Tag Archives: AGN Media

Message is still profound

I want to share with you a column written late in the day when terrorists struck our nation 20 years ago and threw us into a period of national grief.

It comes from a brilliant essayist, Leonard Pitts, Jr. I was proud to publish it when I was editing the opinion pages of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

I will post it again right now and let these words speak for themselves … once again.

***

It’s my job to have something to say.

They pay me to tease shades of meaning from social and cultural issues, to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.

You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard.

What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward’s attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed.

Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.

Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.

Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.

Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, cultural, political and class division, but a family nonetheless. We’re frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae a singer’s revealing dress, a ball team’s misfortune, a cartoon mouse.

We’re wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods, and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though — peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are, the overwhelming majority of us, people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.

Some people you, perhaps think that any or all of this makes us weak. You’re mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.

Yes, we’re in pain now. We are in mourning and we are in shock. We’re still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still working to make ourselves understand that this isn’t a special effect from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn’t the plot development from a Tom Clancy novel.

Both in terms of the awful scope of its ambition and the probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and indeed, the history of the world. You’ve bloodied us as we have never been bloodied before.

But there’s a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us fall. This is the lesson Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length, in the pursuit of justice.

I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people, as you, I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble with dread of the future.

In days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation, fingers pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms. We’ll go forward from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too. Unimaginably determined.

You see, there is steel beneath this velvet. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don’t know us well. On this day, the family’s bickering is put on hold. As Americans we will weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.

Still, I keep wondering what it was you hoped to teach us. It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred.

If that’s the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don’t know my people. You don’t know what we’re about. You don’t know what you just started.

But you’re about to learn.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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!

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.

Happy Trails, Part 190: The journey continues

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Earlier today I realized something that I should’ve known when I crossed that threshold.

It is that I have lived most of life in a place I never dreamed when I was much younger I would find myself in retirement. That is Texas.

I am now 71 years of age. We moved to Beaumont, Texas in the spring of 1984 when I was a mere pup of 34. We gravitated from Beaumont to Amarillo nearly 11 years later. Then we pulled up our deeply rooted stakes on the Caprock and ventured to Collin County with our No. 1 goal to be near our granddaughter.

I mention all of this because when my wife and I got married nearly 50 years ago we never imagined, never even discussed the notion of moving to a place so far away from Oregon, where I was born and where my wife essentially grew up and came of age.

Texas beckoned in late 1983 with a phone call from my former boss, who had relocated to Beaumont to become executive editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. He wanted to know if I would be interested in working there as an editorial writer. My first reaction was to laugh.

One thing led to another in the course of the next day or two and I decided that, yes, I would like to explore that opportunity. I flew to Beaumont from Portland and spent a couple of days visiting with my old friend and mentor.

I returned to Oregon. I told my wife that the job looked appealing. My friend called, offered me the job, I accepted his offer and then relocated. Our sons were still quite young, 11 and 10 years old. My family joined me that summer.

My wife and I considered Beaumont to be part of a “three- to five-year plan.” We would live there, I could develop some more experience and then try to peddle my skills to another employer … somewhere else! Maybe back “home” in Oregon.

It didn’t transpire that way. Another opportunity did present itself in Amarillo. I flew from Beaumont to Amarillo in late 1994, spent a day interviewing at the Globe-News, returned home to Beaumont. The publisher offered me the job … etc. You know how this played out.

We are now happily retired. I still get to write. I have my blog. I also work as a freelance reporter for a couple who owns a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County. I write for the Farmersville Times. It is a serious, unabashed blast. I have returned, in a way, to where it all began for me in the 1970s: covering city council, school board and writing the occasional feature.

It has been a marvelous journey. Retirement is everything it’s cracked up to be. The road ahead still beckons and to be honest, I am thrilled that our three- to five-year plan never panned out.

Time of My Life, Part 53: Returning to reminders

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Every time we come back to places we called home I am reminded of the joyful times I had going to work every day.

I also am reminded of why I am delighted to no longer facing the pressure that greets journalists who are reporting to work each day in these very trying times.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am way past the time I would have retired on my own terms. I just turned 71, which puts me fairly deeply into the “senior citizen” category of Americans. However, when I return to Amarillo, I confront memories that used to give me great joy.

I did visit downtown when we came back, but I avoided looking at a piece of property I usually visit I normally do when we come back to the Texas Panhandle. I usually drive by the now-vacant building where I toiled for 18 years as editorial page editor of a once-fine newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News. It isn’t fine these days. In fact, it hardly covers the community, let alone the Panhandle, or eastern New Mexico, or the Oklahoma Panhandle.

However, when we come back to Amarillo, I cannot help but remember how the state of daily print journalism functioned when I reported for work at the Globe-News in January 1995.

The Globe-News published two newspapers each day. I had responsibility for the opinion pages of both editions. We sought to write fresh editorials daily for the morning and the afternoon newspapers. Our newsroom was teeming with staffers: reporters, copy editors, photographers, a librarian, a secretary, line editors.

These days? They’re almost all gone. They have vacated the building where we once reported for work. The Globe-News building is now scarred by graffiti. It sits vacant and is getting seedier every time I look at it. I couldn’t go there on my latest visit. It hurts too much to see it decaying before our eyes.

In the old days, we had tons of fun. I made many friends among the colleagues with whom I worked. I had some difficult relationships over that span of time, to be sure. But what the hey … you cannot expect perfection everywhere.

Returning to the Panhandle reminds me of how we used to serve the community. I recall fondly those grand times. I do not ever wish to return to the grind. I am enjoying a new way to celebrate the latest time of my life.

Men and Women of the Year? Of course!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of the stark truths of this blog is that it hasn’t offered much praise for a newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years. I have watched it decline to a level I no longer recognize.

Then the Amarillo Globe-News did something the other day that I find truly inspiring. Instead of singling out a Man and Woman of the Year for 2020, it chose its Men and Women of the Year: the frontline medical staffs in the Texas Panhandle who have risked their lives saving others’ lives in the wake of the killer pandemic.

A no-brainer, you say? Eh, one could make that argument. Except that not all publications that bestow these honors have followed that lead.

The Globe-News solicits nominations from the public. It would gather its management team at the end of a calendar year to deliberate over who should get the honor. The newspaper would dispatch a reporter to interview the subject and those close to him and her, concocting some pretext for the interview. Then the paper would publish its Man and Woman of the Year on Jan. 1. The paper has honored its Man of the Year since 1950; its Woman of the Year since 1974.

It’s still doing so, but with a dramatically different setup than I remember. Whatever the case, the choice this year was at one time an easy call and an inspired one.

Perhaps every community in America should honor their first responders, their medical staffs, their emergency services personnel in such a manner.

The Panhandle has been staggered by the toll brought by the virus. Its acute-care hospitals have been stretched to the limit. Its nursing homes and assisted living centers have been ravaged. They all are staffed by dedicated men and women who have become in many cases “surrogate loved ones” to patients who have struggled with the COVID-19 virus. They have held the hands of patients, told them of their love for them … and then watched many of them die.

It has been heartbreaking beyond measure.

Yes, they deserve to be honored for their hard work and their selflessness. As the newspaper stated in its New Year’s Day editorial: We also know this year, that while there were others nominated for this distinction, we found none more deserving. After all, a year like no other should yield honorees like no other.

Well … done.

Hmm … a good question

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A former colleague and a friend of mine is posing a question that needs some attention up yonder in the Texas Panhandle.

Jon Mark Beilue, with whom I worked at the Amarillo Globe-News, asks:

Just making an observation: On Monday, Nov. 23, Potter and Randall counties (combined population, 255,128) reported 623 new COVID cases. On this same date, Dallas County (2.6 million) reported 541 new cases. A county with 10 times the population has 82 fewer new cases. Just asking a question: Why?
Does anyone have an answer for my friend? Anyone at all?

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.