IN THE wonderful world of community newspapers, I have reached a special senior status that I’m going to put to the test in January at the Texas Press Association Mid-Winter Conference.
For newcomers to this weekly column, I’m a retired editor-publisher. I spent more than 50 years working at small town newspapers. I write and self-syndicate this column and it’s published in a couple of dozen community papers, similar to those at which I worked.
Every knot of people I see at the TPA meeting, I’m going to go striding up and say, “That reminds me of the time back in Nineteen Aught….” and see how quickly they disperse or how many “don’t know” me.
Actually, I wouldn’t do that to my enemies, much less my friends.
I’VE OFTEN said that those of us who’ve edited and published small town newspapers belong to The Brotherhood of Community Newspapering.
It is a wonderful world of people with a special gift and an ongoing yen to see good prevail. These people do a taxing job — providing the one source that concerns itself with the news, commerce and the progress of the community that it serves.
Having the opportunity to produce this column for a several papers enables me to write stories I perhaps could not have written at the particular newspaper I was serving at the time the event became a “story.” Sometimes the damage to innocent individuals far outweighs the good such story might do. Occasionally the innocent individual to whom the damage might be done is the writer.
I’VE NEVER ignored a story that involved criminal activity and/or wrongdoing by public officials. I’ve always taken the risks that go with those stories because we must. And, believe me, there’s a personal joy in nailing a criminal and/or a miscreant public official that far overrides the occasional danger.
In a news career, we are privileged to meet and know people who are solid and possess convictions that are a blessing to the community where they reside.
When John Q. Citizen thinks of people with political influence, all too often the image is one detrimental to good politics. John Q. sees political bosses and those who wield influence for their and their special friends’ benefit. Unfortunately, I’ve known my share of those types and I try to avoid them at all costs.
Then, there are the Pat Pattons of the world.
I met Pat in June 1982. He was “retired” but had a shop he puttered around in. Pat dressed the part and, best I could tell, managed to putter enough to be legitimate in that regard. He kept a “chaw” or “dip” (I didn’t check it close enough to determine the difference). I do know Pat kept a libation or two handy in that shop.
Pat’s responsible for my meeting John Sharp (yeah, the current Texas A&M chancellor) shortly after I arrived in Lockhart in May 1982 to publish the newspaper there. Sharp was running for state senator. Pat was one of those behind-the-scenes political powers, something he’d go “aw, shucks” at unless someone made fun of that statement and/or challenged his influence. Then, look out. John Sharp UNDERSTOOD who Pat Patton was.
SHARP WAS in a close contest for that senate post and, in case you haven’t followed his career, served in that job before becoming Texas State Comptroller. He considered a run for lieutenant governor and for governor at various points. I would’ve supported him for either job. He’s the only political official I have ever made that statement about, in private or in print.
I’m glad John Sharp is where he is. He deserves it. The State of Texas and Texas A&M University deserve him.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.