Thursday, July 20, 2017


Today's big -- non-Trump related -- news is the parole hearing in Nevada for former football legend O.J. Simpson. And it seems that the big question being asked is: "Why is someone who murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her companion, Ron Goldman, up for parole again after only nine years in prision?"

Well, the simple answer is that he is not in prison for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. He was -- like it or not -- acquitted (found not guilty) of charges in connection with their brutal slayings.

O.J.'s parole hearing today involves his conviction on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with his criminal efforts to regain possession of sports memorabilia he sold to pay the legal fees and civil judgments against him in connection with his trial on charges of killing Nicole and Goldman.

And, frankly, it is my feeling that after nine years in prison -- with a record of good behavior -- that he probably should be paroled.

When he was sentenced, he was a first-time offender and most first-time who are convicted on similar charges and establish a good prison record are usually paroled after five years. Simpson has been denied parole in the past largely because -- despite not having been convicted of Nicole's and Goldman's murders -- most people believe that the did murder them and therefore should remain in prison.

Sorry, folks, but that isn't how the American system of justice is supposed to work.

Do I think Simpson killed Nicole and Goldman? Hell yes I think he did and I believe that had he been convicted he should be in prison for the rest of his life, without chance of parole.

But under our justice system an offender is supposed to be punished for what he/she is CONVICTED of doing, not for what we are pissed off about because we THINK he did and should have been convicted of.

O.J was acquitted of the Nicole and Goldman murders with the mantra: "If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit" ringing in out ears. Now, I think he needs to be freed on parole under the mantra; "Since O.J. is only in prison for what he stole, like it or not you must parole."


Monday, July 3, 2017


CNN took every possible opportunity to disappoint me with most of its coverage -- until close to the very end -- of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, receiving an overall D- in terms of any seriously hard hitting reportage or stand-up-on-the-hind-legs journalistic courage in its Trump coverage until the GOP convention.
Until then the CNN's coverage essentially treated Trump as little more than a loudmouth buffoon whose rantings made great video snippets, but they in almost no way took into account the idea that he might win the nomination and did very little to show that he was thoroughly unfit to be elected street sweeper, much less president of the United States. At times, they even seemed to be quite cozy with him allowing him to frequently call in to say something or respond to something in a manner not really accorded to other candidates Republican or Democrat. I don't think they allowed this in order to give him an edge over the other candidates but rather they did it because they thought it was humorous and just ASSUMED their viewers would understant Trump was just making a fool of himself. Well, you know the old saw about the word "assume," and it the end CNN did make an ass out of itself.
Now that it's too late, I think CNN is finally doing a responsible job of covering Trump's pathethic "presidency." Nothing CNN has done, however, has really wowed my in the area of journalistic courage as much as its response to the incredibly childish and frighteningly ominous tweet that Trump released over this past weekend showing him in a WWE wrestling mode, violently taking down a person whose face was replaced on the video with a CNN logo. If you've not seen or heard CNN's pull-no-punches response, here it is and it earns the network my first "BRAVO" in a very, very long time:

“It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly [deputy White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so.
Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his healthcare bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behaviour far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”

This is the first time, in a long time, that CNN has looked like the news network Ted Turner founded. Now, CNN, STAY STRONG!!


Monday, June 19, 2017


As it turns out, one of the seven sailors killed aboard the USS Fitzgerald when a Japanese freighter ran into it off the coast of Japan on Saturday is a local man from Weslaco, Texas --Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Petty Office Noe Hernandez.

During my 12 years as editor of The Monitor one of the things I learned was that it seemed that whenever there was an announcement from the Defense Department that three or more US service men and/or wormen were killed at one time -- whether in combat or in an accident -- at least one of them would very likely be from the Rio Grande Valley.

And when that happened, we always got the news staff moving very quickly to localize the story by contacting any local family members, friends, former teachers, ministers, priests, anyone local who could help us put a human face on the tragic death of Valley native killed while serving his or her country. The staff would update the story online throughout the day and for the morning print edition would usually craft and excellent profile of the deceased service person with photos of family and friends, etc.

After a while, particularly as the death tolls mounted in Iraq and Afghanistan, the staff's quick reaction became almost automatic and The Monitor's reporters and photographers produced some outstanding -- an in many instances award winning, well read and greatly appreciated by the community -- work detailing the lives of servicemen and servicewomen who had sacrificed all for their country.

I think every member of the staff felt it was the right thing for us to do to honor the local fallen members of our armed forces for what they had done for us.

I fully expected this tradition -- which is followed by many American newspapers -- would continue because it is expected by and respected by the local community. It is just one of the ways a local newspaper keeps faith with its readers.

I have, however, been quite dismayed with the way my former newspaper has thus far handled the death of Petty Officer Hernandez.

Sunday evening -- several hours after the U.S. Department of Defense put out a news release giving the names and hometowns of those killed aboard the USS Fitzgerald -- The Monitor, under the headline "Navy: Weslaco man among 7 killed aboard USS Fitzgerald," posted an Associated Press story online that read, in it entirety:

YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) — The U.S. Navy says a 26-ear-old Weslaco man is among the seven sailors who died in a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship off Japan on Saturday.
They are:
— Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
— Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California
— Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
— Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
— Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlosvictor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
— Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland

— Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio

Apparently, someone at least thought to rewrite the lead so that it emphasized the fact that one of the dead was a local man. However, the person who handled the rewrite committed an uncorrected typographical error saying Petty Office Hernandez was a "26-ear-old." Whatsmore, the rewrite failed to give his name in the lead. That was left for the list that followed and even then Hernandez's name was left at the No. 4 spot on the list.

Even KRGV TV-5 did a better job with it's online story, posting this:

Weslaco - The U.S. Navy has confirmed a Weslaco native was killed when a ship container off the coast of Japan hit the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.
The collision happened around 2 a.m. Saturday Japan time.
Commander Ron Flanders, Spokesperson with U.S. Naval Forces in Japan, tells CHANNEL FIVE NEWS Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez is one of the 7 sailors killed in the collision.
Commander Flanders says Hernandez was in the birthing space of the ship when it was struck by a 30,000 ton Philippine cargo ship. The cargo ship's bulbous head hit the crew's living quarters, giving sailors just minutes to escape.
"The crew shined in this moment and kept the ship afloat. Unfortunately, two of the ships crew birthing spaces where the sailors were sleeping were flooded and 7 sailors were trapped inside and were lost at that time." said Commander Ron Flanders.
Officials are questioning what that Philippine container ship did just moments before hitting the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.
Multiple maritime trackers show the ship made a U-turn minutes before the collision.
Commander Flanders says the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and Japanese Coast Guard is investigating.

The U.S. Navy is planning a memorial service in Japan next week.

At least in it's online story, Channel 5 didn't bury Hernandez' name half way down on a list of people from elsewhere and it appears that someone from the TV station at least made the effort to actually talk to a Navy spokesperson

There was a story on the front page of The Monitor's print edition this moring under the one-column headline:
Navy: Valley
man among
7 sailors who
died on USS

But no one bothered to rewrite the AP lead to reflect that a local man was among the dead. Despite the headline, the interesting local angle on the Fitzgerald story was left until 8 to 10 column inches into the story (in the eight paragraph which appeared on the inside "jump" page). The subject of the lead was the mother of one of the surviving sailors who was from Raleigh, N.C.

It has now (10:40 CDT) been about 14 hours since The Monitor's online story was posted and, as yet, no attempt has been made to update it, not even to correct the "26-EAR-old" typo.

This makes me wonder if anyone on the news staff is busy working to profile Petty Officer Hernandez to update The Monitor's online presence today or even a for tomorrow morning's print edition.

This is not a good exampe of keeping faith with the readers and if a newspaper does not keep faith with its readers, it can hardly expect readers to keep faith with it -- this explains, at least in part, why the circulation of many newspapers is in decline. I've said if before and I still believe it to be true: Newspapers are not so much dying as they are committing suicide.


Sunday, April 30, 2017


Four years ago today -- on April 30, 2013 -- I retired from newspapering after a 45-year-career that began with a post-Navy reporting job at the New Albany (Ind.) Tribune in 1977 and ended with an 11-year and 8-month run as editor of The Monitor here in McAllen, Texas. Along the way I worked at reporting and various editing jobs at nine newspapers ranging from major metro to mid-sized dailies in seven different states.

This morning, it seems somehow fitting the fourth anniversary of my retirement comes the day after the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington that was boycotted by America's so-called president, Donald Trump. It was an event keynoted by speeches by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward the two Washington Post reporters whose Watergate reporting led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. They were introduced as two reporters whose work inspired a generation of American Journalists.

I was one of them.

As they spoke, I could not help but reflect on where American Journalism rose to in the wake of their Watergate work and where it has descended to today, something that has troubled me seriously since well before I retired as I watched the newspaper industry withering.

Many of my former newspapering colleagues along with newspaper industry critics and analysts say the newspapers are dying because they are an outmoded medium that readers are abandoning. I, however, have long disagreed with that assessment, contending instead that newspapers aren't dying, they are committing suicide and continue to lose readership not because readers are abandoning them but rather because they have abandoned readers.

Proof of my theory is quite evident with this morning's edition of the final newspaper that I had been editor of, The Monitor.

As editor, I always felt that the Sunday edition -- the highest circulation paper of the week -- should be a showcase with a front page featuring at the very least one well-planned, primary story package that was investigative or interpretive or analytical in nature and always an in-depth piece with photos or illustration or graphics and always of real and serious importance to and impact upon readers. It was a philosophy my staff always shared and executed throughout my tenure as editor even as the company that owned the paper -- Freedom Communications -- slipped into bankruptcy and was taken over by investment bankers interested only in profits who gutted our budget and forced me to reduce staff by nearly half -- fortunately, mainly through attrition rather than any large layoffs. In the end, the paper was sold -- along with Freedom's other Texas papers -- to its current owners.

Today, only seven members of the news staff that was at the paper when I departed remain and only one staffer remains who was there when I arrived for my first day at the Monitor on August 27, 2001. At its peak that news staff numbered 53 people, many of whom -- because of their talent and hard and outstanding work at The Monitor -- have gone on to bigger and better things at some of the nation's top major metro dailies or highly respected, and REAL online news sites and at least one having a piece of two separate Pulitzer Prizes.

Some my former staffers, who have now no longer with The Monitor, told me a couple of months after my departure that after they mentioned to my successor that something wasn't being handled the way it would have been while I was editor, he told them (quite correctly) that "this isn't Steve Fagan's paper anymore."

And that was quite evident in today's fourth anniversary of my retiring from newspapering edition of The Monitor.

The main story package was not an in-depth investigative, interpretive or analytical piece, but rather at five-paragraph, five-inch-long, "Staff Report" story revealing that a float normally featured in the McAllen Christmas Parade had been carted up to San Antonio for the 2017 Fiesta Flambeau Parade. The story -- which read pretty much like a press release -- was accompanied by three really bad (and badly reproduced) handout photos provided "courtesy of McAllen Parks & Recreation" department. In Steve Fagan's Monitor, this would have been a single photo and cutline probably inside the Valley & State section, but certainly NOT on the main package on Page 1.

One of the other three Page 1 stories -- also bylined as a "staff report" -- announced that former San Antonio Spurs forward Robert Horry would be the keynote speaker at the 2017 All-Valley Sports Awards Banquet, an even sponsored by The Monitor and its parent company AIM Texas Media, which also owns the Brownsville Herald, El Nuevo Heraldo, the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen and the weekly Mid-Valley Town Crier.

A third story was a piece headlined "Island LGBT celebration wraps up with parade today." This  story had some promise particularly if it had dealt, at least somewhat, with the issue of LGBT discrimination in Texas -- which has long been pretty rampant -- and where it stands as we rapidly descend into becoming Donald Trump's bigoted America. It could have featured, maybe, some interviews with actual participants in the event and their feelings on where things are headed with LGBT rights, etc. It, however, didn't and ended up reading more like a South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce press release.

The last story on the page, headlined "Valley businesses joining May 1 strike," had the most potential. In fact, in terms of its topic, it could have been the main story package for the Sunday paper. But it fell woefully short because, apparently, no one recognized its potential for being something better than it was or, if they did recognize that potentially, they simply didn't care enough to push to develop it. Hispanic organizations across the United States are calling for a nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" (Una dia Sin Immigrantes) strike to call attention to the importance of immigrants in the United States' society and economy and to decry the immigration policies and attitudes of Donald Trump, his administration and the Republican controlled Congress. This could have been a meaningful, Valley wide story that took a serious look at immigrants and the roles in America. This area, after all, is something like 90+ percent Hispanic in population and tens of thousands of people here are immigrants both legal and undocumented and hundreds of thousands are descendant of immigrants. Here, a strike by a significant number of immigrants and their supporters who grind everything to a complete standstill. This story could have explored how many area businesses are going to support their employees' participation in the strike and how local government officials, chambers of commerce, schools, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College, etc. view the strike. The story could have included interviews with workers, students, etc. who are planning to participate in the strike and what message they are hoping it will send and what good they think it might actually accomplish. It could have been a very strong Sunday package including photos of the anticipated participants, perhaps with strike placards they are making or have already prepared. But to have carried that off would have required that someone be awake at the switch, which didn't happen. The story instead was simply coverage of a press conference in which two businesses said they are supporting their workers who might want to participate in the strike -- a disappointing piece full of unrealized potential.

Essentially, the Sunday edition of The Monitor, published on the fourth anniversary of my retirement from newspapering had a front page that gave readers absolutely no reason to pick it up off the lawn and certainly no reason to buy a single copy newspaper off a rack. And a such is unfortunately way too representative of what's wrong with too many newspapers today.

Yep, "it's not Steve Fagan's paper anymore."