President's Message

Public information law under siege in Texas

It has been clear for some time that public information law is under siege in the state of Texas.
Texas attorney general spokesman Marc Rylander’s swaggering performance at an open government seminar held by the AG’s office earlier this year — during which he encouraged public officials to slow-walk public information requests — offered ample evidence of its endangered status. 
Further verification followed this week, when the Texas Supreme Court denied a motion for re-hearing, filed by the Fort Bend Herald in a 2014 case against Fort Bend County officials.

Tools of the trade: Reminders that the power of a free and independent press is greater than our challenges

TPA President Laurie Ezzell Brown

While digging through some old files the other day, I ran across a folder containing a set of index cards titled “Tools of the Trade” that I’d helped my dad – former Record publisher Ben R. Ezzell – prepare three decades earlier. They were part of an exhibit prepared for Canadian High School students – props he used for a presentation on careers in print journalism.
Whatever I had been seeking in those files was instantly forgotten, as is always the danger when the present stumbles across the past. I was transported in time. 

San Antonio newspaper war shaped many careers

Sports broadcasting legend Jack Whitaker once said, “Fate has a way of bending the twig and fashioning a man to his better instincts.”
I have always loved that saying. It has really haunted me lately (in a good way) as I get ready to attend a reunion — and a very special one at that.
It is a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the closing of the San Antonio Light, where I began my newspaper career 36 years ago.

Small town living, neighborly concern: Priceless

I love working at community newspapers.
Most of all, small-town newspapers are true reflections of the communities they serve. Those small towns and cities are all things hyper-local.
Everyone pretty much knows everyone else. Or if they don’t, they know “his brother’s sister-in-law’s son’s cousin.”
Move into a new neighborhood and don’t be surprised if a new neighbor knocks at your door holding a chicken-and-spaghetti casserole, offering a warm welcome and politely inquiring, “Have y’all found a new church home yet?”

AG spokesman suggests public officials slow-ball FOIA requests

Well, it’s been about a month since Texas Attorney General spokesman Marc Rylander bloviated his way into the headlines.
 I find myself still seething over his remarks during an AG’s training conference, in which he slandered our profession and essentially encouraged public information officers for governmental entities to slow-ball public information requests from the news media.
Nearly every day, I find myself turning the whole episode over in my mind. His remarks have me reacting in so many ways. Let me count some of them.

Food for the journalism soul in crazy times

We live in truly crazy and sophomoric times.
I don’t care who you voted for in the last presidential election; I don’t care where you fall on the political spectrum. At the national level, it’s become a big mudslinging match with all sides involved, including some of our Beltway news media brethren.
All too often, people have allowed their ideology to overwhelm their intellect – and their tempers to run roughshod over reason and accommodation.
And if you’re like me, you’ve noticed some of that mud has splattered on us hometown newspapers.

Need a lift? Spend career day with third graders

A lot of us love newspapering because of all the challenges the business presents us each day. But from time to time, all those challenges can have us feeling really down in the dumps.
We continue to grapple with how we communicate our journalism and advertising to an increasingly diffused and finicky market. Revenue challenges mean we have to work even harder in an attempt to deliver more with tighter budgets. And we always seem to hear from those who are all too quick to hate us for what we do or don’t do.

Learning, loving the newspaper business

Do you remember your first real assignment? I do.
It was my first day as a summer intern at the old San Antonio Light. Up walked Bend Segal, a gruff, seasoned assistant city editor who had weaned many a cub reporter. He handed me a six-page press release. “Rewrite it,” he said. “And let me know when you’re done.”
Seems like it took me forever to rewrite that press release. But I finally managed to finish it, reducing the six-page release to three. I handed the copy to Ben, who took his red marker and quickly circled a typo and handed it back to me, saying, “Do it again.”