Tag Archives: media

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.

Media conspiracy? Non-starter!

As I listen to Donald Trump’s idiotic rants about “media conspiring” to keep him from being elected to public office, the more I am drawn to a piece of wisdom a newspaper editor once told me.

He said that publishing a newspaper each day was nothing short of “a miracle.” Which means to me that just getting a newspaper out the back door and onto people’s front porches each day required every bit of know-how an editor and his or her team of reporters could muster.

OK, let’s establish off the top that Trump doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Let’s also establish something else … which is that your blogger acquired a good bit of inside info on publishing a newspaper during the nearly 37 years I spent pursuing my craft.

When I cite the editor’s contention of a “modern miracle” occurring, consider all the things that could go wrong during the publication of a newspaper. The presses could explode; electricity could fail; storms could erupt; a reporter might die on deadline as he or she is writing the lead story for that day’s newspaper.

I have been accused of conspiring against portions of a community. I have told accusers the same thing every time: I don’t have time to conspire against anyone; I am too busy just getting a newspaper published to think about how to damage a segment of my community. My answer usually didn’t dissuade the accuser. Whatever …

But in the larger debate, the media have become targets of the MAGA morons who insist that they — the media — have the authority, the ability and the wherewithal to conspire against right-wingers.

B … S!

The nature of the craft I pursued simply made such conspiracies impossible. The editor who told me about the daily “miracle” was onto something. It takes a journalist every bit of intellectual firepower just to get his or her work out the door.

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.

The ‘O’ is vanishing

We called it “The O,” or the “Big O” back in the day, but these days the “O” is a shadow of its former self and is vanishing into history’s dust bin.

The O is The Oregonian, the newspaper of record for my hometown of Portland. A friend sent me a story from Editor & Publisher with a distressing story about the Oregonian’s plans to quit daily distribution of a newspaper that once was considered a “cash cow” for Newhouse Corp., the company’s corporate owner. The Oregonian is about to end 142 years of daily newspaper distribution.

No more, man.

A paper that once distributed more than 250,000 copies daily and 400,000 copies on Sunday is suspending publication for four days weekly effective Jan. 1. The culprit? That damn Internet!

I don’t know how to react, other than with profound sadness at the state of the industry that gave me a wonderful career. I practiced my craft for nearly 37 years, and I actually got started with the Oregonian Publishing Co., which used to operate the afternoon Oregon Journal until it folded the paper into The Oregonian in 1982. I worked on the copy desk at the Journal until the spring of 1977 when I took a job as a temporary sportswriter for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier.

The temp job became permanent, and I was on my way to a career that gave me more enjoyment and fulfillment than I probably deserved.

Now comes this terrible news out of my hometown. The Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal — both owned by Gannett/GateHouse — have effectively become a regional newspaper covering the Willamette Valley, according to E&P. The Medford Mail-Tribune shut down earlier this year. All three of those publications once were award winners of the first order..

The Oregonian’s circulation numbers are about a tenth of what they once were. The paper’s sales continue to plummet. What’s next is the unthinkable: shutting it down altogether.



Reflections of good times

As I watch the media landscape buckle and change in real time before my aging eyes, I am thrown into wistful thoughts of how it used to be when I was a whole lot younger, full of piss and vinegar and wanting to make a difference in my world.

I don’t wake up a single day ever regretting the decision I made to pursue a career in print journalism.

The journey began with a conversation I had with my father at dinner shortly after I returned home from a tour in the Army. I was re-enrolling in school and Dad asked me about my major. He said I should pursue journalism because the letters I wrote home from overseas were so “descriptive” that he shared them with friends and family.

So … I marched down that road. I never looked back.

My career took me to four newspapers: two in Oregon and two in Texas. It enabled me to do things that not every human being can say they did. I met important people along the way. I sought to help bring policy changes in communities where I lived and worked. I had some modest success along the way.

These days, as politicians — particularly on the far right — declare the media to be the people’s enemy, I continue to look back with great pride at what I did, at who I angered (and the reasons for their anger) and whether I made a difference.

I made mistakes. No one’s perfect, as they say. I learned from each of them. I also learned about the communities I called home during my nearly 37 years pursuing a craft I loved with all the professional passion I could muster.

Two of the papers where I worked no longer exist; the Oregon Journal and the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier closed up in 1982 and 1988, respectively. The other two, the Beaumont Enterprise and the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas are mere ghosts of what they once were. I fear their presence in their respective communities might be ticking down rapidly.

It is not fun at all to watch this change chip away at formerly grand community institutions. It is inevitable nonetheless.

They took me on one hell of a great ride … and I will never, ever surrender the joy I had throughout that entire journey.


Newspapers? No interest!

My adaptability chops were on full display as my pooch and I ventured out west for a month, returning home in the middle of April.

How is that? Well, there once was a time — when I was a full-time newspaper journalist — when I would scarf up local newspapers at every stop along the way. My wife and I would travel in our recreational vehicle; we would stop in this or that town and I would look for the newspaper, purchase it and go through it looking for ideas I could appropriate for the paper I was working for at the time.

The changing media climate, sad to say, has relegated newspapers — even the one-time award-winning local papers — to shadows of their former selves. Toby the Puppy and I stopped overnight in towns served by newspapers published in Flagstaff, Ariz., Sacramento, Calif., San Jose, Calif., Eugene, Ore., Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash.

Did I pick up a single copy of those newspapers? Not a chance. I happen to know what has happened to many of those newspapers, as I have followed the media trends fairly carefully for the past several years. They all have been decimated. They have staffs that are a fraction of the size they used to be.

Many of them no longer publish daily editorial pages, which is where I spent the bulk of my nearly 37-year-long career.

So, with that knowledge, and more, I chose to pass on what had been a tradition in my life for seemingly forever.

The saddest part of all is something I am loath to admit … which is that I did not miss reading them. I have been away from the daily newspaper publishing grind for more than a decade.

Time has marched on. So have I.


Great story on the fall of a media ‘giant’

The Texas Tribune has published a wonderful story about the pending demise of the Canadian Record, an award-winning weekly newspaper that has “suspended” its print editions … maybe only temporarily.

Nic Garcia wrote the piece.

Texas news desert expands after Canadian Record stops publishing | The Texas Tribune

The Record’s owner, Laurie Ezzell Brown, is trying to find a buyer. She admits to being weary of the grind and wants to spend time with her children and grandchildren.

Garcia alludes to the demise of many newspapers that serve rural communities. I would just add this mild critique, which is that he didn’t mention that the Texas Panhandle’s significant urban community — Amarillo — is suffering from the same lack of local news coverage as communities such as Canadian.

Same for Lubbock further down the highway from Amarillo. And other larger cities as well.

The era of printed newspapers is fading away … rapidly, it seems.

It saddens this old newspaper hand terribly.


Taking time away from the ‘news’

Even news junkies need a break from the news, I have learned. So, with that I am prepared to announce that I am weaning myself from the daily barrage of news and commentary that used to fill my days to nearly overflowing.

Granted, it has taken an intense personal struggle to make this happen. My wife’s medical challenge has lured me away from the TV set and (more or less) from the Internet, where I have spent many of my wide-awake hours these days.

Not lately, though. My days have been filled with worry and concern about my bride and with the everlasting hope for a miracle that could free her of the cancer that we discovered in her the day after Christmas 2022.

That challenge has been enough to fill my days possibly forever.

Now … it is true that I have weighed in on political and policy matters on occasion. Many of my recent blog posts have concerned local matters. We have a school district here in Princeton, Texas, that is (a) going to ask voters to approve a significant bond issue in May and (b) is wrestling with whether to ban outside groups from using public property for events because of some school trustees’ dislike of those who want to declare their “pride” in their sexual orientation.

Critics of this blog no doubt will challenge my assertion that I have sought to stay mostly away from national affairs. They lie in wait for me to comment on those matters, then pounce on me when I do.

That’s fine. I can take it. After all, I have much greater matters of concern to me right now than what anyone thinks of what I have to say about politics.

All in all, I have been free of the hustle and bustle, the humdrum, the toil and tempest of the political world. Believe this or not, it’s frankly been about the only bright spot I have I have seen as we wage this struggle to help my bride defeat the challenge she is facing.