Panhandle Press Hall of Fame inducts two newspaper veterans

PPA Hall of Fame members Toby Brooks (left) and Don Richards with PPA Vice President Joni Yara at the 107th annual Panhandle Press Association convention in Amarillo.
Canadian Record publisher Laurie Brown, Eastern New Mexico News publisher Rob Langrell and Community Service winner Joni Yara of the Booker News show off PPA general excellence and community service awards.
Panhandle Press members show off their awards at their annual convention.

AMARILLO – Two newspaper veterans were inducted into the Hall of Fame and winners in the regional better newspaper contest were awarded at the 107th annual Panhandle Press Association Convention held April 20-22 in Amarillo.
Thursday’s reception was highlighted by a welcome reception held at the abandoned Herring Hotel, which hosted PPA conventions from the 1930s through the 1960s. PPA memorabilia was on display from the Herring days, and PPA members Laurie Ezzell Brown, Mary Hudson Dudley, and Susan Hogue Allen recalled attending conventions at the Herring with their parents.
Featured speakers at the convention hosted by the Downtown Courtyard Marriott were West Texas A&M University head football coach Hunter Hughes and Al Cross of the Institute for Rural Journalism. Sessions were conducted Friday by J.L. Mankin of Big Lake on live streaming on Facebook, monetizing photos on social media, and photography tips. Clovis publisher Rob Langrell led an afternoon session on website paywalls, and Joanna Weatherall of TPA discussed the benefits of statewide advertising networks on Saturday.
At Saturday’s awards lunch, The Canadian Record won general excellence honors in Division One, and The Eastern New Mexico News topped Division Two.
Former PPA president and lifelong friend of newspapers Don Richards and former Shamrock publisher Toby Brooks were inducted into the PPA Hall of Fame Friday night.
A sixth-generation Texan and fourth-generation journalist, Richards was born in Stonewall County and is a native of Jayton, where his father owned the weekly newspaper. He received his undergraduate degree in journalism from Texas Tech University, where he served as editor of the student newspaper, The University Daily. He then spent several years in the newspaper business, first as editor of several West Texas community newspapers and then as publisher of The Azle News. He currently serves as publisher of The Banner of Love, one of Texas’ oldest continuing religious newspapers, as well as publisher/co-owner of the Hale Center American weekly newspaper.
Richards’ background in newspapers gave him an interest in media law, open records and open meetings law, and an understanding of how to deal with the media. 
He was a congressional aide and one-time nominee for U.S. Congress, which gave him an inside understanding of the legislative and political process and an understanding of community and member relations.
Richards practices law primarily in the areas of public utility law, media law, and administrative law. In telecommunication and utility matters, Richards regularly represents more than 40 local exchange telephone companies and electric utility cooperatives before the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
He serves as legal counsel to a number of West Texas media clients. He also serves as an advisory director and as a hotline attorney for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas on questions regarding the Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act, and is a frequent speaker on news media law and public utility issues.
Toby Brooks began The Irish Star-News in March of 1993. Brooks, a native of Shamrock, worked hard to make his paper a success, and in 1999 he purchased the Wheeler Area News and combined both publications to become the County Star-News. 
Under Brooks’ guidance, the publication covered the communities of Shamrock, Wheeler, Mobeetie, Briscoe, Allison, Kelton and Samnorwood. In January of 2003, Brooks expanded again becoming a general partner in Community Printers, a web offset printing press which would go on to publish a great number of newspapers in the Panhandle, western Oklahoma and surrounding areas. In June of 2012, Brooks sold the County Star-News to Jeff and Angela Blackmon. Brooks now lives in Belton, where he became an insurance agent for Texas Farm Bureau Insurance in 2012. 
In 2015, he became a general partner in Texas Family Traditions DBA Goosehead Insurance, opening two independent insurance agencies in Belton and Bryan/College Station.
The PPA was led this year by Muleshoe’s Larry Thornton. He will continue on the PPA Board as immediate past president. Officers for 2017-18 are Joni Yara of Booker, president; Robin Patterson of Dumas, vice president; and Roger Estlack of Clarendon, secretary-treasurer. Directors are Tara Huff of Fritch, Mary Dudley of Perryton, Ginger Wilson of Childress, Jeff Blackmon of Shamrock, and Rob Langrell of Clovis.
Next year’s Panhandle Press Convention will be held March 22-24 in Childress.