Gene Deason

Pardon me if you've read this before. If you have, you're not only a devoted reader of the Brownwood Bulletin, but you also have an amazing memory.

Perhaps you believe in coincidence. I don't happen to believe, but for whatever reason, I stumbled across a stack of yellowed newspaper clippings in the laundry room. I need to find a more secure place for them, because those clippings are from columns I've written for this newspaper over the years.

As it turned out, the clippings on top of the stack are from 40 years ago this month.

My column from Friday, Sept. 8, 1978, was a call to action involving the Texas Legislature's special session. In particular, it was about a measure by Lynn Nabers, this area's state representative at the time, regarding school finance reform. The bill was important enough to attract 44 co-sponsors in the House, but I'm not able to report on its fate. My memory isn't that good.

Almost immediately, a sinking feeling came across me. Attached to more than a dozen copies of the newspaper page where that column appeared was a typed note from another member of the Bulletin's staff. "Rep. Nabers' office called and wanted copies of your article," the note read. Obviously, I had collected those copies but never mailed them.

Fortunately, I found another message, attached to the bottom sheet, showing that Rep. Nabers' office had called again. Their "clipping service" had provided his office with the copies they needed.

I hadn't thought about a clipping service for decades. At least, I hadn't thought about a clipping service since the advent of the internet. In the early years of my newspaper career, clipping services offered the same product that internet search engines provide now. In those pre-internet days, such services would subscribe to countless newspapers and hire people to find locally-produced articles of specific interest to their clients.

My introduction to the world of clipping services was memorable. Early in my career as editor of the Bulletin, I let the term "Realtor" slip into print without the required capitalization. It's required because Realtor is a protected trademark.

A clipping service caught this, and that prompted a package from a Philadelphia lawyer representing the Realtors nationally with a letter explaining the distinction to me. To underscore the point, the law firm also enclosed the current edition of a hardbound Webster's dictionary with a bookmark on the page where "Realtor" was found.

The letter wasn't threatening. Rather, it was a professional reminder that Realtors are protective of their trademark.

The dictionary was welcomed by our newsroom. We used that dictionary for years, and every time we did, we remembered that if the word Realtor is printed, it needs to be shown with a capital R.

Clipping services didn't disappear, but today they're "media monitoring services." Terms with the word "monitoring" in them have a negative connotation to me, but it is more accurate because of the variety of media outlets that exist in this technological age.

Forty years after Sept. 8, 1978, the advice offered in that column remains valid, so its final paragraph is duplicated below. Citizens need not wait until an election to voice their opinions — and merely posting them on social media won't get it done.

"Unless we let lawmakers know what the people want, there will no satisfaction in blaming them for failing to read our minds."

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at news@brownwoodbulletin.com.