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.   

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Some Texas Panhandle school districts are standing up to what they see as unfair treatment of public school students by the Texas Legislature.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, a bill is making its way through the Texas House of Representatives that would authorize $60 million in grants for special needs students to attend private schools. The bill, known as SB 2, was already approved by the Senate during this special legislative session.

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After a bit of a seismic hiatus, earthquakes returned full force to Oklahoma last week, reports KOTV.

Beginning Tuesday night, Oklahoma was pummeled by at least 11 different earthquakes of magnitude three or higher, according to the United States Geological Survey.

No major damage was reported.

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Beginning next month, anyone over 18 applying for a driver’s license in the state of Texas will have to take a course to understand the dangers of driving while distracted.

As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, the class is called the “Impact Texas Young Drivers” course, and it highlights the dangers of texting while driving. A similar two-hour video course was introduced for drivers under the age of 18, two years ago.

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One of the overarching struggles in Texas this year has been a pitched battle between cities and the state over who should have the right to make laws for local municipalities. This battle has manifested in myriad ways, from heated debates over bathroom usage and “sanctuary cities,” to arguments over property taxes, school vouchers, and texting-while-driving laws.

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Last week’s heavy rain damaged an important piece of Amarillo’s aviation past.

The English Field hangar, which opened in 1929 and was used for pilot training during World War II, was partially damaged by the downpour. As a result, the Texas Air and Space Museum has expressed interest in taking ownership of the site.

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A number of new laws will take effect in Texas next month, reports KTRK.

This September, Texas will become the 47th state to ban texting while driving. The law has drawn criticism from Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, as it preempts Amarillo’s stricter texting-while-driving law.

Texas Senator Kel Seliger also called the law an example of state legislative overreach.

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A new battlefront has opened up in the High Plains war against prescription painkiller abuse.

As KFOR reports, veterinarians have begun to keep an eye out for pet owners who may be using their pets’ prescriptions themselves.

Dr. Eli Landry, a vet in Seminole, Oklahoma, said he and his colleagues have noticed a new type of patient who comes in with a pet and requests a specific medication by name.

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Big Oil has now added its voice to the chorus of those who oppose the controversial “bathroom bill” that would legally require trans Texans to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificates.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, this week more than 50 oil-industry executives, including top brass from BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Halliburton, signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott pleading with him not to sign the legislation.

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Washita county, in western Oklahoma, has given up on the Women, Infant, and Children program, The Oklahoman reports.

The WIC program provides nutrition services to young children and pregnant women. The announcement came from the Cordell Memorial Hospital, who administers the program. Officials said they can no longer afford to provide the nutrition for free to local mothers and children.

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The construction of what will be the largest single-site wind farm in the United States was announced last week, and the site will provide power to residents of Western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

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Texas still has the highest mortality rate among new mothers in the developed world.

In 2010, Texas saw 19 deaths per 100,000 live births. By 2014, that number had doubled to 36. And the maternal mortality rate is particularly pronounced among black women in Texas.

However, despite the high rate of danger for mothers in Texas, legislators in Austin did not pass any legislation this year to study or combat the problem.

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Today marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, reports KOTV. To honor the occasion, Oklahoma health officials are reminding residents of how they can support breastfeeding mothers.

The Oklahoma Department of Health notes that employers can support new mothers by providing flexible break times, and by making sure workplaces have private areas to allow mothers to breastfeed.

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An upcoming documentary on the Discovery channel will explore a new grassroots conservation movement in America—a movement based on stewardship of the land, and centered on those who live and work on the land.

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman tells the story of four stewards of the land in the U.S., including a Kansas farmer, a Montana rancher, and a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. The film is narrated by Tom Brokaw and based on a book of the same name.

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Over the past two months, the State of Oklahoma has approved almost 900 emergency teaching certificates.

As The Tulsa World reports, many classrooms in Oklahoma have yet to find teachers and droves of educators have moved to Texas and elsewhere, in search of better pay.

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As the special session continues in Austin, lawmakers in the Texas Capitol passed a number of bills last week aimed at restricting access to abortions for Texas women.

As USA TODAY reports, in just one week, four anti-abortion bills passed the Senate and another passed the House. Texas has frequently made national news over the past few years with its repeated attempts to limit access to abortion.

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As Amarillo’s economy booms, many lower-income Amarilloans have struggled to find homes with adequate space for their families in an oversupplied housing market.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, many residents are turning to manufactured homes, as a result. Manufactured homes, also known as mobile homes, offer more room and more privacy than apartments in the city.

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 A new report reveals which states have fully embraced renewable energy—and the states in the HPPR listening area are among the top in the nation.

As CBS News reports, the state of Texas now produces more wind energy than most countries - and a healthy portion of that energy is produced by wind farms in the Texas Panhandle.

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In the 1970s, Texas utility companies funded research that showed that burning fossil fuels harms the environment.

Yet as The Texas Observer reports, despite awareness of the damage their activities were causing, electric utilities spent the next three decades publicly denying the results of their own studies, and attempting to undermine climate science.

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Foster kids in Oklahoma will soon receive state funding to attend private school, if they choose to do so.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, in the past state funding for private schools has been given to disabled or special-needs students. But this is the first time that funding has expanded to include foster children.

The idea behind the change is to allow foster kids who have experienced trauma to tailor their education to their needs.

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A host of prominent Texas law enforcement officials came out this week in opposition to the controversial “bathroom bill” being re-introduced into the state Legislature.

As The Texas Tribune reports, police chiefs from three of Texas’s largest cities appeared at the Capitol in Austin this week to add their voices to the chorus of those resisting the legislation.

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It appears that Donald Trump isn’t the only person in the Trump Administration who’s been making frequent trips home.

As The Hill reports, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, spent almost half of the time from March to May in his home state of Oklahoma. Pruitt reportedly traveled back to his home state for at least 43 of the 92 days during that span.

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In Texas, the biggest political battle of this generation may not be between Democrats and the GOP, but between Centrist Republicans and their far-right counterparts. And the contentious bathroom bill being re-introduced to the legislature this week is the battlefield upon which that war is being waged.

The Los Angeles Times this week published an overview of the bathroom bill and the internecine struggle for the soul of the conservative movement in the Lone Star State.

Environmental Protection Agency / Wikimedia Commons

For years, some Texans in agricultural areas have been complaining of chemical drift from crop dusters. Poisonous pesticides can sometimes drift as much as five miles from their intended targets, especially in the high-speed winds of the Texas Panhandle.

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As he closes in on the one year anniversary of his hiring, West Texas A&M University President Dr. Walter Wendler has been making the rounds promoting his ideas for educational growth on the High Plains.

Wendler is the former chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and he was formally named president of WTAMU last September.

Among President Wendler’s main concerns is the heavy burden of student debt in America, and especially how that issue affects residents on the High Plains.

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Oklahoma’s unemployment rate remained steady in June, hovering at 4.3 percent.

As The Oklahoman reports, analysts believe this is not a sign of stagnation, but rather an indication that the state’s economic woes are on the upswing. Lynn Gray, the director of research and analysis at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, said Oklahoma’s jobless rate has been stable for several months, and the state is seeing increases on the payroll side.

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A West Texas native who was diagnosed with the fast-progressing disease known as ALS—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—has undertaken an epic journey to draw attention to the disease.

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What do High Plains folks hate the most?

There’s a new app called Hater that works like Tinder, except it matches users based on common things they loathe.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, according to the app’s users, the most common thing Texans hate is . . . “sleeping with the window open.”

This may come as a surprise, as there are so many things to hate in Texas, like rattlesnakes and poorly constructed tacos.

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Texas now leads the nation in job growth, according to new numbers from the Texas Workforce Commission.

As The Dallas Morning-News reports, the Lone Star State’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 4.6 percent, which puts Texas slightly higher than the national rate of 4.4 percent. However, Texas performed better than most of the country.

Douglas Perkins

One Oklahoma teacher has now turned to panhandling to pay for necessary items for her classroom.

Oklahoma teachers will be returning to work in a few weeks, and that means they’ll have to get their classrooms ready. But, in cash-strapped Oklahoma, this can be an even bigger challenge than in other states.

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Oklahoma will soon announce a new health care initiative aimed at reducing premiums and expanding coverage for everyday Oklahomans.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the Affordable Care Act has struggled recently. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only remaining insurer on the state exchange.

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