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’s state employees announced this weekend that they will join the state’s teachers in a walkout early next month if lawmakers do not meet the teachers’ demands for increased pay and school funding.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association board of directors met on Saturday and approved a work stoppage plan if the state legislature doesn’t agree to $213 million in state employee pay raises by April 2.

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During the primary elections in the Texas Panhandle this year much was heard about a heavily funded far-right group called Empower Texans, and how the group was trying to meddle in Panhandle elections. Republicans like State Congressman Four Price and State Senator Kel Seliger were targeted by the group, who funded primary challengers to try to torpedo these lawmakers’ re-election bids.

This wasn’t just happening in the Panhandle, either—Empower Texans employed their hardball tactics in races across the state. And they came up mostly empty-handed.

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West Virginia teachers had a big win this week after state legislators met demands for a 5% increase for all educators and school administrators statewide.

Now, the next battleground in the teacher pay debate looks to be the state of Oklahoma.

As The Oklahoman reports, state lawmakers have three weeks to approve $800 million in additional public school funding, including money for teacher pay raises, or educators across the state are going to walk off the job.

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The dust continues to settle from Tuesday night’s Texas primary elections, and there were some expected results as well as a few surprises, both regionally and statewide.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, State Senator Kel Seliger successfully fended off challenges from former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurateur Victor Leal. Seliger just barely squeaked over the 50% margin to avoid a runoff, winding up with 50.41% of the vote.

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Texas has been fighting with New Mexico over rights to the water in the Rio Grande River for years.

This week, as the Austin American-Statesman reports, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government will be allowed to intervene in the dispute. This ruling is seen as a big win for the State of Texas, as the state has long been asking the feds to intervene.

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Craft brewers in the state of Texas are growing increasingly incensed at the way the state government has been treating their industry.

As the San Antonio Express-News reports, Brewers must face a labyrinthine set of laws if they hope to successfully run their businesses in the state. For example, if a craft brew pub wants to sell products from other beer makers, that's illegal. They can, however, sell wine or cider from other makers.

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As Texans head to the polls tomorrow morning, many of the nation’s largest news organizations are reporting on a massive Democratic surge in the Lone Star State during early voting.

In fact, as NBC news reports, through the first 11 days of early voting, the number of Democrats who had voted was up by more than 100 percent over the last midterm election 2014. This led NBC to openly wonder, “Can Texas Democrats turn the Lone Star State blue?”

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The Texas Primary election will be held tomorrow. Here’s what Panhandle voters need to know before heading to the polls. Major Texas political figures are on the primary ballot this year, including Gov. Greg Abbott, and nine Democrats vying to challenge him in November, such as purported front-runner Andrew White.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is also defending his seat, as is Attorney General Ken Paxton. In addition, voters will decide on the fate of embattled Land Commissioner George P. Bush, as well as controversial Ag Commissioner Sid Miller.

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Did you know you can travel the world without ever leaving the Lone Sar State?

The Houston Chronicle has published a list of worldwide landmarks that Texas has created its own versions of. For example, in Ingram, Texas, you can visit Stonehenge II and replicas of the famed Easter Island heads.

In Paris, Texas, you can visit the Eiffel Tower, and in Stafford visitors can visit an Indian temple that calls to mind the Taj Mahal.

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If you want to find a place in Texas where conservatives are bucking the state’s rightward shift of recent years, look no further than the Texas Panhandle—at least that’s what The Dallas Morning-News alleged in a recent commentary.

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A group known as “Moms Demand Action” gathered at the Oklahoma State Capitol this week to seek action on multiple gun measures.

As KFOR reports, the group was focused on three separate proposed measures: a bill concerning guns on campus, one about permit-less carry, and another bill that would expand protections under the self-defense law known as ‘stand your ground.’”

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A Democratic political wave may be gaining speed in Texas, according to the Capitol Hill political newspaper The Hill.

Thus far, in early primary voting, more Democratic voters than Republicans have cast ballots ahead of next month’s primary elections in Texas.

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Xcel Energy is moving closer toward boosting wind energy production in the Texas Panhandle.

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that Texans should vote for Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in March.

From The Texas Tribune:

Eight top Republican statewide elected officials in Texas have the support of President Donald Trump. 

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Oklahoma’s gun laws can be confusing. They shift frequently, and state lawmakers often propose legislation to loosen gun laws.

As the U.S. once again takes up a vigorous debate on the place of guns in society, residents of Western Oklahoma may be wondering: What exactly are the laws in the Sooner State?

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Texas is the fourth most sinful state in America, according to a new Wallethub study.

The personal finance website reached its findings by ranking all 50 states across 38 key indicators of immorality, including violent crimes per capita, excessive drinking, and share of the population with gambling disorders.

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In a couple of weeks, a familiar site will disappear from downtown Amarillo. The Chase bank sign atop the city’s tallest building will vanish forever, as the national mega-bank consolidates its local operations in south Amarillo.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the chase departure is only one of a number of high-profile evacuations of the building in recent months. Xcel Energy and West Texas A&M University have also vacated or plant to leave their spaces in the tower.

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Speaking at a large conservative political gathering near the nation’s capital last week, Donald Trump reiterated that he would like to see more public-school teachers carrying concealed guns. And as POLITICO reports, the State of Texas may be a model for Trump’s vision of a nation full of gun-toting educators.

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In the Oklahoma Panhandle, the nation’s largest wind farm is growing closer to completion by the day. As EcoWatch reports, the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project will include a massive 800-turbine wind farm.

This week, the project took a necessary step when Southwestern Electric Power Company reached an agreement with interested parties, including Walmart, allowing the wind farm to forward. The project is expected to cost $4.5 billion.

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The Texas solar energy industry boasts the fourth highest number of workers nationwide, according to a new CNBC report. The Lone Star State employs almost 9,000 solar workers, just behind New York State and Massachusetts.

California employs by far the most solar workers nationwide, with a staggering 87,000 jobs devoted to solar power. In the Golden State, more than five million homes are run on solar energy.

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Early voting began yesterday in Texas, ahead of the state’s March 2 primary, which is the earliest in the nation.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, state electoral officials are warning residents to know ahead of time what is needed to make your voice heard.

In a statement, Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said, “It is imperative that all Texans wishing to cast a vote start early and undertake the necessary preparations to be able to vote.”

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Oklahoma’s seemingly endless budget woes continue.

As KFOR reports, the state is facing down a potential $167 million budget shortfall for the 2019 fiscal year. However, that number is a marked improvement over the $900 million budget gap for the current fiscal year, or the $1.3 billion the year prior.

Gov. Mary Fallin seemed optimistic.

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Voting in the Texas primary elections is underway, and the Texas Panhandle is already seeing remarkably heavy turnout.

In fact, as The Amarillo Globe-News reports, Potter and Randall Counties are seeing more primary voters than in either the 2016 or 2014 primary elections.

Potter County Elections Administrator Melynn Huntley expressed surprise that this year was beating 2016, as that year featured a presidential primary with big-name Texas candidates like Ted Cruz vying to occupy the oval office.

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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, Burning Beethoven by Erik Kirschbaum. The book is subtitled The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, and it contains a multitude of scary echoes for 21st century America.

I recall, back in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, eating at a steak joint out on the Claude Highway near the Palo Duro Canyon. I ordered my New York Strip, but I hesitated about ordering fries. I simply couldn’t bring myself to say the words “freedom fries.”

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A recent poll reveals that Texas voters overwhelmingly support criminal background checks on gun purchases.

According to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, more than half of Texas voters “strongly support” mental and criminal background checks, while another quarter of respondents said they “somewhat support” them. Only 17 percent of voters say they oppose background checks.

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Oklahoma’s Health Department is still struggling to gain its footing after being racked by scandal and turmoil in recent months. In the most recent development, the Health Department’s interim commissioner abruptly resigned this month, after allegations of domestic violence surfaced.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the Board of Health unanimously accepted Preston Doerflinger’s resignation. Specific details for Doerflinger’s resignation weren’t given.

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A recently implemented program at West Texas A&M University’s School of Music has been gaining a good deal of attention.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, WT’s partnership with Belmont University in Nashville gives students in the Panhandle a pathway toward careers in the music industry. Darrell Bledsoe, coordinator of music business at WT, said the program is exploding in popularity, adding: “It’s amazing.”

West Texas A&M University will host a prominent water conservation expert on Tuesday night, as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series.

Dr. David Sedlak is a professor of environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, and he has gained an international reputation for his clear-eyed solutions to a crowded world increasingly threatened by water shortages.

In a 2016 TED talk, Sedlak outlined a four-part plan for rethinking water supply sources in water-starved cities like San Francisco. Dr. Sedlak further expanded on these ideas in his book, Water 4.0.

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A tent city of homeless campers in Amarillo was told last week that they must once again shut down their camp and go elsewhere.

As KFDA reports, the Christ Church Camp must disband by the end of this week or the city of Amarillo will begin fining the camp’s homeless residents $2,000 a day for being on the site.

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The Oklahoma Legislature’s plan to fix the state budget failed spectacularly this week, sending lawmakers scrambling to defend themselves from widespread criticism.

The Step Up Oklahoma plan had seemed to many like it held promise.

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