MESSENGER Texas Press
TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION • TEXASPRESS.COM • JULY 2013 • VOL 88 NO 7
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Shrader elected president of Texas Press Association
AUSTIN — Veteran Texas newspaperman Greg Shrader, editor and publisher of The Lufkin News, is the new president of Texas Press Association. Shrader, 60, assumed the post at TPA’s summer meeting in Houston. “It is a privilege to continue to serve the newspaper industry in Texas. I think it’s a viable industry and I want to make sure I do everything I can to continue that,” Shrader said. Shrader began his 39-year journalism career at the Houston Chronicle. Since then he has worked at the Bryan-College Station Eagle, the Abilene Reporter-News, the Galveston County Daily News, the Kerrville Daily Times and the Lufkin Daily News. In addition to his duties in Lufkin, he serves as vice president of Southern Newspapers, Inc. and assists in management of the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel. A priority for Shrader is maintaining the identity of TPA, the majority of whose members are weekly newspapers, while encouraging expanded involvement by the
TPA President Russel Skiles (right), publisher of the Lamesa Press-Reporter, passes the gavel to incoming president Greg Shrader, publisher of The Lufkin Daily News, following the summer convention in Houston.
state’s daily papers after the Texas Daily Newspaper Association ceased operations last winter. Shrader noted that Texas’ daily and weekly newspapers shared govern-
mental affairs initiatives for years, and the transition to one unified press association has been extremely smooth. Shrader was born October 5, 1952, at Fort Hood, Bell
County, Texas. A graduate of Pasadena High School, he received a bachelor of science in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974 and followed with a master of arts in journalism in 1982. Shrader is a past president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and Texas Newspaper Advertising Managers Association. He is a past recipient of the Frank Mayborn Award for Community Service, a prestigious civic leadership award bestowed by the press association. Shrader is president of the Lufkin Salvation Army board and also serves on the boards of the Lufkin Convention and Tourism Bureau, Angelina County United Way and East Texas Crisis Council. He is also a board member of The Admiral Nimitz Foundation that operates the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Shrader has been married to his wife, Laura, for 39 years. They have two children, Travis, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tamplen, a graduate of Texas Tech University at Lubbock.
Laura Prather: New laws protect Texas newsrooms PAGE 7
MESSENGER VOL 88 NO 7 JULY 2013
MESSENGER Texas Press
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Texas Press Association 718 West 5th Street Austin, TX 78701 (512) 477-6755 phone (512) 477-6759 fax www.texaspress.com
2013-2014 TPA BOARD OF DIRECTORS OFFICERS
President Greg Shrader, The Lufkin News; First Vice President Randy Mankin, The Eldorado Success; Second Vice President Glenn Rea, The Cuero Record; Treasurer Randy Keck, The Community News; Chairman Russel Skiles, Lamesa Press-Reporter
Elected: Patrick Canty, Odessa American; Jeff Berger, Hondo Anvil Herald; Bill Crist, Snyder Daily News; Sue Brown, Pleasanton Express; Brett McCormick, The Vernon Daily Record; Chad Engbrock, The Wylie News Appointed: Brenda Miller-Fergerson, The Pasadena Citizen; Hank Hargrave, The Normangee Star; Jim Moser, Jackson County Herald-Tribune; Mike Mueck, Brenham BannerPress; J.D. Davidson, Paris News; Kelli Barnes, Tyler County Booster; Jim Wilson, Waco Tribune-Herald; Mike Winter, The Bowie News Regional Presidents: Mark Engebretson, Lake Country Sun, NETPA; Wanda Brooks, Moore County News-Press, PPA; Cyndy Slovak-Barton, Hays Free Press, STPA; Danny Reneau, Silsbee Bee, TGCPA; Mark Engebretson, Lake Country Sun, WTPA Regional Vice Presidents: Don Treul, Tri County Leader, NETPA; Jeff Blackmon, County Star-News, PPA; Larry Hauk, Copperas Cove Leader-Press, STPA; Tania French, Port Lavaca Wave, TGCPA; Lisa Davis, Wise County Messenger, WTPA
MESSENGER STAFF Publisher Micheal Hodges Editor Laura King Advertising Consultant Diane Byram Volume 88 — Issue No. 7 JULY 2013 Subscription rate $6 per year Single issue 50 cents © Texas Press Messenger, 2013 (ISSN 1521-7523). Published monthly by Texas Press Service, a business affiliate of Texas Press Association. Periodicals postage paid at Austin, Texas, and additional mailing office, USPS 541-440. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Press Messenger, 718 West 5th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Printed by Hood County News in Granbury, Texas.
Don’t believe everything Gallup tells you At one of the Thursday round tables at last month’s TPA summer retreat in Houston the topic of the latest Gallup survey on trustworthiness was discussed. For those of you that missed it, here is the headline on the Gallup release: “Americans’ Confidence in Newspapers Continues to Erode: Fewer than one in four Americans confident in newspapers, TV news.” According to the survey, the percentage of Americans who have trust in newspapers has steadily been eroding since the industry reached its highwater trustworthiness mark of 51 percent in 1979. According to the annual survey, newspapers rank near the bottom on a list of 16 institutions Gallup measured in the June 1-4 survey. Television news is tied with newspapers on the list with 23 percent of Americans also expressing confidence in it. That is up slightly from the all-time low of 21 percent last year. The only institutions television news and newspapers beat out this year are big business, organized labor, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and Congress. That puts us in questionable company to say the least. When the survey came out I sent a copy to my boss and some fellow publishers with the subject line: “work to do.” Then the subject came up at our Friday session and there was the expected wailing and gnashing of teeth accompanying the question, “Why do folks think that way?” It bothered me and I spent some time thinking about it as our discussion moved on to other topics. Then I had one of those “ah hah” moments that most of us do when we think of something we wished we would have said while the discussion was taking place. I was scheduled to lead the first round-table discussion Friday morning, so I was able to share my thoughts with the group about how trustworthy we are. The survey found newspapers
were barely more trustworthy than Congress, whose approval ratings currently run at less than 20 percent. But when you think about how constituents in a district rate their congressman, most often those approval ratings will be north of 55 percent, otherwise they would never have been elected.
From the Fairway Greg Shrader TPA PRESIDENT 2013-2014
People may think Congress as a whole is untrustworthy but most think they could trust their congressman to take their kids to a candy store. They feel that way because their congressman represents them. Folks in Angelina County still recall their former congressman, Charlie Wilson: “He might have been an SOB, but he was our SOB,” is a common refrain. So I’m not buying the Gallup results as it pertains to us. Unfortunately, we are often painted with a broad brush that is full of “the national media” paint. Talking heads on radio and TV constantly hammer away at the “mainstream media” as if that were something bad. Your newspaper is about as mainsteam as you can get in your local community. One goal that every publisher should have is to work towards having your community adopt your newspaper as “our” newspaper. Many of you already have. I bet if you ask folks in your community if they can trust you, the majority would say yes. So yes we have work to maintain that trust, but don’t beat yourself up because Gallup says folks don’t trust
us. We know better and we know we work hard to earn and maintain that trust. Keep it up. It is an honor to be elected president of TPA. I’ve been a newspaper guy my whole life. My brother and I would race each other to see who could get to the Houston Chronicle first, back in the day when it was an afternoon paper. It was probably no coincidence my first newspaper job was selling advertising for the Houston Chronicle. I’ve been blessed to work at some great newspapers throughout the state and have just about made the circuit. Gulf Coast, Brazos Valley, Cross Plains, West Texas and now East Texas. In the past 40 years I’ve made a lot of friends in the business. I’m sure some of those that have passed away would have a difficult time understanding the recent changes we’ve seen in our industry. But the success of our industry has always been about taking care of our customers: our readers and our advertisers. As long as we continue to find ways to do that there will always be a place for newspapers. In the interest of upholding the longstanding tradition of the TPA president’s column having a moniker of title, I’d like to make mine “From the Fairway.” Sadly, I enjoy the game of which Bobby Jones once wrote, “On the golf course, a man may be the dogged victim of inexorable fate, be struck down by an appalling stroke of tragedy, become the hero of unbelievable melodrama, or the clown in a sidesplitting comedy —any of these within a few hours, and all without having to bury a corpse or repair a tangled personality.” Sounds a lot like working for a newspaper doesn’t it? So in the interest of making your job as palatable as possible, it is my wish that you navigate your way each and every day by avoiding the rough and hazards that so frequently present themselves and always play from the fairway.
IN TPA’S MESSENGER Contact Diane Byram at 512.477.6755 or email@example.com.
MESSENGER VOL 88 NO 7 JULY 2013
Interaction with lawmakers grows in importance Q: I am inspired by the number of members who testified on bills before the Texas Legislature over the last few months. I heard that about 20 members testified and several publishers made the trip more than once. Did members just show up at House or Senate committee hearings or did you all know they were coming? What’s the process? A: More TPA members participated in the public hearing process in the 83rd regular session than in any session since 1992 when I first came aboard. During the 83rd, your brothers and sisters of the press added Capitol visits and live testimony to their already tremendous workload. Those efforts are exactly what is keeping local governmental bodies’ public notices in print. Your physical presence in a Capitol meeting room and the truth of your words are critically important to this legislative mission TPA first took up in 1880. It can be transforming for you, for your fellow newspapers, and for Texas. There truly is no substitute for the impact of the newspaper publisher or the ordinary citizen who stands before a legislative committee. The health of the newspaper industry in Texas is going to depend on that sort of participation more in the 84th (2015) session of the Texas Legislature than ever before. We tend to know when members are headed to Austin to testify. The TPA Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC) meets at intervals during
the session, usually every couple of weeks from mid-January until the end of March. We study hundreds of bills each session and as a group with many voices decide which ones rise
TPA Hotline Ed Sterling TPA MEMBER SERVICES DIRECTOR
above the rest to get collective action from newspapers. After the LAC rates and assigns a priority to a bill, part of the strategy is to figure out who might give the most effective testimony. If you get a call from TPA Executive Vice President Donnis Baggett during the early months of an odd-numbered year, you can almost bet it will be about an important piece of legislation that deserves your attention. The critical groundwork for a successful legislative session, however, must take place during legislative interim periods. When a legislative session ends and the din fades, that is when your state rep and senator can best absorb what your issues and concerns are. That’s when to approach them about public notice, open meetings and open records, news gathering, and more.
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Q: I communicate with my legislators and their staff people at least quarterly as part of our routine news coverage, but would I have to register as a lobbyist if I come to Austin to testify at a hearing in the Capitol? A: The answer is no. Please open the Lobbying in Texas guide posted by the Texas Ethics Commission at http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/ guides/LOBBY_guide.htm. Under the heading titled Determining Whether Lobby Registration Is Required, click the link titled “Exceptions from Required Registration.” Scroll down until you find this paragraph: News Media. The statute excepts from the registration requirement a person who owns, publishes, or is employed by a newspaper or other regularly published periodical, a radio station, a television station, a wire service, or any other bona fide news medium that in the ordinary course of business disseminates news, letters to the editors, editorial or other comment, or paid advertisements that directly or indirectly oppose or promote legislation or administrative action, provided that the person does not engage in any other activities requiring registration. Q: I don’t have a subscription to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, so is there another way to find out the circulation of neighboring newspapers so I can do a little market analysis of my own? A: The numbers we have at TPA come from each member’s October 2012 USPS Form 3546, Annual Statement of Ownership, Circulation and Management. Those figures are the ones printed in your 2013 Texas Newspaper Directory and posted under the Member Services tab at TexasPress.com. Also, try Alliance for Audited Media, The New Audit Bureau of Circulations, at www. auditedmedia.com. And, to enhance your market analysis, if it’s unique visitor data for specific websites that you want, try www.Compete.com. There’s quite a bit of enlightening information offered at those sites, free of charge.
Granite Publications turns 35 By Jim Chionsini Granite Publications
It was 35 years ago in May since I purchased my first newspaper, and I thought this would be an appropriate time and place to recap some of the Chionsini more memorable events. I thought, too, that there might be interest in howGranite Publications is structured (or unstructured). On May 2, 1978, with the help of Ben Smith, owner of Smith Newspapers of Fort Payne, Ala., I signed the papers to become the new owner of the East Texas Light in Center, a small weekly newspaper about 10 miles from the Louisiana border. I had spent eight years working for different newspapers owned by Carmage Walls in Galveston; Laredo; Presque Isle, Maine; Beaumont; Rosenberg and La Marque. I received a great education working and learning from people such as Les Daughtry, Jim Hale, Bill Hartman, Bruce Morisse and Fred Hartman. One year later I purchased a printing company owned by Loyd Grissom, who had sold me the East Texas Light, and moved it to Center. Robert Swonke was the foreman. When Loyd said that Robert came with the deal I explained that if he didn’t I wasn’t interested in his company, and thus a 34-year relationship began. In September of the next year, the Herald Democrat in Siloam Springs, Ark., was acquired from George and Carolyn Perrine. Albert Thompson became the publisher and another great partnership was created. We named our management company Shelby Newspapers Inc.
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Rita Haldeman The Huntsville Item
Rita Haldeman was named publisher and advertising director of The Huntsville Item. Haldeman is a 19-year veteran of the newspaper industry who previously served as advertising director of the Herald-Banner in Greenville. She began her newspaper career in 1994 with Gannett. She has worked in a variety of advertising and management roles, including at the Shreveport (La.) Times, Alexandria (La.) Town Talk and the Shreveport (La.) Times Media Network. She is a native of Pennsylvania.
Brad Blakemore Van Zandt Newspapers
Brad Blakemore was named publisher of Van Zandt Newspapers LLC. He is based in Canton and has direct responsibilities for the Canton Herald, Van Zandt News, Wills Point Chronicle, Van Banner and Quinlan-Tawakoni News. A native Texan, Blakemore has more than 30 years of experience in the newspaper industry. Most recently, he was vice president of national sales for The Tribune Company, whose major newspapers include The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant.
Marlene Bohr Steel Country Bee
Marlene Bohr was promoted to news editor of the Steel Country Bee in Daingerfield. She is a 15-year reporter for the Bee. Bohr lives in Hughes Springs and has been an active member of the Hughes Springs Lions Club since 1999. Bohr serves as program chairman â€” she is responsible for inviting speakers to the club. The club hosts nearly 45 speakers each year. The Lions Club recognized her for her work with a Crystal Globe presentation at the yearly chamber of commerce banquet in 2004 and 2012.
Austin Lewter Cass County Sun
Austin Lewter was named publisher of the Cass County Sun. In addition to his new role at the Sun, Lewter is publisher of the Atlanta Citizens Journal and group manager of Northeast Texas Publishing, where he supervises management of the Steel Country Bee, Bowie County Citizens Tribune and Pittsburg Gazette. Lewter previously served as associate publisher with Muenster Printing and Publishing, where he oversaw the Whitesboro News-Record, Lindsay Letter and Muenster Enterprise.
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First Vice President
Second Vice President
TPA announces 2013-14 board of directors Texas Press Association is proud to announce the members of the 2013-14 TPA Board of Directors. Greg Shrader, editor and publisher of The Lufkin News, was elected president of TPA on June 22 at the 2013 TPA Newspaper Leadership Retreat in Houston. Shrader succeeds Russel Skiles, publisher of the Lamesa Press-Reporter, who became chairman of the board. Other officers include: First Vice President Randy Mankin, editor and publisher of The Eldorado Success; Second Vice President Glenn Rea, edi-
tor and publisher of The Cuero Record; and Treasurer Randy Keck, editor and publisher of The Community News in Aledo. Continuing their terms as elected directors are: Patrick Canty, Odessa American; Jeff Berger, Hondo Anvil Herald; Bill Crist, Snyder Daily News; Sue Brown, Pleasanton Express; Brett McCormick, The Vernon Daily Record; and Chad Engbrock, The Wylie News. Shrader appointed eight publishers to the TPA board: Brenda MillerFergerson, The Pasadena Citizen; Hank Hargrave, The Normangee Star; Jim
Moser, Jackson County Herald-Tribune; Mike Mueck, Brenham Banner-Press; J.D. Davidson, Paris News; Kelli Barnes, Tyler County Booster; Jim Wilson, Waco Tribune-Herald; and Mike Winter, The Bowie News. Five regional presidents and five regional vice presidents complete the board. Regional presidents include: Mark Engebretson, Lake Country Sun, North and East Texas Press Association; Wanda Brooks, Moore County News, Panhandle Press Association; Cyndy Slovak-Barton, Hays Free Press, South Texas Press Association; Danny
Reneau, The Silsbee Bee, Texas Gulf Coast Press Association, and Mark Engebretson, Lake Country Sun, West Texas Press Association. Regional vice presidents include: Don Treul, Tri County Leader, North and East Texas Press Association; Jeff Blackmon, County Star-News, Panhandle Press Association; Larry Hauk, Copperas Cove Leader-Press, South Texas Press Association; Tania French, Port Lavaca Wave, Texas Gulf Coast Press Association; Lisa Davis, Wise County Messenger, West Texas Press Association.
Castro County News under new ownership
land of Dimmitt will continue to serve as associate publisher.
life in the newspaper world, including several stops in Texas. He is a former owner of the Hot Springs Village newspaper in Arkansas.
other Texas newspapers, including the Muenster Enterprise, the Whitesboro News-Record and the Lindsay Letter. Wesner is one of the owners of Blanco County News, Johnson City RecordCourier, the Llano News, Mason County News and Horseshoe Bay Beacon, all in the Texas Hill Country. Clay’s father, Kenneth Hogue, moved his family to Dalhart in 1946 and took over the Texan. He ran it until 1989 when his daughter and her husband, Bob Clay, purchased the newspaper. Although Bob passed away some years ago, Susan has been there for 24 years.
DIMMITT — Wesner Publications of Cordell, Okla., has acquired the Castro County News, a weekly paidcirculation newspaper in Dimmitt, from Blackmon Publishing Inc. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. The purchase was announced by Brett Wesner, principal of Wesner Publications. Blackmon Publishing Inc. is owned and managed by Jeff Blackmon of Shamrock. Wesner announced that Bill Hol-
Slatonite sold to industry veteran SLATON — After 29 years of ownership by Jim Davis, the Slatonite has a new owner. Ken Richardson, a veteran newspaper man, purchased the Slatonite from Ko Davis after her husband and longtime Slatonite editor, Jim Davis, passed away in March. Richardson has spent much of his
Hogue family sells Dalhart Texan DALHART — The Dalhart Texan is leaving the Hogue family after 67 years. Susan Clay turned over ownership to Dalhart Texan Media LLC in May. The principles of the new corporation are Scott Wood of Muenster and Scott Wesner of Austin. Wood owns
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Granite celebrates 35 years of newspaper ownership FROM PAGE 3 Our good friend Bob Tanner, who passed away 13 years ago, was hired as our lawyer and we were off and running. Lois Ann Cooper came to work with us later that year and, along with Leon Aldridge, was instrumental in getting the paper to a point where we were able to acquire our competitor in Center (The Champion) from Mildred and Bob Pinkston. The company added seven other papers in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas — the Sabine County Reporter in Hemphill; The San Augustine Rambler; The Town Crier in Weslaco; The Talequah (Okla.) News; The Jay (Okla.) Beacon; Grove (Okla.) Beacon, and the Ulysses (Kan.) News. In 1983, the newspaper group was sold to Pat Smith (no relation to Ben) who eventually sold it to Ben’s son, Philip. I bought Dixie Newspapers, a newspaper brokerage company, from Pick William’s estate shortly after he passed away. He was Mrs. Walls’ father. Albert
joined as partner in Dixie Newspapers, and we began purchasing newspapers. Many of Mr. Daughtry’s employees invested in our first couple of ventures in a company we named Community Newspapers with Albert and me responsible for the management. Our first purchases in the new company included the Malden (Mo.) Press-Merit, The (Ripley, Miss.) Sentinel and a press plant in Middleton, Tenn. Together, we also bought The Fort Stockton Pioneer in October 1988 from Frank Baker; The Madisonville Meteor in May 1990 from Charles Moser and Mr. Hartman; The Sealy News in February 1991 from Earl and Betty Leudeke; and the Gonzales Inquirer in June 1991 from Edward and Dorothy Reece. In September 1987 I relocated from Center to Lufkin, and Nona Bailey started as a part-time bookkeeper in July 1991. She was my right-hand person since about her tenth day on the job. She started retiring in 1995, but thankfully she kept showing up 50 or 60 hours a week until a few years ago.
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Albert and I divided Dixie in 1992, selling The Malden Press-Merit outright and Albert taking the Tennessee press plant and the Ripley, Miss., newspaper and I retained the Texas papers. In October 1992 The Bandera Bulletin and The Boerne Star joined the Texas Dixie group when they were acquired from Bill Dozier of Kerrville. In February 1993 The Marlin Democrat was added when it was purchased from the Boone Group, bringing the total to seven newspapers. Dixie Newspapers doubled in size in April 1993 with the addition of The Taylor Daily Press, The Elgin Courier, The Hill Country News in Cedar Park, the Thorndale Champion, the Granger News and the Bartlett Tribune that were bought from the Schulz family. The Bartlett and Granger papers were immediately sold to Gayle Bielss who had been running them for Mr. Schulz. Sweat Equity Newspapers (SEN. Inc.) was formed in December 1994, and The Hill Country News was sold into it. It was designed to be and is still completely owned by employees of Dixie (now Granite) related newspapers. SEN also holds stock in the Alpine Avalanche, The Cameron Herald and The Colorado County Citizen. In 1995 The Highlander in Marble Falls and The Burnet Bulletin were acquired from Republic Newspapers in Tennessee and the Dixie office was relocated from Lufkin to Horseshoe Bay. Over the next four years, four more newspapers were acquired and a second printing plant was established — The Cameron Herald in January 1996, The Alpine Avalanche in December 1996, The Mason County News in July 1997 and The Colorado County Citizen in Columbus in September 1998, and Granite Printing located in Round Mountain in October 1997. When a new Highlander building was constructed in 1997, the Dixie office moved five miles up the road into the new facility, sharing it with The Highlander. With the move to the new building in May 1997, Dixie Newspapers’ name was changed to Granite Publications LLC to better reflect our image as a strong and diverse company. In 1998 The Kingsland Current, a small weekly, was started and added to the Highlander group. In that same year, the Mason newspaper was sold to Scott Wesner whose father, Ken, owns The Llano News. In March 2000, the three Highlander newspapers were sold to Consolidated
Media Group. A year later, the Granite accounting office moved another 15 miles up the road to office space in Burnet. In August 2002 The Navasota Examiner was purchased from the Wesner family, and in November the same year, The Rosebud News became part of Milam County Newspapers (Cameron, Thorndale and Rosebud). It was purchased from John Killgore. In October 2003, the Granite offices relocated from Burnet to Taylor. Two months later we started Creative Services. Dick and Sally Richards sold The Aransas Pass Progress and Ingleside Index in April 2005 and they joined the Granite group, and a year later, The Liberty Vindicator and Anahuac Progress were purchased from Hartman Newspapers. In September 2009 Granite Printing closed its Round Mountain facility and opened its brand new facility just outside of Taylor with a new Goss Community printing press, the first installed in Texas in more than 20 years. All printing operations were consolidated into the one new location. In March 2011 Granite moved into one side of the Taylor Daily Press building. Although it may appear to some that I have invested my career building a newspaper chain, nothing could be further from the truth. Granite owns no stock in any newspaper but holds a management contract with each of them. Each newspaper is either its own company or, as in the case of Boerne and Bandera because they were purchased at the same time, one corporation. The same goes for Taylor and Elgin. Our business plans are as diverse as our publishers and the towns they serve. I believe today, as I have since 1978, that each newspaper, community, employee and situation must be handled individually. I am very much aware that our employees and families are the roots of our success and without them we would not have been in a position to grow when the timing was right. There are too many names to mention here. Most of them are still with the company, some have gone onto other jobs, but each has played an essential role. I appreciate the opportunity to let you know about our company’s history and some of my personal philosophies. We are all looking forward to another 35 years of success!
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New laws protect Texas newsrooms By Laura Lee Prather Haynes and Boone LLP
Over the last three legislative sessions, newsrooms have gained significantly greater protections under Texas law. On May 13, 2009, Texas became the 37th Prather state to enact a reporter’s privilege protecting sources and information gathered. During the next session (2011), the Texas legislature joined 27 other states in adopting an anti-SLAPP statute aimed at providing a mechanism for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits brought against those who exercise their free speech rights. And, finally this last session (2013), Texas became the 32nd state to enact a retraction statute enabling publishers to correct their mistakes in a timely manner and limit their litigation exposure in so doing. This trifecta of First Amendment advances makes Texas one of the best states in the nation to be a journalist or media organization. Retraction Statute The Texas Retraction Statute encourages one to come forward in a timely manner if a mistake has been made
in a publication and gives the publisher the opportunity to correct the mistake. In order to be considered timely, one must make a retraction request during the period of limitations. However, to be able to request exemplary damages, the request must be made within 90 days of learning about the publication. There are specific parameters that must be followed in requesting a retraction, including who to notify and how to notify. The request must state what is alleged to be false and when and where the publication was made (if known). Then the statute gives the publisher the option of correcting the mistake by publishing a correction, an apology or the requester’s own statement of facts or summary thereof. To comply with the statute, the publisher must correct the mistake within 30 days of receiving the request and in the same manner and medium as the original publication or if that is not possible, in a prominent manner and medium intended to reach the same audience as the original mistaken publication reached. If the original publication was over the internet, the retraction has to be permanently attached to the original article. One can still sue after a retraction is run. However, the damages will be mitigated by the retraction, and if the publisher complies with the statute by running a retraction, one cannot get exemplary damages without a showing of actual malice. Also, if a lawsuit is filed without previously asking for a retraction, the publisher can get the case abated for 60 days in order to have an opportunity
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to cure the mistake, and all deadlines in the case are stayed during the abatement period. Anti-SLAPP Statute
The Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute is one of the strongest in the nation. It was passed during the 2011 legislative session and further strengthened and clarified during the 2013 session. The statute allows a judge to dismiss meritless lawsuits (including claims and counterclaims) filed against one who speaks out about a “matter of public concern” (which is defined expansively) within the first 60-90 days after the case was filed. Once an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, discovery is stayed unless there is a showing of good cause and the judge orders discovery, but it is still limited to what is necessary to address the motion. In order to obtain a dismissal under the anti-SLAPP statute, one must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the lawsuit was filed in response to the exercise of one’s First Amendment rights. Then, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, by clear and specific evidence, that they have support for each essential element of their claim. In addition, the court can dismiss the case, if the moving party establishes a valid defense to the claim. If the anti-SLAPP motion is denied, one can file an immediate interlocutory appeal which is to be handled on an expedited basis and during which the entire underlying proceeding is stayed. Finally, there is a mandatory fee shifting provision if an anti-SLAPP motion is granted so the person or entity wrongfully filing a lawsuit must pay the defense costs. There is also a discretionary fee award if the court finds the anti-SLAPP motion was frivolous or brought solely for the purpose of delay. Reporter’s Privilege The Texas Free Flow of Information Act (also known as reporter’s privilege) is a qualified privilege with separate civil and criminal sections. The civil section applies to confidential and nonconfidential sources, journalist’s work product and published and unpublished materials. In order to require a reporter to testify or produce materials,
the party issuing the subpoena must meet the following three-part test: (1) the party must have exhausted all reasonable efforts to get the information elsewhere; (2) the information must be relevant and material to the proper administration of justice; and (3) the information sought must be essential to the maintenance of the claim or defense of the person asking for it. The criminal section, on the other hand, is separated into three parts with different tests applying to various sources and information. When a confidential source is involved there is an absolute privilege except when: (1) the journalist was an eyewitness to a felony; (2) the journalist received a confession of the commission of a felony; or (3) probable cause exists that the source committed a felony. In those three scenarios, the only hurdle one must overcome before calling the journalist to testify is establishing by clear and specific evidence that they have exhausted all reasonable efforts to get the information elsewhere. Further, a journalist can be compelled to give up a confidential source if disclosure is reasonably necessary to stop or prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm. With regard to unpublished materials (i.e., work product) in the criminal setting, the same three-part test as the civil arena applies. Published materials are not covered specifically by the statute but rather are governed by existing common law. The Texas reporter’s privilege also has a few unique aspects, including: (1) with criminal subpoenas, the elected district attorney is required to sign all subpoenas issued to journalists; (2) also with criminal subpoenas, the subpoenaing party is required to pay the journalist a reasonable fee for the journalist’s time and costs incurred in responding to the subpoena (the calculation of cost is based on the cost provision in the Texas Public Information Act); and (3) finally, there is a provision making broadcasts self-authenticating, like newspaper articles, so that a reporter will not have to be put on the stand solely for the purpose of authenticating a broadcast tape. With more and more newspapers putting video footage on their websites, this addition will help newspapers as well as broadcasters throughout Texas.
MESSENGER VOL 88 NO 7 JULY 2013
The Robert Burns Classic raises $2,000 for journalism education
From left: Bill Crist, Snyder Daily News; Glenn Rea, The Cuero Record; Chad Engbrock, C&S Media; Dwight McKenzie, Texas Press Association; Dennis Wade, Granite Publications; Mark Henry, Moser Community Media; Mike Graxiola, Kerrville Daily Times; Greg Shrader, The Lufkin News; Ted Rickenbacher, Rickenbacher Media; and Jim Moser, Moser Community Media.
The Robert Burns Classic, the 15th annual golf tournament benefiting the Texas Newspaper Foundation, was held June 20 at Tour 18 Houston. Thank you to Athlon Sports, GTECH Corp., Metro Creative Graphics and Bardwell Ink, the official sponsors of the
2013 tournament. The event raised about $2,000 for the Texas Newspaper Foundation. Money for the foundation supports the training needs of working journalists at Texas community newspapers. Congratulations to the tournament winners: 1st Place, Gross Division:
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Greg Shrader, The Lufkin News; 1st Place, Handicap Division: Glenn Rea, The Cuero Record; 2nd Place, Handicap Division: Mike Graxiola, Kerrville Daily Times; and 3rd Place, Handicap Division: Bill Crist, Snyder Daily News.
Jim Moser elected a Texas Newspaper Foundation trustee Jim Moser, publisher of the Jackson County Herald-Tribune and president of Moser Community Media LLC, has been elected a trustee of the Moser Texas Newspaper Foundation. Moser is a member of the Texas Press Association Board of Directors and chairman of TPA’s Legislative Advisory Committee. He is a second generation newspaper operator. His company, Moser Community Media, manages ten newspapers in central and south central Texas. Mid-career training for Texas newspaper journalists has been the primary mission of TNF, working especially through the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University and with the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Other trustees of TNF are Larry Jackson, president; Phil Major, vice president; Willis Webb, treasurer; Bob Brincefield, Marshall Day, Rollie Hyde, Terry Young and Alvin Holley.
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