Tag Archives: media

Blogging keeps me relevant

Blogging has produced many joys in my post-full-time-newspaper world.

One of them is that it allows me to keep doing what I did with modest success for nearly 37 years: offering opinions on issues of the day.

A corollary to that joy is the notion that it also allows me to cling just a bit to a career that gave me great satisfaction and it perhaps will allow young people coming of age in this era a chance to understand and perhaps even appreciate the craft I pursued.

Whether these young people will be reading blogs or writing them remains to be seen, of course. I hope they do both. I want to remain relevant, even in some small way, to how they search for news and information and, yes, even opinion on issues of importance.

To be crystal clear, I am not yet out of the newswriting game. My full-time career ended just a month short of a decade ago; wow, it seems like just yesterday when my boss told me my services would no longer be sought at what once was the leading newspaper in the Texas Panhandle and one of the leading media outlets in West Texas.

I walked away from that post on the spot and haven’t looked back — too often in the years since.

I took up blogging along with a few part-time, temporary gigs along the way. I have managed to stay fresh and alert writing blogs for Panhandle PBS, for KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo and now for KETR-FM radio at Texas A&M-Commerce and for the Farmersville Times near where my wife and I landed in late 2018.

I even had a month-long stint as an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News! That gig ended at the end of 2021, but at least I can say I wrote for a major metropolitan daily newspaper … if only for a flash in time!

The one constant in all of that has been High Plains Blogger. I decided to keep the name even though I no longer reside on the High Plains of Texas. Hey, it developed a brand … you know? Why mess with it?

So, with that I will keep on blogging. My work might not always remind others of the once-glorious craft I pursued, it surely keeps me energized enough to keep going for as long as I am able.


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.



Quick to criticize, slow to offer praise

I had an interesting chat today with someone who publishes a group of weekly newspapers in North Texas, someone who told me about a reader who took a few minutes to spread the word about the good that comes from one of the weekly newspapers in this group.

Full disclosure: I work as a freelance reporter for this publisher, who runs the Farmersville Times.

A reader took time to post a social media message about all the information contained in a recent edition of the newspaper. My boss was so taken by that response, she reached out to the reader to thank her. “No one ever does that,” my boss told me; actually, someone just did, I said.

My conversation reminded me of what I knew to be true when I worked full time in print journalism. It is that human beings’ impulse to criticize what they read is far more sensitive than their impulse to offer a good word. How do I know that?

I know it because long ago I lost count of the times people would say: “Hey, I really liked what you wrote the other day.” To which I would say, “Oh, what was that?” The person would think for a moment, then shrug and say, “Oh, I can’t remember … but I liked it!”

Compare that with other, more critical, responses to whatever it was that captured readers’ attention. “Hey, that editorial you wrote? It was full of crap!” I would ask, “What was wrong with it?” They would recite it back to me word for word and parse every little point I sought to make and then they would say, “That’s just how I feel about it.”

I learned a long time ago that such responses come with the territory.

I was thrilled to learn, though, from my publisher about the positive feedback she received from a reader. May our weekly newspaper continue to provide information of value to the community. It’s the mission of journalism — and journalists — throughout this great land.


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.


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.


Save the message

The building where my full-time journalism career came to an end has changed hands, with a new owner taking possession of an iconic structure that sits on the fringe of downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The Globe-News building has been purchased by a company that manufactures lubricants. Strange, I know. However, this blog post isn’t about that change of occupants. Instead, I want to wonder aloud about an aspect of the Globe-News building that I hope the new owners can preserve.

On the Harrison Street side of the building, an inscription is carved into the stone face. It comes from a comment attributed to the late Gene Howe, publisher of the Globe-News. It states: A newspaper can be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for lack of courage.

Those were words of wisdom that many of us took seriously. Indeed, after I started work at the Globe-News in January 1995 as editorial page editor, I decided to include the message on the editorial page masthead. We strived to meet that standard every day.

The building where I worked for nearly 18 years is vacant. The corporate owners sold the paper some years ago. The new owners then gutted the staff in all departments and moved who remained into an office suite in a downtown building.

The inscription carved into the stone building front, though, needs a permanent home. I did some sniffing around and learned today that there has been some discussion about whether they can remove the slab with the engraving from the building and find a spot for it in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on the campus at West Texas A&M University. Whether it’s just idle chatter or something that could result in a serious move remains to be determined.

I found out today from a former colleague that the PPHM already houses many of the print archives, photo negatives, bound volumes and assorted artifacts from the Globe-News’s glory days.

Indeed, I also learned that the new property owners recently uncovered the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service medal the newspaper won in 1961, when the late editor Tommy Thompson uncovered county government corruption. The medal, too, is now in safe keeping!

I intend to continue sniffing around my old haunts. The engraving means a lot to those of who worked inside that old building. It should mean a great deal to the community that benefited from the effort to keep the faith with what those words urged us to do.


Liberals get pounded, too

A fellow named Dean Karanyanis has written an essay for the conservative newspaper Washington Times in which he says something so preposterous in his opening paragraph that I must respond and refute its assumption.

He writes: There used to be a rule in Washington that families are off-limits, but our media referees only throw flags on one team. So as Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, finds herself at the heart of a manufactured firestorm over leaked text messages, it’s worth asking why the party that demands civility feels free to savage her for having strong opinions.

I presume he suggests that only family members of conservative public figures are open to the kind of scrutiny being leveled at Ginni Thomas. What a pile of horse dookey!

Hmm. Let’s see. We have Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR, the Democrat who led the nation during World War II; she was pilloried continuously during the time she served as first lady. Amy Carter, daughter of the President Jimmy Carter, who was a teenager when she lived in the White House; the right wing took great joy in pillorying her for whatever the hell she did while her dad led the Free World.

You want more? We have Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry; right-winger suggested she was somehow the corrupt wife of a politician who married only because she was an heiress to a condiment empire. Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of President Clinton; enough said there. Michelle Obama, wife of President Obama; let’s throw in the Obamas’ daughters, too, as they were targets of prying media inquiries.

I need to mention Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and take particular note of what the media did to sully the reputations of their wives. Jackie Kennedy was seen as aloof and aristocratic; Lady Bird Johnson was known — in addition to her national beautification efforts — for her business acumen that came from her ownership of Central Texas media outlets.


I believe we need to cease this notion that only the spouses and kids of conservatives become targets of those who work in the so-called “liberal, mainstream, Deep State media.”

The media don’t play nearly the favorites that their critics allege.


Lamenting newspapers’ demise

This is the Gospel truth, so help me: I detest writing critical items on this blog about newspapers that provided me with great joy and satisfaction as I pursued a craft I loved so very much.

Still, it pains me terribly to watch the demise of what used to be a mainstay in people’s homes. Daily newspapers everywhere in this great land are withering up and dying before our eyes.

It’s a slow and painful death to be sure.

I have commented on the end of Saturday publication of the Amarillo Globe-News, the last stop on my daily journalism career. The newspaper ceased the Saturday edition this weekend. Amarillo, Texas, is far from the only community watching this happen to their newspapers.

Cities far larger than Amarillo (population, 200,000) are seeing the same thing happen. The city of my birth, Portland, once was where The Oregonian published 400,000 copies every Sunday; daily circulation was around 250,000. Today? It’s a fraction of those amounts. The newspaper doesn’t even deliver to every subscriber seven days a week, although it does publish papers every day, but sells most of them from news racks.

Newspapers used to be what we called “cash cows” for their owners. They operated with enormous profit margins, exceeding 30 or 40%. They did so while paying huge amounts of overhead to salaries employees. Publishing a newspaper was labor-intensive to be sure, but the owners made tons of dough while publishing them.

Those days are long gone.

I am proud of the craft I pursued. I did so in good faith as a reporter and then as an editorial writer, and then as an editorial page editor. No one ever called me the “enemy of the American people.” Indeed, those with whom I toiled to publish newspapers all felt as I did, that we sought to tell our communities’ stories with honesty and fairness.

I believe we succeeded.

I remained saddened by the demise of daily print journalism as I remember it when I took up this craft.

I came of age in journalism about the time that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were telling the world about the 1972-74 Watergate scandal. Their reporting for the Washington Post sought to hold those in power accountable for their actions. They exposed some monumental corruption.

Sitting on my bookshelf at home is a first-edition copy of “All the President’s Men,” the story that the two journalists told of the scandal that brought down a U.S. president and sent many of his top aides to prison.

A publisher gave me this book as a Christmas gift and wrote on the first page of what he called his “favorite book.” He continued: “This is really where it all began for great journalism!” I aspired to make a difference in the world the way these men did. I didn’t get there, but I managed to carve out a modestly successful career that made me proud of the path I took.

I just am saddened to see newspapers dying before my eyes.


Time still flies by

Time does have this way of getting away from most — if not all — of us. Why that observation? Well, it dawned on me earlier today that this is the 10th year since I walked off the last full-time job I ever would have.

It has been a marvelous ride ever since that amazing moment in an equally amazing day.

It was Aug. 31, 2012. My employer informed me the previous day that the job I had performed at the Amarillo Globe-News would go to someone else. I worked as editorial page editor at the Texas newspaper for nearly 18 years. I thought I did a good job. My employer, I was left to presume, thought differently.

So, he informed me that my task would fall to someone else. I went home that day and returned early the next day to clean out my office. The very first item I tossed into the trash can was a stash of business cards with my name on it. Gone! Forever!

I walked away. On the way out I had one final meeting with now former employer. The conversation was an unhappy one. I left the building. I called one of my colleagues on my cell phone. I said “so long” to him and hung up.

Then, while sitting in my car, I cried.

That all occurred nearly a decade ago. You know what? I have gotten over that anger, and the pain of that moment. I have moved on. I am no longer angry. I no longer hurt. I no longer miss the daily grind of meeting deadlines and writing commentary.

I have had a number of part-time jobs in the years since. I write this blog each day. I am getting more proficient at using social media to spread the musings I post. I have written for public television, for commercial TV, for a community newspaper in New Mexico, for a major metropolitan daily newspaper in Dallas, for a public radio station in Commerce, and for a weekly newspaper near the city where my wife and I moved. I also worked for an auto dealer in Amarillo and for six months I worked as a juvenile supervision officer for the Youth Center of the High Plains, a detention center run by Randall County.

I have declared myself to be a highly adaptable human being. My life has provided proof of that declaration. I am damn proud of the career I pursued for nearly 37 years, and I am equally proud of the adjustments I have made, with enormous help and support from my wife of 50 years, sons, daughter-in-law, sisters and their families, in the life I have led for the past decade.

Time is still just flying by. It does that when you’re having so much fun.