Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Amarillo's media schizophrenia

The Republican debate and Donald Trump have dominated so much of the news over the past few days that Amarilloans may have been sidetracked from the escalation in the schizophrenic propaganda war about Amarillo’s downtown development. Or lack thereof ager eight years of wheel-spinning, word-spinning, elections and massive tax money spending.

A war of words is now unfolding on social media, especially Facebook, a shift away from the Amarillo Globe-News website since the AGN disabled comments a couple of weeks ago. In disabling public dialogue, the out-of-town-owned media outlet has also made more evident than ever that it’s not a news outlet any more. Of course, those of us who consider ourselves real journalists stopped calling the AGN a newspaper a long time ago.

Now what AGN readers are getting is pure propaganda — and worse. Like a snake, the AGN has turned on those it previously supported. The recent obvious hatchet jobs (hereand here) on newly elected City Councilor Randy Burkett are examples of a media outlet that can no longer be trusted. It is also one afflicted with political schizophrenia. Burkett was one of the challengers during the most recent campaign in which those challengers made clear they wanted to make drastic changes at City Hall. The AGN supported him, as it did successful challengers Elisha Demerson and Mark Nair. Also noteworthy was the AGN’s lack of endorsement for the incumbent mayor, Paul Harpole.

The Amarillo Globe-News is under no legal obligation to explain its positions, changes of position, editorial policy or matters of news judgment. And one can argue, in fact, no moral or journalism ethical rubric would require it to do so. I suspect that articulating a rational, non-schizoid explanation without their, or our, heads exploding would be impossible. Let’s face it, the local chief executive was the chairman of the Downtown Amarillo Inc. board and, along with the DAI executive director, brought us Wallace Bajjali.

Of course, there’s a real tragedy here. A look at United States history makes clear that the strength of our republic rested on a vibrant free press and an educated electorate. Since the 1950s, radio and television have supplemented and complemented the print outlets. But electronic media can only do so much. In Amarillo, only ABC 7 News/KVII is doing accountability journalism.

And while the age of Internet and the World Wide Web has certainly impacted the news landscape, communities relied on their “newspaper(s) of record” to provide the basis for civic discourse and publishing information adhering to solid journalistic standards that demanded balance, fairness and accuracy on news pages.

Amarillo has lost that and now social media has become the forum here.

What a shame.