Panhandle Press marks 111th convention in Amarillo

AMARILLO — The 111th annual meeting of the Panhandle Press Association held July 23-24 featured programs, panel discussions, contest awards and other recognitions.

The convention opened with a past presidents reunion luncheon on Friday attended by 17 past presidents and two former PPA secretaries. An afternoon roundtable focused on the use of podcasts and Facebook Live to connect with a wider audience and as a possible revenue source. Friday evening, the PPA was welcomed with a reception at the Amarillo center of West Texas A&M University, and members then enjoyed an Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball game with an after-game fireworks show.

Saturday’s activities featured the return (virtually) of Russell Viers, a favorite of PPA members, as he remotely wowed those in attendance with tips and tricks for getting the most out of Adobe Creative Suite. Russell, speaking from an undisclosed location, “appeared” to be in several locations in the Panhandle. The training sessions were also held at the WTAMU center, as was the PPA ethics panel discussion that afternoon, which featured current issues presented by Don Richards.

During a Friday luncheon, the late Grady and Jo Ann Harrison of Spur were inducted into the PPA Hall of Fame. Grady Joe Harrison (1929-2020) and his wife and partner, Jo Ann, were publishers of the Texas Spur for nearly four decades and exemplified the dedication and deep community knowledge required of mom-and-pop weekly newspaper owners.

A sports fanatic and an Army veteran who once worked for The Stars & Stripes, Joe Harrison came to Spur after graduating from Texas Tech University in 1957 and bought the newspaper the following year. He and Jo Ann ran the business until 1996, receiving the General Excellence Award from the West Texas Press Association and several awards in news writing, sports writing, column writing and advertising initiative. They shepherded the transition from Linotype to phototypesetting to the digital era.

Spur benefited from the couple’s chronicling of community life, as well as their service in school, sports, church and civic activity. Jo Ann Pirtle Harrison (1931-2020) worked alongside her husband, Joe, at The Texas Spur for most of the nearly 40 years they owned the newspaper.

Jo Ann married high school sweetheart Joe in 1949 and came to Spur with him and their first son in 1957. She parlayed her college coursework and experience as a secretary in the banking industry into 35 years as the newspaper’s advertising director. She was also active in school, sports, church and civic life, and received the highest citizen award in the state of Texas for women, “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” by then-Gov. Mark White. She was voted Spur’s Citizen of the Year in 1984.

Creed Huff of Fritch was recognized as the PPA scholarship recipient for the coming year.

In the PPA Better Newspaper Contest, The Canadian Record won General Excellence honors in Division One. The Canyon News topped Division Two. The Clarendon Enterprise and the Moore County News*Press were named as the recipients of the Ken Towery Community Service Award for Divisions I and II respectively. Click here to see complete contest results on the TPA website.

Tara Huff of the Eagle-Press in Fritch was recognized for her service as PPA president the past year. The membership elected Jeff Blackmon of Hereford to lead the PPA for 2021-2022, along with Vice President Tim Ritter of Canyon and Secretary/Treasurer Roger Estlack of Clarendon. The membership also elected Shane Lance of Quanah and Mary Dudley of Perryton as board members. They will join current directors for the coming year, Mary Smithee of Canadian, John Lee of Pampa, and Michael Wright of Dumas. Huff continues on the board as the PPA’s immediate past president.

Next year’s Panhandle Press Convention will be held in Hereford on March 25-26, 2022.