Tuesday, April 05, 2011

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Nancy Hellinghausen Brown was born February 25, 1964, in Breckenridge, Texas. She passed away on March 31, 2011, after a courageous battle with cancer. She is not the first member of the MC family to pass away since I've joined the staff of Your College, but she is the first with whom I had actually worked on a daily basis over the course of 2+ years in the college's Public Information & Media Office.

During that time, I gained great appreciation for Nancy and her work, and the impact that work had upon our college, and our community at-large. She was MC's Director of Public Relations, while I was the college's web editor ... but we both had a background that included professional experience in writing and promotion/outreach. In those capacities, Nancy's abilities were nothing less than remarkable.

Those of you who have read the "MC Page" each Sunday in the Midland Reporter-Telegram will share my appreciation. Nancy was so good at interviewing people who - on the surface, at least - might seem ordinary at best, but drawing from them the most extraordinary stories. She had a way of finding the remarkable that lies within all of us, sharing it with others, and encouraging those others to dig a little deeper and find the remarkable within themselves.

From my own experience, I can tell you that's not always an easy task ... in part because the subject of your interview might be the first to say something to the effect of, "oh, I'm not so special ... nobody wants to read about me." Drawing the subject out, learning the story-behind-the-story, then composing it in a manner that draws in the readers, not only informing them, but inspiring them.

Not every reporter is willing to tackle such stories - some preferring to chase the celebrity flavor-of-the-month down the red carpet - and frankly, not every reporter is able. But West Texas is fortunate to have those ready, willing and able to do it, and have done it well ... people like Ed Todd and Ken Broadnax, Jimmy Patterson, and Nancy.

Part of me will also miss having someone in the office who can relate to some of the unavoidable silliness that comes with my being a dang-Yankee-from-back-east. Nancy's career included a stint in New York City, and I was thrilled to have someone who shared my genuine appreciation for Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Plaza ... and for Chock Full o'Nuts and Carnegie Deli.

And for so much more ... conversations with Nancy usually resulted in additions to my bookshelf, my CD rack and my Netflix queue. And really, I'm just touching upon one facet of Nancy here ... others could tell you about her poetry, her cooking, her (Texas Master) gardening, her community involvement, and her cats.

CLICK HERE to read more about Nancy and her life. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Midland College, directed to the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series, or the Arts Program at MC, c/o the Midland College Foundation, 3600 N. Garfield, Midland, Texas 79705. You may call the Foundation office at (432) 685-4526 for more information.

Goodbye, my friend

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Excuse me ... you did WHAT? ...

Here, in the heart of the oil patch that is the Permian Basin, one often hears complaints about the image oil & gas companies have among the general public ... mostly negative, and often unwarranted. And on that point, I agree ... it IS mostly negative, and it IS often unwarranted.

Where I part company with many of my fellow Patchers is in the reason for said image. I've been told over and over again that energy companies' bad image is SOLELY the result of ongoing efforts by Democrats in general, President Obama in particular ... liberals in general, and environmentalists in particular ... and don't forget BIG GOVERNMENT such as the EPA and OSHA.

Me? I'm willing to take all of the above into consideration ... BUT, I'm also ready to add another, significant contributors to that negative image ... the actions of a few companies, themselves. For example ...

Transocean gives safety bonuses despite Gulf spill deaths
Company filing calls safety record 'exemplary' for meeting internal goals

Staff Report

"Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives bonuses for achieving the 'best year in safety performance in our company's history' — despite the explosion of its oil rig that killed 11 people, including nine of its own employees, and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico."
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the story from msnbc.com

At the risk of sounding all Dr. Phil-like ... "what were you you thinking?" I mean, what kind of year would this company have to have, where top officials wouldn't get bonuses for an exemplary safety year?