Friday, September 14, 2018

Happy Birthday, Blackwell

For many of you, grabbing today’s paper was (hopefully) exciting. It’s surprisingly heavy, an indication that there’s a lot of great content inside.

And you’re right: there is.

In this edition of the Blackwell Journal-Tribune, you’ll find everything you need to know about the events at the Kay County Free Fair. But most notably, you’ll open up our special edition commemorating Blackwell’s 125th birthday, a 12-page section showing the history of our community: how it was founded, where it has been, and where it will go.

The stories you are about to read are taken right from the pages of the Journal-Tribune’s centennial edition, which was published 25 years ago. That edition, which commemorated Blackwell’s founding in the 1893 land run, was the largest edition our then-daily paper had ever had. It was compiled by some great people. Most notably, Dayle McGaha, who was then the publisher; Terry Groover, who was then the managing editor; Helen Seubert, a longtime editor of the J-T; staff writer Tricia Pemberton; the late Charles “Scoop” Abbott, who held a variety of editorships throughout his long career at the J-T; and a host of advertising sales personnel, office workers, and pressmen. They spent months conducting interviews and writing stories to produce what is more accurately described as a textbook detailing our town’s history.

But like all newspapers, the edition soon became old news -- even for those of us at the J-T. The last few original copies were packed in a box and tucked away on a shelf in our former office on Blackwell Avenue, never to be seen again.

The box remained there for years. Then, in 2015, our former office – where we had been located for nearly 100 years – was condemned. We had to move out quickly, leaving behind all of our archives – including the centennial sections.

Fast forward to 2017. I joined the J-T and took an interest in the old newspaper archives. I tracked down the owner of our old office and got permission to go in, take a look around, and grab some of the archives to take them to the local museum. It was mere happenstance that I snatched up the box containing the centennial edition; I had never even heard that there was one.

A few months later, I was sifting through the archives and found the edition. I thought it was interesting, but I didn’t think much else of it -- until this spring, when I realized it was our town’s 125th birthday. I brought it to the office and pitched the idea of bringing this section back to life some 25 years later. Thanks to my amazing boss and colleagues, the idea stuck: the edition was revived. I have to again say thank you to Tina, Kris, Charles, and Pearl for putting up with my zany ideas. They’re the best folks I could ever ask to work with.

We then began planning for it. We re-typed all of the stories directly from the pages of the old newspaper, editing them for grammar and bringing them up-to-date. We then built the newspaper just like we do every week. Except, of course, with a vintage look.

We used a different font for the headlines to make it took like it was printed by a vintage newspaper press, much like the 80-year-old rotary press that still sits in the basement of our former office. And we kept the photos black-and-white to give it a “vintage” feel. (Not that we had any other choice, of course, as we only have color on our front and back pages and because the photos we used were also taken directly from the old edition, which was also black-and-white.)

Now, you’re about to take a trip back in time: to the day the west was won -- to the day Blackwell was born.

We couldn’t have made this outstanding testament to our community without the support of our advertisers, to whom we say “THANK YOU!” (Yes, with the capital letters.) They made this edition possible, so be sure to support and thank them. They wanted you to have a truly spectacular paper, and they are reaffirming their commitment to our community.

Most importantly, though, we couldn’t have done it without you, the reader! We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have a great audience each and every week. We hope you’ll tell your friends to pick up a copy of this edition – and to start a subscription with us.

Needless to say, it took a lot of work to make this special section happen. But you now have a newspaper you can hold onto and cherish forever. It’s got a lot of history in it.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Blackwell!
This is an editorial opinion from a fresh voice and perspective, from northern Oklahoma's youngest professional journalist, Jordan Green, from Blackwell.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Democrats, Not SQ 640, Are The Problem With Raising Taxes

For several years, tax increases have been hard to pass in the State Legislature. Dating back to 1992, legislators haven’t been able to get the votes necessary to take up such measures. Currently, the Legislature is dominated by Republicans. This may sound like a reasonable explanation for low taxes – historically, Republicans oppose taxes. But what really makes it so hard to pass tax increases? Does the suggestion that Republicans are at fault actually hold water?

The difficulty in raising taxes started when Oklahoma voters grew weary of taxation without – or even with – representation. After Oklahoma’s economic recession in the 1980’s, the Legislature passed a host of tax increases to fund the operations of state government. But after about the fourth tax hike, Oklahomans were tired of being taxed out the wazoo. So, in 1992, they passed State Question 640 to prevent more exorbitant tax hikes. This measure does two main things: It requires that all bills to raise taxes originate in the House, and it requires that all such bills be passed with a 75 percent majority, otherwise known as a supermajority.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

OEA Isn't Working for Education

Oklahoma legislators are finally working on plans to raise teacher pay. But the leaders of teachers’ unions are working against them.

Last week in the State Legislature, two plans to increase teacher pay were announced. But education lobbyists and officials from teachers’ unions across Oklahoma said the plans were political stunts and that legislators were just “throwing pennies” at teachers.

The first plan legislators proposed was HB 1033xx, a resurrection of the “Step Up Oklahoma” plan. On the night of March 14, the State Senate went into special session to vote on the measure, but it wound up two votes short of passage. According to the Tulsa World, the bill would have given teachers a 12.7 percent raise, coming close to $450 million in increased state spending.