Tag Archives: 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?

This news hurts badly

Freddie Campbell was a dear friend, a confidant and someone with whom I could discuss just about anything.

He died the other day, apparently of complications from cancer. I struggled a bit over how I want to remember Freddie. I came up with something to share, so … here goes.

We worked together for nearly 11 years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I ran the editorial page, Freddie was the paper’s IT guru, the guy who kept the main-frame computer system running.

My day started the same way practically every day once Freddie and I became acquainted. I would go to work, read the paper (which was required of us) and start planning the day’s tasks.

Then Freddie would amble into my office. He would sit down and we then would begin discussing the news of the day. Later on, as often as not, the news involved the then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Freddie hailed from Little Rock, Ark., so he was quite familiar with the president. He didn’t think much of Bill Clinton and was unafraid to express his dislike to me. I had a different view of the 42nd POTUS. We would tussle, argue, even get our dander up. He then would get up and go about his day.

The routine would repeat itself the next day and days after that.

Freddie was a good man. He was smart and came from a family steeped in newspaper tradition. He was so very proud of his daughter and the woman she became.

But curiously, though, our friendship hit the rocks in recent years. We lost touch with each other because in the current toxic environment that has poisoned so many relationships, we couldn’t argue our points and then move on.

I regret deeply that our friendship soured.

Rather than talk any more about that, though, I am going to recall the joy we both felt in working for a newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise, that sought to report on the community, to offer perspective on where we believed was the right direction for the region we covered … and toiled diligently to ensure we could deliver the news each day.

Well done, Freddie Campbell.

News has become boring

News junkies — such as me — shouldn’t ever say what is in my heart and what is about to come out on this blog.

But the candid fact is that the news is beginning to bore me. I spent two weeks in Germany without a TV in sight in the home of my friends. I didn’t miss the commentary and reporting offered by international journalists.

I have been home for a few days and to be honest I have barely turned the TV on since my return. Why is that?

I think it’s because the news has become predictable. The news involving the former POTUS is tracking just about the way many of us thought it would. He is facing criminal prosecution involving the 130 grand payment to the adult film actress. I have heard conflicting reports on how the trial is going. I’m going to wait for the verdict.

The Israel-Hamas war might be getting a break from the carnage. I’m going to wait for the agreement to be announced.

Student protests have erupted on college campuses around the country, including at University of Texas-Dallas. Students are upset with what they believe is our nation’s wrong-headed support of Israel.

I am trying to get re-engaged. A part of me wants to re-connect with the news outlets. However, I keep waiting for reporting that isn’t stale, or on issues about which I know plenty already.

The ex-POTUS’s conduct — including the violations of the gag order imposed by the judge in his hush money trial — would have landed him in the slammer, were it not for his title of ex-Philanderer in Chief.

I am left with trying to find other ways to occupy my noggin. Surely, I can locate something to fill this thick skull of mine.

No TV? No big deal!

NUREMBERG, Germany — I have been living in a home for the past few days that has no TV.

There isn’t one to be found anywhere. You know what? I don’t miss what my Dad used to call the “boob tube” … and he sold them for a living!

My friends opened their home to me about 10 days ago. We did watch a film on one of their laptops: “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, about the release of the Pentagon Papers.

As for the news as presented by TV journalists, well, it has bored me to sleep for too long as it is. Prime-time programming might not be any good, either. Although to be honest, I don’t know what they show on German TV networks. So, I don’t really know what I am missing.

I am not devoid of news. I sure have plenty of outlets to feed me information I need to know. I have been keeping up with the hush money trial of the former president. And some other stuff, too.

I will say, though, that my friends’ home is a quiet place without the white noise humming from a television set.

Am I going to change my ways when I return home to Texas in just a little bit? Hardly.

The respite, though, is welcome.

Newspapers: still in demand?

NUREMBERG, Germany — I have discovered something about the job I did for more than 36 years … which is that the preference for physical newspapers is strong all around the world.

At least, I have encountered an expression to that effect on my visit to this wonderful city in the heart of Bavaria.

Case in point .,.. I attended a Rotary Club meeting here the other day and was sitting with some Rotarians. They asked me what I did for a living, I said I am semi-retired, but when I was a working guy I wrote for newspapers in Texas and Oregon.

The gentleman sitting next to me, the incoming president of the Nuremberg Rotary Club, said he prefers to “have an actual newspaper in my hands,” rather than reading it online.

Wow! I didn’t think quickly enough to say so in person, in real time, but the first thought that zoomed through my noggin was, “I have heard that statement so often … ”

I get what he means. I am of the same ilk. As are many other human beings. Apparently.

Why then, do newspapers across this big world of ours continue to watch their subscriptions plummet?

I am quite sure my new Rotary friend, who is in his mid-50s (and is not a geezer like me) is far from alone in preferring to read the newspaper.

Sigh … we’re all checking out of this world. When they toss that dirt on our faces, which is inevitable, we aren’t being replaced by younger folks who are willing to keep this tradition alive.

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?

Cynicism takes over

Far too many of my former journalism colleagues have conflated two terms in describing their reasons for becoming reporters.

They have told me they are “cynical” by nature and their “cynicism” makes them fit for the craft they pursued. I prefer another term in describing why we pursue that line of work.

That term is “skeptic,” or “skeptical,” or “skepticism.”

It’s easy to become cynical, particularly these days, when covering politics or reporting on policy decisions. I want to point y’all to the words and actions of the immediate past POTUS.

Skeptical reporters no doubt have grown cynical over the way the e-POTUS lies and is able to get away with it. Their task when covering this guy is to prevent their cynicism from infecting the tone of their coverage of his coming and going.

I offer the notion that it’s OK to look at what he says and the actions he takes with a huge dose of skepticism. It’s what good journalists always should do. Take it from me also that the world of journalism contains a many solid reporters who take seriously their pledge to cover their subjects fairly.

Even as they look with intense — but healthy — skepticism at what these pols are saying.

The joy of putting politics aside

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — One of the many joys of traveling — even for the briefest of periods — always is the distance I keep from the world of politics.

I spent a modestly successful career immersed in the comings and goings of politicians, their handlers and those who follow them. Even when I traveled with my wife, Kathy Anne, I scarfed up newspapers to (a) read how they were covering the issues of the day and (b) collect page design ideas I could apply to whatever newspaper where I was working.

Well, I no longer collect newspapers and I now am able to follow the news digitally.

So, my son and I ventured to the Hill Country to visit Kathy Anne’s brother and his two daughters, son-in-law and their daughters.

Politics, policy discussion, who’s up and down in the Republican presidential campaign? Pffttt! I couldn’t possibly care less about any of that!

But … our visit is about to end. We’ll be heading back to North Texas in short order. Then I’ll concern myself with issues and news of the day.

But, man, I do look forward to these getaways. They help cleanse my soul. That said, I am looking forward to the next one.

Learning things daily

One of the wonderful hallmarks of my journalism career, which I pursued with great joy for nearly 37 years, was the learning I gained from the communities I covered as a reporter and then as an editor.

I was able to work for several newspapers during my time in the reporter’s and later the editor’s saddle. In Oregon, then in Texas, I settled into new communities and sought about learning the ins and outs of each community that read the words that I produced.

Even though my full-time career ended abruptly in August 2012, I have been able to keep learning about the communities I get to cover in my “semi-retired” state.

I work these days as a freelance reporter in Collin County, Texas, covering Farmersville (primarily) and also Princeton (where I live). I write for a group of weekly newspapers owned by a husband and wife who also live in Collin County.

That’s not all! I also get to cover issues involving a much broader community for KETR-FM public radio, based at Texas A&M University-Commerce. My work is published on KETR, org, which is the website run by the public radio station.

My latest assignment for KETR, org has me covering the status of the Hunt County jail in Greenville. I won’t divulge what I have learned, as I don’t want to scoop myself or, more to the point, my bosses as the radio station.

I merely want to relish in the knowledge that one is never too old to learn new things about new places. I am now approaching 74 years of age. I have seen a lot of things in my life, met a lot of interesting and provocative individuals along the way.

However, I can say with tremendous joy in my heart that I continue to learn about the communities I cover for the news organizations that are willing to allow this ink-stained wretch to keep pursuing the craft he loves.

Yes … I am living the dream.