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District attorney Tom Curtis: aggrieved Je smog p i ma Aq sa4 014d The Globe-News’s Whyte: indignant RataalMstatWk, .,..”M:Nt., and puffing in Amaral muaRca ..\\\\Nvamagattkvbswommikz: .’smommosVm:NaKINEnan IMINEMEMOSUMWMaNDAVMMMENSNA::::MMOM:::k:::: Globe-News, James L. Whyte, to a debate, and somewhat to Curtis’s and most other people’s surprise, Whyte accepted. All three Amarillo commercial television channels agreed to cover the Great Debate, which was scheduled for July 23 at Amarillo College. I might as well tell you quickly that the debate itself is not the focus of this story. You would be bored if it were, though it did have its moments \(of which more latleading up to this peculiar confrontation between Whyte and Curtis that made summer this year’s most vacuous season in Amarillo. The man who set the aestival foolishness in motion was Jerry Huff Jr., at 35 the executive editor of the Globe-News Division of Southwestern Newspapers Corporation based in Augusta, Georgia. Some members of the staff see him as burning with youthful zeal for a Pulitzer of his own to match the 1961 model won by the afternoon Globe-Times under the previous, local ownership of the S. B. Whittenburg clan. \(A moderate Pulitzerlust is of course a healthy sign in an tape and became agitated enough to phone Attorney General Hill for an appointment and hop on a plane for Austin, taking along Scott and the tape. Hill, who has been learning the virtue of forbearance on the campaign trail, is said to have listened to the tape all the way through. With, one must assume, the utmost graciousness toward his eager guests, he delivered his considered opinion that Curtis’s remarks, though intemperate, could be construed as mere legal advice to the commissioners. It would be interesting to know how Huff would have played the story if the attorney general had intoned, “Bad stuff! Illegal and unlawful!” He might have hauled out, as editors in the days of molten metal used to say, the SecondComing type. But in terms of space, position, and editorial support, he and general manager Whyte could hardly have given the story more prominence. Whyte approved the story, and wrote the editorial saying that Curtis’s threats to the commission constituted “blatant armtwisting” and “the sort of activity that takes place in a police state.” Presumably, he and Huff agreed that the story merited banner treatment. Curtis did not agree, of course, and claimed that in any case he should have been invited to comment for publication in the same issue of the paper. He was afraid, so he said, that the Sunday broadside would confirm the downstate image of Amarillo as “some sort of Jackass Flats.” After the story came out, Huff called in the paper’s courthouse reporter, Patsy Masterman, and said he was taking her off her beat. Huff and others at the paper had for some time been rejecting complaints that she was too close a friend of Curtis and his family to report evenhandedly on the district attorney’s many battles \(Obs., April 23,1976, and May 20, lawyers. Now, a remark by Curtis in the taped exchange with Scott made it seem clear that she had discussed strategy in a partisan tone with Curtis. So onto the medical beat went Patsy Masterman. Eighteen days later, she quit the paper, and Curtis immediately offered her a job as an investigator. The county commissioners said he could not do that, but he put her to work anyway in an undesignated capacity and at a salary provided by supplemental state funds. Another consequence of the call from Curtis to Scott and of editor Huff’s audience with John Hill was an exchange between the attorney general and Curtis. After hearing the tape, Hill telephoned Curtis to say that the remarks to corn THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15