Great convention sparks spirit for year ahead

I would like to thank everyone who attended last month’s Texas Press Association’s 141st convention held in Denton. We all had a great time, learned a lot of new things about making money for our newspapers, and got to visit with dear old friends while making many new friends.
And I want to thank everyone for allowing me the honor to preside over the annual event – it was very special and I really can’t find the words to describe how much it meant to me and Suzanne. You are family and we just appreciate you allowing us to be a part of your lives as we take this ever-changing journey.
I’m proud to report that the annual Texas Newspaper Foundation Silent Auction at the trade show raised $7,213, thanks to all the wonderful items everyone generously provided and of course thanks to our trade show sponsor Thad Swiderski of eType Services. His support this year and for many years prior is very much appreciated.
It was a great honor to participate in the traditional passing of the gavel where past presidents lined up in the chronological order in which they served and handed the gavel down the line, ending with the current caretaker of the president’s position. I had seen it done for years, but until you participate in it, you really don’t feel the tradition and fellowship of it all. Thanks to past presidents Roy Eaton (1987-88), Roy McQueen (1989-90), Larry Crabtree (1992-93), Larry Jackson (1998-99), Bob Buckel (2002-03),  Phil Major (2007-08), Bob Brincefield (2010-11), Russel Skiles (2012-13), Randy Mankin (2014-15), Randy Keck (2016-17), Laurie Ezzell-Brown (2018-20) and Ramona Ferguson (2020-21) for allowing me into the club.
I would like to take a minute to express my appreciation to Ramona “Bebo” Ferguson, who moved from president to chairman of the board. Bebo served during the Pandemic Year of 2020 and didn’t get to enjoy all the fun that comes with being TPA president. It may have appeared that Bebo was our invisible president on the surface, but she nonetheless served the association with grace and dignity and has earned a spot in the history of this association. I know Chad would have been so very proud of you, Bebo.
It was great meeting our luncheon speaker, Grant Moise, publisher and president of The Dallas Morning News, and it was a true honor to get to present the “GOLDEN 50 AWARD” to Charles Moser.  Serving in this business is tough enough, but Charles has done it for 50 years. While Charles has earned many awards over the years, he will have my everlasting appreciation for helping Suzanne and me complete a deal that allowed Charles and Jim Moser, Bill and Jessica Woodall and us to purchase many East Texas weeklies and make our dream of owning a newspaper a reality. He might not realize it, but Charles changed our lives. Thank you.
Look inside this issue of the Messenger and read about the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 – Don Richards, Charles Moser, Tommy Thomason and Morris Roberts. Each person has changed lives and helped make our industry better and stronger.
Our roundtable discussions were led by Don Richards, who guided a lively legal Q&A; Max Kabat, who shared ideas from a first-time newspaper owner; Ken Cooke, who taught us how to add “Video Online for New Revenue;” Jack Stallard, who discussed writing sports when no one is competing; Jason Chlapek, who shared his experience with “Multiple Schools, One Sports Writer;” and Bianca J. Gamez, who presented us with valuable information on the upcoming Census data.
One of the highlights of the convention was getting to meet H.V. O’Brien and present him with one of the highest awards given by the TPA, the Mayborn Award for Community Leadership. He has worked in the newspaper industry for seven decades – from throwing papers for the Fort Worth Star Telegram to linotype operator to being a cryptographer for President Eisenhower and working in the basement of the White House.
It is people like H.V. who paved the way for us, and I will forever be honored to have been just a small part of his fabulous career. Thank you, sir. And thank you for the autographed book, “There Will Always Be the Need for HOMETOWN NEWSPAPERS.” 
We followed that with my good friend Dan Moore, publisher of the Henderson News, presenting the Fred Hartman Excellence in Sports Writing award to Stephen Collins of The Alvin Sun.
Man, there were a lot of talented people recognized at the convention – kind of makes me wonder how I got a ticket to the shindig.
The Better Newspaper Contest was quite a surprise, as well. The Gladewater Mirror did pretty well, thanks to my lovely bride of now 46 years – Suzanne. I mentioned this at the convention, but it deserves repeating – without Suzanne’s love and support and abundance of patience I would have never achieved half of what I have and would not be the person I am. We met at church camp at age 13 and it has been a wonderful journey.
In this next year the TPA plans to launch a few much-needed projects.
1. I will form a committee to meet with the UIL to discuss how the print media was treated at UIL sporting events this past year. I know it was an unusual situation with COVID-19 protocols, but we need a better working relationship with the UIL if we are able to do our job properly. Many of you have already offered to serve on the committee and I will be calling on you soon.
2. The TPA is going to help all five of the regional press associations move their contests into the 21st century by helping fund the transition from paper entries to online entries, just like we now do for TPA and NNA. No more shipping big boxes across Texas and having entries scattered from El Paso to Port Arthur. We will get more information out to the regionals later this summer.
3. Finally – and I think this is the biggie – TPA will form a partnership and mentorship program with several printing facilities across Texas to help grow our next generation of pressmen and presswomen. Without a good press crew our industry — as we know it today — will die. And as someone who ran a press for 20 years, I assure you good press workers are almost impossible to find. So we need to create the employment opportunities and training for new workers to enter the profession and help keep the presses rolling. We not only can do this, we must do it.
That was a lot to digest, wasn’t it? If you didn’t make the convention please come next year — July 28-30, 2022, at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos – and if you didn’t see the contest results you can download the complete Winners Circle publication at texaspress.com.
Finally – a huge thank you goes out to Texas Press Association officers First Vice President Leonard Woolsey, publisher of The Daily News of Galveston County; Second Vice President Ken Cooke, publisher of the Fredericksburg Standard and Rockdale Reporter; Treasurer Lisa Chappell, Publisher of CNHI’s newspapers in Greenville, Gainesville, Cleburne and Weatherford; Chairman of the Board Ramona Ferguson, publisher of The Banner Press Newspaper in Columbus; and TPA Executive Director Mike Hodges and his behind-the-scenes staff for making my job so much easier.