Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Panhandle spoiled us!

My wife and I started a new life with our sons when we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Golden Triangle region of Texas in the spring of 1984.

It was there that we got acquainted with the legendary Texas heat and humidity. We got acclimated — eventually! — and lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before my wife and I (the boys had since gone off to college) relocated again, this time settling in the faraway High Plains of the Panhandle.

It was the Panhandle where we discovered something else about this wonderful place we now call home. It is that the Caprock of West Texas has four distinct seasons … and that the summer, which can get brutally hot, does bring relief on occasion, even during the hottest period of the year.

It spoiled us. We grew accustomed to the lack of humidity in Amarillo, with its 3,676-foot elevation above sea level and its proximity to the Rocky Mountains.

We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years, which is the longest stint we ever have completed during our nearly 51 years of marriage.

Then we moved to the Metroplex in late 2018. We settled in Princeton, which is about 30 miles northeast of Dallas and, more importantly, is about nine miles NE of our granddaughter, who lives in Allen with her Mommy, Daddy and her two brothers.

It has been in Princeton where we’ve been reacquainted with the Texas humidity that accompanies the heat.

It’s been hot, man! We’ve had more than 30 days this summer of 100-degree-plus days. It’s not the hottest on record. For us, though, it’s been too hot, given that we are still feeling spoiled by all those years up yonder on the Caprock.

This is my way of reminding my bride and me that we’ll just need to suck it up and settle in every year for the Dog Days of summer … and remember what it was like when we first arrived in Texas those many years ago.


Hoping for return of two-party struggle

There once was a time when I first arrived in Texas — nearly four decades ago — when I lamented how the overpowering strength of the Democratic Party in the region where I lived and worked had lessened the quality of political debate.

I believed at the time of my arrival in the Golden Triangle in early 1984 that Democrats took that region for granted. I don’t recall a lot of creative or critical thinking among the local pols. Their appeal to the union-dominated work force in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange was rock solid.

Over time, and it didn’t take that many years, Republicans began making headway into the roster of elected offices in the Golden Triangle. Indeed, the entire state was tilting toward the Republican Party.

The GOP picked off statewide offices one at a time. The last Democrat to hold a statewide office was John Sharp, the comptroller of public accounts. Sharp left that office in 1998.

It’s been a Republican show ever since. The GOP holds every single constitutional office in Texas. The Republican grip has been ironclad.

I find myself wishing the same thing I discovered upon my arrival in Texas nearly 40 years ago. I want a return to two-party governance, with both parties flexing muscles and challenging the other side to defend their positions with vigor.

There’s a bit of a difference, though, between the GOP dominance today and the Democrats’ former dominance. The Republican Party has gone bonkers. I recall that Democrats in the good old days at least governed with a semblance of humanity and common sense. The 21st-century Republican Party adheres to that phony populism espoused by the carnival barker who managed to get elected president in 2016.

Accordingly, the quality of political debate in Texas has swirled down the drain just as it has in many other parts of the country.

Is this the year that Democrats might peel off an elected office or two held by Republicans seemingly since The Flood? I won’t make that prediction.

I merely am going to lament the absence of a vigorous two-party governing system in the state I now call home. May the Democratic Party find its voice … and I hope it is soon.


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.


World is my stage

This question comes to me from those who are aware of my left-leaning politics: How can you write this stuff on your blog, given where you live? 

My answer is simple. I write this stuff because the nature of this platform — my blog — allows me to reach far beyond the earthly boundaries of where my wife and I reside, which now is Collin County, Texas.

This is one of the many reasons why I love pursuing this version of my craft. I am able to speak my mind without reservation.

There once was a time when I had to be mindful of what I said and of the audience that was reading my thoughts. I worked for publications in the Texas Panhandle and in the Golden Triangle region of Texas that contained many readers who disagreed with my world view.

It’s not that it necessarily stopped me from speaking my mind. I just had to be a bit circumspect in the language I used. There would be no way I could refer to the 45th president of the United States as the Insurrectionist in Chief in, say, Amarillo, where he enjoyed tremendous political support during the most recent presidential elections.

Now that I am no longer employed by the newspaper that adhered to a pretty rigid conservative editorial policy, I am free to speak more freely. Which I do with gusto.

One of the struggles I fought during my nearly 18 years working in Amarillo and my nearly 11 years in Beaumont was trying to persuade readers that my signed columns were my opinion only and that they rarely reflected the editorial policy of the newspaper. I would write editorials on behalf of our editorial board that said one thing; I might be inclined to express a different view on a column that ran with my mug in a logo accompanying the text.

I no longer wage that struggle these days. The blog is mine. I own it. I also own the views I express on it.

Moreover, I am not constrained by my place of residence. The blog goes all around the world. How I do know that? Because I am able to track the sources of the hits I get on my blog. Over the span of a year, it covers our good Earth.


Time of My Life, Part 52: Recalling the ‘Triplex’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I don’t know of many careers that haven’t suffered an embarrassment or two along the way; my career had its share of, um, regrettable moments.

One of them occurred not too many years after I arrived in Southeast Texas to work on the editorial page of the Beaumont Enterprise. The Hearst Corporation purchased the newspaper in late 1984, then brought in a new guy to run the place: George B. Irish arrived as publisher.

He quickly ingratiated himself with the power sources within the community. Then some of them — I think it was in 1985 — concocted a hare-brained public relations campaign that, shall we say, ended up face-planting at every turn.

The newspaper, because of the publisher’s standing with these folks, found itself caught up in the midst of a PR campaign to rename the Golden Triangle region. These chamber of commerce types wanted to call it the Triplex. Yep, the region that had been known for more than a century by one name would be called something else, or so these individuals sought.

They came up with a TV ad campaign that featured a faux Gen. George S. Patton Jr. — the flamboyant World War II commander — to “order” us to use the Triplex name. Actually, the fake “Patton” was more like a bad impersonation of the actor George C. Scott’s portrayal of Patton in the movie of the same name.

The newspaper’s editorial page signed on to that fiasco. We lent our editorial support to this idiotic notion. Why call it idiotic? Well, let’s just say the push back from the community was ferocious. It was fierce. It was, um, angry!

The movers and shakers had come up with this goofy notion that the region suffering at the time from the collapse of the oil and petrochemical industry no longer was as “golden” as its name suggested. It was tarnished by the economic downfall. So, let’s just change the name of the place, they said.

The term Golden Triangle was meant to identify the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange. The broader region ID’d by the name included Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties. Some folks came to calling the region the “Tripot.” Why? Because the map of the three counties drawn together reminded many folks of — get ready for it — a commode.

The seriously angry reaction came from those who believed the idea was being pushed by outsiders who had no understanding of the region or its residents’ affection for the Golden Triangle identity. You know, they had a point.

Indeed, Irish himself admitted to me privately once that he wasn’t too keen on the campaign as it developed. “That’s what happens,” he said to me a low voice, “when you have an idea developed by committee.”

This fiasco unfolded 30-some years ago. It died a fairly quick and quiet death. The idiocy never took root. Over a brief span of time, the chamber of commerce — and we at the Beaumont Enterprise — surrendered to the reality that a bad idea got the reception and met the fate that it richly deserved.

But … I still was having the time of my life.