Jonathan Baker

News Curator

Jonathan Baker recently returned to the High Plains from New York City, where he was the assistant to the editor-in-chief at W. W. Norton & Co. At Norton, Baker worked with a wide variety of authors, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Lewis and Larry McMurtry. During his time in publishing, Baker worked on books that were shortlisted for a National Book Award and a Booker Prize, and Norton was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in History.

A former professional comedian, Baker has performed all over the United States and appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He holds an undergraduate degree in English with a History minor from West Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in the humanities from the University of Chicago. At UChicago, Baker focused on American literature but studied a wide range of topics, from architectural history to 19th-century landscape painting to the history of the natural sciences. His master’s thesis was on glaciers and ice age theory in the Victorian Era.

When not curating stories for High Plains Public Radio, Baker writes advertisements for publications like Esquire and Car & Driver. He also writes crime novels. Baker just finished his fourth book, a murder story set on the barren Texas plains.

Baker is the father of a 12-year-old boy, Inigo. They live in Canyon, Texas, in a tiny wooden house, where they watch a lot of cheesy old horror movies.   

Jonathan Baker

This weekend, my girlfriend and I packed up my Kia Sportage and headed north. Our destination: the path of the solar eclipse’s totality in western Nebraska.

But this just wasn’t just an excursion to witness the eclipse; it was also an opportunity to cross a large swath of the High Plains Public Radio listening area--a region I love traveling through and writing about.

Pearson Scott Foresman / Wikimedia Commons

A group in Amarillo has sent out a petition asking for the removal of a Confederate statue in Ellwood Park. As KVII reports, the statue depicts a Confederate soldier, and honors those who died fighting for the South in the Civil War.

The petition was sent out by Indivisible Amarillo. Mildred Darton, a community activist, said she thinks the statue’s removal is overdue.

iamharsha_ / Creative Commons

Western Oklahoma contains some of the highest-poverty regions in the state, according to a recent study by Oklahoma Watch.

In parts of Texas County in the Oklahoma Panhandle, one in five people lives in poverty.

The situation is more dire in one area of Custer County east of Arapahoe, which has a staggering 30 percent poverty rate. Similarly, the region near Frederick, Oklahoma, in Tillman County, has a 28 percent poverty rate.

pexels.com

It’s no secret that having a baby can be expensive. But the cost of having a child can vary a good deal depending on where you live.

The personal finance website Wallethub has compiled a list of the best and worst states to have a baby. To reach their conclusions, the site compiled several key metrics, including hospital delivery charges, average infant-care costs, and pediatricians per capita.

cookaa / Wikimedia Commons

Texas and New Mexico have entered into a contentious dust-up over ... dirt.

As ABC News reports, the “turf war” started when New Mexico accused road workers in the Lone Star State of crossing the state line to collect New Mexican dirt, in order to repair a dirt road in Hudspeth County.

Wesley Freyer / Flickr Creative Commons

Tensions over the condition of public education in Oklahoma continue to grow more strained.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Oklahoma City Public School System is considering suing the state Legislature. Leaders of the largest school district in the state say the Legislature has consistently failed in its constitutional and moral responsibilities to the children of Oklahoma.

pexels.com

Amarillo’s animal welfare office may soon change the period they’ll hold stray animals from three days to two days, reports the Amarillo Globe-News.

The new ordinance would mean that more animals may be euthanized. That’s because rescuers would have one less day to claim stray animals before they’re put down.

defense.gov

Rural Texas residents stand to be hurt if President Trump’s proposed budget is adopted, reports the Texas Observer. The White House budget cuts billions in federal aid for residents of Texas’s most sparsely populated areas, including the Panhandle.

Wikimedia Commons

In the state of Texas, while the Governor is the most prominent statewide officeholder, the Lt. Governor is generally said to be the most powerful. But recently, House Speaker Joe Straus has proven himself to be the most dominant politician in the Lone Star State.

As WFAA reports, Straus, a moderate Republican, was the most authoritative force throughout the recent special legislative session.

edwards.af.mil

If you’re planning to view the solar eclipse this Monday, you’ll want to be safe.

Dr. David Craig, Professor of Astronomy at West Texas A&M University, says protecting your eyes is of the utmost importance when watching an eclipse.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Texas lawmakers are preparing to adjourn from their special legislative session on Tuesday night.

But, as The Texas Tribune reports, Greg Abbott is extremely displeased with the progress made on his agenda, and the Governor is even threatening to call another special session until he feels his priorities are being addressed. Of the 20 items on Abbott’s agenda, not a single one has yet received a simple up or down vote.

NASA.gov

President Donald Trump may soon announce an Oklahoman to lead NASA.

Stuart Seeger / Flickr Creative Commons

On Monday, HPPR reported that white nationalist groups were planning to hold a rally on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station on Sept. 11.

Now, as CNN reports, the university has canceled that rally. In a statement, the university cited “concerns about the safety of […] students, faculty, staff, and the public.”

AF.mil

The special session of the Texas Legislature is drawing to a close, and child advocates are concerned about a major issue that lawmakers have yet to resolve.

Two years ago, Texas legislators cut more than $300 million to therapy services for disabled children.

And now, as KXAN reports, educators and therapists worry that Texas may one day have a sizable number of disabled adults if lawmakers don’t take action.

Pixabay

Oklahoma’s efforts to plug its massive budget gap were dealt a serious blow this week by the state Supreme Court.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a $1.50 per-pack cigarette fee that was supposed to bolster the state’s finances.

But last week, the state Supreme Court ruled that the fee was unconstitutional.

poplinre / Flickr Creative Commons

As the dog days of summer continue, the chances of encountering a rattlesnake on the High Plains remain elevated.

But, as The Sacramento Bee explains, rattlesnakes aren’t as dangerous as you may think. Attacks aren’t as common as some may believe, because rattlers aren’t aggressive. They generally only bite when they feel threatened.

However, humans sometimes mistakenly think a snake is being aggressive when it’s simply trying to find a cooler place to lie.

Wallethub

Among economically developed countries, the United States has the seventh highest rate of child poverty. Twenty-nine percent of the children in America live below the poverty line.

The personal-finance website Wallethub recently set out to find which states have the most child poverty. The site studied 21 key indicators to compile the rankings.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

The national media was consumed this weekend by news of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent. The news hit close to home in Texas, which holds more hate groups than any other state.

Flickr Creative Commons

An abortion bill sponsored by an Amarillo Republican is close to becoming law, reports The Texas Tribune.

State Rep. John Smithee of Amarillo authored a bill that would require women to buy a separate health insurance plan to cover abortion.

Opponents say the measure hurts low-income Texas women, especially those who are experiencing fetal abnormalities or who have been the victims of rape and incest.

Mdnicholson42 / Wikimedia Commons

Rural school enrollment is on the decline in Oklahoma—and funding to rural communities is going down with it.

As The Tulsa World reports, small towns like the ones in Western Oklahoma receive a set amount of state funding per pupil. That means, when fewer students enroll, the schools and communities suffer.

Wikimedia Commons

Many Texas Panhandle students will return to school this week.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, most school districts in the Panhandle have chosen to return from summer earlier this year, preceding by a week and a half the state-mandated start date of Aug. 28. Canyon ISD and four of the five Amarillo school districts will begin on Wednesday.

Pixabay

This Saturday, High Plains animal lovers will have an opportunity to celebrate some of the most majestic creatures on earth.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, Saturday is World Lion Day, and the Amarillo Zoo will be showing off its beautiful pride of lions.

The zoo will host a variety of special activities, along with crafts for kids and education exhibits. The lion party takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

runneralan2004 / Flickr Creative Commons

With seven days remaining, the special session of the Texas Legislature appears thus far to be a bust. Gov. Greg Abbott convened the session in hopes of furthering his own legislative agenda, after a contentious and mostly fruitless regular session.

But, as The Texas Tribune reports, not a single bill has made it through both houses and advanced to the Governor’s desk during this special session.

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law that would require special registration fees to be paid by owners of electric and hybrid vehicles.

But now, as The Oklahoman reports, the Sierra Club of Oklahoma is challenging that law in court. The environmental watchdog organization insists that the payment amounts to an arbitrary fee, that would require environmentally conscious drivers to pay more than their share for use of the road.

Mike Mozart / Flickr Creative Commons

A new Texas law will allow shop clerks to decline a purchase if the shopper doesn’t show a valid ID when paying with a credit or debit card.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the idea behind the law is to reduce credit card fraud.

However, some merchants have contracts with credit card companies that disallow them from rejecting a sale based on improper identification. In those cases, the contract will supersede the law.

Pixabay

In the last three years, 3,000 Oklahomans have lost their lives due to the opioid crisis.

Now, as the Enid News And Eagle reports, state Attorney General Mike Hunter is doing his best to rein in the scourge of opioids.

But he’s got an uphill battle.

In 2014, almost 10 million prescriptions for opioids were filled statewide - the equivalent of giving everyone in the state 50 pills.

TexasExplorer98 / Wikimedia Commons

The Texas legislature this year has been defined by a contentious battle between the far-right Tea Party conservatives led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the more moderate business-minded conservatives of House Speaker Joe Straus.

MaxPixel.com

Motorists trying to drive through Amarillo have recently noticed a proliferation of the color orange - orange cones, orange traffic barrels, orange-vested road crews.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the City of Amarillo has been the beneficiary of a wealth of department of transportation funds lately, and the windfall has resulted in infrastructure projects all over the city.

sheppard.af.mi

Dove hunting season begins in Oklahoma on Sept. 1 and this year hunters will have more places to hunt and view wildlife.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will open new areas this year for hunting.

roy.luck / Wikimedia Commons

Texas isn’t the largest or most populous state, but the Lone Star State consumes more energy than any other state, Texas Monthly reports.

According to numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas sucks up 13 percent of the energy consumed in the entire United States. This isn’t a new trend, either. Texas has been the top energy consumer for 55 straight years.

Pages