Tag Archives: PBS

TR clearly was a RINO

Watching the first episode of PBS’s series on the Roosevelt family last night, I was struck once again by the notion that Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed himself to be a dedicated Republican, but didn’t act like one who is defined by today’s Grand Old Party.

Let’s call TR the original RINO — a Republican In Name Only.


The first part of “The Roosevelts” documentary produced by historian Ken Burns tells of TR’s ascendance to the presidency. He was the youngest man ever to assume the office. He got there by way of the assassination of President William McKinley.

He set out to bust up monopolies, rein in oversized companies, while making them pay their fair share of taxes. He didn’t believe business could build the country all by itself. Teddy Roosevelt believed in activist government.

TR used government muscle to secure land in Panama and begin construction of the Panama Canal. Is that an “infrastructure project” or what?

Imagine today’s Republican Party doing any of that. It wouldn’t happen. TR would be laughed out of the party that we’ve come to know and — in my case anyway — loathe with a passion.

“The Roosevelts” is going to be broadcast throughout the week. It will continue through TR’s post-presidential life and the battle he fought with his own Republican Party. He didn’t think it was “progressive” enough, so he launched a presidential bid in 1912 under the Bull Moose party banner. He failed, but laid the groundwork for what would become the modern progressive movement.

The series will chronicle the careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, two champions in their own right. They were dedicated Democrats.

Teddy Roosevelt, though, more or less broke the mold that used to define early-20th century Republicanism. What has emerged in the century that followed is a mere shadow of what it used to be.

Time for lesson on 'mainstream media'

Listen up, students. Professor John is going to lecture you today on the “mainstream media.”

You’ve heard the term, yes? It’s meant as an epithet. It’s said by those who think of the media as a four-letter word.

The term “mainstream media” came from the right wing of the political spectrum. I cannot cite the precise date the term surfaced, but it’s been around for some time.

MSM usually is a kind of code, students. It comes from those who want the media to think like the righties think. They see their own brand of MSM as pure. They’re the truth-tellers.

They hold, for example, Fox News as their model of truth-telling. Why? Well, Fox has an agenda. It is to undermine the “other side.” By that I refer to the president, Democrat Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in government. Watch most Fox broadcasts and you see how they continue to harp on the same so-called “scandals,” while other media turn their attention — usually — to other issues of the day.

What the righties don’t get, though, is that Fox has become as “mainstream” as the other media. Fox enjoys good ratings among news-and-commentary junkies across the nation. As the leading “conservative mainstream” outlet on cable TV, Fox has a good portion of that segment of the TV-viewing public to itself. Thus, its rating are good.

However, since Fox “covers” the news in a fashion that is suitable to those on the right, it is exempted from the pejorative label of “mainstream media.” Fox’s own talking heads even refer to other media as “mainstream,” sounding as if Fox is some outlier network seeking to be heard by a vast viewing audience.

The other so-called “truth-tellers” reside on the right. They comprise a variety of websites, online political newsletters, unabashed conservatives (of which I have no problem, if they ID themselves as such) and self-described political “watchdogs.” They, too, are exempted from the MSM label.

How about the other major networks: CNN and the broadcast networks — NBC, ABC and CBS? They’re the bad guys, according to those on the right. Why is that? Well, they report the news — in my view — without the flair of some other media. I’ll lump the “liberal” media outlets in that category, such as MSNBC. Don’t forget PBS, the network funded by private donations and from the government. At times, even PBS gets tarred with the MSM label. How silly.

Print journalism also gets lumped into the MSM camp. Namely it’s the New York Times and the Washington Post, the two big daddies of print journalism. Throw in the Los Angeles Times and a smattering of other major metros across the nation and you’ll see them criticized because they don’t cover the news with enough ferocity to suit those on the right. My own view is that they’re doing their job, which is to report the news … period.

However, these media outlets continue to be seen by those on the right as coddling left-wing politicians. Those critics miss a fundamental point here. It is that human beings rarely recognize their own “bias.” They see it in others, but not in themselves. If a news medium does not report on issues with one’s own slant, then they’re “biased.”

With that, students, our lesson ends.

If you’re going to criticize the “mainstream media,” take care to include your own favorite news organization in that category. Chances are they’re as “mainstream” as the media you are trying to criticize.

Key decision made on retirement

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Decision-making can be a liberating experience.

It brings relief and an almost palpable feeling of weight lifting off one’s shoulders.

I made such a decision this week. I have decided when I’m going to officially “retire.”

It will occur on my 66th birthday, which arrives on Dec. 17, 2015. That will be the day I plan to start collecting Social Security income.

Big deal, you say? What’s so special about that? For starters, that will be the day I can start drawing SSI without incurring a penalty if I choose to keep working part-time. I become eligible for my full Social Security benefit on my 66th birthday. I am working two part-time jobs at the moment and I’m likely to keep working at them even after I start drawing my “retirement” income.

I feel quite good about making this decision. It signals another big turning point in my life since the moment I stopped working full time as a daily print journalist. I won’t go into the details of that event, except to say that I wasn’t ready for that moment to arrive. It did. The circumstances of that moment still anger me but a year and a half later I’m actually glad to have moved on to this phase of life.

My wife and I haven’t been this happy in years. We’ve been able to travel some in our RV. Our granddaughter is growing and developing beautifully. Our sons are thriving. I’m working these two part-time jobs and enjoying them both immensely, mostly because neither of them places much pressure on me. The auto dealership job allows me to meet people and get reacquainted with old friends; the blog I write for PanhandlePBS.org allows me to stay involved with public affairs TV programming.

Of course, I have this blog to which I often contribute several times daily.

I now await another key stage of my retired life when I turn 66 and will start collecting some income for which I’ve worked many years.

There’ll be more to report on this blog as we move forward.

A decision on when to start collecting Social Security might not seem like a biggie to some. It is to me. I’m glad I’ve made it.

Happy 25th birthday, Panhandle PBS

I went to a birthday party this evening with my wife.

It didn’t honor a person. It honored instead a Texas Panhandle institution. The honoree tonight was Panhandle PBS, known formerly as KACV-TV. Panhandle PBS has turned 25 years young.

Here’s hoping for many more such celebrations.

Time for some full disclosure: I write a blog for PanhandlePBS.org, which is the website created for the public TV station. It’s called “A Public View with John Kanelis,” and I’ve been writing it since shortly after my 36-year career in daily print journalism came to a screeching halt in August 2012.

I am happy to affiliated with Panhandle PBS. I am even happier that public TV found its way to the Texas Panhandle in 1988. It took a good while since public TV arrived in the United States way back in 1953, when the University of Houston’s KUHT-TV went on the air. I used to watch KUHT programming when my family and I moved to Beaumont in the spring of 1984.

Public television is a valuable asset to any community. It brings intelligence, sane discussion, distinguished comedy (often of the British variety), heartwarming stories, in-depth reporting and first-rate educational programming.

Panhandle PBS broadcasts out of the Gilvin Broadcast Center at Amarillo College. It is run by a delightful and competent staff of seasoned and still-to-be-seasoned studio hands and technicians. The woman in charge is general manager Linda Pitner, who just stepped off the Amarillo school district board and is one of the smartest people I know … and I’m not just saying that because she’s my boss.

Public television occasionally gets whipped and lashed by some who think it’s too darn liberal. I beg to differ with that description. I prefer to call the Public Broadcasting Service reasonable and analytical. It might be too liberal in some folks’ eyes only because they see the world through their own bias prism.

I find public TV to be informative and worth every penny that it receives from private donors and, yes, from taxpayers such as me.

They threw a heck of bash tonight in north Amarillo. I hope to be around for the next big bash.

Happy birthday, Panhandle PBS.

Concussion plague could doom football

I’m not predicting it, but the snowballing of news about concussions among professional football players could signal an end to the game as we’ve known it since its inception.

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon — one of the game’s more colorful characters — is suffering from early-onset dementia likely caused by the many hits he took while playing the game.


He’s not alone. Many others have reported suffering similar symptoms. Their ranks are growing right along with the numbers of tragic consequences.

Should the game be declared too dangerous to continue? No. But oh brother, the debate over how to compensate these athletes is just now getting revved up.

The National Football League this week announced a settlement that provides $765 million in relief to battered players. The PBS program Frontline is set to explore the subject in detail in a two-hour special to be shown on Oct. 8 (at 8 p.m., on KACV-TV).

The concussion problem likely isn’t new. It’s been a part of the game since its founding. These days, though, the players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever. They hit harder. Human skulls, however, haven’t gotten more durable. They’re the same as they’ve always been: susceptible to damage caused by repeated blows to the head.

This national discussion is not going to fade away any time soon. Nor should it.

The men who play professional football, it now seems apparent, are putting their lives on the line when they suit up. Yes, they’re big and strong and they play the game likely understanding the consequences of getting hit repeatedly by their equally big and strong colleagues.

That doesn’t make it any easier to hear stories like the one Jim McMahon and many others are telling about their slow decline toward death.

Sports journalism takes a big hit

ESPN prides itself, we’re led to believe, on its courageous reporting on sports-related issues.

Which brings up the question: Why did the nation’s No. 1 sports network bail on a PBS project that examines the outbreak of concussion-related trauma being suffered by professional football players?

Was it pressure from the NFL, with which ESPN has a long-standing — and highly lucrative — financial partnership? It smells like it.


Frontline is an award-winning documentary series broadcast by PBS. The program, based out of WBGH-TV in Boston, is set to air a two-part series called “League of Denial,” in which it looks at the concussion rate among NFL players and examines whether playing professional football has become hazardous to the health of its participants.

The early indicators are that the concussions are becoming a grave concern.

ESPN was supposed to be a partner in the project. It backed out this past week. ESPN said the NFL applied zero pressure to the network, even though there have been reports of a extremely testy meeting between ESPN and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Two plus two still equals four, correct?

OK, the news isn’t all bad.

Frontline will present the broadcast, even without ESPN’s participation. It airs on Oct. 8 and 15, and will be shown in the Texas Panhandle on KACV-TV, the region’s public television station operating on the Amarillo College campus.

ESPN does its share of in-depth sports journalism, particularly with its “Outside the Lines” specials. They produce occasionally riveting and, if you’ll pardon the pun, hard-hitting examinations of the lives of prominent athletes.

As the network has shown, though, in cratering on the Frontline project, it is capable of missing a tackle or two.

One degree of separation from Churchill

Winston Churchill was without question one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen/warriors.

He led Great Britain through its “darkest hour,” the Blitzkrieg launched by the Nazi air force during the Battle of Britain. PBS, as it does so well, is chronicling Churchill’s life in a three-part series shown on KACV-TV, Amarillo’s public television station. The second installment airs Sunday at 7.

It tells of the Battle of Britain and how Churchill rallied the Brits to ultimate victory over the Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler.


But I want to digress a bit and declare with this post that I have one degree of separation from the great British leader, which is to say a member of my family actually had a close encounter with him. I think that means I’m one degree separated from Churchill.

What the heck, if it doesn’t mean such a thing, well, it should.

My late father, Pete Kanelis, served in the Navy during World War II. Most of his combat duty occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. When he wasn’t manning an anti-aircraft gun on the deck of the ship to which he was assigned, Dad performed a number of boatswain’s mate duties.

One of them was to stand guard, along with a British marine, outside a conference room where Churchill was meeting with the Allied commander of naval forces in the Med. Dad’s guard duty was captured in a photograph published in the London Daily Mail. The picture was interesting in this regard: The Brit stood about 6-foot-4 inches tall, while Dad topped out at about 5-foot-9.

As Dad told the story, the two of them snapped to attention as the meeting broke up. Churchill came out of the conference room, chatted up the British marine, then turned to Dad, patted him on the head and said, “Well done, Yank.”

I’ve looked for many years for film footage of that event, thinking that some newsreel photographer had a camera rolling. Alas, it’s not to be.

My father, though, had a brush with one of the world’s most heroic leaders — and for that I am so very proud.