The Fragile and Brilliant Evolution of the West Texas Tribune

The Fragile and Brilliant Evolution of the West Texas Tribune

The Fragile and Brilliant Evolution of the West Texas Tribune.By: Jack WalkerIt was a voyage that couldn’t have been more meaningful. The mania that was then, is now and ever shall be – the Texas Weather- was just getting started again. It was a rare and seemingly far forsaken sentiment of a true dreamer that was heard under the sun of the ‘Big Country when Floyd Miller turned to his bride of several decades and reflected upon yet another community newspaper that had sputtered out in the Key City on the Plains.. “I kinda’ liked that paper,” Miller said referring to the recent closing of the Abilene Gazette. With the Abilene-Reporter News spearheading the print game around town it was just as difficult for a monthly bulletin to maintain as it was for the tread of a procrastinating trucker’s tires taking on the I-20 terrain more than twice. After unsuccessfully soliciting a response the first time, Miller bid a bit bolder than before. “I’m thinkin’ about starting one of my own.”If anyone was qualified to provide direction in terms of impulse and passion it would be Floyd’s wife Marilyn. Touting a Master’s degree from Abilene Christian University in Education and Vocational Special Education Counseling, Mrs. Miller was more certified than an alarm clock the morning you start a new job. “It comes as a surprise when she mentions where she worked,” said Kathy Barr. Presumably, provided the credentials she carried you’d figure Mrs. Miller would be found in front of any chalkboard imaginable -and she was- at the French Robertson unit. The all-male, maximum security prison harbored a share of the most ferocious criminals in the state of Texas and Marilyn’s job was to teach them the basics and beyond.“One of the courses she instructed was life skills,” Barr recalls. “She never judged any of them, she would write motivational sayings on the board and treat them all with dignity regardless of why they were there.”“There” to society in most cases harbored negative connotations. There to the Miller family meant “More”… Subsequently, both silence and prestige were abruptly broken together when Mrs. Miller responded to her husband as optimistically as a devoted wife possibly could.“But you don’t know anything about newspapers.” In that fragile, awkward and brilliant moment, the West Texas Tribune was born While Tony Blair was being elected to serve a third term in the U.K. and a hand grenade landed nearby President George Bush detonate, Floyd Miller pushed papers through the chapels, churches and shopping strips of the not-so-friendly frontier. “There have been some struggles in terms of printing the paper every month,” recalls Miller. “But we’ve always managed to push onward and upward and get it out there.” Every member of the Miller family has been instrumental at a point in time throughout evolution of the staple that continues to hit racks and grow progressively here in the Big Country. The youngest daughter, Amber Monroe moonlighted as the “fashionista” mirroring the Dear Abby style column but with the urban swagger and metropolitan magazine flair. She still contributes consistently with entertainment-based reviews and the same stylish insight that stimulated the nickname for her early excerpts. Make no mistake about it, Sienna “Broadcast” Miller is the media enthusiast of the family. She can work the cameras, write the stories and even throw the jive hyping up advertisers and promoting events around town. After appearing on the original West Texas Tribune Television Commercial she went on to work at FOX and can be found just about anywhere in cyberspace transforming any average event into a much-anticipated spectacle you would be disgraced to not look twice at. The leading lady and still associate Editor of the paper is Mrs. Marilyn. Her critiques never fail to register and her patience and devotion are unrivaled. She can be found at the office right there next to founding father, Floyd sometimes late into the night waiting for a reporter or an ad rep to finish a deadline-oriented assignment. Ellis Miller, the only son, chased and delivered the paper as a sales rep. He’s found an affinity caring for the folks that can’t care for themselves and is a tenured home health care worker. Every Friday afternoon he still drops in to use the copier and lock chests with his father. Floyd Miller, is the walking, and talking insignia of the West Texas Tribune minus the spines of the beloved cactus that continually emerges somewhere in the Masthead of just about every issue ever printed of the paper. The Miller family extends far beyond biological rendering. Floyd’s righthand man from the jump was the bomb detonating Vietnam Veteran Joe Starkey. The Tribune’s original do-it-all reporter covered anything that would seemingly sharpen the standard thought process of the Big Country’s jagged edge. Starkey’s stories directly personified and embodied the passion of a citizen that genuinely desired impact and the repair of the maladjusted symphonies that played time and time again wherever anyone would listen. He still contributes when he can and remains the enigma he was when he wrote the paper’s inaugural story that shed light on irritated inner-city residents harboring resentments against each other in the lower socio-economic neighborhoods. “Kathy Barr, Alan Copeland, Robert Lilly, Frances Gonzalez-Boyd, Don Swinney, Jennifer Cowick, Pablo Rodriguez, J.B. Denson, Steve Abel,” Miller was sure to recognize all of them, “Milsap Fitzgerald, Henry Nelson, Wes McAdams, Sarelda Meink, Susan Clark, April Scott, Sherri Duncan, Susan Dean and Trish Ayers,” It would be a travesty to forget any of the instrumental individuals throughout the evolution of the paper as it is now. “They were all a part of this,” continued Miller. “If we needed something they were ‘there’.” Not a single paper would go to print where Floyd Miller failed to glorify someone in the community. Living life on an altruistic plane is fitting for Floyd. “I’ve always respected Floyd Miller and the West Texas Tribune” said Mayoral Candidate Anthony Williams, another staple throughout the lineage of the publication. “He’s always there,” said Anthony.The numerical equivalent of ‘there’ is 175. 175 Papers. That’s a solid existence for a periodical put out to the public free of charge under the sun of a country town dying to live the city lifestyle. That number includes the one you’re reading now and the special edition that leapfrogged news racks back in March of 2010. It’s difficult to determine what was more special: the extra story and picture that Mr. Miller put on the cover to strategically put a wrinkle in the hoopla of the business expo where he was distributing them or the experimental $1.00 charge he placed in the upper right corner with no subtlety whatsoever. “Yeah that was one of the times where there may have been a struggle maybe going on with the paper,” says Miller laughing faintly. Regardless of struggle, rain, sleet or snow the West Texas Tribune has appeared on newstands every month since its’ inception on Mother’s Day of 2005 and remains a rhythm unbroken. The website has matured with the paper since the procreation. When the digital era began to blossom at pinnacle surfaces the paper formulated a broadband approach to staying above the water. Miller implemented a constant contact email that dispatched a virtual copy of the WTT to subscribers of general interest while enhancing incentive values to lighthearted advertisers. While other community papers evaporated as the dust of the digital age explosion settled; the West Texas Tribune Abacus became the West Texas Tribune Calculator. Then after planting the seeds of the mighty cactus in the soil of social media several years ago a more mainstream emergence is slowly but surely accelerating. The first week of this month the West Texas Tribune Facebook page amassed over 10,000 impressions for its videography promoting two of the three mayoral candidates. Critics might argue the number to be nothing special but keep in mind this is a publication that runs monthly… Furthermore in comparison with the local community papers the WTT’s edge is astronomical, simply because the competition either neglects maintenance of or just doesn’t have the multi-media advantages. A 2017 study conducted by Forbes Magazine found that community papers are on the rise again despite the misconception that print advertising is on the verge of extinction. Of course there was one common denominator among the thriving publications and those just kinda’ kickin’ in it small town shade but as far as that goes it will only resonate if you keep reading. So if for some peculiar reason you’re still having trouble picking up what Miller and Co. continue putting down, at some point in time, just like everyone else, you’ll know and love what some might consider the greatest paper nobody’s ever heard of… Because absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt, eventually… “We’ll be there.”