Category Archives: media news

Fifty years ago … everything changed!

I cannot believe it’s been 50 years — to the day — that a group of burglars broke into an office building, got caught rifling through files and then in the course of an investigation became part of a history-making constitutional crisis.

The term “Watergate” became part of our vernacular. Who would have thought it in real time?

On June 17, 1972, the dipsh**s hired by the Republican National Committee thought they would steal some files belonging to the Democratic National Committee. It was reported initially as a burglary; the Washington Post put the story deep inside its next-day edition.

Then a couple of reporters — Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — began hearing whispers about who was behind the burglary. They told their editors that the story smelled fishy. They sought to get to the truth.

Oh, brother, did they ever find it!

They trooped down many blind alleys. That’s what happens to the most intrepid reporters. Bernstein and Woodward were two of the best. They persisted and eventually uncovered a coverup that would bring down a president, who resigned because he had abused the power of his office to prevent the truth from getting out.

Watergate has become almost a synonym for political misdeeds. How often do we see the “gate” suffix attached to scandals? To my mind, Watergate stands alone.

Woodward and Bernstein personified the very best of investigative journalism. They sought to hold those in power accountable for the mischief they committed. They succeeded famously.

***

When the break-in occurred, I was a freshly scrubbed college student. I was newly married. I had just returned from a tour of duty in the Army. I wanted to be a journalist.

Woodward and Bernstein taught us in real time the value they bring to their craft. They made a difference. I was among thousands of other journalism students who also wanted to make a difference.

These men personified the best of a noble craft.

Fifty years is a lifetime. My own career surely didn’t produce the notoriety that showered Woodward and Bernstein. They spurred me to stay the course over many years in print journalism.

For that I am eternally grateful.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Fox News = propaganda arm

First, I must make an admission, which is that I do not watch Fox News to get my “news” from a supposedly legitimate media outlet.

Now, though, comes the gut punch. The idea that Fox News executives would refuse to cover the House 1/6 select committee hearing simply galls me to the max.

I suppose I should take credit for being ahead of the curve by recognizing that Fox News isn’t the credible news agency it proclaims itself to be.

Do you remember how it hailed itself as the “fair and balanced” network, how the channel said, “We report, you decide”? I have said for the past decade or longer that it never has been “fair and balanced.” I long have suspected its “reporting” is of questionable value.

Now we have these reports of commentators such as Tucker Carlson pitching The Big Lie promoted by The Donald; moreover, Carlson has reportedly been standing with Russia in its illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

Fellow right-wing zealot Sean Hannity is no better. He has been joined at the hip with Donald Trump since prior to the 2020 election. However, he sank to new lows by appearing as a guest promoter at Trump’s campaign rallies during the 2020 campaign.

Now we have the House select panel sending its evidence of wrongdoing into our living rooms via TV. All the other major networks are broadcasting the hearings live to those of us who want to watch them; I am one American patriot who wants to learn the truth behind what happened during the 1/6 insurrection.

Were I a Fox News devotee, I wouldn’t get that chance. As a method of deterring viewers from sneaking a peak on the hearing being shown on, say, CNN or MSNBC, Fox is airing programs without commercial interruptions. Clever eh? Sure, it’s also quite costly.

Fox News’s decision to forgo covering one of the biggest stories in U.S. history in truth doesn’t affect me in the least, given that I don’t watch the network. It does, though, have an impact on our nation’s political structure.

It feeds the gullibility exhibited by the cultists who still adhere to The Big Lie.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Stop the presses … no, wait!

This bit of news from the Texas Panhandle hit me like a punch in the gut. It comes from the company that owns the newspaper where my daily journalism career came to a screeching halt nearly a decade ago.

The Amarillo Globe-News is ending its daily page of opinion. It will run that form of community journalism one day each week: Sunday only, man! I want to emphasize the term “community journalism” for a reason you’ll notice in just a moment as you finish reading this post.

The newspaper announced it today. The statement includes this item: This comes as we make a more concerted effort to re-invest in local journalism, with the recent addition of a reporter dedicated to covering breaking news and trends along with agriculture and West Texas environmental issues.

It wants to “re-invest in local journalism.” What that statement tells me is that dodo birds who run the newspaper place little “local journalism” value one editorials. That is a terrible shame.

You see, there once was a time when communities relied on opinion pages to lead them, to provide some form of wisdom, to offer talking points, if not outright ideas for solving community issues.

Those days appear to have been cast aside.

Read the entire statement here: Amarillo Globe-News shifts to Sunday-only opinion section, re-invests in local news – Amarillo Globe-News (newsmemory.com)

I wrote opinion pieces and edited opinion pages for the bulk of my 30-plus-year career in daily journalism. That is why this news hurts, why it cuts me to the quick.

You can spare me the lecture about how “this is the national trend” and that “the Internet has changed everything.” Man, I know all that.

There once was a time, not many years before I got reorganized out of my job as opinion page editor at the Globe-News, when I made a concerted effort to limit all of our editorial commentary to local and state affairs. That was our contribution to furthering the cause of community journalism to a region that still sought leadership from the newspaper.

It now appears that people who did that job for the communities they served — as I did with great joy and commitment — have been placed on an endangered species list.

Wow!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Quick to criticize, slow to offer praise

I had an interesting chat today with someone who publishes a group of weekly newspapers in North Texas, someone who told me about a reader who took a few minutes to spread the word about the good that comes from one of the weekly newspapers in this group.

Full disclosure: I work as a freelance reporter for this publisher, who runs the Farmersville Times.

A reader took time to post a social media message about all the information contained in a recent edition of the newspaper. My boss was so taken by that response, she reached out to the reader to thank her. “No one ever does that,” my boss told me; actually, someone just did, I said.

My conversation reminded me of what I knew to be true when I worked full time in print journalism. It is that human beings’ impulse to criticize what they read is far more sensitive than their impulse to offer a good word. How do I know that?

I know it because long ago I lost count of the times people would say: “Hey, I really liked what you wrote the other day.” To which I would say, “Oh, what was that?” The person would think for a moment, then shrug and say, “Oh, I can’t remember … but I liked it!”

Compare that with other, more critical, responses to whatever it was that captured readers’ attention. “Hey, that editorial you wrote? It was full of crap!” I would ask, “What was wrong with it?” They would recite it back to me word for word and parse every little point I sought to make and then they would say, “That’s just how I feel about it.”

I learned a long time ago that such responses come with the territory.

I was thrilled to learn, though, from my publisher about the positive feedback she received from a reader. May our weekly newspaper continue to provide information of value to the community. It’s the mission of journalism — and journalists — throughout this great land.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Take the man’s money, play by his rules

A friend and former newspaper colleague once told me after I left daily journalism and got my blog going full blast that my blog proved something about me he suspected from the day I began working with him at the Amarillo Globe-News.

It was that “you didn’t believe half the stuff you wrote for the newspaper,” my friend said.

Well, my friend — who’s also out of the daily journalism grind — is every bit as astute as I knew him to be when we first met in early 1995.

I make no apologies for writing editorials and for editing pages for a newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, with a strong conservative tradition. My friend was right, that I didn’t adhere to much of what I wrote on behalf of the publisher, to whom I reported directly.

I told my then-boss that there were some lines I could not cross. They dealt with capital punishment, gun control and abortion. The newspaper opposed gun legislation, it favored capital punishment and was anti-choice on the issue of abortion; I tilted in the opposite direction on all three issues.

He hired me anyway and for that I am grateful.

I made a brief return to daily journalism at the end of 2021. The Dallas Morning News hired me as a temporary, part-time editorial writer. To his great credit, the editorial page editor for whom I worked told me he “never would ask” me to submit an editorial with which I disagreed in principle.

I am grateful also for the leeway he extended.

This is all part of what I have known since another ex-colleague and still-friend told me years ago. “If you take the man’s money,” he said, “then you have to play by the man’s rules.” 

Fair point. I now work for myself writing on High Plains Blogger, although my freelance work for the weekly Farmersville Times and for KETR-FM public radio allows to go back to what I learned how to do at the beginning of my journalism career. Which is to write straight news stories.

I learned that skill a long time ago. I also have learned that one never loses one’s touch.

And so … this gig keeps on producing more fun than I ever thought was possible.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Story breaks my heart many ways

The reporting from Ukraine is breaking my heart for many reasons, some of which I did not expect when it began flooding our homes with information in that faraway land.

One reason is so obvious I shouldn’t have to mention it. The destruction is beyond belief. The pain of the people who endure it also defies my ability to comprehend how they cope and how they can hope for a better future.

But then I watch the broadcast and cable TV journalists covering the event and I am filled with compassion for them as well. What are they feeling when they confront such misery? How do they possibly report the news dispassionately?

I did not have the honor — and that’s how I would describe it — of covering a war in real time back when I worked in the field full time. The closest I came occurred in 1989 when I visited the Killing Fields at Choeng Ek, Cambodia, where the survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide had erected temples containing the skulls of thousands of victims dug from mass graves.

I visited with those who lived through that horrifying episode. I can recall one comment from a woman with whom I was visiting. She told me, “If the Khmer Rouge come back, we all will become soldiers.”

I got on the bus that would take us back to Phnom Penh … and I sobbed.

Thus, I have difficulty imagining how the reporters covering the Ukraine War can avoid getting caught up in the raw emotion of seeing the destruction being inflicted on brave people in real time.

For all I know, they are sobbing, too. That doesn’t make them less professional. It just reveals their humanity.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A citizen of the world …

It just occurred to me — and I mean that quite literally — that this blog of mine has filled me with an appreciation I didn’t quite expect when I started it all those years ago.

I feel more like a citizen of the world writing on High Plains Blogger.

I now shall explain.

Each day I post items on this blog. Some days are busier than others. Almost without exception, though, I get readers — or at least those who take a quick look at an entry — from all over the world. Yes, the entire planet is reading High Plains Blogger.

In addition to the United States, I get frequent hits from places like Ireland, Germany and The Netherlands. I believe I know why those countries show up on my daily blog log sheet: I have friends in Germany and The Netherlands; as for Ireland, one of my sons has many friends there and I suspect they are reading what my boy’s old man is thinking, given that he shares practically everything I post on the blog with his social media network.

Other frequent hits come from unexpected locations: Vietnam is one; Kenya is, too; Ecuador, France, Chile and Japan show up frequently.

All of this seems to give me a greater sense of connection to the rest of the world. I’m just a chump blogger with opinions on a whole array of matters large and small, but the blog gives me a chance to share my musings with a world that seems to be getting smaller all the time.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Journalists get some love … finally

You know how I feel about journalists and the craft they pursue with joy and passion; after all, I am one of them, even though I no longer do it “for a living.”

Watching the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night, with all of its attendant silliness, insults, self-deprecation and happy talk leading up to the event, I was filled with pride to hear the president of the United States speak well of the work they do on our behalf.

President Biden understands — at least he says so publicly, which is enough for me — that the media deserve the constitutional protection granted them by the nation’s founders. Think of that. A “free press” is the only private enterprise guaranteed by the nation’s governing document.

The dinner took a few moments to salute those among the media who have died in service to the public. They have been taken by the war machines that grind on throughout the world.

The media have become the bogeymen and women of contemporary society. We have heard a former president label the press the “enemy of the people” and have witnessed the ex-POTUS’s followers threaten members of the media who are doing their job.

We didn’t hear that from the head table at the WH Correspondents’ Dinner. Instead, we heard the media receive the recognition they have deserved since the founding of our great nation.

I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude for the praise that came into my living room. I never was a member of the White House press corps. I have plenty of colleagues, acquaintances and actual friends who have served near that nerve center. I stand with them with them in awe for the work they have done and continue to do.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

WH reporters’ dinner is back

This much came through as I watched President Biden do a brief comic riff from the podium at the newly reinstated White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

It is that he ain’t no Barack Obama, one of his predecessors whose comic timing is good enough for the former POTUS to take on the road.

Still, it was good to see Joe Biden laughing at himself along with the insults hurled at others in the room and around the country.

The coronavirus pandemic nixed the previous two WH reporters’ dinners. Biden’s immediate predecessor in the White House labeled the media the “enemy of the people,” so there would be no way on God’s good Earth he would — or could — appear before those he despised. That means Biden was the first president to appear at this event in six years.

The event that began during the Calvin Coolidge administration has been set aside for Washington to take a light-hearted look at itself and to salute and honor the journalists who report the news to the world. Particularly poignant Saturday night was the tribute to journalists who have died covering the news, reminding us that even the messengers of world events can become victims of those events.

Some, moreover, have been held captive for years. Why? Because they reported the truth.

OK, I started this blog by saying that Joe Biden isn’t as clever with the quip as Barack Obama. I am going to assign him an “A” grade nonetheless for being a thick-skinned good sport during a troubled time. There is nothing wrong with that.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I hereby offer an apology

An apology is a rare thing to receive on a blog, but I am about to offer one now. I made a pledge — maybe more than once — to move on from Donald J. Trump and to concentrate exclusively on the here and now and to look only at pols I consider to be relevant.

I am sorry for failing to make good on that promise.

It’s not entirely my fault. You see, Trump keeps injecting himself into the news. Since this blog is about the news, public policy, politics and at times the individuals who make news, well, it becomes imperative for your friendly High Plains Blogger to comment on it.

Trust me when I say this, because it is the truth: I want Donald Trump to disappear. I want him gone from the public stage. I want him removed from the nation’s conscience.

He won’t honor my request and simply vanish. Poof! Be gone, Donald!

Where do we go from here? I won’t make any more promises I likely cannot keep. So I’ll keep commenting on The Donald’s comings, goings and musings as long he keeps retaining some viability in the nation’s political process.

I won’t comment on every single thing that flies out of the liar’s pie hole. I can make that pledge. So there.

Please accept my apology … and keep reading and sharing my thoughts. I appreciate those who do.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com