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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A prominent Texas legislator is taking four of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to task for their refusal to vote for a relief package to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Mac Thornberry, the congressman who represents the Texas Panhandle, was one of the legislators who voted against sending a $15.25 billion initial aid package to the coast.

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Todd Lamb, the current Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, recently announced his plan to bring positive change to his home state. Lamb, who announced his plans to run for Governor in April, told KSWO that his vision for the state includes five steps.

Those steps are, in the Lt. Gov.’s words, “to reform and restructure state government, education priority, infrastructure, economic diversity and making Oklahoma work again.”

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More than half of U.S. rural counties have no hospital where women can give birth, according to MinnPost.com.

According to a new study by the University of Minnesota, over the past decade, the number of U.S. rural counties without obstetric units increased by 50 percent.

This means that rural women are at greater risk of birth-related complications than previously realized.

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A new law in Texas would allow hunters to shoot feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons. But now, balloonists in the Lone Star State are refusing to offer the opportunity to participate in the activity, citing logistical problems.

The Texas Tribune recently spoke with many balloonists and insurers across the state, and they all said they hadn’t heard of anyone planning to hunt hogs from hot air balloons.

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United States Congressman Mac Thornberry, who represents the Texas Panhandle, was one of four Texas lawmakers who voted against sending billions in relief funding to those suffering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

None of the Texas lawmakers who opposed the bill represented coastal regions.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the House approved the $15 billion in aid to support the hurricane relief effort.

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Hurricane Harvey didn’t just devastate human lives; the storm likely killed thousands of head of livestock as well.

As Texas Standard reports, the full effect of the hurricane on the cattle industry in Texas won’t be known for some time.

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It’s no secret that Oklahoma is facing as major teacher crisis. But, as Oklahoma Watch reports, within that larger crisis is another problem. The state suffers from an increasingly dwindling pool of special education teachers.

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Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says President Donald Trump promised not to cut a key crop insurance program that benefits Kansas farmers. The promise comes despite the fact that Trump placed reductions to the program in his budget proposal.

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Almost 50 million rural Americans lack access to sufficient dental care.

As Mother Jones reports, in large swaths of the country it can be difficult to make a dental appointment even if you have private insurance. And for Americans who rely on Medicaid, it can be practically impossible to find dental care in small towns. Fewer than half of the dentists in the United States accept Medicaid, and many of those who do are in the cities.

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The small town of Cross Plains, Texas, recently held a literary festival to honor the most famous West Texas writer you’ve never heard of.

Robert E. Howard lived in Cross Plains during the 1920s, and that’s where he created his most famous character, Conan the Barbarian.

As The Texas Observer recounts, Howard lived in a clapboard house with his physician father and chronically ill mother. He converted a porch to a tiny bedroom, and there he wrote pulp stories for up to 12 hours a day.

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19 million Americans still don’t have access to broadband internet, including much of the High Plains region.

In this modern age, hundreds of small towns across America are essentially cut off from progress. Over the past few years, major American telecommunications companies have shown little interest in expanding broadband into rural America, saying such expansion isn’t cost effective.

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The future of coal as a power source in Colorado is waning quickly, reports The Denver Post.

Over the past decade, Xcel Energy Colorado has shuttered a number of coal plants, and the utility behemoth is now arguing for shutting down two coal-burning facilities in Pueblo 10 years ahead of schedule.

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Next year’s Kansas gubernatorial election is already shaping up to be a fascinating and unusual contest, reports The Garden City Telegram.

News recently broke that former Wichita Rep. Mark Hutton will announce his candidacy, and that brings the total number of gubernatorial candidates to 11.

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The Oklahoman tapped by President Donald Trump to lead NASA is drawing criticism from some prominent leaders in the Senate.

As POLITICO reports, Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s nomination was met with opposition from both of Florida’s senators, who see the selection of a strong NASA administrator as a matter of great importance to their state.

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A construction crew unearthed more than it bargained for while working on a fire and police building in Thornton, Colorado last week. In among the rocks and soil, the crew discovered a 66-million-year-old Triceratops fossil.

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The percentage of Oklahomans who smoke is lower than ever before, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control.

As KFOR reports, in 2015 a little over 22 percent of Oklahoma residents smoked tobacco. As of last year, the rate had fallen to 19.6 percent.

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West Texas A&M University has selected a site for its new football stadium, reports Amarillo.com.

As university president Walter Wendler announced last week, the new stadium will be located on Russell Long Boulevard in Canyon, on the north side of the campus near the other athletic facilities.

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The Texas Panhandle may be headed for an ecological disaster.

As The Texas Observer reports, the Llano Estacado could be undone by conservation efforts put in place to save the region from the Dust Bowl. At issue is the Texas Panhandle’s natural predilection for encouraging wildfires.

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A professor of Energy Management at Rice University in Houston is warning that Hurricane Harvey may have a bigger effect on the nation’s oil supply that previously thought.

In an editorial in the D.C. political newspaper The Hill, Bill Arnold writes that Harvey is only the latest in a series of factors that have put pressure on the production, refining and distribution of crude in the U.S.

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Oklahoma’s woes are now so dire that the state is making news in the United Kingdom. Last week, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article about Oklahoma, asking the question “Can anyone fix this failing state?”

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Hurricane Harvey may permanently alter the way the State of Texas operates. As POLITICO reports, the storm may put a serious dent in the Lone Star State’s penchant for rugged individualism.

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Kansas leaders are trying to get ahead of the opioid crisis in the Sunflower State before it grows as bad as it has in other parts of the country.

As The Hays Daily News reports, last week the Kansas Health Institute held a symposium on the issue. One overarching theme dominated the event: The opioid crisis is coming soon to Kansas.

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When it comes to gender equality, the United States doesn’t even rank among the top 40 countries of the world. In fact, in the recent rankings, the U.S. has fallen from number 28 to number 45. Within the U.S., some states are doing better than others to remedy the problem.

The personal finance website Wallethub has published a list of the best and worst states for gender equality. And the news isn’t good for the High Plains.

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Like most of the country, Oklahoma is seeing a drop in youth tackle football participation. ESPN has reported that in the six years from 2009 to 2015, national participation dropped from around 4 million players down to about 3.2 million.

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Traditionally, Evangelicals in America have been one of the most resistant groups to the idea of climate change and global warming. In fact, according to The Guardian, only one in four evangelicals believes that there is consensus in the scientific community regarding climate change.

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A watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency has opened an investigation into EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s frequent travel to Oklahoma, Bloomberg reports.

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The United States Supreme Court has put a temporary hold on a lower court ruling that invalidated two of Texas’s congressional districts.

As The Texas Tribune reports, on Monday the high court released an order signed by Justice Samuel Alito, indicating that the justices wanted to hear from minority groups suing the State of Texas.

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Back in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, many Republicans leaders in Texas stood in staunch opposition to an aid package to help New York and New Jersey recover from the devastation.

Now, as POLITICO reports, those chickens are coming home to roost. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Senator Ted Cruz and other Texas lawmakers are asking for aid from the Federal government.

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Crews from the Texas Panhandle have been doing their part to help with disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The Panhandle Red Cross has been on standby since Friday, and the humanitarian organization is seeking donations to help victims of the storm.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army is also taking donations.

And Catholic Charities USA has set up a website devoted to Harvey relief.

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Activists in Texas are gearing up for a fight. Donald Trump indicated this week that he would end the DREAMer program, which provides temporary work permits and "deferred action" for undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children. The program, which was started by the Obama administration in 2012, gives legal protection to around 800,000 young people nationwide.

Meanwhile, the controversial SB 4 law is set to go into effect in Texas soon. The law would give police the right to ask the immigration status of just about anyone they choose.

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