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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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.

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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.

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Texas is on pace to experience its worst year for wildfires since 2011, reports The Austin American-Statesman.

According to Texas A&M Forest Service data, weather conditions this year have resulted in nearly 900 wildfires statewide since the beginning of 2018.

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Texas has long had a psychiatrist shortage. In fact, as Texas Standard reports, 73 percent of counties in the Lone Star State have no psychiatrists at all. In the panhandle, the problem is particularly pronounced.

Karen Duong, a psychiatry resident at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, did her internal medicine training in Hereford, in the Texas Panhandle.

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Later this month, the Amarillo Airport Advisory Board will unveil its plans for a permanent tribute to Commander Rick Husband, the Amarillo native son who died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the new tribute will help to show why Husband has become such an important figure in the collective imagination of the Texas Panhandle.

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The Federal Bureau of Land Management is hosting a series of focus groups in the Texas Panhandle, hoping to forge a plan for what to do with the thousands of acres of public land just north of Amarillo.

As MyHighPlains.com reports, the Cross Bar Ranch will one day soon be opened to the public — all 12,500 acres of it.

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On July 1, the State of Oklahoma increased prices on cigarettes and little cigars. As a result, reports The Norman Transcript, registrations on the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline have now doubled. 

According to the most recent numbers, the helpline saw an 85 percent increase in registrations in the first four weeks of July compared to data from the same period last year.

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This summer, Texas has broken records for heat levels and electricity. The summer has been the second hottest on record and still may become the hottest ever if temperatures rise again in August.

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The Oklahoma Board of Health has reversed course, now approving looser regulations for medical marijuana use in the Sooner State.

As StateImpact reports, the new rules now head to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin for approval. The new emergency regulations are less than a third the length of the rules approved early last month. Under the new rules, a pharmacist will no longer be required to dispense marijuana.

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UPDATE: The Oklahoma Board of Health has now removed this regulation, which "experts criticized as vague and legally troublesome."

Oklahoma may soon become the only state to require a pregnancy test in order for residents to obtain permission to use medical marijuana.

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A task force dedicated to investigating Oklahoma’s staggering backlog of untested rape kits released its findings today.

As KWTV reports, the task force discovered that the state has approximately 7,000 rape kits waiting to be tested. Furthermore, the group discovered that there is no clear plan to remedy the situation.

One of the task force’s leaders said the untested backlog of rape kits exists due to a lack of funding in Oklahoma.

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Last week, the Trump Administration announced a $12 billion relief package to America’s farmers, hoping to ease the fallout from retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, the EU, Mexico, and Canada.

Roy Lindsey of the Oklahoma Pork Council says the aid package is a sign that the president is following through on his promises.

Lindsey told KGOU that the Oklahoma pork industry exports 28 percent of its product and depends on trade for future growth.

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US Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke will make an appearance in Amarillo on Tuesday night. O’Rourke, who is challenging Senator Ted Cruz for his seat, is hosting an event called “Beers with Beto” at Six Car Pub and Brewery, on 7th and Polk in downtown Amarillo. The visit is part of a 34-day drive across Texas for the young Congressman from West Texas.

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The arid climate of the American West appears to be marching eastward, according to climate experts.

As StateImpact reports, the phenomenon is partly due to rising temperatures, and also due to declining levels of winter precipitation.

The result? The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and Western Kansas are starting to look more and more like New Mexico and Colorado.

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The State of Texas is suing the Federal Government, asking them to end the DACA program, which protects immigrants who were brought to the US as children from deportation.

Now, as The Houston Chronicle reports, a number of prominent businesses have come out in opposition to the lawsuit. The corporations, which include Southwest Airlines, Uber, Verizon and Amazon, say ending DACA would have a negative impact on the Lone Star State, to the tune of $6 billion.

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The High Plains just finished a scorching week of high temperatures, with the heat setting records in many places. We’re seeing a bit of relief now, but don’t get used to it.

The National Weather Service isn’t ruling out more 100-degree days later in the summer on the south plains, and things will only worsen as global warming continues to take its toll.

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Groups whose job it is to help Texans sign up for health care will soon lose most of their federal funding, reports Houston Public Media.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act began last week, but few Texans are aware of the fact.

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The veteran’s hospital in Amarillo is undergoing a major renovation. Since the 1930s, the hospital on the northwest side of Amarillo, with its Spanish colonial tile roof, has long been a recognizable sight for many motorists on the High Plains—and a welcome sight for veterans in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

Now, as The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the Thomas E. Creek VA Hospital is set to spend over $20 million over the next two years on renovations and improvements. The effort will focus on improving patient safety and convenience.

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The former lawyer for the Oklahoma State Department of Health is facing felony charges for allegedly emailing herself threatening messages.

As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, Julie Ezell is accused of sending threats to her own government email account, regarding the state’s new medical marijuana law. Ezell then alerted health department investigators of the threats.

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The state of Texas has now truly become a global oil superpower.

As CNN Money reports, the Lone Star State has now passed Iran and Iraq to become the third largest producer of crude on the planet. Only Russia and Saudi Arabia now produce more oil than the state of Texas.

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The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles will be experiencing sizzling sunshine and scorching hot temperatures this week, along with hazy skies. The reason? The deserts of Africa appear to be sending their dust in our direction.

According to USA Today, this week's hot haze is due to heavy winds in the Sahara Desert sending dust across an ocean, which is now settling across parts of Texas and the High Plains, and into eastern New Mexico.

Amarillo Globe-News

A legend in the world of High Plains journalism retired this weekend. Jon Mark Beilue’s first byline appeared in the Amarillo Globe-News 37 years ago, and the Groom native has been a steady voice of reason in the Texas Panhandle ever since.

Beilue began his career covering class 5-A football games for what was then the Amarillo Daily News, fresh off his graduation from Texas Tech.

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In the wake of last year’s mass shooting at Texas’s Santa Fe High School, Gov. Greg Abbott released a plan to obviate future shooting by releasing a 40-page plan to keep schools safe.

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The windswept plains of West Texas have some of the highest solar power potential in the United States. Now, the Permian Basin region is taking advantage of that energy in a big way.

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CNBC has released their scorecard on the economic climate in all 50 states, and Texas took the top spot.

The news network ranked states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness, including workforce, quality of life, education, business friendliness and cost of living. Texas ranked number one overall, also ranking first in infrastructure and economy.

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If you grew up on the High Plains, you might have wondered in recent years where all the horny toads have gone.

The horned lizard is the state reptile of Texas, and for decades horned toads were a favorite plaything of High Plains kids. But these days, notes Texas Monthly, horny toads aren’t nearly as prevalent as they once were.

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Oklahoma’s foster care system has been beleaguered by high rates of abuse and neglect for years.

And, as The Tulsa World reports, much of that child abuse is due to Oklahoma’s high levels of meth addiction, with the state’s opioid addiction struggles adding to the problem in recent years.

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The Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles will likely soon suffer under the effects of Donald Trump’s various trade wars.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the trade war will leave no part of Texas untouched. The Lone Star State has a greater number of exports hit by payback tariffs than any other state.

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The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma of magnitude 4.0 or higher is up significantly for the year 2018. However, the overall frequency of quakes is still on the decline.

As The Tulsa World reports, through the end of June this year, the Sooner State saw almost 100 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher. But that’s down from almost 150 during the same period last year.

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A group of music lovers announced plans this week to build a privately funded plaza and amphitheater in downtown Amarillo.

The plaza will be named for beloved Amarillo singer-songwriter AJ Swope, who was tragically killed in a car accident five years ago. The group is hoping to secure land near the new multi-purpose event venue now under construction on Buchanan Street.

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