"Rambling" by Russel Skiles | TPA President 2012-13
“We Are Family” was a disco tune that enjoyed great popularity in the late 1970s and even became the theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates during their march to a World Series title.
That song title also accurately portrays the relationship among the members of the Texas Press Association and this state’s community newspaper profession in general.
I know it has been said many times before but the close ties that develop between Texas newspaper folks truly do start to feel like family after a surprisingly short time.
With a big part of the TPA and regional press conventions geared for families, we get to know each other like family as we go on outings together to theme parks, museums and other locations.
We watch each others’ kids grow up in short glimpses during these annual or semi-annual gatherings. We exchange Christmas cards, cheer each other’s accomplishments, and grieve when one of us suffers a serious illness or loss.
The ease of acquaintance comes in big part from simply knowing that we all share something in common that, in many cases, basically defines who we are.
We understand when one of our fellow publishers has to make a tough decision about an employee, when the editor of a neighboring newspaper complains about the city council holding a secret meeting, or when an ad manager on the other side of the state talks about dealing with a picky customer.
We’ve all “been-there, done-that” and can empathize with others who similarly work long hours to provide their community with the best newspaper possible.
And we’re always willing and ready to help each other out.
Such was the case this past spring when two young men who had attended one of the small schools outside Lamesa drowned during an outing to the Gulf of Mexico.
The tragic accident took place on Easter Sunday, and word spread quickly here among those who knew the two men or various members of their large family.
I watched for updates on the Coast Guard website and talked to the Port Aransas police while a search effort went on for almost two days before the second body was recovered.
As the deadline for our Wednesday paper approached, however, I felt I still didn’t have everything I needed.
That’s when I finally decided to go ahead and make a call to my friends at the Port Aransas South Jetty, Murray and Mary Judson.
A few seconds after giving my name to the lady who answered the phone, Mary came on the line and immediately said, “I bet I know what you are calling about.”
Within just a few minutes I received not only the full story they had prepared for their own paper but also a photo that Murray had taken of police officers involved in the search effort along the beach.
Their willingness to share their material helped my readers in West Texas understand a bit more about a tragedy that played out on the other side of the state.
Most of you probably read the story by Laura King in last month’s Messenger about the fatal shooting of a deputy sheriff in Big Lake. The deputy was the brother-in-law of J.L. Mankin, staffer for the Big Lake Wildcat and son of TPA officer Randy Mankin.
Faced with covering a major story involving a family member, the Mankins got help during the subsequent standoff from fellow publisher Melissa Perner at neighboring Ozona, who kept the Wildcat’s Facebook page updated for readers.
Then Brownwood Bulletin reporter and photographer Amanda Leija stepped in and covered the deputy’s funeral for the Wildcat.
That thoughtful action relieved the Mankins and their small staff of an extra burden.
Such good deeds between Texas newspaper folks often extend beyond the professional level.
Traveling across the state and meeting other family members along the way, a couple of times in recent years I’ve needed to leave a vehicle somewhere on the route for a few days. I specifically chose Eldorado and Ozona for the meeting sites because I figured both Randy and Melissa would let me park a car behind their office.
I was wrong. They both actually refused my request – but only the location. Instead, they insisted I leave the auto either in front of their home or in a family member’s driveway where they could personally watch over it until I returned.
I’m sure most of you have similarly benefitted from the kindness of other people in our business.
Or perhaps you’re the one who extended a helping hand or a gesture of support.
It is done without a moment’s hesitation.
Because that’s just what family members do for each other.