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Citizen Spotlight: Jim Parks, Security Watchdog

When it comes to journalism, it might be a safe bet that no one has been doing it longer than Jim Parks within the Watchdog Wire networks. Since his first story came out more than four decades ago, Jim has been dedicated to telling stories, and bringing people the news.

Unexpected Beginnings

Born in Dallas, and raised in Houston, Jim experienced the Texas lifestyle as a youth. Like any other teenage boy growing up in Texas, it’s all about one thing – football. Jim learned the game as a kid and aspired to play in high school. However, fate would deal him a different card.

While playing football on the junior varsity level, Jim broke his neck. The injury all but sealed his chances of continuing to play the game. But when one door closes, another window is opened. Knowing that he couldn’t take any classes with physical exercise, Jim enrolled in what he describes as a “disastrous course in high school journalism.”

CitizenSpotlight

The class was filled with kids who had been learning, and writing for several years. Jim stood out as a kid who had never taken anything like this. However, the class did give him a chance to experience journalism on a very basic and fundamental level.

After graduating from high school in 1967, Jim got drafted into the United States Navy. This came at a time when the U.S. was ramping up its war efforts in Vietnam. Like any fresh-eyed 18-year-old, the thought of being deployed overseas can be daunting.

It is in the Navy, though, where Jim’s love for journalism really took off. While in the service, he became acquainted with a former reporter from Michigan. His interaction with the man helped spark an interest in the profession.

Being in the Navy also had a couple additional perks. “We got all the news magazines, and I read every one of them,” said Parks. “If you’re a news junkie like me, it doesn’t get any better.”

Following his service, Jim enrolled in some journalism courses at City College in San Francisco, CA. It didn’t take him long to pick up on industry trends. Jim wrote his first story for a local shopper, which actually landed him an “A” grade in a course he was taking.  He ended up moving back to the Lone Star state, and after a handful of traditional reporting gigs, he left professional journalism to pursue a more stable paycheck, hauling freight across Texas as the petroleum industry boomed. However, this was not the last time journalism would see the likes of Jim Parks.

Security Watch

In 2010, Jim connected with Lou Ann Anderson, editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas, where he began to get active in citizen journalism.

He officially became a writer for the Watchdog Wire in February of this year. Jim has written on several major topics ranging from gun related issues to security matters.  Since the origin of Jim’s reporting is rooted in his time spent in the Navy, it is no surprise that the security beat has become Jim’s, ranging from his on-the-ground reporting of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that took the lives of 15 people and injured around 300, to his investigation of  a $3.9 million non-compliant stimulus grant given to a Texas petrochemicals firm  to buy and install the best security devices.

However, if there is one series that sets Jim’s work apart, it is his reporting of the trial of Nidal Malik Hasan, the man charged as the Fort Hood killer in 2009. As national news networks allow the issue to fade away, Jim continues to bring readers original reporting from the inside of each and every court hearing. These efforts make Jim a valuable watchdog, while showing the power of citizen journalism.

No Slowing Down

Many things have changed since Jim wrote his first article in 1969. He believes that the Internet is the single greatest advancement in the history of the profession. “When I got started, it was totally linear. Everything followed railway lines,” said Parks. “Now we live in the electronic global village.”

For a man who has seen the industry change over time, he offers a unique perspective into the future. That future relies heavily on ordinary citizens who want to make a difference in the world. “Journalism is quickly becoming a niche-oriented, specialized service performed by citizens who are willing to ask questions of a critical nature, without regard to the sensibilities of power and prestige,” said Parks.

Optimism runs deep for Jim. He says he believes a profession like journalism, with such a long history in this country, still has more to offer. “America’s best years as a news market lie dead ahead, communicated through ear buds on tiny pocket-sized screens, and lap tops carried around in back packs.” And one thing is for sure, he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. “I want to scribble about it as it unfolds. Why? Because I was born with the perfect license to do so, the First Amendment.”

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