Tag Archives: Beaumont Enterprise

This news hurts badly

Freddie Campbell was a dear friend, a confidant and someone with whom I could discuss just about anything.

He died the other day, apparently of complications from cancer. I struggled a bit over how I want to remember Freddie. I came up with something to share, so … here goes.

We worked together for nearly 11 years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I ran the editorial page, Freddie was the paper’s IT guru, the guy who kept the main-frame computer system running.

My day started the same way practically every day once Freddie and I became acquainted. I would go to work, read the paper (which was required of us) and start planning the day’s tasks.

Then Freddie would amble into my office. He would sit down and we then would begin discussing the news of the day. Later on, as often as not, the news involved the then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Freddie hailed from Little Rock, Ark., so he was quite familiar with the president. He didn’t think much of Bill Clinton and was unafraid to express his dislike to me. I had a different view of the 42nd POTUS. We would tussle, argue, even get our dander up. He then would get up and go about his day.

The routine would repeat itself the next day and days after that.

Freddie was a good man. He was smart and came from a family steeped in newspaper tradition. He was so very proud of his daughter and the woman she became.

But curiously, though, our friendship hit the rocks in recent years. We lost touch with each other because in the current toxic environment that has poisoned so many relationships, we couldn’t argue our points and then move on.

I regret deeply that our friendship soured.

Rather than talk any more about that, though, I am going to recall the joy we both felt in working for a newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise, that sought to report on the community, to offer perspective on where we believed was the right direction for the region we covered … and toiled diligently to ensure we could deliver the news each day.

Well done, Freddie Campbell.

Lamenting media’s sorry state

It is time for me to lament the sorry state of three newspapers where I worked full time as a print journalist.

Two of them are still in “business,” but barely so; the third one — the first newspaper that hired me as a young sportswriter — is gone, kaput, history.

I started work at the Oregon City, Ore. Enterprise-Courier in the spring of 1977. My first job was a temporary gig; it became permanent when a staff member resigned, and I took his place. I stayed there until the spring of 1984.

I moved to Beaumont, Texas, to work for the Beaumont Enterprise. I stayed at the Gulf Coast newspaper until January 1995.

Then I moved to the other end of Texas, to the Panhandle, to work for the Amarillo Globe-News, which at the time published two daily newspapers. The afternoon paper was folded into the morning paper in 2001. I stayed there until August 2012.

Since my departure, the Globe-News and — I must add — the Enterprise have devolved into shadows of their former solidness. Neither paper achieved true greatness, although the Globe-News — or more specifically, the p.m. Globe-Times — was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service in 1961.

That was then, when the communities served by newspapers depended on them to tell the communities’ stories. They were part of people’s lives. Their readers depended on them to keep them informed, to tell them about the world we all call home.

Alas, no more.

It has gotten so bad that I no longer look to either the Globe-News or the Enterprise to see what is happening in the communities where my family and lived. How sad is that? I’ll answer it for you. It’s very sad … at least it is to me.

The media climate has destroyed a once-great American institution. I was so very proud to be a part of it as I practiced my craft with great joy and dedication to following the rules of accuracy and fairness.

It’s not all gloomy, though. I remain in the game as a freelance reporter for a chain of weeklies in Collin County. I still am having more fun than I deserve.

Americans across the land have turned to other sources for information. Is it as reliable as the info we provided in Oregon City, in Beaumont and in Amarillo? I fear it is not.

That is to the shame of those who have wrecked what used to be the pride of many communities … and to those who have embraced this new media climate.

40 years ago … my life changed

Holy mackerel, man! This landmark anniversary almost got past me, but I won’t let it go without offering a comment on how a single move from one state to another changed my life.

I grew up in Portland, Ore. I lived there for the first 34 years of my life. I met the girl of my dreams there. I married her. We brought two sons into the world. I started my career in journalism there.

Then it changed in late 1983 with a phone call from a former boss of mine. He had gravitated to Beaumont, Texas. He wanted to know if I would like to work with him on the Gulf Coast at a newspaper that was healthy, vibrant and a chronicler of a tremendous “news town.”

I interviewed for the job. He offered it to me. I accepted his terms. I moved from Portland to Beaumont in March 1984. My career got the boost it needed.

I landed in a great news town, as my boss had stated. In my first week on the job, voters there cast their ballots on a street-naming referendum. Beaumont’s Black community wanted to change the name of a major street to honor Martin Luther King Jr.; the referendum failed narrowly.

Did I suffer culture shock? Yes. I wasn’t used to racial politics. I ran smack into it in Beaumont. I adjusted nicely, I am happy to report.

I did enjoy modest success from 1984 on to the end of my full-time career.

My family joined me a few months after I got to what I call The Swamp. My sons came of age in Texas. My bride and I carved out a wonderful life here.

We stayed in Beaumont for nearly 11 years. Then we moved again. To Amarillo about 700 miles northwest of our home. Culture shock again? Yep! We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years. I enjoyed more success there. We made many friends in both of our stops in Texas.

My career ended in August 2012. I was “reorganized” out of my job. I quit on the spot and got on with the rest of my life.

What did all of this teach me about myself? It taught me that I am an adaptable creature. My years in Oregon gave me a comfort level I thought I would be reluctant to let go. I had spent two years away from home serving my country in the Army. Perhaps my time in the Army prepared me unknowingly for what would happen 14 years after I returned home when I got the call to move to a part of the country that was vastly different from what I knew.

Then opportunity knocked. I answered the proverbial “door.”

Have I reached a new comfort level in my new home state? Yes. Texas’s politics has changed dramatically since our arrival here 40 years ago, but I am not one to move on just because politicians who represent us make decisions with which I disagree.

I am still keeping up the fight. I will do so with this blog for as long as I am able.

The past 40 years have zoomed by. I am trying to slow it down a bit. Wish me luck on that effort.

Celebrating an amazing life

HOUSTON — I have returned to a city near where I got my introduction to Texas nearly 40 years ago.

You see, Houston lies only about 80 miles west of Beaumont, where I started working as an editorial writer for the Beaumont Enterprise. One of my colleagues at the newspaper was a woman whose life I have returned to celebrate.

Her name was Carol. She lived large. She lived as if there was no tomorrow. She was a dynamo and a writer without equal among those I have met in my many years as a print journalist. She passed away a few weeks ago after suffering a debilitating stroke that rendered her helpless. Her husband, Pat, cared lovingly for her. Then she died.

I came to celebrate her life and the amazing journey she took along the way. In truth, though, I also came to see friends I made when I ventured to Beaumont after spending virtually my entire life in Oregon. I came at the behest of the Enterprise editor, who thought I would be a good fit working in what he called at the time “a great news town.” He was right.

The last time I saw Carol probably was in the late 1980s when she left Beaumont and gravitated to Houston to work for the much larger Houston Chronicle. She was full of life and — if you’ll pardon the expression — also full of piss and vinegar. That’s how she rolled.

Her celebration will occur tomorrow afternoon at a Cajun joint in Houston called the Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club. If you knew Carol and Pat, it is precisely the kind of place where she would want her friends to remember her.

I expect to see many friends I made when I arrived in the spring of 1984. And many of those friends I grew to love as family. I came here ahead of my wife and still-young sons. Kathy Anne stayed behind to sell our house in suburban Portland. She moved with the boys to Beaumont in August 1984, just in time for them to start school.

Kathy Anne learned right away about the friendships I made in her absence. She fell in love with many of them as well. And they did with her.

What I had told her was how many of these young people went out of their way to include me in their after-hours social gatherings. They included my bride in their frivolity once she and our sons settled into our new digs in Beaumont.

So … there you have it. I look forward to seeing dear friends, and celebrating the life of a force of nature.

It ought to be a hell of a party. Carol would have it no other way.

Feeling happy … and sad

A longtime colleague and friend has called it a career in print journalism and to be brutally honest, his announcement fills me with happiness for what awaits him but sadness over a revelation contained in his announcement.

Tom Taschinger served as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise from February 1995 until just the other day. That’s nearly 28 years in the saddle; his career spanned 40 years all told. Taschinger and I didn’t work together in Beaumont; he succeeded me after I departed the Gulf Coast in January 1995 for the Texas Panhandle. We knew each other well, though, as he served as editorial editor of the neighboring Port Arthur News during my time in Beaumont.

I wish him all the very best as he enters an exciting new phase of his life.

But he declared that he would be the “last full-time editorial page editor” of the Beaumont Enterprise. Thus, I feel a tinge of sadness.

You see, when I arrived in Beaumont in the spring of 1984, the then-executive editor, the late Ben Hansen, informed me that I would be sitting “in the catbird seat” writing editorials in a “great news town.” He was so right. Those were the days when communities, such as those served by the newspaper, depended on the opinion pages for leadership, for a touch of guidance … if only to remind readers that they should take the “opposite approach” to whatever solutions the paper sought to offer.

We offered those opinions. We sought to guide the community. We sought to provide a forum for debate and discussion. Now, to hear that my old buddy is leaving a post that will be filled with part-time help leaves me with a sense that he and I are part of a sub-species of journalist that has entered the “endangered” list of professions.

I left Beaumont for Amarillo and worked at my craft for nearly 18 more years. The newspaper where I served as opinion editor until August 2012 no longer publishes a daily opinion page. It has no opinion editor. I don’t even know who writes editorials for that once-vibrant newspaper.

I know it’s a sign of a changing media era. The Internet has consumed much of what Tom Taschinger and I used to pursue with great joy.

I am left, therefore, to shrug and wish my old pal safe travels as he continues his journey toward parts unknown.


Recalling an astonishing first meeting

(By Michael Schumacher)

Readers of High Plains Blogger might recall a statement made on it that I am writing a memoir for members of my family.

The memoir is about two-thirds finished. It contains personal reminiscences of people I met during my career as a print journalist and recalls the more fascinating sights I saw and experiences that came my way.

I want to reveal one of the people I cite in this memoir. I won’t spill all the beans, but I do want to share one element of this individual’s character that I found most appealing.


The late Teel Bivins served as a Republican state senator from the Texas Panhandle from 1989 until 2004. I arrived at the Amarillo Globe-News in January 1995 to stand post as editorial page editor of the daily newspapers we published in Amarillo.

I knew a little bit about Bivins when I arrived, given that I had spent nearly 11 years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I had been watching the Legislature during my decade on the Gulf Coast.

My phone rang a few days after I arrived in Amarillo. It was Bivins’ office in downtown Amarillo. He wanted to meet with me. Good deal, I said. I’ll be right over.

I walked into Bivins’ office. Then he welcomed me to his desk. We shook hands, I sat down, exchanged a bit of small talk about this and that politician we both knew. He asked me about my family. I told him of my marital bliss and the pride we share in our sons who at the time were just completing their college studies.

Then it came.

Bivins at that point proceeded to tell me a tale of woe and a bit of horror at the condition of his wife. She suffered from alcohol and drug abuse, he said. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know whether he could stay married to her. Bivins said he was at the end of his tolerance with her. “I don’t think I can keep this up,” he said.

I mention this because in that moment, a politician I had known for, oh, about 30 minutes took the time to expose a part of his life that obviously caused him great pain.

I shall admit that in that moment, I didn’t realize what became clear to me a few days later. A legislative aide to Bivins informed that the reason Bivins wanted to tell that story about his wife was that he wanted to get ahead of a story I likely would hear … from someone else.

Do you get it? The man wanted to tell me his version of events before I heard someone else’s version.

It truly was an astonishing thing to reveal to a total stranger, let alone to someone — such as me — who was in a position to offer commentary on politicians’ personal lives.

I have retained a vivid memory of that first meeting with a prominent Texas politician. I do so on purpose, as it reminds me that politicians — of all people — indeed, can achieve a form of nobility.


Time of My Life, Part 62: Community knowledge

A primary election is about to occur in Texas and newspapers around the state have concluded interviewing candidates for federal, state and local political offices.

I can recall a time when I did that, too. It was a full-immersion learning experience for me.

We would summon candidates into our editorial board rooms and grill them on issues pertinent to the offices they sought. We would pepper them with questions about their political history, on statements they made out loud and in public. We would inquire about their previous public service experience. We also would ask how that experience came to bear on the office they sought.

Through it all, though, I managed always — without fail! — to learn a little more about the community I served as editor of opinion pages, whether it was in Beaumont at the Enterprise or up yonder in the Texas Panhandle when I worked at the Amarillo Globe-News. Indeed, my learning experience began earlier than that, at the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, where my journalism career got its start.

Through it all, I always learned something about the community where I worked and which I sought to serve as editor of the newspaper’s opinion pages. Back then, people would turn to the editorial page for a little bit of guidance, for some advice from the newspaper on how to handle pressing community issues. Or they would turn to our pages just to find one more reason to disagree with whatever opinion we sought to foist on our readers.

It was a learning experience to be sure, one that I always anticipated at the front end of the interview process. I always appreciated what I learned at the end of it.



This news hurts … a lot

We all have people who come into our lives and never really leave us, even if we no longer see them regularly. They are work colleagues, or those with whom we establish a sort of sibling-like relationship.

Ben Hansen filled both roles in my life. I got some heart-shattering news this morning, that Ben had died peacefully during the night.

I am trying to collect my thoughts and reel in my emotions as I bang out this post. Suffice to say, Ben Hansen — who was a physically imposing man — cast a large shadow over my life and over the communities he served as a newspaper editor in four states over many decades.

Our paths crossed the first time in early1977. Hansen was editor of a suburban daily newspaper in Oregon City, Ore. He had a position to fill on his staff; it was a temporary slot as a sportswriter. The sports editor of the newspaper had taken maternity leave, so Ben needed someone to pinch hit while she was away. I got the job, knowing it could end several weeks later.

Well, it didn’t. Another opening came up. Hansen hired me on a permanent basis. He helped launch my career then. He would leave the paper to take another editor’s job in Utah. After that, he gravitated to Beaumont, Texas.

That’s where our relationship took off. He called me one day to ask if I would like to interview for a job as an editorial writer for the Beaumont Enterprise. I flew to Texas for that interview; he hired me again. Ben told me that the Golden Triangle was a hotbed of news. He was so right.

Ben promoted me to editor of the opinion page. We raised a hackle or two on the editorial page of the Enterprise over the years. I was proud to be part of that effort. I reported to Hansen for nearly 11 years in Beaumont before I departed for the Texas Panhandle.

Ben and I stayed in touch, even after he left Beaumont for another editor’s gig in Prescott, Ariz., where he eventually retired.

I learned much about my craft from Ben. He was a stickler for “active-voice” writing. He despised text that contained “passive-voice” narrative; you know, the kind of the thing that would tell you that “mistakes were made.” He insisted that an active voice required you to say that “so-and-so made mistakes.” Even to this day I am keenly aware of that and seek to avoid lapsing into passive voice when I write this blog.

Ben Hansen was a good and decent man who saw himself as a crusader. He was quick with a quip and could knock out a nearly spot-on impersonation of John Wayne with barely a provocation.

I will hold him in my eternal gratitude for taking a chance on a young man seeking to start a career in print journalism. It worked out well for me and I owe much of what I was able to achieve to the patience he showed me decades ago.

I will miss my friend.


Seen: a live armadillo!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

MARTIN DIES JR. STATE PARK, Texas — You know the saying about there being “a first time for everything.”

This particular “first time” took many decades to present itself.

My wife and I saw a live armadillo scampering along a park road in this lovely state park deep in the Pineywoods of East Texas.

You see, we moved to Texas in 1984. That was — gulp! — 37 years ago. The armadillos I had ever seen — until we got here — were those that had been, um, reduced to road kill along our many thousands of miles of highways and bi-ways.

I once wrote a column for the Beaumont Enterprise — where I worked for nearly 11 years after arriving in Texas — about my frustration in never seeing a live armadillo. The only such critters I had seen had been of the type I described a few seconds ago.

We moved to Amarillo in 1995 and I was utterly certain we would see them a-plenty along the arid Caprock. Hah! Fat chance! Indeed, I noticed far fewer armadillo carcasses than we had seen along the Gulf Coast.

Over many years we have traveled the length and breadth of this vast state. Live armadillo sighting? Not a chance.

Until we ventured to Martin Dies Jr. SP.

My hope now for the little critter is that he/she stays the heck out of the way of oncoming traffic.

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.