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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Oklahoma is the number two producer of wind energy in the United States.

Yet, as The Christian Science Monitor reports, the Sooner State has recently soured on this form of renewable energy.

Due to the state’s crippling budget woes, in addition to pressure from the state’s powerful oil and gas lobby, Oklahoma has been phasing out the key tax incentives that had, in large part, been responsible for the booming wind industry in the state.

Jonathan Baker

A massive crowd gathered in a large dirt field in downtown Amarillo yesterday to witness the groundbreaking of the city’s new baseball stadium. Mayor Ginger Nelson delivered a heartfelt speech to the throngs who had amassed on a chilly February afternoon.

Mayor Nelson was joined by the team’s new general manager, as well as D.G. Elmore and his father Dave Elmore, owners of the group who are moving the new AA baseball team from its former home in San Antonio.  

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News of Oklahoma’s struggling public education system has now reached London, where the legendary news magazine The Economist published an analysis this week of the state’s pervasive and seemingly insurmountable school funding issues.

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On a recent report card comparing rural health care among states, Texas received a grade of D-.

The report card, published last month by researchers at Texas Tech University, compared several key metrics including mortality, quality of life and access to care.

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The Texas oil and gas workforce has reached a seven-year low, according to The Houston Chronicle.

The news comes even as oil prices have stabilized.

When crude prices plummeted three years ago, after the economic glory years of the fracking boom, the Texas energy industry scrambled to find ways to produce more oil using fewer bodies.

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If you live on the High Plains, you’re likely familiar with grackles.

In Amarillo the birds can often be seen in prolific numbers, lurking in trees above strip mall parking lots, like an image out of a postmodern Edgar Alan Poe spoof.

KTRK recently published a few facts about the black birds, courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. / CC0 Creative Commons

After steady gains over much of last year, Texas employment growth appears to have stalled last month.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, the Lone Star State only added 400 jobs in December, after gaining nearly 54,000 in November and more than 67,000 in October. That puts the state unemployment rate at 3.9 percent, slightly higher than November’s record low of 3.8.

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Millennials in Amarillo are buying homes at one of the fastest rates in the nation, according to a new study by the personal finance website SmartAsset.

In the site’s latest rankings of “Millennials and Homeownership,” Amarillo ranked 13th in the nation, tied with Oklahoma City.

In fact, HPPR States performed exceedingly well in general in the study, with Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas cities making up seven of the top 14 cities on the list.

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The Texas Panhandle is in the middle of one of its longest dry spells ever.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the Amarillo area hasn't received measurable rainfall in more than 100 days. The Panhandle is the most severe example of a larger problem. According to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 40 percent of Texas is now experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. And things aren’t expected to improve anytime soon.

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Texas may soon throw a monkey wrench into the works of a deal to save DACA recipients from deportation.

Some relief came last week for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants across the United States who came to this country as children, as President Donald Trump said he would consider a deal to let these so-called “dreamers” stay in the country if Democrats meet his demands for a border wall and work to restrict future “chain migration.”

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Amarillo’s KVII recently traveled up to Spearman, Texas, to have a look inside the nation’s largest cotton gin.

The Adobe Walls Gin is by far the largest structure in the small Panhandle town of just over 3,000 people. The $15 million operation, which was built 12 years ago, gins out about 300,000 bales a year.

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The flu is taking a heavy toll on the state of Oklahoma this season. According to KFOR, 74 people have died from the outbreak since Sept. 1. Meanwhile, the state has seen over 2,000 hospitalizations resulting from the viral infection, which has been wreaking havoc across the U.S.

Oklahoma pharmacist Dani Lynch said medicine is becoming harder to find in the Sooner State.

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The League of Women Voters will be hosting registration events in the Texas Panhandle Saturday reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

The events will be held at the United Supermarkets in Amarillo and Canyon, as well as the Amigos Supermarket in Amarillo, between 10 a.m. and two p.m.


The personal finance website Wallethub has released a list of the best and worst states for driving, and High Plains Public Radio states took the top three spots on the list.

To come up with their list, Wallethub compared states according to 23 key metrics, including average gas prices, share of rush-hour traffic congestion, and road quality.

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Oklahoma has had the largest increase in foster homes in the nation over the past five years, according to a new study.

As KFOR reports, the study—the first of its kind—was initiated to investigate the increasing number of foster kids in America each year and the concurrent decrease in foster homes.

National Centers for Environmental Informaiton / Public Domain

Last year was the second hottest year in recorded Texas history, reports The Texas Observer.

When it came to warm temperatures, 2017 ranks only behind 2012 in terms of hotness in Texas. Furthermore, six of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century.

On Tuesday night, 1,200 people gathered in Amarillo’s magnificent downtown Globe News Center for the Performing Arts for the premier of Bomb City, a film depicting the 1997 vehicular murder of an Amarillo punk at the hands of a popular “prep.”

The event was sold out, and the crowd consisted of an intriguing mixture of Amarillo’s elites as well as former and current punks, artists, and rabble-rousers.


I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. This spring’s Book Club theme is World War 1, but we decided to forego the novels on the conflict that you might have expected us to select.

You won’t find Hemingway or Ford Madox Ford or Erich Maria Remarque on our reading list. That’s mostly because anyone who’s interested in fictional recounting of the Great War has likely already read All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms.

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The Amarillo Independent School District has voted to shorten the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

The school will now be known simply as Lee Elementary School. The school’s name had been a touch point in the community, where many parents felt that the school being named after a Confederate General would ostracize students of color.

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ABC News recently profiled the Texas town of Miami, calling the small West Texas hamlet “the most pro-Trump town in America.” Miami, a ranching community of 600 near Pampa, went all in for the New York billionaire during the 2016 presidential election.

Out of 550 who voted in the town, 524 went for Trump.

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The 2018 session of the Oklahoma Legislature begins in just over two weeks, and one particular bit of potential legislation is already garnering a good deal of attention, reports KFOR.

National Park Service

Lake Meredith—a recreation area that was once one of the most popular in West Texas but has fallen on hard times in recent years—may be on the rebound.

As The Amarillo Globe News reports, the lake near Fritch in the northern Panhandle had its highest number of visitors in over a decade and a half last year. In 2017, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area received 1.3 million visits-the most since the dawn of the 21st century.

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The number of adults taking and passing the GED exam in Texas has plummeted recently, reports the Jacksonville Progress. The General Education Development test serves as a stand-in for a high-school diploma, for students who dropped out or failed to graduate.

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As of yet, the shutdown of the Federal Government is having a limited effect on the Texas Panhandle.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, the Texas congressional delegation was hard at work this weekend, trying to help broker a deal to end the shutdown.

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The national men’s health and fashion magazine Esquire took an acerbic tone this week as it lambasted a “rising star” in the Sooner State’s Republican Party.

Ryan Dahm, a GOP State Senator from Broken Arrow, Okla., gained national notoriety this week after submitting a bill to the state Legislature that would officially designate Oklahoma’s wildlife as “the property of Almighty God.” 

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The Texas Tribune recently profiled the Regional Medical Center in Childress as one of a shrinking number of medical facilities in the rural Texas Panhandle that still has the capacity to deliver babies.

The Medical Center’s labor and delivery unit delivers roughly 200 babies per year.

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Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart participated in a Senate panel discussion on student financial aid this week in the nation’s capital, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

Lowery-Hart sat on a panel with other education policymakers, who took questions from Senators on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The committee hopes to find solutions regarding the nation’s financial-aid woes.

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The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Texas Democrats to re-examine whether congressional districts in the Lone Star State were redrawn along partisan lines.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, the High Court said it lacked jurisdiction in the case. However, the Supreme Court is still slated to hear similar cases from Wisconsin and Maryland, and those cases may ultimately affect the way Texas (and every other state) is allowed to redraw political lines.

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Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec is making a strong push to recruit students from small towns and rural regions of West Texas, reports The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

The President has been touring small towns in the region, including Roosevelt, Idalou and Crosbyton, to promote Tech to high school students there.

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Oklahoma’s Gov. Mary Fallin says a false emergency alert like the one that happened in Hawaii last weekend would not be possible in the Sooner State, reports KOKI.