Category Archives: media news

Time of My Life, Part 56: Traffic controller

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A long time acquaintance and social media friend reminds me of how times seemed to have changed regarding a critical aspect of managing the opinion pages of a newspaper.

He laments the frequency of some letter writers’ appearance on the pages of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas, where I worked for nearly 18 years until August 2012. To be honest, I don’t know what the paper’s policy is these days. I don’t read the opinion pages much, as I have to subscribe to the AGN’s digital edition to obtain access to those pages. I, uh, have no particular interest in that.

Back in the day, we had a policy that we enacted not long after I arrived in January 1995 to run the opinion pages of the Globe-News, which at the time published morning and afternoon editions each day.

When I arrived I learned that the paper allowed letter writers to submit essays at will. The paper would publish virtually all of them. What I determined then was that only a few readers were taking part in offering commentary to the newspaper. One fellow would write damn near daily, man. He was an articulate fellow, but he could be harsh on those who disagreed with him; I figure he frightened away a lot of potential contributors.

So … I decided to impose a new rule: one letter every two weeks. Then I made another decision shortly after that: one letter per writer every calendar month.

We had an administrative assistant who then was tasked with keeping tabs on our letter writers. She did so with cool efficiency.

What happened almost immediately was quite stunning. We began getting letters from readers who rarely, if ever, submitted letters for us to consider publishing. Our pool of commentators grew exponentially over time.

It’s important to stipulate that the Globe-News circulated to many times more readers than it does today. The circulation of the paper is just a fraction of it was during the late 1990s and early 2000s. We had a sort of “luxury,” therefore, by being able to limit the frequency of writers, opening the door to many more contributors who wanted to weigh in with their thoughts on the issues of the day or on what we might have said about those issues in our editorial columns.

We took great pride in the wide range of opinions we invited onto our pages. Much of the criticism was constructive; much of it was, well … something else. That’s OK. We sought to exercise some discretion, some control over the quality of those points of view. Hey, we were entitled to do so!

In defense of newspapers

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Every so often I find myself answering the same question and I have refined my answer to a level I can explain with relative ease.

It came to me again this morning right here in Princeton, Texas. A young dental hygienist asked me what I did for a living. I told her I am retired but was a journalist for nearly four decades. I reported for newspapers, I told her, and then gravitated to opinion writing and editing.

She gave me the obligatory “I like holding a newspaper in my hands” while reading it and then asked: Do you think the reporting is unbiased?

Hmm. It is, I told her. I mentioned that many newspapers around the world — large, small and all sizes in between — continue to do first-rate reporting. They get to the facts, report them fairly and accurately.

What has changed, I told my new friend, is the audience. Consumers of news now seem to want more opinion, I said. I encourage her to look carefully at how large newspapers are covering events of the day.

I didn’t get a sense of her bias, although I reminded her that in my years working as a journalist I learned that “bias inherently is in the eyes of the consumer.” People ascribe bias to solid news reporting when it doesn’t comport with their own world view. Thus, the audience has changed its outlook.

Newspapers continue to do good work. The big folks — Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, you name ’em — keep churning out good work for readers to consume. Some newspaper publishers do look for ways to cover stories intending to embarrass certain people in high places. I have learned to look the other way when I see the names of certain news organizations plastered on stories that have that ring of sensationalism.

I admit freely — and I have done so repeatedly over the years — that I do not disguise my own bias. I have it. You have it. We all have our bias. However, I am able to disseminate hard, cold facts from what I call “advocacy journalism.”

Believe me, there remains plenty of great reporting of just the facts out there.

Calling all comments

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As many of you know already, I love to write this blog. It gives me great relief, allowing me to vent on this and that, to provide my admittedly biased perspective on world events and news of the day.

However, it does provide me with a frustration. Really, it’s just one for now.

I post these items on WordPress, a platform designed for this kind of cyber activity. I also distribute it along several social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Each blog entry on WordPress contains a tab that allows readers to offer comment.

My frustration? So few readers of this blog actually take a moment to comment. One gentleman comments regularly. That’s it! No one else weighs in. Well, mostly no one.

High Plains Blogger, I am proud to declare, is read around the world. The vast majority of visitors to the blog, of course, reside in the United States. But a healthy minority of them also reside in Ireland, in Ghana, Australia, Germany.

It reaches tens of thousands of people each year. I enjoy the worldwide impact this blog might be having; I cannot confirm any impact, because I cannot be sure whose blood might be boiling or who might want to offer me an atta boy.

Occasionally I hear from a critic. They weigh in, offer a comment or two telling me I’m a dumbass. I usually respond to them, often with a touch of snark. Hey, it goes with the territory.

This blog post seeks to solicit more comments. I want there to be some honest discussion. Moreover, be advised that I never have rejected a comment because it disagrees with the brilliant observation I offer.

The invitation is out there.

Time of My Life, Part 55: Recalling this byline

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A brief exchange with a longtime friend reminded me of an aspect of my former career that inexplicably had escaped my top-of-mind consciousness.

My friend and I were exchanging views about the devolution of the Republican Party in my home state of Oregon. I mentioned how the Oregon GOP had produced giants such as U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield and Gov. Tom McCall. Then my friend threw another name at me: Norma Paulus.

And that triggered a remembrance that had gone dormant over many years.

In early 1977, I was working on the copy desk of the Oregon Journal, the now-defunct afternoon newspaper in Portland. I was an aspiring reporter at the time. I had worked as a freelance sports writer for a community weekly newspaper. The Journal was my first full-time job in a newsroom, which thrilled me to no end.

Then the city editor called me into his office and offered me a chance I snapped up with maximum gusto. Norma Paulus, who was Oregon’s newly elected secretary of state, was talking that night to a group of accountants. Would I be interested in covering that speech for the newspaper?

Well … yeah!

So I went to the meeting that night. I listened to Paulus, who then was a political superstar in Oregon, deliver a bone-dry speech to a roomful of bean counters. I cannot remember the precise content of her speech, but in the moment I managed to somehow weave a story and turned it in the next morning to the city desk.

That afternoon, when the presses started, I grabbed a copy and pored through the Oregon Journal and found my story: It was a bylined piece on Page 2.

Here’s another lesson from the good old days: Back then, reporters didn’t generally put their bylines on stories. That decision was left to the editor(s) to determine whether it merited a byline. If it didn’t pass muster or required too much rewriting from the editor, the reporter didn’t receive credit for writing it.

My story made the grade, I am proud to report. The editor put my name on it and it was published in all its (supposed) glory.

The next task that awaits me is to find that story, which I am certain I saved. It’s likely tucked away in a file cabinet. All I need to do is find it and read what I wrote. It must’ve been a doozy.

Polling data: What does it say?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Public opinion polling has been vilified over the course of recent election cycles, frankly for reasons that astound me.

Major public opinion polls actually had the 2016 presidential election called correctly when they had Hillary Clinton edging Donald Trump; they didn’t foresee the so-called “inside straight” that propelled Trump into the presidency on the basis of his narrow Electoral College victory.

They also called the 2020 presidential election correctly, giving Joe Biden a victory in both the ballot count and the Electoral College.

Still, the critics keep lambasting those polls.

Here we are today. President Biden pitched a massive COVID-19 relief bill that had significant public support. He got it enacted over the objection of every single Republican member of Congress … in both chambers!

Biden is back at it. He now has an even larger package on the table, a $2.25 trillion infrastructure reform package. The public response? Even greater than it was with the COVID relief package. The congressional Republican reaction? Precisely the same as the GOP resistance to lending a hand to those suffering from the economic wreckage brought by the pandemic.

Who, again, is on the right side?

It is looking to me as though the Republican congressional leadership and rank-and-file are not listening to the individuals they represent. They are ignoring the wishes of those who put them into office. The public favors rebuilding our roads, highways, bridges, ports (sea and air) and in buttressing our Internet broadband capability.

What’s going on here? Is the GOP political class listening exclusively to a narrow portion of its constituency? I am left to wonder if congressional Republicans will pay a political price when the midterm election rolls around next year.

They damn near should pay it!

Public opinion polling isn’t a perfect barometer of the national mood. However, it is far more accurate than its critics are wiling to admit. The GOP needs to pay attention.

Rep./Dr. Jackson tweets his thoughts … who knew?

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My friends and former neighbors in the Texas Panhandle are getting a totally expected treat from their new congressman: a Twitter storm of statements, proclamations and, dare I say it, demagogic grenades.

Check out a tweet that came from Rep. Ronny Jackson, the newly elected congressman from the 13th Congressional District:

We must say NO to any mandated “vaccine passport.” This isn’t about “stopping the spread,” it’s about CONTROL and restricting our RIGHTS. Vaccine passports = TYRANNY!

You know, I just love the all-caps approach to driving home a point to the faithful. Actually … I don’t. Why not? It’s so, um, Trumpian!

I am thinking at this moment of Mac Thornberry, the actual lifetime resident of the congressional district whom Jackson succeeded when he got elected in 2020. My thought is that Twitter tirades are so not like Thornberry. He was not inclined to fire off Twitter bombs. Thornberry would do that Washington thing, you know … dictate a policy statement and then issue it through his press office. The Thornberry method was more professional and for me more likely to be taken seriously than a wild-eyed, mouth-frothing tweet!

It’s not that Rep. Jackson is a stupid man. He is, after all, a medical doctor who once served as physician to three presidents: George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump and along the way rose to the rank of rear admiral in the Navy.

Now he’s a politician and has taken so very readily to the medium of choice for many blowhards on the left and the right.

I hope my former Texas Panhandle neighbors have a stronger stomach for the upcoming barrage of Twitter messages than I believe I would have were I still living there.

Time of My Life, Part 54: Technology advances

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My 8-year-old granddaughter might not know what to call this device. You know what it is. I surely do.

I started work at my first full-time reporting job in Oregon City, Ore., in the spring of 1977. Our suburban afternoon daily newspaper still operated with these gadgets.

Indeed, my favorite moment of a day publishing our newspaper occurred around noon when every one of our staff of six reporters was pounding away on their manual typewriters. I was named editor of that little — and now defunct — newspaper a couple of years after arriving there. I used to stand aside while watching the staff work feverishly to get the copy turned in on time.

We finally advanced to desk top devices that allowed us to type our copy onto floppy disks. The newsroom got significantly quieter at deadline time.

I moved in 1984 to a much larger newspaper in Beaumont, Texas, which had a significantly more advanced computer system. I stayed there nearly 11 years while the newspaper improved its publishing system along the way.

In 1995, I gravitated to my final stop in daily print journalism, moving to Amarillo, Texas, which had a publishing system named after the corporate owners: the Morris Publishing System. It was crappy. Morris Communications ditched that system to something much more workable.

My daily print career ended in the summer of 2012.

This is my way of chronicling all the changes I endured during nearly four decades in journalism. Typewriters to floppy disks to main frame computers to PCs. Now they’re taking pictures with smart phones in the field; they’re using Twitter, Instagram and assorted other media platforms to transmit the news.

It makes my head spin. Then again, my head spun plenty of times as I made my way through a craft I loved pursuing.

Today, I feel a bit like a dinosaur. I just don’t want to become extinct.

No ‘news’ at news conference

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It appears about the only thing the right-wing media can fault from President Biden’s first news conference is his shunning of a Fox News White House reporter.

Biden didn’t call on Fox’s Peter Doocy to ask him a question at the hour-long presser. Some members of the conservative media took that as a direct slam at the right-leaning network.

I just want to remind everyone of the way Donald Trump used to insult mainstream reporters before turning his attention over to Fox reporters at the press events he would conduct.

You might recall how Trump once told CNN reporters that they worked for a “fake news” network or how he told ABC News’s Jonathan Karl that he never would make it as a reporter or how he would chastise media representatives for asking “nasty” questions.

So, the president didn’t give a Fox reporter a chance to ask him something? Big deal. There will be other opportunities.

POTUS vs. media: It’s not warfare

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden has brought back what looks to me like the traditional give-and-take between the nation’s chief executive and the men and women who report on it all to the people of this country.

It’s a classic confrontation between the president and the media.

Why is this refreshing? Why even comment on it? Because for four years prior to Biden becoming president the nation witnessed what looked at times like a mortal struggle between the president and the organizations he routinely called “fake news.”

Donald Trump poisoned the traditional relationship, turning it into a ridiculous exhibition of presidential petulance. It fed into the anger that reporters had to have felt as they were berated and ridiculed by Trump, who lied to them, then denigrated them for revealing his lies.

Donald Trump infamously labeled the media the “enemy of the people.” They aren’t. The media comprise professionals who do their level best to report on the administration’s statements and actions.

Today, we witnessed a return to how it used to be and how it likely will remain for the foreseeable future.

The reporters gathered for President Biden’s first news conference as president did not ask softie questions. They pushed him on immigration policies, on the border crisis. They wanted to know how he intended to handle our ongoing military engagement in Afghanistan. They pressed Biden on the pandemic response.

During the Trump years, reporters would ask those kinds of questions and would get snarky responses questioning their integrity, their intelligence, their honesty or even the financial condition of their employer.

Joe Biden has felt the sting of intensely negative media  reporting. It occurred in 1988 when the media report to describe his own life story. It happened again when his second presidential campaign flamed out in 2008. Even in the early months of the 2020, the media reported that Biden was nothing more than political road kill after his dismal Democratic Party primary finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

The media report on these matters. Joe Biden knows it. He gets it. He lives with it.

Now, as President Biden, he will continue to be examined critically by the media. As he demonstrated at his presser today, the president understands the traditional role the media play. It is an essential part of the greatness imbued in our democracy and our nation.

Biden gets unfair criticism on this point

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The criticism from right-wing media that President Biden isn’t talking as freely to reporters as his presidential predecessor is unfair to the point of being outrageous.

Donald Trump became (in)famous for spouting off to the media whenever someone showed up with a notebook, a microphone and a TV camera. He would ramble on and on, saying virtually nothing of substance and often would spout a lie or three while yapping to the media.

It was all a show, given that he labeled the media “the enemy of the people” and the purveyor of “fake news.”

Joe Biden prefers to let the White House press secretary, Jan Psaki, do the talking. I am all right with that as long as Psaki tells us the truth. I get that she has been needled for muttering too many “I’ll have to circle back” responses to questions she cannot answer directly.

President Biden is going to stage his first full-blown presidential news conference later this week. It’ll be something of a show, replete with a bit of presidential pomp and panache. Now that I think about it, we might see a bit of a return to the way President Kennedy would demonstrate his legendary quick wit, turning his press briefings into media events.

It’s all OK with me. Just make sure, Mr. POTUS, that your press flack tells us the truth when the media push her for answers.