Thursday, April 30, 2009

If I was a Newspaper Publisher

If I published a newspaper, I would be very nervous. I would be more than nervous; I would be scared. Scared that the parent company of my paper would shut down my effort, as well intentioned as it may be and send me packing - literally. Scared that my advertisers would find other options or venues to sell their wares. Scared that subscribers would cancel their subscriptions and move permanently to the Internet, or TV for their news.

How could this happen to our beloved print edition news form? How is it possible that folks would rather look at a boob-tube or monitor instead of holding the classic tried and proven newsprint in their hands? How can a publisher get a handle on this situation and get the word out that the newspaper is still something the future should hold dear? Read on dear reader.

Personally, I love printed material. Personally, I am educated just enough to realize the fantastic mental exercise reading print does to promote a healthy brain. Of course reading is reading, but the printed version, whether it is newsprint, books or magazines are so much more convenient, than say, the Kindle,’s version of an electronic book reader, which incidentally allows owner/subscribers Wikipedia’s many online encyclopedias free at anytime anywhere and is a wonderful resource, but I do not see it as a replacement for the printed newspaper.

Many of us love to sit on the couch in the morning, read the paper quietly with a hot “cuppa Joe” and not be bombarded to buy sandwiches from a guy with a Styrofoam head or car insurance from a stack of money with eyeballs.

How about the millions of American readers who sit on the throne each day and peruse a magazine, inspiration of the day, or John’s Bathroom Reader? Somehow, I can’t fathom a person blurting out “Hurry! Where’s my Kindle? I got to hit the can stat!”. No, we grab that mag or bathroom reader from the bookrack on the floor and perform flawlessly and at our leisure.

As a Publisher of a local newspaper I realize the lifeblood of any community is reflected in the local print and that print is the newspaper and the newspapers future depends on new readers. The more new readers the paper has, the greater its chance of long term stability and this will be reflected in eager advertisement placement by sellers.

The more local information, news stories and commentary/columnists a paper has, the more valuable and informative it is to the local reader. Sidestep this with AP newswire stories and regional/state or federal columns and you basically insult the local guy or gal who wants to know about the parade or car show on Texas Avenue and degrade the paper’s credibility as a local source of information.

So what is the answer Mr. Know it all, says Sherman the pupil?

The solution is to visit every junior school in GCCISD and recruit sixth, seventh and eighth grade reporters for a one day a week extra edition of who is who and what they are thinking. Follow this first set of students through graduation and even college, and at the bottom end, replace the sixth graders as they move up.

Who cares if no other paper in the country is doing this? Who cares if it’s different than anything our city has seen? One thing is for sure, it will breathe new and fresh air into the paper and if one column per teen reporter per month is assigned to cover a particular aspect of the city and it’s resources, so much the better.

So, when do we start?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Picking Up the Pieces and Moving On

On April 16th, my 25 year old son was found dead at a friend’s house, the victim of self-medication directly related to a year of combat in Iraq, 82 combat missions and exposure to 15 IED detonations, one of which wounded him. It’s been the hardest and most difficult time for my wife, daughter, family and friends we have ever experienced.

We knew of his hardship, but were basically helpless to prevent his demise. His battle buddy Sgt. Kenny Horna urged him to seek counsel and anti-depressant medication, but my son felt he could overcome it. This is a wake up call to every parent and wife/husband of a returning combat Vet.

One week has passed and we have decided the best course of action and the only way to get closure and healing is to move on. We are celebrating his life and are looking forward to many beautiful days in our future and I want to thank the hundreds of people who have comforted us in this tragic time.

His military funeral was so beautiful with over 600 people in attendance. The Patriot Guard, the U.S. Army honor detail and VFW Post 912 all contributed and made us proud of his service and even prouder to be called an American.

It has become my mission to help his many young friends through life, many of which are alone, or have suffered terrible hardships themselves.

So, with this said, we are moving on and his memory will live on through his many friends and family members. Nick, we love you Son.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bacon-Wrapped delight with no negatives!

Baytown Bert eats the wickedly taboo and supposedly sinful bacon-wrapped green bean and brown sugar coated delight - with no shame or side-effects, whatsoever! No animals were hurt making this video, but someone killed a pig...thank heaven!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Pirates with U.S. hostage vow to fight if attacked?

“Here’s what we should do”, a phrase I am known for. Negotiate, negotiate and negotiate with these Somali pirates and secure the release of the American ship Captain. We have no other safe choice but to meet their demands and it is the right thing to do.

Next, after securing the release of the illegally captured American ship captain, we should blow these people to whatever paradise they believe in with all the cameras rolling. No apologies needed or warranted and we shouldn’t even make a statement – but if one is required, it should be this:

“We do not negotiate or tolerate pirates”. Ahoy?

While I am on the political decision policy stump, I will add my two cents on the shoe-throwing incident concerning our last President, George W. Bush, which incidentally would be my exact reaction if it happened to our current President.

The President of the United States after ducking the shoes, should have walked back to this fellow and knocked his eyeballs so deep into his head, he would have had to have a pair of binoculars to see his watch.

Looking up, he should have remarked, “Oops, I thought protocol was out the window. My bad” and never issue an apology, nope, not one.

Last, but not least, someone needs to remind the President of the United States (current) that whoever is paying the bills calls the shots, whether the recipients like it or not. It’s called a benevolent dictatorship in case his forgetter is getting in the way of making right decisions.

We the people are paying the bills, so quit walking around Europe apologizing for we U. S. Citizens and remind them that we provide the billions of dollars worth of security they enjoy at our expense, since twice in the last century we pulled their bacon out of the fire.

The President of the United States never bows to any potentate or foreign head of state, period.

He needs to look himself in the mirror, then at a map of the United States and remember whom he represents. Semper fidelis U.S.A.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Trail, Road and Sky

Well, it’s been an active three days. Friday, my bride and I traveled to Brazos Bend State Park and hiked the many trails for four hours. It’s only the second time this year we’ve hiked together and it was very pleasant and fulfilling for both of us, at least it was for me.

When two people have been married for thirty-two years, it would appear walking a trail together would be status quo, but truth be told, many folks grow apart over the years and pursue their own agendas apart from their mate. My bride and I have walked many a mile together over the years, but seldom on long hikes, so this is new and exciting territory for us.

I’m pleased to say this was the second successful hike in the last two weeks for us and more are planned. In fact, I hope we hike many more miles in Brazos Bend SP in the next month so we can witness the American Alligator in rut. They are very active at this time and I am hoping we see a big male rumble and ripple the water as it calls females. If I can video it, I will be very pleased indeed.

My Lady is with me on this hiking business, as she knows it is a good thing. I am about three years from sixty and she is approaching fifty. What could be a better decision than walking the trails, looking at nature and getting exercise to boot? Speaking of boots, I ordered her a pair of Columbia Coremic Ridge hiker boots. The temerity! She reminded me this was very personal and I reminded her I knew it was.

I want my Bride to have all the comfort she can get on the trail, so I ordered her three pair of merino wool hiking socks also. Call it cheek if you like, but I call it protective compassion. Banging your feet on the trail bothers the feet and can ruin a hike and it doesn’t matter who you are or what skill level you have. Having good socks and boots makes a big difference in how long you can walk comfortably.

Saturday rolled around and I went down to Texas Avenue for the Bayshore Fine Rides car show in time to watch Mean Gene Kelton and his Diehard band. I had a good chat with former council member Sam Mahan and a couple of other folks, but the best visit was with Ken “the dauber” Pridgeon. Ken’s a local artist and a mover and shaker in the Baytown Art League. He was sitting at a table in front of the old Brunson Theater drumming up signatures to save the old building. Of course, I signed.

Sunday morning, I skipped Sunday School (again! – Lord forgive me!) and geared up for a ride out Beach City way. In my defense, this area is very hostile to cyclists, as there is very little shoulder on the roads and even less tolerance from cars drivers. It’s so bad out there that riding a bicycle is flat-out dangerous. The only safe time to take a long distance ride is on Sunday morning.

I left the house about 9am and made my way down the south side of Business 146 to Kilgore road. Old Kilgore is now new Kilgore and awesome cement. You would have to see it to appreciate how improved this road is. Passing Roseland Park on Texas Avenue, I peddled to Spur 55/Hwy 99 and crossed over Cedar Bayou, stopping to appreciate the view and look to see what changes have been made concerning the proposed Barge Terminal.

On West Bay road, I turned and rode towards the dump, which believe it or not is odorless and actually not a bad ride. Since it was Sunday, there was little traffic and I had the road to myself. The open road and big sky got me to thinking how much I liked wide open spaces. Trail, road and sky…and me. Just the way I like it.

I usually ride straight out Fisher Road to Tri-Cities Beach Road, but the wind was picking up and I knew I was going to be riding into it one way or the other and that long stretch out by Trinity Bay can be murder, so I elected to ride the opposite direction and have most of this wind at my back and then fight the head wind on the return down the five miles of Fisher Road.

What I experienced though was a bad crosswind on Tri-Cities and total frontage on Fisher. By the time I got to the Wesley Riggs Memorial on TriCities, I was pooped. I always stop and pay my respects to the fallen local hero PFC Wesley Riggs. He and his family payed the ultimate price in Iraqi Freedom and deserves a few minutes of reflection.

Needless to say, that ride into the 10-15 mph wind on Fisher road turned me into a grunting 56 year old man and I finally wheeled down my own street exhausted and once again fulfilled. I’ll do it again, but next time I’ll check the wind report, but the sum of all this is I got off the couch and did something outdoors.

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