Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

Where are the signs?

BEAUMONT, Texas — Having just driven through what I suppose you could call “The Heart of Trump Country,” I am surprised by the lack of what I expected to see on my five-plus-hour trek through Deep East Texas.

I didn’t see a single banner, or yard sign on any residence or business. Indeed, I saw only one decal plastered on the back of a Tacoma pickup, and I had to squint to read it on the rear window.

What does this all mean? Beats the bejabbers out of me.

I surely saw nothing extolling the candidacy of Joe Biden. I didn’t expect it, either. However, the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee is supposed to be exhibiting “grassroots strength” in communities such as Jasper, Kountze, Lufkin, Rusk, Huntington and Jacksonville.

Didn’t see a thing out there. Maybe I’ll see it on the way home, if I take a different route. My Ranger pickup GPS guided me through Greenville and then south along U.S. 69. The drive was gorgeous. The trees are lush, the grass is deep green. The pavement was dry. When I arrived at where I am staying overnight, though, I was greeted with that oh-so-typical Southeast Texas humidity.

I must be home. My family and I lived here for nearly 11 years. I came back to attend a funeral of a man I loved very much. Our friendship hit the skids a few years back over political differences, but it never negated the feeling I had for him and the friendship we forged during our time working together for the newspaper in Beaumont.

I just felt the need, though, to offer a bit of a surprise observation as I trekked south through the Piney Woods.

It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I didn’t have to grind me teeth for 275 miles.

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.

The party? It was worth it!

HOUSTON — Thomas Wolfe once wrote that “You can never go home again,” and I suppose you can’t.

However, you can reunite with those with whom you once formed relationships that went far beyond your professional environment.

I came back to this city which is close to where I jump-started my journalism career in Texas. I returned to pay my respects to a former colleague who passed away earlier this year from symptoms of a devastating stroke she suffered.

I also returned to see old friends and colleagues with whom I became acquainted as a fellow journalist seeking to make an impact on the Golden Triangle community we all served while working for the Beaumont Enterprise.

I gotta tell ya, the return was every bit worth the effort I put into coming back to The Bayou. I saw many of my friends. We hugged. They all knew about the tragedy that struck my family and me earlier this year and to a person they all showered me with love.

To be clear, I didn’t come here because I needed the love I received. I have gotten plenty of it already from my immediate family, my extended family and the many friends Kathy Anne and I made in the Golden Triangle and in the Texas Panhandle, where we lived for23 years before moving to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in late 2018.

But, damn … it was so good to see these men and women who welcomed my family and me to our new surroundings in 1984 and who have remained close to my heart in the decades that have passed.

I have long believed that true friendships last no matter how often you see someone. I don’t see these folks often, but I want them to know how much I love them.

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.

Any regrets on this choice?

This question has come to me more than once over the many years of my life in Texas.

It goes something like this: Do you regret moving from Oregon to Texas, given the strange political climate that has overtaken the Texas political leadership?

My answer: Not one bit. Not for a single moment.

My wife and I forged a fabulous life in Texas, living in three distinct communities. We moved to the Golden Triangle in 1984 with our two young sons. We then relocated in 1995 across this vast state to the Texas Panhandle after our boys had left home to attend college. Then came the final move to the Metroplex to be near our granddaughter, who came along in March 2013.

We came to Texas to move my career forward. We succeeded. It was a bit of a leap of faith, given that I had lived virtually my entire life in Portland, except for two years I spent in the Army. Kathy Anne had spent the bulk of her life there, too.

My career enabled me to have a ringside seat to watch the Texas political climate change. My craft as an opinion writer and editor for two mid-sized — but solid — daily newspapers gave me an up-close look.

Now, to be sure I need to state that politics hasn’t swallowed me whole. I worked hard at my job at the Beaumont Enterprise and the Amarillo-Globe News. When I went home to my bride, I left the travails of the day behind.

I don’t object to the questions about the decision my wife and I made together to uproot ourselves from what we knew in Oregon to what we would discover in Texas. It’s understandable that some might wonder if I question the wisdom of that decision.

All told, our life in Texas has given us a great ride. Yes, I am still struggling to find my way along the rest of the journey alone, as my bride is now gone. I learned long ago that I am an adaptable creature who isn’t hidebound by old habits.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, once said “There’s more to life than politics.” He was speaking to me at the time … and I nodded in agreement.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Lamenting slow demise of proud craft

As I lament the agonizing, excruciating, painful demise of a once-proud craft — print journalism — I remind myself of this frightening fact.

I worked for four newspapers during my nearly 37 years as a print journalist and two of them are long gone, while the other two are mere shadows of their former selves.

In 1976, I landed a job on the copy desk of the Oregon Journal, the evening newspaper of record in my hometown of Portland. In 1982, the Journal folded. It was gone forever.

I had moved by that time to Oregon City, to work at a suburban newspaper just south of Portland. We published five days each week. I became editor of the paper in 1979, which probably was a serious career mistake, as I wasn’t prepared to take on that task. The Enterprise-Courier folded in 1988. It, too, was relegated to the dust bin.

I had moved on to Beaumont, Texas, in the spring of 1984 to become an editorial writer for the Enterprise. I was promoted to editor of the opinion pages later that year. I stayed until January 1995, when I moved to Amarillo to become editor of the opinion pages of the Globe-News.

What happened in Beaumont and Amarillo is nothing short of heartbreaking. Both papers are still around … so to speak. Their staffs have been obliterated. The Enterprise’s parent company is trying to sell the building where the newspaper once was a thriving presence. The Globe-News’s parent company sold to another media giant and it moved the paper out of its iconic structure and has sold that property to another business.

The Enterprise and the Globe-News once were pillars of their communities. Now they are battered hulks. They once covered vast distances. The Enterprise reached into Deep East Texas and as far east as Lake Charles, La. The Globe-News once had a bureau in Clovis, N.M. and covered everything in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and even reached into southwest Kansas.

The Globe-News once won a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for its work in revealing corruption in county government.

No more.

Maybe it’s me, that I jinxed all of ’em. Just kidding.

I simply am saddened at the pending demise of what used to be communities’ major source of information about themselves and told many thousands of readers the news of the state, nation and the world.

I am left just to sigh.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Do endorsements matter?

(David Woo/The Dallas Morning News)

Rick Perry might have been a politician ahead of his time a dozen years ago as he sought re-election to his post as Texas governor.

Perry announced to the state’s editorial boards — and I was a member of one of them in 2010 — that he wouldn’t visit newspaper offices to seek editorial pages’ endorsement.

Why, he would just “talk directly to Texans” and not mess with newspapers’ editorial pages.

Well, you know what? Perry’s strategy worked. Virtually every newspaper in Texas endorsed the Democrat running against Perry that year, former Houston mayor Bill White. The Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked at the time, was among the papers that gave its “blessing” to White.

I will never forget the reaction we got from our readers. Many of them responded to us as if we had endorsed the Son of Satan himself.

What’s more, Perry was able to cruise to re-election, much as he had done in every year he ran for the office.

What’s the lesson here? It is that voters no longer rely on newspaper editors’ “wisdom” in helping them decide how to cast their ballots. In many cases, readers’ minds are made up. They have heard all they need to hear about candidates and their views on pressing issues of the day.

This trend saddens me. I edited opinion pages in Amarillo for nearly 18 years, for nearly 11 years in Beaumont and for a half-dozen years in Oregon, City, Ore., before my career ended in August 2012. I was proud of virtually all the endorsements we made during those years. Moreover, I took pride in the respectful reaction we received — even from readers who disagreed with what we offered.

Newspapers aren’t as “respected” these days as they used to be. That, too, saddens me greatly. Those of us who write for newspapers, be they major metro dailies or community papers, aren’t “the enemy of the people.” We seek to do our job with fairness and accuracy. When we offer commentary, we do so with the same noble motives.

Rick Perry didn’t see it that way when he stiffed editorial boards’ desire to visit with him on why he sought to return to public office.

He was ahead of his time.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A surprising bit of candor

It just flew out of my mouth the moment I heard the question: Do I miss Portland? My answer, which came without the slightest hesitation: No. I do not.

I was wearing an Oregon Ducks ballcap when we walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Frisco, Texas, the other day. The lady at the counter saw the hat, recognized me as a Ducks fan and made some comment about the hat I was wearing. I asked her where she is from; she told me Lynwood, a suburb of Seattle.

We chatted for a moment and I told her I grew up in Portland. I thought for a moment about mentioning how the Ducks have owned the University of Washington Huskies over the past 15 years of the schools’ football rivalry, then thought better of it. Then came the question about missing it and my strangely quick and candid answer.

Portland doesn’t resemble the city I knew as a boy and then as a much younger man. It’s gotten, to my way of thinking, a bit full of itself. Traffic is terrible. Streets are narrow. Real estate prices have rocketed into outer space. The lady mentioned how “quirky” Portland always has been, but that it’s gotten a bit strange in recent years. Quirky, I can handle. That doesn’t bother me. It just no longer feels like “home.”

All of that plus the fact that I am now well into my 70s. I no longer work full time.

Do I miss my family members who still live there or nearby? Yes. Do I miss our many friends? Yes … of course to both questions.

But we moved away in the spring of 1984 to pursue a journalism career that took me many places over the course of many years in Texas. We built a good life, first in Beaumont, then in Amarillo, and now in Princeton, where we settled into what we call our “forever home.”

I long have been amazed at how adaptable I proved to myself I could be when we decided to take a leap of faith some 38 years ago. That was then. I sense I am a good bit less adaptable these days.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com