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.   

pontnshoot / Flicker Creative Commons

Did you know that Oklahoma is the only state to have an official state meal?

As Cowboys and Indians tells us, the meal—which is actually more of a gut-busting cornucopia of awesomeness—was approved by the Oklahoma legislature in 1988. The meal is a showcase for cuisine from all over the Sooner State, but scarfing down the whole smorgasbord is going to require a bit of driving.

A legend in the Texas Panhandle art world died last week.

Lightnin’ McDuff is perhaps most famous for his sculpture “Ozymandius,” two massive stone legs on a pedestal that can be found in a cow pasture between Amarillo and Canyon. The statue, which is based on Percy Shelley’s poem of the same name, has been featured in Slate and Atlas Obscura.

Center for the Study of the American West

The Center for the Study of the American West in Canyon has received a major grant from Humanities Texas.

The Center for the Study of the American West, better known as CSAW, is fast becoming one of the nation’s most recognized centers for thought and research into the American West.

The grant of several thousand dollars annually will go toward producing the center’s annual “Forgotten Frontera” community conversation event.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera: O'Rourke/Robin Jerstad: Cruz / The Texas Tribune

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke have reached an agreement in their long-running negotiations over a debate schedule.

From The Texas Tribune:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, have agreed to three debates before Election Day.

Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma imprisons more people than any other state, which means the Sooner State remains the largest per capita incarcerator in the world. State Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh is trying to change that, and he may have found part of the answer in the nation’s previous leader in imprisonment, Louisiana.

Carole McDaniel

Amarillo has seen a large number of campaign signs for Beto O’Rourke being stolen out of front yards in recent days.

Amarillo Democrat Cecily Wilkinson Riesenberg said she has had three O’Rourke signs stolen from her yard alone.

Carole McDaniel of Indivisible Amarillo confirmed the problem, saying thefts are particularly prevalent in the Wolflin, Bivins, and Belmar neighborhoods. McDaniel has been selling signs out of her house for $5, to try to replace the stolen ones.

City of Amarillo

The Amarillo City Council continues to receive a heavy backlash for its decision to move meetings to times that are less convenient for working Amarilloans.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, several citizens appeared at the gathering on Tuesday to voice complaints about the new meeting schedule, which has scheduled upcoming city meetings for 7 a.m.

Billy Hathorne / Wikimedia Commons

The town of Canadian, in the northern Texas Panhandle, has received a prestigious designation from the State of Texas.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the Texas Commission on the Arts has named Canadian an official cultural district—one of only 26 such districts in the whole state.

CC0 Creative Commons via Pixabay

This year’s midterm elections are less than eight weeks away, and voter registration deadlines are fast approaching for states across the High Plains. If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you have only have a few weeks left to do so.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / The Texas Tribune

Cities, school districts and other local governments can provide discounts on property tax bills through the homestead exemption process. But not all Texans qualify for every exemption.

From The Texas Tribune:

Hey Texplainer: Which homeowners qualify for property tax relief?

Getty Images/iStockphoto/BongkarnThanyakij


The campaign of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke says some eyebrow-raising texts that surfaced Wednesday were not "approved" by the campaign.

From The Texas Tribune:

Wikimedia Commons

If you grew up in Texas, it’s likely that you were treated to tales of the noble and daring fighting force known as the Texas Rangers. The myth of the Rangers as heroes has carried down through the 20th Century, from the 1950s Lone Ranger TV series to the exploits of Walker, Texas Ranger. But now, a new book seeks to paint the Rangers in a new light.

Wikimedia Commons

Texas and Kansas stand to be repaid over $400 million in lost health care funds if a late-August Federal ruling stands.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, a federal court in North Texas has ruled that the federal government improperly charged Texas, Kansas, and a few other states millions of dollars in Medicaid fees, in an effort to help fund the Affordable Care Act.

USGS / Wikimedia Commons

The Amarillo airport will soon receive millions in grants.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the Federal Aviation Administration is set to bestow $7.3 million on the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, part of a plan to dole out over $3 billion to airports nationwide.

The Amarillo grants will go toward rehabilitating runways and restoring runway and taxiway lighting.

Jonathan Baker

Since 1939, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch has been thought of as a safe space for at-risk youth in the Texas Panhandle. But late last year, allegations of abuse--spanning decades--surfaced.

On Friday morning, former Boys Ranch residents gathered in Amarillo to bring attention to what they say happened to them at the faith-based facility.

Oklahoma has, in recent years, gained national attention as a center for earthquakes. But a different kind of seismic shift hit the Sooner State this week—one of the political variety.

As The Tulsa World reports, this spring when Oklahoma’s teachers went on strike, they were dismissed and mocked by many of the state’s Republican officials. This, despite the fact that Oklahoma’s per-student spending has decreased by almost 25% in the past 10 years.

Oklahoma State Highway 3 / Wikimedia Commons

Oklahomans went to the polls on Tuesday to vote in a statewide primary runoff election.

As The Oklahoman reports, Kevin Stitt locked up the Republican nomination to take over for Gov. Mary Fallin. Stitt, a former businessman who has never run for political office, easily defeated his rival, former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

This November, Stitt will face Democrat Drew Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell in the general election.

Jonathan Baker

On Sunday night, a group of music lovers gathered in the backyard of a house on Teckla Street in Amarillo, to hear the songs of a Panhandle musician who has gained a national reputation in recent years.

Ryan Culwell’s new record, The Last American, dropped this week, and The Washington Post promptly declared that the album “captures an American moment’s essence.”

The Erica Chang / Wikimedia Commons

A plan to install parking meters in downtown Amarillo looks to be moving ahead.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, city officials have now approved an agreement with a company responsible for developing a comprehensive parking plan for the city center.

Public Domain

America’s largest oil company is seeking proposals to expand renewable energy operations in the Lone Star State.

As Bloomberg reports, Exxon Mobil Corp. has sent out a request for proposals, asking Texas solar and wind companies to pitch contracts to the energy giant. Exxon is seeking contracts with terms of either 12, 15, or 20 years.

Public Domain via Maxpixel

The Lone Star State is still on top, when it comes to wind energy production, reports The Houston Chronicle.

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that Texas added more than 2,300 megawatts of total installed wind power last year, which brought the yearly total up to nearly 23,000 megawatts of power derived from wind.

That 23,000 megawatts dwarfs the nation’s second-largest producer, Oklahoma, which pumped out 850 megawatts.


When it comes to women’s equality, High Plains states don’t fare as well as many other states across the country, according to new a new study by the personal finance website Wallethub.

The website compared all 50 states across 16 key indicators of gender equality, looking at everything from the gap between female and male executives to the disparity in unemployment rates for women and men.

Public Domain via Pixabay

This fall, grocery and convenience stores across the state of Oklahoma will begin selling wine and cold, strong beer. The move comes in the wake of voter approval of State Question 792, which loosened the state’s stringent liquor laws.

And now, as the president of the Oklahoma Beer Alliance tells KFOR, the modernization of Oklahoma’s beer and wine laws is “giving an extra boost to the already growing Oklahoma beer industry.”

MTA / Flickr Creative Commons

The job numbers for July are in, and the news continues to be good for Texas and Oklahoma.

The Lone Star State added jobs for the 25th consecutive month, reports The Houston Chronicle, as employment continues to grow at a healthy pace.

Who What Where Nguyen Why / Wikimedia Commons

The scores are in for Texas Panhandle school districts, under the state’s controversial new A-F grading system.

As reports, every school in Amarillo and Canyon met state standards.


Next week, the Center for the Study of the American West will screen two classic Westerns in Amarillo, with a brief introduction to both films by Western scholar Alex Hunt.

The films are the legendary John Wayne-John Ford collaboration, The Searchers, on Wednesday, and John Huston's 1960, The Unforgiven, on Thursday. Both movies are set in West Texas.

The Texas Tribune

Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to halt the import of gasoline and diesel from the United States and other countries by 2021.

From The Texas Tribune:

Public Domain via PXhere

National elections are less than three months away now. In the years to come, the political fortunes of the nation at large will likely hinge on the Lone Star State—and this year, Texas looks to be more competitive than it has been in decades.

Who What Where Nguyen Why / Wikimedia Commons

School districts across West Texas start classes this week, while at the same time they await their first official report cards under a new accountability system that assigns A-F grades for all Texas school districts.

As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, the controversial new grading system has already drawn widespread disapproval, as 600 school boards statewide have adopted resolutions opposing the ratings.

Michael / Flickr Creative Commons

Amarillo has finalized plans to begin offering direct flights to Austin.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the non-stop flights from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will begin next month. The service is being offered through Via Airlines.