn’t become ‘part of the story’

I am going to vent briefly about something that has annoyed me ever since I decided in the old days to study journalism in college.

It is the tendency of some reporters to become part of the story they are covering. Sigh …

I like to think of reporters the way I think of referees at sporting events. We shouldn’t talk about the officiating that’s taking place, but instead about what the athletes are doing.

But here we are. We get caught up in the reporters’ aggressive questioning of public officials. It’s made worse when the public official bristles at the reporter and then pulls the reporter straight into the issue being discussed.

Examples? Hmm. Sam Donaldson of ABC News frequently tussled with President Reagan at news conferences. Before that, we had Dan Rather of CBS News jousting with President Nixon. Then came Britt Hume of ABC News hassling President Clinton.

Some more? CNN’s Jim Acosta became a spoil sport at Donald Trump’s press events and now we have Fox News’ Peter Doocy rising to the challenge during White House press briefings conducted by Karine Jean-Pierre, press flack for the Biden administration.

I care next to nothing about which reporter is getting under a president’s skin. Nor do I give a damn about wondering whether they’re doing their job.

We ought to know when a reporter is doing his or her job simply by gauging the depth of the question and whether the subject is answering it fully.

A reporter shouldn’t ever become part of the story. Just let the story tell itself.


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.


The joy returns

Community journalism is where it’s at, man.

How do I know that? Because I am involved in it at its most basic level. You see, I once was a retired journalist. Not at the moment. I remain in what I prefer to call “semi-retired” mode.

But my task these days is to report on city council matters, on school board matters and to write occasional features in a lovely North Texas community just a few miles east of where I live with my wife and Toby the Puppy.

Farmersville is home to about 5,000 individuals. It’s a growing community with plenty of issues relating to rapid growth. Streets need repairing. The city is embarking on a new fiber-powered Internet system. It has battled in recent years with a wastewater treatment plant. It is trying to find an individual to manage its Main Street program.

The community relies on the newspaper for which I write on a freelance basis. The Farmersville Times publishes once each week. It contains stories from yours truly and others who write for the group that owns the Times, C&S Media, based out of nearby Wylie.

I want to toot the horn of community journalism because it continues to thrive even though what the conservative talking heads refer to as “mainstream media” continue to struggle.

They struggle because of a perception – and I believe it is misplaced – that major media outlets no longer just “report the news.” They lace their reporting, the critics assert, with their own bias. I believe the bias lies in the minds of the consumer, not the messenger … but that’s another issue for another day.

I just want to declare that the joy has returned to the calling I received many decades ago to become a reporter. I so very much enjoy covering these city council, school board and feature-article issues because they deal with matters that affect citizens most directly.

It is my job – which I perform on a freelance basis – to report to the community about the decisions their elected representatives make on their behalf.

When I started this gig a couple of years ago, I came out of retirement from a career in which I was an advocate for opinion pages of two medium-sized Texas newspapers: one was in Amarillo, and one was in Beaumont. However, like virtually all print journalists, I got my start covering city councils and school boards and writing feature articles.

I learned something about myself when I started this new job: I didn’t forget what I had learned all those years ago.

I am having a lot of fun.



Journalists get some love … finally

You know how I feel about journalists and the craft they pursue with joy and passion; after all, I am one of them, even though I no longer do it “for a living.”

Watching the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night, with all of its attendant silliness, insults, self-deprecation and happy talk leading up to the event, I was filled with pride to hear the president of the United States speak well of the work they do on our behalf.

President Biden understands — at least he says so publicly, which is enough for me — that the media deserve the constitutional protection granted them by the nation’s founders. Think of that. A “free press” is the only private enterprise guaranteed by the nation’s governing document.

The dinner took a few moments to salute those among the media who have died in service to the public. They have been taken by the war machines that grind on throughout the world.

The media have become the bogeymen and women of contemporary society. We have heard a former president label the press the “enemy of the people” and have witnessed the ex-POTUS’s followers threaten members of the media who are doing their job.

We didn’t hear that from the head table at the WH Correspondents’ Dinner. Instead, we heard the media receive the recognition they have deserved since the founding of our great nation.

I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for the praise that came into my living room. I never was a member of the White House press corps. I have plenty of colleagues, acquaintances and actual friends who have served near that nerve center. I stand with them with them in awe for the work they have done and continue to do.


Newspapers still provide value

I want to take a moment to sing the praises of newspapers, which to my way of thinking still provide enormous value to the communities they serve.

First, I need to provide full disclosure.

I once was a full-time print journalist; my full-time career ended in August 2012. I now am a part-timer, a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper in Collin County, Texas.

OK, are we clear now about my bias in favor of newspapers? Good! I shall proceed.

Newspaper reporters have been called many names by politicians and other public officials over many centuries. They incur public figures’ wrath primarily for telling the public the truth about how those public figures are doing their jobs. Public officials, whether elected politicians or career bureaucrats, have been embarrassed because newspaper reporters have uncovered misbehavior or, at times, illegal behavior.

Many local newspapers are continuing on that mission to hold public officials accountable to, um, the public. I salute them always because I appreciate what they do. I also know the difficulty they face in pursuing the truth on behalf of the public.

Granted, there are fewer of them today doing that job than, say, 10 or 20 years ago. Newspapers are suffering from the changing media climate. Fewer people depend on newspapers to tell them what is happening in their community. They rely instead on social media and — gulp! — the Internet.

I subscribe to two weekly newspapers and a daily newspaper; although the daily paper, the Dallas Morning News, comes to my home only twice each week — on Wednesday and Sunday. My print subscription enables me to read the rest of the week’s editions online. The weekly papers are the Princeton Herald (in the city where I live) and the Farmersville Times (the paper for which I work).

I will read newspapers for as long as I am able to read, which I hope will be a good while longer while I still walk this good Earth.

The men and women who report the news do so without the kind of evil intent that too many politicians — and those who follow them — ascribe to them. They report the news clearly and they tell us our communities’ stories.

There is tremendous value in all of that. Even when it embarrasses those who get paid with money generated from my tax bill.


Good journalism still exists

I keep seeing these references to the “good old days” of journalism, when TV news anchors — Walter Cronkite is the one most commonly referenced — would “read the news” with an “agenda.”

Well, allow me this brief retort. Those “good old days” need not be dredged up and remembered with overdue, overstated and overinflated reverence.

There still is plenty of good broadcast journalism, along with print journalism, being practiced.

Many of my friends and former colleagues know that to be true. Some of them, though, lapse into that hyper-sentimentalism in which they recall how it used to be.

I admit these days to watching a lot of broadcast and cable news. The broadcast news still is presented by individuals who do so with professionalism and without the “agenda” that so many accuse the media of presenting.

The three major commercial broadcast networks continue to feature individuals who follow the Cronkite model brought up so often these days; I also will include PBS, the public TV network, as well among the organizations that present news without favor toward one side or the other.

The far right — led by the most recent ex-president — have poisoned the debate. Donald Trump has labeled the media the “enemy of the people” and the purveyors of “fake news.” Sadly and tragically, too many Americans swallowed that rhetorical snake oil. I know that cable news has produced a ton of right- and left-wing commentators and “contributors.”

However, I am going to stand with my brothers and sisters in the media and will continue to salute them for the work they do to tell the stories of our communities and our world.


Extinction looms

It’s strange to see myself in this fashion, but I am going to face a harsh reality. I worked in a profession that is fading ever so steadily into what we often call the “dustbin of history.”

I was a print journalist for nearly 37 years. I wrote news stories and then opinion pieces for newspapers in Oregon and Texas. Then my days as a full-timer ended almost a decade ago. I am back at it these days as a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper, the Farmersville Times, in Collin County, Texas; I also write feature stories for the public radio station over yonder in Hunt County, at KETR-FM, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. For the record … I am having the time of my life.

My wife and I were walking through our neighborhood today and as we walked past the school nearby, I recalled returning in 1983 to the grade school I attended in Portland. My fifth-grade shop teacher, John Eide, invited me to participate in a “career day” event at the school. I accepted the invitation gladly and spoke to youngsters at Harvey W. Scott Elementary School about the joy of pursuing a craft I loved.

I had been at it for about seven years at that point. I was still pretty new to journalism, but I loved my job and looked forward to the career I would enjoy. The next 30 years were filled with loads of fun, excitement and hard work. I am proud of the career I built.

I am wondering, though: Do they still have career days and if so, do they invite newspaper reporters to speak to aspiring youngsters about how to pursue a career in journalism?

If they do, what do today’s journalists tell these future reporters? My hunch would be they would tell them to keep their powder dry if they intend to work for newspapers (if the students even know what a newspaper is these days). 

Will my granddaughter, who’s now 9 years old, know about what Grandpa did for a living? I will look forward one day to explaining it to her. I fear there might not be anyone still doing precisely the work that gave me so much joy and fulfillment.


‘Enemy of people?’ Hardly!

Let’s take a brief moment — shall we? — to ponder the stupid utterance of a former U.S. president who declared on more than one occasion that the media and those who work for them are “the enemy of the American people.”

OK. Now, let’s juxtapose that stupidity with what we’re hearing from the battlefield in Ukraine.

We are hearing of casualties being inflicted among journalists who are covering that battle between Ukrainian forces and those from Russia who have invaded their country.

A Fox News Channel reporter is hospitalized after being wounded seriously in an attack that killed one of the producers from that network. Journalists from other news-gathering organizations have been wounded and killed while covering the war for their readers, viewers and listeners back home … where “home” might be.

The former president is fond of hammering the media for purportedly producing “fake news,” never mind that he also produces fake news simply through his own stupidity, his own lying.

Journalists who thrust themselves into harm’s way to cover world events — regardless of the danger they pose to those who get too close to the action — are heroes. Their only “enemy” rests in the hearts and minds who deny — or denigrate — the value they bring to a civilized society.