Tag Archives: AGN Media

Watching media struggle

The longer I watch daily newspapers struggle with the changing media landscape, the more I am filled with relief that I am viewing this from a seat on the sidelines.

To be sure, I continue to have my hand in newspapers. I am a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper in Collin County, Texas. That’s as far as my direct newspaper involvement goes. I like it that way.

However, I am filled with a growing sense of gratitude — yes, gratitude — that I was spared the agony that’s occurring within the craft I pursued with great joy for more than three decades.

I have told you already on this blog about the pain of being told in August 2012 that I would no longer be doing what I had done for the Amarillo, Texas, newspaper for nearly 18 years. I have gotten over that pain and, to be truthful, over my anger at the individual who gave me the bad news. I now am filled with relief and the aforementioned gratitude that he spared me the heartache that has enveloped the newspaper since my departure.

The Globe-News changed ownership. The publisher who in effect gave me my walking papers “stepped down” shortly after the new owners purchased the paper. My thought when I heard he had left was, well, “karma’s a bitch, man.”

The paper’s owners have gutted it. The Globe-News has moved to a suite of offices in a downtown Amarillo bank building. I hear from my friends in the Panhandle that it doesn’t “cover” the community these days, that the paper is full of press releases.

I am on the sidelines these days. My retirement journey is going along swimmingly. I’ll keep writing for the weekly newspaper near my home for as long as they want me; I also will continue writing feature stories for the public radio station, too, for as long as they want me.

Life is good, man.

What’s happening in Amarillo is being felt in communities all across the land. I am delighted to be away from the madness and the misery.


Media landscape is rattling and shaking

If you had asked me to project when I became a newspaper reporter in the mid-1970s what the media landscape would look like, say, in the third decade of the 21st century, there would be no way on God’s good Earth I could predict what would transpire.

The landscape I once knew bears no resemblance to what is taking shape before our eyes right now.

I just heard that the Amarillo Globe-News — the final stop on my 37-year career — is going to suspend publication of its Saturday edition. The G-N is joining other newspapers owned by the media conglomerate in reducing its publication schedule.

Newspapers that are doing this are pledging to (a) commit to a digital delivery of news and (b) maintain its commitment to “local news.” Both pledges bode ill for the industry I once knew and loved — and which gave me untold pleasure in the pursuit of my craft. This looks to me like the next step before the newspapers reduce their delivery even more en route to ending their existence altogether.

I have lost count of the number of times people have told me how they “enjoy the feel of the newspaper in my hands.” Hah! If that were really true, the industry wouldn’t be sucking wind the way it is at this moment.

The Internet is destroying an industry that once employed thousands of people who were committed to “making a difference” in this world. Many of those folks now are pursuing “other interests.”

My wife reminds me of a fundamental truth that I accepted long ago. My career came to an abrupt end in August 2012. I was 63 years of age when the publisher told me that someone else would be doing the job I had done at the G-N for nearly 18 years. What is the truth that my wife reminds me? “I am just grateful that this happened at the end of your career, and not while you were in the middle of it.” 

And so, the landscape is shifting, rattling, rockin’ and rollin’ before us. People who formerly depended on newspapers to tell them the news of their community and the world now look elsewhere.

What lies in store for the future of print journalism in the Texas Panhandle … and in other communities across the land? More retreat as they surrender what they once saw as their exclusive territory to other media.

Therefore, I consider myself to be a media dinosaur. However, it’s good to be comfortable in my own skin.


What will happen to this site?

I lived in Amarillo, Texas, for 23 years and worked each day for nearly 18 of those years at the Globe-News, a once-good newspaper.

My daily journalism career came to an end in August 2012. The newspaper remains, but at this point it is a newspaper in name only. Yes, the paper still publishes seven days a week. It no longer publishes at the building where it operated for many decades. The printing press is in Lubbock and I don’t know how they handle business affairs, or circulation matters.

The newsroom? A formerly vibrant working environment has been all but eliminated; they’re down to maybe two or three reporters and some stringers (I guess).

The building is vacant. It is in a state of architectural decomposition. The corporate moguls vacated the building and moved what is left of the staff to an office in a downtown bank tower.

The once-proud structure is “tagged” with graffiti. They put out a fire inside the structure a few weeks ago.

The company that used to own the newspaper is still trying to sell the building, from what I hear. I do not know the state of that effort, such as whether it is being marketed aggressively. I don’t get back often to Amarillo, but my hunch is that it is just going to rot some more.

I want to lament the demise of that structure one more time.

The Globe-News used to aspire to becoming a great newspaper. It didn’t quite get there. We did a good job of reporting the news during my time there. I tried to lend some leadership via the opinion pages during my tenure as editor of those pages.

That was then. The here and now suggests to me that the newspaper itself is fading into the community’s past. It saddens me greatly.


No surprise, but this news still hurts

A decent night’s sleep helped clear my head today as I ponder the loss of one my world’s most iconic figures.

Jeane Bartlett fit the role of icon perfectly. It’s not that she sought the role. It just graced her perfectly. She was the human resources director of the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years. She died Monday at the age of 95.

OK, let’s stipulate that no one lives forever. Bartlett forged a long and memorable life in the Texas Panhandle. She was born in Clarendon and in a sense never ventured far from where she entered this world.

She married her beloved husband Harry and together they assumed leadership roles at the newspaper. Harry was production director while Jeane kept everyone in line as HR director. Harry retired not long before I arrived there in early 1995. Jeane stayed until 2001 after working at the Globe-News for 55 years.

I have heard our mutual friends and colleagues refer to Jeane Bartlett as an iconic figure in the Panhandle. She was diminutive, but her stature towered far above her physical frame.

Jeane Bartlett became as well-known to the community as many of our newspaper’s star reporters and editors. Publishers came and went during her time at the G-N, but they all had one thing in common: They depended on Jeane Bartlett for her wisdom and counsel.

I had an issue with an employee who worked in my department. I, too, depended on her wise counsel as we pondered together how to resolve the issue. She was patient with me and was always ready to answer any questions I had as we sought a resolution.

I just recently reached out to Jeane; I sent her a letter. She read it and responded with a hand-written note of her own. She expressed loneliness, given that her husband had died this past March of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. The note saddened me, but it also cheered me up as I examined her penmanship, which still resembled the notes she would leave for employees at the newspaper during all those years.

No one gets out of this world alive. The news that Jeane Bartlett had passed didn’t surprise me. It still hurts … deeply.


She was the face of an institution

I want to share a brief word of sorrow over some news I just received from the Texas Panhandle.

Jeane Bartlett, who founded the human resources department at the Amarillo Globe-News (where I worked for nearly 18 years), has just died. Her niece told me via social media.

I am heartbroken.

Jeane spent 55 years working for the newspaper. She retired in 2001 after working with several publishers and two owners.

The first owner was a local family, the Whittenbergs, who then sold the paper to Morris Communications in the early 1970s. The new owners then sought to create an HR department and tasked Bartlett with setting it up. She completed the task and ran a department with equal amounts of efficiency and compassion.

Jeane was one of two Bartletts to work at the Globe-News. Her late husband, Harry, served as production director; his tour at the GN totaled 38 years. So, between them they compiled 93 years of experience at the newspaper of record for the Texas Panhandle.

Jeane Bartlett ran the newspaper’s involvement with the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, highlighting the accomplishments of local youngsters. She put together holiday parties and became the go-to person on an entire array of community-related events.

Jeane was a tiger but was a sweet one. I relied on her wise counsel to resolve a personnel issue that needed fixing when I was employed there.

I am saddened by all measure to hear the news that she has left this good Earth. I just wanted to share these thoughts with you. I’ll collect my thoughts and wits later.


Upsetting news on many levels

The news that a building where I once worked was damaged by fire upset me in more ways than I could have calculated.

Fire has damaged the Amarillo Globe-News building on the outskirts of downtown Amarillo, Texas. It is now vacant, a rotting hulk of a structure that contains a legendary inscription penned by a legendary journalist.

Gene Howe, the former publisher of the newspaper, once wrote: A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for lack of courage.

The inscription is still there. The building’s inhabitants have vacated the place, having moved to an office suite in a 31-story bank tower around the corner and down the street.

That the building no longer serves as a beacon for good — if not great — journalism in the community is bad enough.

These days I am feeling more like a show-and-tell relic. A former colleague and a still-dear friend and I exchange messages earlier today. I informed her that my granddaughter might one day want me to stand before her classmates so she could tell them what her grandpa used to do for a living.

That likely won’t ever happen. First of all, I don’t even know if they have show and tell these days. Second of all, she might not yet fully comprehend the importance we used to attach to the craft we pursued, often with great joy and equal amounts of diligence and integrity.

Newspapers are becoming a relic of the past, as are those of us who used to fill those pages with words that sought to lend leadership and provide guidance to the communities we served.

The fire at the Globe-News building only reminds me of what used to be in that place. It saddens me at a level I am at this very moment still having trouble understanding.


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.


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.