Category Archives: media news

Yes, the White House is at ‘war’ with the media

White House press secretaries have a singular mission, which is to convey the message of the president to the American public.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now performing that task to mixed reviews. Those who support Donald Trump’s agenda applaud her; those (of us) who don’t, well, we jeer her.

I’ll offer this jeer, therefore, to Sanders for saying that the White House is not “at war” with the media. Sure thing, Mme. Press Secretary.

Then, why does the president declare that the media are “the enemy of the American people”? Why does he keep insisting that media reports he finds objectionable come from what he refers to as “fake media”? Why does he disparage reporters individually, by name, along with their organizations?

Good grief, Sarah! The president declared war on the media long ago. The first press flack, Sean Spicer, fired the first barrage on Day One of the Trump administration when he challenged the media reporting of the size of the Trump inaugural crowd!

I am pretty certain the media believe they are in a state of “war” with the administration. Whether the White House’s “fine-tuned machine” believes it ignores what many of the rest of us realized long ago.

Sanders took part in a discussion of White House media relations with Mike McCurry, press secretary for the Clinton administration. McCurry, not surprisingly, took issue with Sanders’s assertion that there is no warfare taking place. He said the White House criticizes media reporting “every day,” which he considers to be a form of media war.

Read The Hill’s story here.

I am one of those former media guys who knows White House combat with the press when he sees it.

Thus, I believe Sarah Sanders is, um, quite wrong while she parrots the White House line on its relationship with the media.

Parkland reveals disgraceful aspect of Internet

We’ve all known how the Internet reveals evil intent as well as producing positive impact.

I present to you the Parkland, Fla., massacre and the outrage it has produced among high school students in that community as well as around the country.

It appears some right-wing trolls are spreading lies about the students, calling them “actors” hired to present anti-Donald Trump rhetoric while standing up for the FBI.

I have insufficient knowledge of the English language to express my utter disgust at these Internet trolls.

A gunman opened fire on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He killed 17 people: 14 students and three educators. Police arrested the gunman and he now is accused of 17 counts of premeditated murder. The shooter reportedly plans to plead guilty so that he can avoid a death sentence.

But what about the students who are rallying this week in Tallahassee, Fla., to lobby state lawmakers to take action on gun violence? Are they “actors”?

No. They are not. They are survivors of a hideous act of violence committed against them and their friends and mentors.

That didn’t prevent an aide to a Republican Florida legislator from fomenting the lie that they are “actors.” The legislator fired the aide on the spot. He’s not alone, though. Other disgraceful trolls have sought to undermine the public statements of these students by alleging that they are hired by political interests that favor stricter gun control laws.

I am reminded of what a letter writer told me once while I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I rejected the letter because it contained falsehoods. When I spoke to the writer over the phone to tell him why I was rejecting his letter, he answered that he knows its contents were true “because I read it on the Internet.”

I laughed out loud.

On this matter — regarding the lies being told about these grieving students — I would laugh, except that it’s not funny.

It is an utter disgrace.

Candidates don’t deserve free ‘ad space’

I get that the Amarillo Globe-News has endorsed state Sen. Kel Seliger’s bid for re-election to the Texas Senate. That’s their call and, frankly, it was the wise decision.

Now, though, the newspaper has crossed a line it shouldn’t have crossed. One of Seliger’s Republican primary opponents, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, has been allowed to write a letter to the editor excoriating Seliger’s voting record. The newspaper published it!

Leal’s letter makes no mention of the editorial. It doesn’t challenge the G-N editorial board rationale for its decision to back Seliger.

Read Leal’s letter here.

Instead, it challenges Seliger’s statements touting his voting record on a variety of issues.

Why does this set a slippery-slope precedent? Because political candidates should have to pay for their political advertisements. Newspapers and other media offer candidates space and air time to espouse their own real or perceived virtues, but they don’t usually give it to them for free.

I worked for a couple of newspapers that didn’t even allow people to speak on behalf of candidates during election season for that very reason. The idea was to reserve the free space for issues and discussions that steered away from political campaigns. As a former boss of mine used to say, “We aren’t going to give away political ad space with letters to the editor that endorse a candidate’s virtues.”

I moved away from that policy years later. The candidates themselves, though, did not get that space to speak for free to speak on behalf of themselves or against their foes. If they wanted the space, they had to pay for it.

We now can await Seliger’s response to Leal and quite possibly Mike Canon — the third GOP candidate in this contest — will get to boast about his own virtues.

Sheesh!

Yet another tragedy falls victim to politics

Donald Trump’s incessant use of Twitter could enable him to use the social medium to comfort and console families suffering from unspeakable grief.

Yes, the president did offer his “thoughts and prayers” to families and other loved ones in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre on Valentine’s Day.

Then he followed up with a tweet over the weekend that reveals, in my mind, the kind of person Trump really is.

He blamed the FBI for failing to respond to tips about the alleged shooter because the agency was “too busy” investigating the Trump presidential campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian hackers who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

There you have it. When the president is handed an opportunity to criticize law enforcement, by golly he jumps all over it — even when the criticism is juxtaposed with a nation’s grief over another spasm of gun violence.

The president has drawn criticism from politicians of both parties over this response. Will it sink in? Will he heed what members of his own party are saying? Hah! Hardly.

Does this man have any sense of decency? Any sense of shame? Any sense of compassion or empathy? I concluded long ago the answer is an unequivocal “no!”

Sickening.

‘Fake news’ gets more Trump scorn

I have become immune to the outrage of Donald Trump’s Twitter fetish, so I won’t gripe that the president is tweeting his outrage yet again.

However, his continuing outrage at what he keeps calling the “fake media” is outrageous in the extreme.

The president went after the media’s coverage of Robert Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians and three Russian companies over their alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

C’mon, Mr. President! They’re doing their job. The media are part of the very system to which you belong!

They have a responsibility to report on what the special counsel is doing to discover all the facts surrounding the election, the Russian interference in our electoral process and whether there was any “collusion” between the Russians and the president’s campaign.

As for Trump’s criticism of the media reporting of the indictments, I hasten to add that the media have reported quite clearly that the indictments do not suggest there was collusion. To that end, the media have treated the president fairly — which means they have passed the second test of good journalism.

The first test is accuracy. On this matter, the media have done well, too.

So, Mr. President, shut up with the “fake news” mantra.

Believe it! Texting becomes second nature!

I never in a zillion years thought I would write these next few words.

Texting has become a convenient and efficient mode of communication for, um, yours truly.

Oh … the humanity!

I continue to italicize the t-word when I use it on this blog as a verb. Why? Because I want to emphasize the way I verbalize it. I have to add a tone of derision whenever I express the term in the verb form.

Here’s the thing, though: I am finding it to be a useful form of communication.

I need to stipulate something in no uncertain terms. I do not “converse” via my cellular telephone, which has the texting app built into it. My exclusive use of this method of communication is to deliver information. Such as: “See you soon.” Or: “Got it.” Or: “I’ll call.”

I try to remain faithful to my six-word maximum limit on text messages. I have to break it on occasion, but if I do it’s only by just a little. Maybe three or four words. No more!

However, my entry into the 21st-century world of telecommunications has moved along quite nicely.

I am not yet totally comfortable texting messages when I would prefer just to call someone on the phone.

And make no mistake: I’ll continue to add that derisive tone in my voice when I refer to this communication method in its verb form. Please don’t lecture me about the tone in my voice. I’m old. and thus, I am entitled to use whatever inflection I feel like using.

Oh, how time flies for this blogger

Nine years ago today I introduced myself to those who follow blogs.

It was Feb. 13, 2009 when I posted my first blog item. My intention was to give readers a chance to know just a little about yours truly.

The blog actually appeared on the Amarillo Globe-News’s web site at first. I transferred it to High Plains Blogger after I left the Globe-News in August 2012.

Here is what I wrote then:

Introducing me, John Kanelis

I intended the blog then to focus mostly on local matters, as I was writing for the local newspaper and the posts were pertinent to issues the paper was covering at the time.

It didn’t stay that way. I left the paper and then started commenting on a whole array of issues far beyond Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

I invited comment and community discussion then. I still do today.

My entry into the blogosphere produced a fairly paltry response. I am not too proud to acknowledge that the increase in page views has been slow, steady slog. It’s a lot greater today than it was in 2009. It’s not sufficient to satisfy me. For that matter, I am convinced that I’ll never be totally satisfied with the volume of page views and unique visitors this blog attracts.

Hey, I’m like the salesman who earns a living based on the sales he produces. It’s never enough, right?

I just felt compelled to look back briefly at the beginning of my blogging experience. I was doing it for my employer then. Now that I am no longer employed, my current blog posts are more pure. I am able to speak with greater clarity about my own world view.

It still is more fun than I deserve.

But, shoot, man! I won’t apologize for it.

Waiting for the pundits’ new cliches

I watch a lot of TV news shows. Maybe that’s to my discredit, given that my wife and are holed up at the moment in an RV and the weather outside has been too cold to do much of anything.

What I am hearing is beginning to bore me to sleep.

I keep hearing the TV talking heads — the pundits, if you please — repeating the same “cool” words and phrases they like hearing themselves and each other say.

“At the end of the day” remains at the top of my list of phrases to jettison.

“Walking back” a statement is another one that is gaining ground in the toss-it-on-the-scrap-heap contest.

There also are “cool words” that seem to crop up in pundit-speak. “Kalashnikov” is one of them. It kind of rolls off the tongue and when I hear pundits and/or commentators mention the weapons used on a battlefield, they are bound to mention “Kalashnikov” rifles because they like sound of the name. Admit it: You know what I’m talking about.

Here is one of my latest “favorites.” It’s when Congress and the president keep “kicking the can down the road.” This usually refers to non-decisions they make regarding budget matters.

Congress cannot get a long-term budget approved. The president cannot persuade anyone on Capitol Hill to do anything. What happens? They end up “kicking the can down the road,” which is code for “failing to do their job.”

Come to think of it, why don’t the talking heads just say it loudly and proudly, that our government leaders are, um, you know … ?

The pundits sit around those tables talking to each other and they speak in that strange jargon that they use with each other or when they’re on the air talking to you and me.

Look, I’m not a grammarian. I don’t pretend to be a wordsmith in the mold of a Faulkner, Steinbeck, a George Will or a William F. Buckley. I tend as well to fall back into habit-forming word usage and phraseology.

I suppose if I’m patient enough, new phrases will sprout, kind of like weeds in the garden. We’ll all know them when the pundits keep repeating themselves.

NPR: masters of audio editing

My career in print journalism enabled me to do some very cool things, see some fabulous places, cover compelling stories — and it exposed me to the magic of other media.

I want to offer a good word or three to National Public Radio.

I was given an opportunity, as the editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, on three occasions to take part in NPR interviews. Two of them involved the 2008 presidential election. NPR wanted to chronicle the outlook on the election as it appeared to us in the Texas Panhandle; the other party in the interviews was Kevin Riley, editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. NPR sought the views of editors from disparate regions of the country: heavily Republican Texas and “swing-state” southern Ohio.

The other interview involved President Obama’s economic stimulus package and its impact on our respective regions.

Here is what I wrote in February 2010:

NPR reaches out to the heartland

What I want to recall briefly here is how deftly NPR edited my comments to make them suitable for airing on the public airwaves.

High Plains Public Radio — an NPR affiliate — had a recording studio in downtown Amarillo. I was able to go to the studio and take part in the interview with the Washington, D.C.-based “Morning Edition” program.

What astounded me at the time — and still boggles my mind to this day — is how well NPR edited my comments. They eliminated the occasional stammer and extraneous verbiage without changing the context of my statements to the NPR interviewer. Kevin Riley, the other person being interviewed, sounded much more comfortable with radio. As for myself, it’s not my thing and I was nervous as the dickens every time I took part in this process.

It’s a remarkable skill that continues to amaze me.

NPR receives criticism from time to time, mostly from conservatives who allege the network has a “liberal bias.” My own experience with NPR did not reveal any such bias. I found NPR to be professional to the “nth” degree.

Moreover, the editors at NPR exhibited a magician’s skill at making a nervous newspaper editor sound like an experienced hand at radio.

The media ‘regression’ continues

I’ve been trying to process the news I read over the weekend about the newspaper that employed me for nearly 18 years.

I haven’t yet come to grips with all of it and its implications, but what I see does give me some concern about the future of print journalism in two West Texas communities.

GateHouse Media, the company that now owns the Amarillo Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has hired someone who serves as “regional executive editor” of both papers. Her name is Jill Nevels-Haun.

As I read the story announcing her hiring, I read that she will split her duties between Amarillo and Lubbock. She presumably will commute between the cities, which are 120 miles apart; it’s not a long drive, given that you can drive 75 mph along Interstate 27 but the distance is substantial.

What’s more, the communities’ issues are unique. They both have different concerns that weigh on the minds and hearts of residents and officials. Nevels-Haun speaks of her intent to develop new lines of communication between readers and, I presume, both newspapers.

GateHouse purchased the papers in October from Morris Communications Corp., which had owned the G-N and the A-J since 1972. The publishers of the papers, both were Morris holdovers — Lester Simpson in Amarillo and Brandon Hughes in Lubbock — resigned more than a week ago.

I have been informed that GateHouse plans to hire someone to replace the publishers who resigned.

OK, so what’s the concern?

This has the appearance of an inexorable step toward some form of consolidation of both newspapers into a single operation that would seek to cover the entire West Texas region from Amarillo to Lubbock.

Morris already ditched its printing presses at the Globe-News and gave the print job to the Lubbock A-J. Since the GateHouse sale, the Globe-News has abandoned its office structure on Van Buren Street and moved what is left of the newsroom staff into its building on Harrison Street.

The Globe-News is circulating far fewer copies daily than it did just a half-dozen years ago; I will presume the Avalanche-Journal is going through the same precipitous decline. The decline in circulation, by the way, is far from unique to this part of the world; it’s happening all over the country!

I’ve been away from daily journalism now for more than five years. These comments are coming from the proverbial peanut gallery, which prohibits me from commenting in any detail about what I perceive is occurring.

I do sense an inertia that is depriving both communities of the strongest voice possible from newspapers that have been charged with telling those communities’ stories for many decades.

Nevels-Haun offers assurances that she and her employers are committed to strong community journalism. I don’t doubt her sincerity.

It’s just that a single newspaper executive stretching her time — and her attention — between disparate communities is facing an enormous challenge. I cannot overstate the difficulty that awaits.

Thus, I am left to wonder: Will the papers’ corporate owners be willing to invest the capital it needs to deliver on the new editor’s grand promise?

We’ll see about that.