Tag Archives: mainstream media

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.


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.


News? What news?

So … I am sitting on the back patio in Princeton, Texas, with my sister and we’re chatting about the loss we have suffered and how our minds have been taken away from our usual “routine.”

“I realize I don’t miss the news,” Liz said. Which made me nod in agreement. We fancy ourselves as news junkies. Hey, I spent a career seeking to keep pace with breaking news. My sis has pursued other career paths, but her interest is deep as well.

I usually spend a good bit of time watching TV news channels and scouring various Internet sites for the news of the day.

However, our minds and hearts have been pulled away by grief over the passing of my bride, Kathy Anne.

But as I ponder the observation about “not missing the news,” I am struck by how little all these national and world events mean to me. Indeed, at this moment, they mean nothing at all.

The developing presidential campaign in 2024? The Ukraine War? Congress’s efforts to get organized? Debt ceiling?


Honest to goodness, I truly don’t care — at this moment — about any damn bit of it!

Will it change? Yeah. Sure it will. It’s just going to take some time.

For now, I’ve got more important — and deeply personal — matters filling my noggin and my heart. And none of it has a thing to do with that thing called “the news.”


How does MTG get away with this?

Marjorie Taylor Greene is one of the MAGA cultists who routinely blasts what she refers to as the “mainstream media.”

That is so rich it defies any rational response. Why? Because the second-term Georgia congresswoman — and reigning QAnon queen of the House — somehow manages to get the very same media to cover the nonsense that flies out of her pie hole.

The idiot Republican has pitched some notion of a “national divorce,” with conservative Americans separating from liberal Americans. Hmm. Ponder that one. She wants a civil war? Is that what this moron suggests?

The media cover her rubbish. Bloggers such as me comment on it, too. Therefore, I will assume responsibility for giving this nimrod far more coverage that in a perfect political world wouldn’t get it. But … she does receive it!

She has proclaimed her belief that the U.S. is a “Christian nation.” It isn’t! She derides President Biden for visiting Ukraine to proclaim the nation’s support for that nation’s war against Russian invaders.

Seemingly every utterance she makes become punch lines.

I would pledge at this moment to never cover another statement she makes, except for this bit of wisdom. Which is that it is better to keep your adversaries out front in plain sight, lest they be allowed to hide in the shadows where they could do even more harm.


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.