Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

When will denigration stop?

I cannot help but wonder how a member of Congress can continually denigrate the president of the United States, suggesting the president is mentally unfit for high office and then possibly expect that president to respond to a request — were it to come from the congressman — for help in any fashion.

U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson is a freshman Republican member of the House from the Texas Panhandle. Ever since taking office after winning election in 2020, Jackson has been on a constant Twitter harangue over President Biden’s occasional verbal stumbles.

He doesn’t refer to Joe Biden as “President” Biden. He continually harps on what I believe is a red-herring argument that the POTUS would fail a cognitive test.

Jackson recently declared that the nation needs Donald Trump “more than ever.” No, Ronny, the nation does not need the serial liar and philanderer, the crook, the insurrectionist, the power-hungry narcissist, the a**hole who cannot articulate a single public policy with any degree of intelligence.

Back to my point. There could come a time when the 13th Congressional District of Texas needs immediate federal attention. Natural disasters do strike, you know. How does the congressman, the author of the string of idiotic, moronic and disgraceful Twitter messages ask the president for help?

Moreover, how does the president, who has been on the receiving end of these vile epithets, respond to those requests, were they to come?

I mention Jackson mainly because he represents a region I used to call home. He also has become a bit of a national media star, given his extreme anger aimed at President Biden; Fox News loves having this clown on air expressing himself in such a cavalier fashion … without ever challenging the veracity of the claims he makes.

Hey, I am just asking … for a friend.


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.


Prepared for worst …

My bride and I live by the credo that whenever we prepare for the worst the worst hardly ever arrives.

Thus, when the weather forecasters told us today that the latest round of North Texas spring storms could bring hail stones the size of golf balls or (gulp!) baseballs, we prepared for the arrival of the monstrous storm.

We moved our big ol’ pickup — Big Jake — into our garage. Jake’s rear end stuck out about a foot, given that it’s too big to fit completely into our garage. We covered the exposed portion with two layers of plastic. The wind was howling. We had a bit of rain.

The hail stones? Hah! They never arrived!

Is that an omen? Maybe it is. We won’t take anything for granted as we push our way through the spring, which in North Texas provides a weather-related surprise seemingly every day. It reminds us a bit of the Panhandle, where we lived for more than 20 years before we relocated to the Dallas ‘burbs.

So, we’ll trudge on preparing for the worst whenever the weathermen and women tell us to be alert to Mother Nature’s wrath.


Retrenchment continues

A newspaper that employed me for nearly 18 years and which served as the dominant source of information for the Texas Panhandle and three nearby states has taken quite possibly a step closer to oblivion.

It saddens me greatly.

The Amarillo Globe-News has suspended one day of publication; it no longer publishes a Saturday edition. The end of the Saturday newspaper was effective yesterday. The paper announced it was “combining” Friday and Saturday editions into a Friday newspaper, which is a kinder/gentler way of telling readers that they no longer will receive a Saturday edition of a once-solid newspaper.

Oh … sigh.

I practiced my craft at the Globe-News for nearly 18 years. Then I walked away in August 2012. I haven’t looked back too often. When I have, though, I see things that distress me. The newspaper has changed corporate ownership twice since I departed. Morris Communications sold its entire newspaper holdings to GateHouse Media, which then merged with Gannett Corp.

The retrenchment has commenced in the Panhandle just as it is in communities across the country.

I don’t like what I fear is going to happen eventually to a newspaper that in 1961 earned a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service but which is now devolving into a shadow not just of what it was during those great days but also of what it has become just in the past few years.

The newspaper that once covered communities throughout every county in the Panhandle, into eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle and even a sliver of southwestern Kansas now barely covers events inside the city of Amarillo. It now employs a tiny fraction of the staff it once boasted. Advertising revenue has plummeted, along with paid newspaper circulation.

Hey, it’s not unique to that region. It’s just that it hurts me, your friendly blogger, to watch it happen in a place that brought me great joy during the final stage of my print journalism career.

I am not looking forward to what I believe lies ahead for the Amarillo Globe-News.


Doc issues phony diagnoses

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I want to make one more — but certainly not my final — observation about the idiot who represents the Texas Panhandle in the U.S. Congress. Ready? Here goes …

Republican Ronny Jackson is a trained medical doctor who once served as physician to three U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

As a physician, he should know the limits of his knowledge and whether he is capable of diagnosing individuals from the cheap seats. Thus, he is in no position or has any medical or ethical authority to suggest that President Biden needs a “cognitive exam” or that he is “unfit” to serve in office because he lacks the medical snap required.

Jackson has not examined the president. He has not seen Joe Biden’s medical charts. I feel confident in proclaiming that he has no fu**ing clue about the president’s mental acuity.

Therefore, Ronny Jackson — not Joe Biden — is the one who is unfit for the office he occupies representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas. I say that because he has violated — in my view — a basic tenet of medicine, which is that he is speaking way out of turn on something of which he has no direct knowledge.


This news hurts … a lot

We all have people who come into our lives and never really leave us, even if we no longer see them regularly. They are work colleagues, or those with whom we establish a sort of sibling-like relationship.

Ben Hansen filled both roles in my life. I got some heart-shattering news this morning, that Ben had died peacefully during the night.

I am trying to collect my thoughts and reel in my emotions as I bang out this post. Suffice to say, Ben Hansen — who was a physically imposing man — cast a large shadow over my life and over the communities he served as a newspaper editor in four states over many decades.

Our paths crossed the first time in early1977. Hansen was editor of a suburban daily newspaper in Oregon City, Ore. He had a position to fill on his staff; it was a temporary slot as a sportswriter. The sports editor of the newspaper had taken maternity leave, so Ben needed someone to pinch hit while she was away. I got the job, knowing it could end several weeks later.

Well, it didn’t. Another opening came up. Hansen hired me on a permanent basis. He helped launch my career then. He would leave the paper to take another editor’s job in Utah. After that, he gravitated to Beaumont, Texas.

That’s where our relationship took off. He called me one day to ask if I would like to interview for a job as an editorial writer for the Beaumont Enterprise. I flew to Texas for that interview; he hired me again. Ben told me that the Golden Triangle was a hotbed of news. He was so right.

Ben promoted me to editor of the opinion page. We raised a hackle or two on the editorial page of the Enterprise over the years. I was proud to be part of that effort. I reported to Hansen for nearly 11 years in Beaumont before I departed for the Texas Panhandle.

Ben and I stayed in touch, even after he left Beaumont for another editor’s gig in Prescott, Ariz., where he eventually retired.

I learned much about my craft from Ben. He was a stickler for “active-voice” writing. He despised text that contained “passive-voice” narrative; you know, the kind of the thing that would tell you that “mistakes were made.” He insisted that an active voice required you to say that “so-and-so made mistakes.” Even to this day I am keenly aware of that and seek to avoid lapsing into passive voice when I write this blog.

Ben Hansen was a good and decent man who saw himself as a crusader. He was quick with a quip and could knock out a nearly spot-on impersonation of John Wayne with barely a provocation.

I will hold him in my eternal gratitude for taking a chance on a young man seeking to start a career in print journalism. It worked out well for me and I owe much of what I was able to achieve to the patience he showed me decades ago.

I will miss my friend.


Media landscape is rattling and shaking

If you had asked me to project when I became a newspaper reporter in the mid-1970s what the media landscape would look like, say, in the third decade of the 21st century, there would be no way on God’s good Earth I could predict what would transpire.

The landscape I once knew bears no resemblance to what is taking shape before our eyes right now.

I just heard that the Amarillo Globe-News — the final stop on my 37-year career — is going to suspend publication of its Saturday edition. The G-N is joining other newspapers owned by the media conglomerate in reducing its publication schedule.

Newspapers that are doing this are pledging to (a) commit to a digital delivery of news and (b) maintain its commitment to “local news.” Both pledges bode ill for the industry I once knew and loved — and which gave me untold pleasure in the pursuit of my craft. This looks to me like the next step before the newspapers reduce their delivery even more en route to ending their existence altogether.

I have lost count of the number of times people have told me how they “enjoy the feel of the newspaper in my hands.” Hah! If that were really true, the industry wouldn’t be sucking wind the way it is at this moment.

The Internet is destroying an industry that once employed thousands of people who were committed to “making a difference” in this world. Many of those folks now are pursuing “other interests.”

My wife reminds me of a fundamental truth that I accepted long ago. My career came to an abrupt end in August 2012. I was 63 years of age when the publisher told me that someone else would be doing the job I had done at the G-N for nearly 18 years. What is the truth that my wife reminds me? “I am just grateful that this happened at the end of your career, and not while you were in the middle of it.” 

And so, the landscape is shifting, rattling, rockin’ and rollin’ before us. People who formerly depended on newspapers to tell them the news of their community and the world now look elsewhere.

What lies in store for the future of print journalism in the Texas Panhandle … and in other communities across the land? More retreat as they surrender what they once saw as their exclusive territory to other media.

Therefore, I consider myself to be a media dinosaur. However, it’s good to be comfortable in my own skin.


What will happen to this site?

I lived in Amarillo, Texas, for 23 years and worked each day for nearly 18 of those years at the Globe-News, a once-good newspaper.

My daily journalism career came to an end in August 2012. The newspaper remains, but at this point it is a newspaper in name only. Yes, the paper still publishes seven days a week. It no longer publishes at the building where it operated for many decades. The printing press is in Lubbock and I don’t know how they handle business affairs, or circulation matters.

The newsroom? A formerly vibrant working environment has been all but eliminated; they’re down to maybe two or three reporters and some stringers (I guess).

The building is vacant. It is in a state of architectural decomposition. The corporate moguls vacated the building and moved what is left of the staff to an office in a downtown bank tower.

The once-proud structure is “tagged” with graffiti. They put out a fire inside the structure a few weeks ago.

The company that used to own the newspaper is still trying to sell the building, from what I hear. I do not know the state of that effort, such as whether it is being marketed aggressively. I don’t get back often to Amarillo, but my hunch is that it is just going to rot some more.

I want to lament the demise of that structure one more time.

The Globe-News used to aspire to becoming a great newspaper. It didn’t quite get there. We did a good job of reporting the news during my time there. I tried to lend some leadership via the opinion pages during my tenure as editor of those pages.

That was then. The here and now suggests to me that the newspaper itself is fading into the community’s past. It saddens me greatly.


No surprise, but this news still hurts

A decent night’s sleep helped clear my head today as I ponder the loss of one my world’s most iconic figures.

Jeane Bartlett fit the role of icon perfectly. It’s not that she sought the role. It just graced her perfectly. She was the human resources director of the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years. She died Monday at the age of 95.

OK, let’s stipulate that no one lives forever. Bartlett forged a long and memorable life in the Texas Panhandle. She was born in Clarendon and in a sense never ventured far from where she entered this world.

She married her beloved husband Harry and together they assumed leadership roles at the newspaper. Harry was production director while Jeane kept everyone in line as HR director. Harry retired not long before I arrived there in early 1995. Jeane stayed until 2001 after working at the Globe-News for 55 years.

I have heard our mutual friends and colleagues refer to Jeane Bartlett as an iconic figure in the Panhandle. She was diminutive, but her stature towered far above her physical frame.

Jeane Bartlett became as well-known to the community as many of our newspaper’s star reporters and editors. Publishers came and went during her time at the G-N, but they all had one thing in common: They depended on Jeane Bartlett for her wisdom and counsel.

I had an issue with an employee who worked in my department. I, too, depended on her wise counsel as we pondered together how to resolve the issue. She was patient with me and was always ready to answer any questions I had as we sought a resolution.

I just recently reached out to Jeane; I sent her a letter. She read it and responded with a hand-written note of her own. She expressed loneliness, given that her husband had died this past March of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. The note saddened me, but it also cheered me up as I examined her penmanship, which still resembled the notes she would leave for employees at the newspaper during all those years.

No one gets out of this world alive. The news that Jeane Bartlett had passed didn’t surprise me. It still hurts … deeply.


Blog alive and well

It’s been a good while since I’ve waxed rhapsodic about my blog and the joy I receive writing it.

So, I’ll offer a few words to remind you of the only “full-time job” I have. It is High Plains Blogger.

First, a couple of acknowledgements are in order.

One is that my blog traffic has slipped a bit from the high-water mark I experienced in 2019. I don’t know why that’s the case. It might have something to do with the topics I choose for commentary. Maybe readers of this blog are getting bored with me. I regret that terribly if that is so. I will work diligently moving ahead to make the blog more interesting.

I named this blog to remind readers from where I wrote it. We were living on the High Plains of Texas when I started this blog back in 2009. And, yes, it’s a bit of a tribute to one of my favorite film artists, Clint Eastwood, who starred in those “spaghetti westerns,” one of which was called “High Plains Drifter.” I decided to keep the title after we moved from the High Plains to the Metroplex. Why? Because the blog had developed a “brand” that is recognizable. Why trifle with what folks know, right?

Another aspect I need to acknowledge is that I am not contributing the volume of work to the blog as I did before. I have been kinda busy, working as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times, a weekly in Collin County, and for KETR-FM, the public radio station associated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. My third gig just dropped out of the sky only recently; I am working a temporary job as an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News. All of this takes time away from writing for the blog.

I have enjoyed my post-full-time journalism journey immensely. I no longer am fully retired. I cannot declare myself to be “retired.” I pretty much come and go as I please … most of the time. It surely beats working full time for a living.

I will continue with the blog for as long as I am able. To those who enjoy the blog and support its political leanings, I trust that is good news. To those who grind their teeth when they read my musings, well … too bad. Live with it.

Let’s enjoy the ride.