I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow members of the Texas Press Association for allowing me to serve as your 2021 president. It is a great honor, and I am very appreciative for the opportunity to serve you and the state press association.
Normally I would be nervously saying this from the podium while standing on the stage at the annual TPA convention. But these aren’t normal times are they?
So, things being as they are, I would like to take a minute of your time and reach out and say thank you to a few people who have been instrumental in getting me here today.
It goes without saying that my lovely bride Suzanne is the key to any success I may have achieved, so bless her heart and thank you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Randy Keck for nominating me to go through the chairs. There are so many good people in the TPA, and I feel fortunate Randy reached into his magician’s hat and pulled out my name. And I want to thank Phil Major for being a true friend and always being there for me, no matter what and no matter whose feathers I might have ruffled over two decades of being a fly in the TPA ointment. And thank you to Mike Hodges for guiding this association. I was on the TPA board when we hired Mike, and I was privileged to be the one who escorted him into the conference room where we surprised him with the announcement that he was Lyndell Williams’ successor. Mike was the right guy at the right time. Thank you, Mike.
I also want to thank the late Bob Hamilton, past president, for being the first person at TPA to reach out to me the first time I showed up at a convention. He welcomed me into the family, and I learned a lot about the newspaper business from Bob by simply shutting up and listening.
I wish to reach out to a few others who are now gone and on whose shoulders I stand – Willis Webb for his compassion and -common-sense approach to community journalism; Robert Burns, who was a friend on and off the golf course and was a great sounding board for me and many others at TPA for more than 20 years; and Jim Moore, my old boss at the Commerce Journal, who literally shredded the sports story I turned in after covering my first Friday night football game. He told me I had just 10 minutes to redo it and do it right or I was fired. Fortunately, I met that deadline — with an old manual typewriter — and I learned a lot that night.
I mention all these people because they, and you, are what makes the Texas Press Association so special.
The Texas Press Association is made up of hundreds of independent thinkers – most with Type A personalities which can make for some spirited discussions – all working hard to educate, to inform and to guide our readers so they can make good decisions that will hopefully make all of our lives and America better. Something that is needed now more than ever.
If I have learned anything during my time associated with TPA it is that our members are always willing to help when asked. I can’t tell you how many times I have called Phil Major or Bill Woodall or Rollie Hyde or others and asked what they would do if faced by this or that. And every time I gained valuable information which I used to fix my problem.
I say all this to drive home the fact that each of you are a valuable asset for the TPA. And you earned the position you have today by hard work and a lot of hard knocks – all of which gives you great insight into the problems facing your town, county, state and country.
When Donnis Baggett emails or calls and asks publishers to call their state senators and representatives to help defeat or pass pending legislation, we do it. There is no hesitation. We know it’s our job. And in most cases, we make a difference because our legislators know we aren’t speaking just for ourselves. We are speaking for the people of Texas.
And we have a voice that can’t be silenced, thanks to our Founding Fathers, even though some have tried to muzzle the press. You know you are doing something important when you work in the only privately owned business specifically protected in the United States Constitution.
And yes, we really do buy our paper by the ton and ink by the barrel, which is pretty impressive when you stop and think about it. In today’s world, we need to use those tools more and more.
Former Washington Post President and Publisher Philip Graham was right — newspapers really are the first draft of history, and each of you in the TPA are the editors of that history.
That is a heavy burden to carry, but each of you has the skills and courage to get the job done. Plus, you have all the resources of the Texas Press Association and its members to do that job.
I look forward to the TPA moving forward in 2021, with 2020 growing smaller and smaller in our rear view mirror.