Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Lamenting media’s sorry state

It is time for me to lament the sorry state of three newspapers where I worked full time as a print journalist.

Two of them are still in “business,” but barely so; the third one — the first newspaper that hired me as a young sportswriter — is gone, kaput, history.

I started work at the Oregon City, Ore. Enterprise-Courier in the spring of 1977. My first job was a temporary gig; it became permanent when a staff member resigned, and I took his place. I stayed there until the spring of 1984.

I moved to Beaumont, Texas, to work for the Beaumont Enterprise. I stayed at the Gulf Coast newspaper until January 1995.

Then I moved to the other end of Texas, to the Panhandle, to work for the Amarillo Globe-News, which at the time published two daily newspapers. The afternoon paper was folded into the morning paper in 2001. I stayed there until August 2012.

Since my departure, the Globe-News and — I must add — the Enterprise have devolved into shadows of their former solidness. Neither paper achieved true greatness, although the Globe-News — or more specifically, the p.m. Globe-Times — was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service in 1961.

That was then, when the communities served by newspapers depended on them to tell the communities’ stories. They were part of people’s lives. Their readers depended on them to keep them informed, to tell them about the world we all call home.

Alas, no more.

It has gotten so bad that I no longer look to either the Globe-News or the Enterprise to see what is happening in the communities where my family and lived. How sad is that? I’ll answer it for you. It’s very sad … at least it is to me.

The media climate has destroyed a once-great American institution. I was so very proud to be a part of it as I practiced my craft with great joy and dedication to following the rules of accuracy and fairness.

It’s not all gloomy, though. I remain in the game as a freelance reporter for a chain of weeklies in Collin County. I still am having more fun than I deserve.

Americans across the land have turned to other sources for information. Is it as reliable as the info we provided in Oregon City, in Beaumont and in Amarillo? I fear it is not.

That is to the shame of those who have wrecked what used to be the pride of many communities … and to those who have embraced this new media climate.

What? No smoke?

AMARILLO — My drive to Amarillo filled me with some concern that I would enter a cloud of smoke as I entered the Texas Panhandle.

Glory be! I didn’t see any smoke. Those fires that ravaged this region I used to call home appear to have been quelled. At least from my vantage point along U.S. Highway 287 as I entered the city on its eastern side.

The fire brought enormous devastation to the region, taking the lives of several residents and at least one first responder — the Fritch fire chief — along with thousands of head of livestock.

I had seen the photos taken from jetliners flying overhead and from folks on the ground. The ominous smoke clouds were ghastly in the extreme.

The region, though, appears to have survived … to the extent that it can survive a record-setting blaze.

I returned to see some friends and get away from my North Texas neighborhood for a couple of days. I return Monday.

I am delighted to report that Panhandle is beautiful and clear … as it should be.

40 years ago … my life changed

Holy mackerel, man! This landmark anniversary almost got past me, but I won’t let it go without offering a comment on how a single move from one state to another changed my life.

I grew up in Portland, Ore. I lived there for the first 34 years of my life. I met the girl of my dreams there. I married her. We brought two sons into the world. I started my career in journalism there.

Then it changed in late 1983 with a phone call from a former boss of mine. He had gravitated to Beaumont, Texas. He wanted to know if I would like to work with him on the Gulf Coast at a newspaper that was healthy, vibrant and a chronicler of a tremendous “news town.”

I interviewed for the job. He offered it to me. I accepted his terms. I moved from Portland to Beaumont in March 1984. My career got the boost it needed.

I landed in a great news town, as my boss had stated. In my first week on the job, voters there cast their ballots on a street-naming referendum. Beaumont’s Black community wanted to change the name of a major street to honor Martin Luther King Jr.; the referendum failed narrowly.

Did I suffer culture shock? Yes. I wasn’t used to racial politics. I ran smack into it in Beaumont. I adjusted nicely, I am happy to report.

I did enjoy modest success from 1984 on to the end of my full-time career.

My family joined me a few months after I got to what I call The Swamp. My sons came of age in Texas. My bride and I carved out a wonderful life here.

We stayed in Beaumont for nearly 11 years. Then we moved again. To Amarillo about 700 miles northwest of our home. Culture shock again? Yep! We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years. I enjoyed more success there. We made many friends in both of our stops in Texas.

My career ended in August 2012. I was “reorganized” out of my job. I quit on the spot and got on with the rest of my life.

What did all of this teach me about myself? It taught me that I am an adaptable creature. My years in Oregon gave me a comfort level I thought I would be reluctant to let go. I had spent two years away from home serving my country in the Army. Perhaps my time in the Army prepared me unknowingly for what would happen 14 years after I returned home when I got the call to move to a part of the country that was vastly different from what I knew.

Then opportunity knocked. I answered the proverbial “door.”

Have I reached a new comfort level in my new home state? Yes. Texas’s politics has changed dramatically since our arrival here 40 years ago, but I am not one to move on just because politicians who represent us make decisions with which I disagree.

I am still keeping up the fight. I will do so with this blog for as long as I am able.

The past 40 years have zoomed by. I am trying to slow it down a bit. Wish me luck on that effort.

Goodness survives the flames

Stories about fire that rages out of control bring fear and hopelessness to many of us; we worry about what it all means and the lives it affects.

It seems the Texas Panhandle wildfires that have burned something far north of a million acres of rangeland would produce so little news to cheer.

Then I hear about all the trucks hauling hay into the fire zone. The hay is being trucked in to feed the livestock that has survived the inferno. It’s coming from neighboring ranches unaffected by the rampaging flames.

These demonstrations of selflessness remind us of the good that resides in the hearts of those who feel the pain being inflicted on those who must face down nature’s fiery wrath.

I no longer have a personal stake in what is happening in the Panhandle region of this great state. We moved away from there in 2018. Our son sold his home this past year to move near his brother’s family and me after my dear bride passed away.

I do have friends remaining in the region. I know of at least two families that have evacuated their homes and then returned once the danger had passed; they are thanking God Almighty their homes are still intact.

I am going to cling to the knowledge of the good that has presented itself as the remote region of Texas fights the flames. May it remind us of the good in humanity that fire cannot destroy.

The party? It was worth it!

HOUSTON — Thomas Wolfe once wrote that “You can never go home again,” and I suppose you can’t.

However, you can reunite with those with whom you once formed relationships that went far beyond your professional environment.

I came back to this city which is close to where I jump-started my journalism career in Texas. I returned to pay my respects to a former colleague who passed away earlier this year from symptoms of a devastating stroke she suffered.

I also returned to see old friends and colleagues with whom I became acquainted as a fellow journalist seeking to make an impact on the Golden Triangle community we all served while working for the Beaumont Enterprise.

I gotta tell ya, the return was every bit worth the effort I put into coming back to The Bayou. I saw many of my friends. We hugged. They all knew about the tragedy that struck my family and me earlier this year and to a person they all showered me with love.

To be clear, I didn’t come here because I needed the love I received. I have gotten plenty of it already from my immediate family, my extended family and the many friends Kathy Anne and I made in the Golden Triangle and in the Texas Panhandle, where we lived for23 years before moving to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in late 2018.

But, damn … it was so good to see these men and women who welcomed my family and me to our new surroundings in 1984 and who have remained close to my heart in the decades that have passed.

I have long believed that true friendships last no matter how often you see someone. I don’t see these folks often, but I want them to know how much I love them.

Hold ’em accountable

The seemingly pending demise of local journalism in communities across the country has me dismayed almost beyond measure.

I have been sharing email messages with a longtime Texas Panhandle journalist who endorsed my concern over the slow, steady and agonizing degradation of the Amarillo Globe-News, the newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years before my career came to a halt in August 2012.

What is happening in the Panhandle is a tragedy. There’s no other way to describe it. The Canadian Record, a weekly newspaper of longstanding fame and tradition, shut its doors earlier this year, leaving that portion of the Panhandle with no voice.

The Globe-News no longer publishes a daily editorial page and it has gone to mailing its editions to consumers, a decision that, in my view, makes delivery of timely news an absolute impossibility.

The biggest loser in all of this, according to my friend and former colleague, are those who demand that local politicians be held accountable. My friend wrote this:

“The worst part of all this is that for a democracy to survive at its best, there needs to be scrutiny of the decisions of public officials, otherwise it’ll be easier for more of them to succumb to temptation with impunity, with little to no oversight. The public gets the short straw and honest, efficient government at all levels suffers terribly. There goes democracy as it’s supposed to work.”

The media are supposed to function as the public’s eyes and ears. It reports on what government does, what those who run our government say and on the results of those decisions to those of us who rely on government.

The media also are charged with being the voice of the public that consumes what the media report and then speak out either in favor of or against what government is doing for — or to — them.

This is what we always tried to do at every stop I made along my way through a modestly successful — and wholly gratifying — career in print journalism. We occasionally reported and commented on matters the public didn’t want to hear; and they let us know when that occurred. We also received applause when we earned it from the public that thanked us for being there for them.

That element is being stripped away piece by piece by this new age of journalism that is taking on a totally different look from what I remember.

It’s about the accountability … stupid!


Traveling alone, as in … alone!

AMARILLO, Texas — It took me a few hours today to realize what was different about this brief excursion from my North Texas home to points northwest on the Texas Caprock.

I was alone in the pickup. By that I mean I was totally alone.

Now, you know that my dear bride, Kathy Anne, is gone. It’s obvious to you that she is unable to accompany me alongside in her customary place in the vehicle we own.

What isn’t obvious is that Toby the Puppy didn’t make this trip. He stayed home to keep my son and his two kitties, Macy and Marlowe, company.

I ventured back to the High Plains to see a few friends. Not many of them, mind you, because I’m here only for a couple of days before I head back to the house in Princeton.

But damn! Not having my puppy with me is seriously strange, man. I talk to him while we motor along the highway. He doesn’t talk back, obviously. He does respond with a tail wag and a lick. He will let me know if he has to relieve himself along the way; he gives me the doe-eyed stare and he might start to paw my arm, as if to say, “Dad, uhhh, it’s time to pull over.”

But for the first time in, oh, a very long time I have no traveling companion to share a laugh or to say, “I love you.” Yes, I tell Toby the Puppy that I love him all the time, just as I told Kathy Anne that very truth for more than 50 years.

She would say she loved me, too. Toby the Puppy? He expresses his love differently, but I know it when he tells me.

I’m glad I’ll be away only for two nights. Then I head home. The next sojourn commences in a couple of weeks; it will take me east to North Carolina and Virginia and points between here and there.

Toby the Puppy will be with me for every mile of that trek.


Any regrets on this choice?

This question has come to me more than once over the many years of my life in Texas.

It goes something like this: Do you regret moving from Oregon to Texas, given the strange political climate that has overtaken the Texas political leadership?

My answer: Not one bit. Not for a single moment.

My wife and I forged a fabulous life in Texas, living in three distinct communities. We moved to the Golden Triangle in 1984 with our two young sons. We then relocated in 1995 across this vast state to the Texas Panhandle after our boys had left home to attend college. Then came the final move to the Metroplex to be near our granddaughter, who came along in March 2013.

We came to Texas to move my career forward. We succeeded. It was a bit of a leap of faith, given that I had lived virtually my entire life in Portland, except for two years I spent in the Army. Kathy Anne had spent the bulk of her life there, too.

My career enabled me to have a ringside seat to watch the Texas political climate change. My craft as an opinion writer and editor for two mid-sized — but solid — daily newspapers gave me an up-close look.

Now, to be sure I need to state that politics hasn’t swallowed me whole. I worked hard at my job at the Beaumont Enterprise and the Amarillo-Globe News. When I went home to my bride, I left the travails of the day behind.

I don’t object to the questions about the decision my wife and I made together to uproot ourselves from what we knew in Oregon to what we would discover in Texas. It’s understandable that some might wonder if I question the wisdom of that decision.

All told, our life in Texas has given us a great ride. Yes, I am still struggling to find my way along the rest of the journey alone, as my bride is now gone. I learned long ago that I am an adaptable creature who isn’t hidebound by old habits.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, once said “There’s more to life than politics.” He was speaking to me at the time … and I nodded in agreement.


Trying to fathom the flood

Some things in our life simply defy our meager attempts to understand them … such as Mother Nature’s occasional lack of mercy.

I refer this time to the incessant rain that has inundated the Texas Panhandle, a place my wife and I called home for than two decades. We thought at the time we relocated there from the Gulf Coast that we were moving to a sort of desert.

In some years it fulfilled that fantasy.

Not this year. Not this month. The Panhandle is under water. Literally!

I have many friends there who I know are suffering from outright terror at what could happen to them or their property. Their fear in this moment is legit. It is real.

Years ago, I chatted with the late Rick Klein, a former Amarillo mayor, who recalled flooding that occurred there in the late 1970s. The city vowed to correct that issue, Klein said. So it built an artificial lake just south of Interstate 40. The basin is intended to catch surplus rainwater and keep it from pouring into people’s homes and businesses.

What’s happened lately? The basin is full. As in to its brim! The rainwater at this moment has nowhere to go but into people’s homes and businesses.

I cannot offer any suggestions to combat this horrible string of events. It’s out of anyone’s control. Mother Nature answers to no one.

You’ve heard it said in recent years after mass shootings that a nation’s “thoughts and prayers” are not enough. I am going to offer thoughts and prayers to my friends in the Texas Panhandle. Why? Because that’s truly all we can do to bring relief from Mother Nature’s cruel wrath.


Once-solid newspaper on its way out

Another newspaper that once boasted of winning journalism’s top prize is heading for the crapper.

How do I know that? Because the Amarillo Globe-News has informed its subscribers they no longer will have what is left of the newspaper tossed on their yards the day it is published — in Lubbock! Ohhh, no! It’s going to be mailed to subscribers via the Postal Service. The paper is terminating its carrier service.

Stick with me for a moment as I explain why this sounds like the death knell peeling across the Texas Panhandle.

A few years ago, the Globe-News shut down its presses and farmed the job of printing the paper to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, about 120 miles south of Amarillo on Interstate 27. That meant the deadlines for getting “late-breaking news” into the G-N would be pushed back. The paper needed time to get the pages assembled and then shipped to Lubbock, where it would end up on printing plates.

Bottom line? There would be no late-breaking news in the Globe-News.

Now they have added the mailing element to a newspaper that has been stripped of its viability because it cannot report news that happens at midnight.

I once worked for a newspaper in Oregon City, Ore., that around 1983 decided to start mailing its copies to subscribers. I left the paper in early 1984 headed for the Golden Triangle region of Texas. The experiment failed miserably. The paper folded in 1988 and vanished into the void.

A similar experiment is about to commence in Amarillo around the third week of July, as I understand it.

All I can do these days is sigh and bemoan what has happened to a news organization that once displayed a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service it won in 1961 for exposing government corruption in the region. That, folks, is the highest honor a newspaper can earn. The Pulitzer Board is still making that award, but in Amarillo and in the Panhandle, it is a distant memory now.

The days of great daily community journalism are long gone.

What does mailing the paper mean to those who still read the Amarillo Globe-News? It means they now will get a sheet of newsprint that is worth even less than it was before.

I detest bringing bad news to my friends in the Panhandle, but the end is approaching … rapidly.