Monday, July 25, 2005

Boy, Did I Get THAT Wrong! ...

In late May, I posted on the topic, Now, It Gets a Little Harder ... in which I drew upon my deep and wide-ranging experience in the media to predict that we were about to settle, once again, into the inevitable news lull that accompanies summer.

Boy, was THAT a mistake ...

There may have been some year, where we had a busier summer in West Texas than the one we're having now ... but I'd be hard pressed to name it.

Part of it is due to where we are, and how important the weather is to us. In West Texas, even the most urban of us tend to keep our eyes on the skies, as anxious as any cotton farmer. We are in the midst of another wet year - the second year in a row - and that's news. One doesn't often devote much space in the news to flooded homes and streets in July, but we have.

The other extreme of West Texas weather - the very hot, the very dry and the very windy - has also contributed to our full assignments boards. The same grass that flourished in the rain, then becomes tinder-dry ... literally. Add fireworks to lightning and other sparks, and that's why we've been covering dozens of wildfires across West Texas and southeast New Mexico. Some day, I'd like to devote a post just to the men and women of our small towns' volunteer fire departments.

Firefighters have been way too busy this summer ... and so have police and paramedics, SWAT teams and haz-mat crews. From manhunts in Odessa and mortar rounds in Midland, to traffic accidents and drug busts everywhere ... there's been little or no opportunity for West Texas' emergency personnel to enjoy a 'summer break.'

Then, there are the stories we planned on having this summer ... Independence Day parades, movie festivals, and tours of West Texas' smaller communities, live broadcasts from throughout the region, highlighting the people and places outside the metropolitan area.

Special projects, like a series of live reports from Iraq, meeting West Texans serving in the Army National Guard there, have also created a lot of local activity. Other state, national and world news items that contributed to busy newsrooms locally ... the Texas Legislature and school finance reform, the U.S. Supreme Court, the launch of the space shuttle Discovery and the terrorist bombings in England and Egypt.

Even in the area of sports, where there is a summertime lull in high school activity and interest, there's been news. Locally, the Midland Rockhounds were Texas League-West champions for the first half of the season. And West Texas' youngest pro sports franchise, the Odessa Roughnecks, went undefeated in the regular season. National and world headlines contributing to local sports reports ... Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, Tiger Woods and the British Open, and (I guess) the end of the NHL lockout.

"Right now, there is an avalanche of stories out there. But that will soon change," I wrote in May. Boy, did I get THAT wrong ... or did I? ... hmmmm ... I know ... I admit NOTHING ... no wrongdoing, no mistake whatsoever ... I never said that ... or, if I did, it was taken out of context ... I blame the media!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Eric's Doing His Part ... How About YOU? ...

Eric Siegmund over at Fire Ant Gazette is planning on burning a little midnight oil in August, and not just at midnight ... he's getting ready to pull an all-nighter for his part in Blogathon 2005.

Like many ventures in the media, the concept of Blogathon began with the initiative of a single person, at a single outlet. The 'History' page of the Blogathon website tells, "On July 29th of 2000, Cat Connor of
Frytopia posted an entry in her blog every fifteen minutes for twenty-four hours. At the end of her adventure she had posted a whopping 96 entries and had what was truly a unique experience in the blogging world. The following year when she decided to stage the 24-hour blogging event again, she decided that her event would do more than just gain attention - it would make a difference in the world. So Blogathon was born."

Blogathon has enjoyed growth in the ensuing years. Granted, the growth has been erratic (with the event going on hiatus last year), but it has been growth nonetheless ... would that all media could say the same. This year's event begins Saturday, August 6, at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Time). Participating bloggers are expected to follow Connor's original example of posting near-constantly for the next 24 hours ... one of the FAQ's on the Blogathon website is, "How can I stay awake?"

The rest of us are encouraged to register as sponsors for a participating blogger, encouraging them and helping them raise funds for the charity of their choice.

And THIS is where bloggers have a chance to put their money where their mouth is ... uh ... fingertips are. You see, for all their whining about mainstream media (whatever that might be) and how awful it is, citizens of the blogosphere would be hard-pressed to match the example set by local, traditional media outlets in raising awareness and raising funds for charities in West Texas and southeast New Mexico. And DON'T go telling me we're required to do it by law ... because we're not ... guidelines enforced by regulatory agencies for public service programming were suspended years ago.

"Hard pressed," I said ... for now, at least. The role of the blogosphere IN/AS mainstream media is already established, and is growing almost daily. Bloggers have a tremendous opportunity to promote/complement existing public service efforts, and to develop efforts of their own ... which can, in turn, be promoted/complemented by traditional media outlets.

In the meantime, I intend to register at Blogathon this year, and to sponsor Eric in his round-the-clock efforts to raise awareness/funds for charity ... I had recommended he raise funds for the National Association to Send Bloggers to Disneyland ... I'm sure that suggestion will get all the consideration it deserves.

Seriously, though, Eric will be blogging for
Midland Fair Havens. Fair Havens' mission is to "equip single mothers and their children for self-sufficient living by addressing their educational, vocational, spiritual, and emotional needs in residential and non-residential settings." Sounds to me like a good cause.

How about YOU? Why not sign-up today as a sponsor ... and get the word out to some of your friends, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Fountain of Youth in the Tall City? ...

The subjects for the last couple of posts on this blog - initial coverage of the terrorist attacks in London, and a particularly macabre resident of the blogosphere - have, admittedly, been grim ... it really wouldn't hurt to reverse course.

The last month or two, I've been wondering about Wallace, the proprietor of
Streams, one of our West Texas-based weblogs. As you probably know, Wallace is an oil man, drilling for black gold in the Permian Basin. But, I'm wondering if ... maybe, just maybe ... he struck something else ... something more valuable than oil ... even with oil at $60/barrel!

I started wondering this during the months of May and June of this year, as we were marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the final end of the Viet Nam War. Wallace is a veteran of that war, and more than one of his posts were about meetings with fellow vets, old comrades and new friends ... and some of those were accompanied by photos ... have you looked at them? Good old boys, one and all, gray-haired or no-haired ... except for Wallace, who still sports a full head of beautiful brown hair!

How does he do it? Even I, the son of a man who served two tours in Viet Nam, have more gray hair than Wallace does!

What is Big Gold Dog really drilling for? ... oil? ... natural gas? ... or have they tapped into the legendary Fountain of Youth, just a little bit to the west of where Ponce de Leon first sought it?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Dark Corner of the Blogosphere ...

Have you ever thought to yourself, 'gee, I wonder what it would be like if (insert name here) had a blog?' Or, maybe you're one of those established residents of the blogosphere that keeps an eye out for new, especially interesting arrivals ... someone who brings a unique perspective, or a wealth of knowledge and experience to their posts.

Be careful what you ask for ...

One can't help but be attracted to the unblinking honesty that crops up from time to time in someone's weblog. True, some bloggers imagine themselves to be a notch above the rest, as close to perfection - in every way - that a person can get. But then there are those that concede their shortcomings, their anxieties, their disappointments, their hopes unrealized, their goals unaccomplished.

Some posts you come across are very, very angry .... some are very, very funny ... and some are very, very sad. Then there are those that, when read in the light of current events, are very, very frightening.

Blogging the Fifth Nail, for example ...

"... My blog entries lately are erratic and full of a lot of B.S., for that I apologize. I am just trying to put down what is in my head, regardless. As far as 'taking people with me' well, I don't know if that is right or wrong. In fact, I don't know much any more what right and wrong even is. My view is either everything is right (in some regard) or everything is wrong (in some other regard). The question (one I am struggling with at this point) is, 'Does it matter?' ..."

Dated Friday, May 13, 2005, this was the last entry posted to "Fifth Nail." Two days later, Dylan and Shasta Groene were taken from their Idaho home and their family members killed. Police now believe that their suspect in the murder/abduction, and the author of "Fifth Nail," are one and the same ... convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III.

The Associated Press reports, "police concluded that Duncan was the author of the journal based on interviews of people who knew him and on the Internet Protocol address - an identifying number specific to a computer - that was used to establish the blog."
(Read the Complete Story)

Letters and journals are nothing new in providing a record of a criminal's actions and state of mind. But I think this may represent something of a first, that such an account is left open on the internet forum, placed there by someone accused of a string of horrific acts. For now, "Fifth Nail" is still up-and-running ... BUT I HAVE TO WARN YOU ... the language, the profanity is very, very strong in the comments that people are now posting by the hundreds, even thousands.

On Top of the Situation ...

(Photo courtesy of

A busy day, today, whether you're part of the mainstream media ... like myself ... or one of those courageous purveyors of the REAL truth that - I am told - can only be found in the blogosphere. I cite this dichotomy that is often drawn between the two deliberately, and I deliberately use a sarcastic tone. The reason I do, is that ... for today, at least ... we seem to be working well together.

The news out of London - the extent of the damage, the number of deaths and injuries, the impact felt around the world - continues to develop ... and so does our coverage of that news, and your reaction to the news.

On the internet, the first notice/coverage of the news from London, posted to a West Texas website, was on, where I work. The next two notices - locally - didn't appear on news sites, but on weblogs ... Eric Siegmund's Fire Ant Gazette and Julie Craig's Yellow Bug News. Taken in conjunction with one another, those three sites provided a good, comprehensive reporting AND commentary on the news ...

(I'm coming back to this a few minutes later ... the official death toll in London has risen, and I needed to make the appropriate changes to headlines and leadlines on my website)

The coverage at is pretty straightforward ... the facts as they are known at this time, the accounts of witnesses, the reactions of world leaders and related developments around the world ... today's decision, for example, to increase security on American trains and buses. Text stories are supplemented by photo galleries and audio/video clips of speeches, briefings, etc.

As for our local weblogs, they add that personal touch to their commentary on the headlines that is one of the strengths they bring to the online medium.

Eric, for example, has redesigned his blog's
home page to incorporate England's "Union Jack" and a message of solidarity into his banner. One of his London-related posts links us to Patty at White Pebble who has only recently arrived in London, and is now blogging from the scene.

Julie, meanwhile - noting that "... Many tourists in central London were caught in the blasts ..." - offers up her own brief, but heartfelt
"What if ..." commentary, recalling that it was just last month that she and her son were tourists in London, riding the same kind of bus that was torn apart this morning by a terrorist bomb.

As the day progresses through the afternoon, more local sites are getting something up. Wallace Craig at Streams has reworked his site's banner to show his support for the Brits. John Boswell at Blogging for Midland describes his reaction to the images he's seeing on television. George Johns at Sleepless in Midland looks at today's performance of London's stock exchange.

Ironically, Jessica's Well might have had something as well, even though they're on hiatus. Chris Muir, creator of "Day by Day," has pulled today's cartoon and replaced it with his tribute to the Brits ... unfortunately, the link at Jessica's Well does not seem to be picking it up. You can see it at Muir's website, though.

Each site, in and of itself, tells part of the story. Together they offer us a wide and diverse variety of news reports and opinions. In a way, the combination of reporting on news websites, and commentary/discussion on weblogs, represents a complete "water cooler" cycle - reading/hearing/watching the news, then discussing it with others - all in one place, the internet.

And other West Texas news sites? The Odessa American now has a headline about the news from London. KMID-TV has Congressman Randy Neugebauer's response to the news ... but nothing about the news itself. And the rest - for now, at least - have nothing at all. I'm certain, though, that will change in the hours ahead.
That link at Jessica's Well has been fixed ... they're on hiatus, perhaps, but still on the ball.