Category Archives: media news

Time of My Life, Part 51: A new beginning

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I understand that Scripture tells us about new doors opening when one slams shut.

It happened to me in 2012. A career in print journalism came to a screeching halt in August of that year. I was adrift for just a little while.

Then a friend from Panhandle PBS got in touch with me. Linda Pitner was general manager of the public TV station — affiliated with Amarillo College — at the time. She wanted to know if I would like to write a blog for the stations’ web site.

Would I? Of course I would! With that, a career that came to an end got restarted in an entirely new form at Panhandle PBS. I was doing things for public TV that my former employer at the Amarillo Globe-News didn’t think I could do. I had joined the world of online journalism.

I have to say that I had a serious blast writing that blog and doing the kind of video blogs — such as the one I attached to this brief post. The gig didn’t last an overly long time. Panhandle PBS brought in a new GM eventually and he decided that my services no longer fit the direction he wanted to take the station.

We parted company. That didn’t end my blogging time.

A local CBS affiliate GM asked me the same thing Pitner did: Would I like to write for KFDA-NewsChannel 10? Of course I would, I told Brent McClure. So, he hired me as a freelancer to write features for the website. I would write them and then the on-air news anchors would introduce the features in a brief segment during the evening newscasts. They would assemble video presentations to complement the text I had submitted to the website.

That, too, was a seriously good time for this longtime print guy. The KFDA gig, though, came to an end when budget constraints kicked in. No worries for me.

My wife and I gravitated from Amarillo to the Metroplex in 2018. The fun continues.

Another friend of mine — who is news director at KETR-FM public radio — gave me a shout. Mark Haslett and I worked together at the Globe-News for a time; prior to that he was an executive at High Plains Public Radio in Amarillo, so we knew each other pretty well.

Haslett asked if I would — you guessed it — write a blog for KETR, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. Why, yes! I would! So I have been writing a blog for KETR and once again am having the time of my life.

That’s not the end of it. When we settled in Princeton, just east of McKinney and just a bit northeast of our granddaughter in Allen, I put a feeler out to the publisher of the Princeton Herald. Did they need a freelance reporter? The publisher, Sonia Duggan, said “yes.” So … she and I agreed that I could write for the Farmersville Times, which is another weekly newspaper in a group of weeklies Duggan owns with her husband, Chad Engbrock.

Therefore, I have come full circle. I am now covering city council and school board meetings for a weekly newspaper, along with banging out the occasional feature article.

It’s where and how it all began for this old man.

And I am still having the time of my life.

Minds are made up

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I get this question on occasion. It’s fairly rare that someone asks, but given that I get the query, I’ll speak to it briefly here.

The question: Why don’t you engage people who disagree with statements you make on your blog?

I generally dislike engaging in a give-and-take because people’s minds are made up. As is my own mind. I am not going to change anyone else’s view of a public policy issue and, I dare say, neither will anyone likely change my own mind.

That’s the short answer. A more expansive response seems appropriate.

I write this blog as my final statement on an issue. For instance, I have published an endless stream of posts that assert that Donald J. Trump is fundamentally unfit for the office he occupies. I have sought to say why I believe that throughout this man’s foray into political life. My mind is made up. I will not be persuaded to change my mind that Trump is somehow actually fit for the presidency. What would be the point of going back and forth with someone who believes Trump is the next “great president”?

It’s pretty much true on most issues. I tend to make up my mind before I post something on High Plains Blogger.

This does not mean I do not welcome critical comments. I most certainly do welcome them. Whether you respond directly to the blog’s site on Word Press, or on Facebook, or any other social medium that distributes these posts, I say, simply: Bring it!

I am highly unlikely, though, to argue with those critics. I am too old to waste my time trying to persuade someone that their views are all wrong and that mine are all right.

I just know it all to be true. That’s good enough for me. It’s also good enough for my critics.

Media casualty list climbs

Social media in the Age of Donald Trump have claimed two more casualties … who happen to be members of my family.

I get that two such “injuries” don’t by themselves represent a trend, but I do believe they are indicative of the national mood that Trump has perpetuated since the day he rode down the escalator to declare his presidential candidacy.

These two fellows got into a beef over the Black Lives Matter movement and the behavior of police officers in relation to African-American citizens. One of them decided to “unfriend” the other from Facebook and vowed never to speak to him again. Not ever!

That outcome saddens me, as the two of them once were a lot closer.

This is the kind of thing that has erupted in families and other social circles nationally in this Trump Age.

Donald Trump promised to unify the nation. My goodness, he has done precisely the opposite. He has fomented division, increased the chasm between the political parties and his rhetoric has spawned the kind of anger — among family members, for criminy sakes! — that leads to severed relationships.

Social media haven’t helped, either. The various media have given us a shield behind which we can fire off angry messages, responses to messages, and responses to the responses. On it goes. It never ends.

I am acquainted with many individuals who become crazed ideologues when they sit behind a keyboard. For all I know, many of my friends think the same thing of me. If so, well … too bad.

Others, though, have actually become different people than I know them to be. One of my former friends cut our relationship off after he and another member of my family got into a snit about something; I cannot remember what it was. I took up for my family member. My friend became highly agitated with me — and we parted company. We haven’t spoken since.

These examples are what I am talking about.

Politics isn’t supposed to be a contact sport. At least that is what I long have thought and believed. At some level I still do. I choose not to engage good friends — actual friends — and family members in the nuts and bolts of policy disagreements. I try the best of my ability to let it all roll away.

It’s tough, especially in this Age of Donald Trump.

Thanks, Mr. President, for “unifying” us … my a**!

Growing city needs strong newspaper

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was speaking the other day to a member of my family; we were talking about two issues simultaneously: the growth and maturation of Amarillo, Texas, and the long, slow and agonizing demise of the newspaper that formerly served the community.

It occurred to me later that both trends work at cross purposes. I find myself asking: How does a community grow and prosper without a newspaper telling its story?

That is what is happening in Amarillo, I told my family member.

The city’s downtown district is changing weekly. New businesses open. The city is revamping and restoring long dilapidated structures. Amarillo has a successful minor-league baseball franchise playing ball in a shiny new stadium in the heart of its downtown district.

The city’s medical complex is growing, adding hundreds of jobs annually. Pantex, the massive nuclear weapons storage plant, continues its work. Bell/Textron’s aircraft assembly plant continues to turn out V-22 Ospreys and other rotary-wing aircraft. Streets and highways are under repair and improvement.

Amarillo is coming of age. Its population has exceeded 200,000 residents.

What, though, is happening to the media that tell the story of the community? I can speak only of the newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years before walking away during a corporate reorganization of the newspaper. The company that owned the G-N for more than 40 years sold its group of papers … and then got out of the newspaper publishing business. It gave up the fight in a changing media market.

The newspaper’s health has deteriorated dramatically in the years since then. Two general assignment reporters cover the community. That’s it. Two! The paper has zero photographers and a single sports writer.

The paper is printed in Lubbock. It has a regional executive editor who splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock and a regional director of commentary who does the same thing.

There exists, therefore, a serious dichotomy in play in a growing and increasingly vibrant community. I see the contradiction in the absence of a growing and vibrant newspaper that tells the whole story about what is happening in the community it is supposed to cover.

Spare me the “it’s happening everywhere” canard. I get that. I have seen it. None of that makes it any easier to witness it happening in a community I grew to love while I worked there. I built a home there and sought to offer critical analysis of the community from my perch as editor of the Globe-News editorial page.

I do not see that happening these days.

Meanwhile, Amarillo continues to grow and prosper. If only it had a newspaper on hand to tell its story to the rest of the world.

Is anonymity worth it?

By JOHN KANELIS

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am coming down with a touch of a headache watching and following the The Atlantic Monthly magazine’s story on whether Donald Trump referred to military personnel as “suckers and losers.”

First of all, I take my hat off to editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg for some first-class reporting on statements attributed to Trump as he denigrates the service of men and women who have been injured or killed in battle.

Here’s where the head starts throbbing.

He uses four anonymous sources. Not one of them was willing to put his or her name on what he or she heard Trump say. Goldberg stands behind his decision to protect their identity. He said he knows who they are, their names and perhaps even their loved ones’ names, too.

He believes what they told him. Frankly, so do I, based on what I have read; that includes The Atlantic story, which I have read three times.

I confess to some discomfort over keeping their identities secret. I never was able to grant anonymity to news sources while I was working for daily newspapers. I always believed that if someone had something to say, they should offer their names to enable the public to judge the veracity of the story they were telling.

If I had been in charge of The Atlantic and a reporter (in this case, Goldberg is editor in chief of the magazine) came to me with anonymous sources, I likely would insist they allow their names to be published along with the tale they were telling.

Then again, you get a story — a once-a-career kind of story — that is so compelling that the only way the source will talk to you is if you offer him or her anonymity.

That might have been part of Goldberg’s calculation as he prepared the story for publication. If that’s the case, then I respect his decision to grant anonymity to his sources. Goldberg’s journalistic reputation is stellar enough for me to believe him when he endorses their credibility.

Take my word for this final point: No journalist worth a damn is going to pi** away a career for the sake of a fake story.

What’s next, post-Trump?

By JOHN KANELIS

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Yes, I do think at times of matters that take my brain into outer space.

One of them has popped into my noggin and it has to do, not surprisingly, with Donald John Trump.

I have spent a lot of emotional energy on High Plains Blogger commenting on the foibles of Trump and the presidency he inherited. What will happen to this blog once Donald Trump exits the White House? You probably haven’t thought about it, as you have many other things to occupy your mind. Truth be told, so do I, but I still have time to ponder things such as this.

I am supremely confident that this blog will continue. For all I know it might even flourish.

The world is huge. We have this pandemic that is likely to stay with us well past Trump’s time as president, which I hope ends in January 2021. We have many existential threats facing us: climate change, race relations/civil unrest, war and peace, terror threats.

There also will be plenty of wreckage left behind by Donald Trump that the next president — and I want it badly to be Joe Biden — will have to clean off the deck.

You see, all of this will require my attention. I intend to attend to all of it in due course as we move past the Donald Trump Era of Political Malfeasance.

I also have other matters to ponder, the “life experience” stuff that occasionally gets my attention. I want to continue chronicling the joy of being parents to Toby the Puppy; we have this eternal retirement journey on which we have embarked and I will discuss that as well with you.

Donald Trump may think he’s bigger than the presidency. He isn’t. The office will recover once he is gone. Trump damn sure isn’t bigger than High Plains Blogger. It, too, will go on.

Whether to ID sources

Jeffrey Goldberg is taking a good bit of heat these days over a story he wrote for The Atlantic magazine.

You no doubt know of what I speak: the story about Donald Trump’s reported denigration of men and women in the military and the tale it tells of Trump’s profound disrespect for those who serve in defense of the country.

Goldberg is getting panned by those on the right because he granted anonymity to several individuals who he says have direct knowledge of hideous statements Trump has made.

Which brings me to the point of this brief blog post: Should he have granted them anonymity?

Well, I worked for nearly 37 years as a print journalist for small and medium-sized newspapers. I would get requests from sources to remain anonymous. My bosses always had a rule: We don’t grant anonymity unless naming the source posed a threat to that individual’s well-being. I never granted anonymity.

Goldberg’s sources, from what I understand, had to remain hidden because of severe threats they face from none other than Donald Trump himself. Goldberg has told media interviewers that he knows who they are and he knows whether their knowledge is legitimate. Thus, he remains comfortable with the decision to grant them anonymity.

I don’t know Jeffrey Goldberg, but I surely know of his work and of the work contained in the page of The Atlantic. He is a time-tested journalist who takes his work quite seriously. Yet, there are those who say categorically that Goldberg’s story is false, that it’s made up, it’s fiction.

I simply would respond with this: No journalist who has developed the reputation for meticulous reporting that Jeffrey Goldberg has acquired is going to toss a career’s worth of work aside for the sake of publishing a false story.

Journalists don’t take an oath to report the truth. They rely instead on the protection guaranteed in the Constitution against government recrimination. They cherish that protection and — take my word for it — no serious journalist is going to flout it for the sake of a “fake news” story.

I am going to stand with Jeffrey Goldberg on this one.

Is POTUS protesting a tad too much?

So, how angry is Donald J. Trump at reporting from The Atlantic that he has spoken boorishly about servicemen and women who serve, are injured or die in the line of duty?

He is so angry he is calling on his base of supporters to “bombard” the magazine with messages of protest over what he calls “fake news” and “another witch hunt.”

There you go. The president of the United States is engaging in one of the tactics for which he has become infamous. He is showing off his bullying skills.

And to think he is now launching this attack on an esteemed publication, led by an esteemed reporter and editor — Jeffrey Goldberg — who has checked, rechecked and rechecked again his sources for the explosive story.

Goldberg writes that Trump has called those who were injured or killed in battle “suckers” and “losers.” Goldberg has reported on a litany of examples of Trump denigrating the service of military men and women. Some of them are quite well known, such as, oh the late President George H.W. Bush and the late Sen. John McCain.

Trump, though, is firing back.

He should save his breath as far as I am concerned. I happened to believe Goldberg’s account of what Trump said. It is consistent with what we know he has said about McCain, for example.

As for his bullying of a media organization, well, I guess the First Amendment protection against government coercion of a free press doesn’t extend to presidential petulance.

Moving farther away from the past

It pains me to say this, so it is with some anguish that I must report that my tie to the last full-time print journalism stop on my journey has been all but severed.

The Amarillo Globe-News no longer resembles the place I worked for nearly 18 years. I worked there longer than I did at any of the four newspapers where I practiced my beloved craft.

The building is vacant. What is left of the news reporting staff and the advertising department is holed up in an office suite down the street in a downtown bank tower.

Here is what really hurts: I look at the online edition and am amazed at how little actual Texas Panhandle news is being reported. I shouldn’t be surprised, given that the G-N now has precisely two general assignment reporters, or roughly about 2 percent of what it once employed. I have to subscribe to the paper to read the stories, so I all I see are the headlines.

What’s more, a real head-scratcher deals with all the Texas Tech and Lubbock-centric headlines I see on the home page. Tech and Lubbock? Yep. That’s what I see. I have looked at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal home page, too and I have discovered that the A-J offers none of the kind of Panhandle-centric news for its readers that I see in the other direction at the Globe-News.

This is my way of admitting that I am letting go of a big part of my professional and personal journey through life.

I enjoyed some modest success along the way. My career began in Oregon; it took me to Beaumont and then to Amarillo in Texas. Indeed, the Oregonian — where I worked briefly before gravitating to Oregon City, Ore. — bears no resemblance to what it once was. The newspaper in Oregon City is gone, pfftt! The Beaumont Enterprise has shrunk dramatically, too.

Looking at the last stop on my journey, though, is one that hurts the most.

The good news? I am a happy fellow today. That was then. The here and now is quite good.

Who has ‘moral authority’?

Moral authority isn’t written in the presidential oath of office specifically. However, it’s implied throughout the oath. Thus, when a president places his hand on a Bible to swear “so help me God” that he will perform the duties of his office faithfully, well, there’s a moral equivalence to be found.

The Dallas Morning News today published a lengthy editorial, part of a series of issues discussions preceding the presidential election. The DMN chose this way of examining the contest rather than endorsing one candidate over the other.

That leaves outside observers to draw their own conclusions about the issues at play. The topic of today’s piece is “moral authority” and how a president should use the authority given to him.

Hmm. Wow. That’s pretty heavy stuff to ponder.

I will state categorically one more time — and surely not the last time — that Donald J. Trump lacks moral authority at every possible level. The Morning News reminds us that moral authority helps guide the president to a “greater purpose.” How in the world does this president find that purpose? How does he dispense his moral authority? How can he even pretend to possess any semblance of moral authority to do anything?

Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger, seeks to expose the president’s lack of such authority while campaigning to restore “the nation’s soul.”

It seems that we learn more about Trump’s lack of moral fitness daily. We can start with his well-chronicled marital infidelity; then we can look at the way he conducted his business and how he treated those who got in his way; we can examine how he handles government appointments and the manner in which he disposes of individuals; we can look at the absence of any public service on his record prior to running for president; let’s examine this individual’s faith and its authenticity.

I hope you get my point here.

The DMN won’t offer a specific recommendation for the upcoming election: Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Instead, it is examining in detail the issues it believes should drive this election. Read the editorial here.

The DMN opines: So what’s at stake in our presidential elections is more than who will hold the office. What’s at stake is whether the person who wins in November can marshal the moral authority necessary to unite the country, prioritize national problems, and rally our political system to carry us through perilous moments ahead.

“Marshal the moral authority necessary to unite the county.” Imagine that. Have we seen any semblance of unity coming from this president? No. We haven’t.

That, right there, serves as all the evidence I need as an American voter to cast the incumbent aside.