Tag Archives: AGN Media

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.

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.

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.

A tragic metaphor

The picture attached to this blog post symbolizes something that is troubling to me on at least two levels: one of them is personal, the other speaks to a broader phenomenon.

It came to me today from a friend who is visiting Amarillo with her husband on a family matter. Hubby snapped the picture. I want to call your attention to the graffiti on the second floor of the structure.

The building used to house the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years as editorial page editor. I left the business in late August 2012. The corporate ownership changed hands a few years later and then the new owners vacated the building. They moved what was left of the newspaper operation into an office suite in a downtown bank tower.

What you see here is the rotting hulk of what used to house a once-proud community institution.

The personal impact on me is obvious. I went to the Texas Panhandle in January 1995 full of pi** and vinegar and ready to slay some dragons in my new surroundings. The newspaper had a proud tradition. It won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service — which is journalism’s highest award. I was proud to be part of that legacy. We didn’t win any more Pulitzer prizes during my time there, but I developed a lot of close friendships with colleagues and managed to eke out a modestly successful tenure during my time there.

None of us got into the business of chronicling a community’s story to make lots of money. We did it because of our commitment to the craft we pursued.

I had a lot of fun there and managed to embark on many fascinating assignments during my time.

So when I see this picture, my heart breaks on a deeply personal level. The property is up for sale. It’s been on the block for quite some time. I do not know how you repurpose an office building that once served as a newspaper office; the building next to it on the same block once housed the paper’s presses and distribution complex. Good luck with peddling that structure, too.

The picture symbolizes what has become of print journalism in communities all across the nation. Once-vibrant community institutions are being relegated to empty shells. They become targets of graffiti “artists” intent on making some sort of statement about … whatever.

Newspaper staffs are slashed. The paper charges whoever is left to cover a community with virtually no one available to actually do the work of reporting on and then writing what they learn.

Those who once depended on newspapers are turning to other media. I cannot vouch for the veracity of what is being disseminated. Some of it is valid. Some of it, well, is just crap.

I am happy to report that I have moved on, as have so many of my former colleagues. I am in a much better place now. I hope they are, too. The remains of the Amarillo Globe-News? The future for the building and the medium it once housed — to my way of thinking — look decidedly less promising.

I am saddened beyond measure.

Time of My Life, Part 49: Those were the days

Social media occasionally allow us a look into the past, giving us a chance to reminisce on how it used to be and even think wistfully about what we are missing.

So it happened today when a friend and former colleague posted a faux newspaper page saluting his departure from his job and the start of a new adventure. My friend left the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise in the late 1980s and the posting of the page on Facebook has elicited a lot of comment from our colleagues and friends about this fellow and about the special feelings we all felt toward each other.

It reminds me of a series of special relationships I was able to cultivate during my career in print journalism. My journalism journey took me to four newspapers: two in Oregon and two in Texas. The first job was at the Oregon Journal, the now-defunct evening paper in Portland. My second job took me to the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier. Job No. 3 transported me to Beaumont. The fourth post was in Amarillo, Texas.

Throughout much of that journey, I was able to make lasting friendships that have survived the tumult, turmoil and occasionally the tempest of an industry that has undergone — and is undergoing — so much change.

I cherish those friendships perhaps more than I have expressed to those with whom I have worked, played, laughed and occasionally cried.

I mentioned to the friend who displayed the “fake” page the special camaraderie we enjoyed in Beaumont. It truly was a remarkable, talented group of professionals. Moreover, many of them had huge hearts that they opened up to me, who was then brand new to Texas and who had much to learn about the state and the community I would serve as editorial page editor of the newspaper. Moreover, I had left my family in Oregon when I took the job; they would join me later that year and we’ve never looked back. Many of my colleagues knew I was lonesome for my wife and young sons and they took me in, invited me to social gatherings and brought me into their fold.

That all made my transition to Texas that much easier.

Then again, the relationships I developed in Oregon City, Beaumont and Amarillo aren’t unique in an industry that used to comprise individuals from disparate backgrounds. They came together to work for an organization, seeking to do the best job they could do, to keep faith with the readers they served.

The newspaper industry, as we know, has been torn asunder in recent times. The Enterprise-Courier is gone; the Beaumont Enterprise staff has been decimated, as has the staff at the Amarillo Globe-News. We’ve all moved on, some to retirement, some to pursue — as the saying goes — “other interests.”

The Facebook post reminded me of how it used to be. I shall cling tightly to those memories. Those truly were the good ol’ days.

Kinky Friedman: ahead of his time

I enjoy looking back on musings I pushed out via my blog, seeking to find common ground with current events.

On July 28, 2010, I wrote a short piece about Kinky Friedman, the fascinating humorist who once ran for Texas governor. He was one of the more provocative and interesting political interviews I ever conducted.

He spoke about a notion that was getting some traction among Texas Republicans. He opposed building a wall along our southern border.

Where have you been, Kinky?

I won’t give up with this blog post what he said then, but I do want to alert you to what feared might occur in the United States if matters kept spiraling in a direction that Kinky didn’t like. Just check out the item I have attached to this post.

Kinky Friedman was way ahead of his time.

Worried about future of journalism in a city I love

My concern about the future of newspaper journalism in a city my wife and I once called “home” is building. I am unsure of how or where this concern will end up. Suffice to say I cannot shake this feeling of doom for the future of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I do not read the daily print newspaper. I no longer reside in Amarillo. I do try to read the “paper” online, but I need to subscribe to it. I decline to do so. Why? There’s not enough news about the Texas Panhandle to interest me.

The Globe-News is now owned by Gannett Corp., the company that merged with GateHouse Media; GateHouse assumed control of Gannett, but kept the Gannett name. Gannett is known throughout the newspaper industry as a cost-cutting juggernaut. It seeks to “save its way to prosperity.” From what I have seen for many years now, through three corporate ownerships, the Globe-News has been slashed, decimated and reduced to a newsgathering organization that is just a mere shadow of what is used to be.

The most troubling thing I see in the online edition is a heavy reliance on news from down south, in Lubbock, where Gannett also operates a newspaper.

My point is this: I see a lot of news relating to Texas Tech University on the front page of the Globe-News’ online edition. Texas Tech is a fine school, but it is headquartered in Lubbock. It has a decent presence in Amarillo, but its influence there remains somewhat muted.

Conversely, when I look at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s online edition, I never see news covering Amarillo or the Texas Panhandle. Do you get my drift? If not, it is merely that the influence flows only in one direction, from Lubbock to Amarillo.

I am left to wonder whether there will even be an Amarillo Globe-News in the future. The newspaper used to employ dozens of reporters, line editors and photographers. It now employs a single sports writer, two general-assignment reporters, a regional executive editor and a regional director of commentary.

That … is … it!

The grumbling I hear from my many friends in Amarillo all say the same thing. The newspaper doesn’t report the news.

It saddens me terribly.

I want desperately to be wrong about the future of print journalism in the Texas Panhandle.

Journalism takes another step toward irrelevance

It pains me to acknowledge this, but based on what I have just learned, daily print journalism — I am talking about newspapers — has taken another big step toward a dark hole of irrelevance.

The Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s largest newspaper, has announced it no longer will publish editorials. You know, those are the opinion pieces that represent the newspaper’s view on issues of the day.

Here is part of a letter that Journal executive editor Alan Rosenberg wrote to readers:

It’s a decision that we don’t make lightly. But it’s been coming for a long time…

[After the partisan newspapers of the 19th century,] most newspapers abandoned partisanship in their news pages, but kept the idea that they should speak out, in their editorials, on what they perceived as the best interests of their community and country.

But in doing so, they inadvertently undermined readers’ perception of a newspaper’s core mission: to report the news fairly. Our goal in news stories is always to learn, and reflect, the facts of a situation, then report them without bias. Reporters’ opinions, if they have them, have no place in our stories.

But when the newspaper itself expresses opinions on those same subjects, it causes understandable confusion. Readers wonder: Can reporters really do their work without trying to reflect the views expressed in their employers’ name? Can they cast a skeptical eye on a politician their paper has endorsed, or a generous eye on one it has opposed?

The answer is a definite “yes” — but my email since I became executive editor shows that many just don’t buy it.

The Providence Journal is owned by Gannett Corp. What we have here is a display in gutlessness. It is a shameful capitulation to the forces that are slowly but inexorably making daily newspapers irrelevant in the lives of thinking Americans.

I spent the vast bulk of my 36 years in journalism writing editorials and editing opinion pages. We once were committed to providing leadership to communities that used to look for some semblance of guidance from their newspapers. Sure, we had that argument with readers that Rosenberg mentioned about whether news coverage was influenced by newspapers’ editorial policy.

This news out of Providence, R.I., saddens me terribly. It well might get even worse for readers of the last newspaper where I worked on my professional journey, the Amarillo Globe-News. Gannett owns the Globe-News and Gannett has become a cost-cutting master in this era of declining subscribership and advertising.

I hate saying it … but I fear the end of daily journalism in Amarillo, Texas, might be at hand.

So glad to be free of the media misery

I am watching with great dread the fate of my former colleagues in print journalism, watching as they are being forced out of work or forced to take unpaid furloughs.

It’s a continuation of what has been happening to the media landscape for years.

Gannett Corp. laid off seven newsroom staff members from the Austin American-Statesman this week. One of them is a former colleague of mine with whom I worked way back when I first arrived in Texas in 1984. She gravitated from the Beaumont Enterprise to the American-Statesman two years later and was told that her 34 years of service was no longer relevant.

Another former colleague of mine, who works for a Gannett newspaper in Corpus Christi, is being told to take one week of unpaid leave each month for an undetermined amount of time. He told me recently “it sucks,” but he’s doing what he needs to do.

Gannett, by the way, is the name of the company that now owns the newspaper that served as my final stop in a daily print journalism career that spanned nearly 37 years. That career ended in Amarillo when the paper was owned by Morris Communications. Morris eventually sold all its papers to GateHouse Media, which this past year purchased Gannett Corp.; however, the newly minted newspaper giant operates under the Gannett name.

This is tough to watch.

I am watching it happen in real time while thanking Almighty God in heaven that I am no longer subject to that kind of misery. I went though enough of it as my career ended. Two pay cuts, decimating of staff, a newsroom reorganization and finally being told I would no longer do what I had done with some success for most of my career.

My heart hurts for my colleagues who are still toiling, still wondering, still awakening every day while not knowing with any form of certainty what the future holds for them.

They are doing their jobs the best they can do. The media landscape is shifting under their feet. It is unsteady at best.

All I am left to do — if you’ll pardon the cliché many of us have grown tired of hearing — is offer my thoughts and prayers for those who are being caught up in the media sausage grinder. I was there once myself. They just need to know that many of us who have gone on to “pursue other interests” are in their corner.

Newspapers become casualty of coronavirus … wow!

This is what I call a serious punch in the chops to those of us who love newspapers and cherish their role in reporting the news to the communities they serve.

Gannett Corp., which owns scores of newspapers around the country — including the one I left in August 2012 at the end of my journalism career — has announced unpaid leaves for its staff of reporters, editors and support staff.

That means, the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas — the paper to which I referred — will be left with even fewer people to cover a region afflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

GateHouse Media bought the Globe-News in 2018, then purchased Gannett this past year. Gannett’s name, though, remains the one in force. So it fell to Gannett Corp. to announce the furloughs.

The Globe-News reporting and editing staff has been decimated already by the changing media climate. Now comes this news, about the pandemic, and the newspaper’s reporting capabilities have been reduced even further — if that is even possible.

The newspaper company announced the furloughs this way: Gannett advised in a memo to staff … that it will be instituting furloughs and other cost reductions in response to big advertising declines.

Those “big declines” have occurred because businesses that advertise with the newspapers have been shuttered by the pandemic. Since they can’t stay open, they can’t earn revenue, some of which they spend on advertising with newspapers and other media.

The victims of this terrible turn of events aren’t just the businesses, or the media outlets that deliver their message through paid ads. They include rank-and-file Americans like you and me who depend on newspapers to tell us what is going on in our communities. We need to know what’s going on; we need to understand how the pandemic is affecting life in our surroundings.

Oh, sure, we can turn on the TV, boot up our computers, activate our smart phones and all of that. I happen to be rather old school. I also depend on the printed word that is tossed onto my driveway before the sun comes up.

I am unclear how the regional editors of the Amarillo Globe-News will be able to cover the news of their community. For that matter, I’ve wondered how they do it for some time, given the precipitous decline in personnel on hand to report on and deliver the news to the region.

Read about the announcement here.

This “news” saddens me way beyond measure. Gannett says the austerity moves are “temporary.” I want to believe it. That rumbling in my gut tells me something quite different.