Tag Archives: journalism

Enjoying the after life

No, I am not dead. Not by the longest shot imaginable. I am delighted to report that there once was a time — long ago — that I wondered whether I would enjoy my life once I quit working full time.

I am even more delighted to tell you that the answer is yes. Not just yes, but hell yes. I am enjoying myself more than I could have imagined when I was full of piss and vinegar.

Time has this way of tempering one’s passions. It tempered mine, to a degree, particularly the passion I had every day as I prepared to go to work as a newspaper journalist. It did temper my passion, though, for commenting on issues of the day. I remain dedicated to that proposition more than ever … or so it seems. The difference now is that my commentaries are solely my own and I do not answer to an editor of a publisher.

That is not to say that I am free of restraints. Good taste and societal norms do keep me reined in a bit … but it’s only just a bit.

I remain delighted and full of energy to keep writing this blog and keep my head in the game.

One of the things I learned a decade ago when my career ended that there surely is a post-journalism after life. I am living proof that it exists. Unlike the big after life, I am still around to tell you about it.

I just wanted to share the good news with you.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Newspapers: Where are they?

NEEDLES, Calif. — My wife and have ventured through much of southern California and tonight I just thought of something I haven’t seen with my own eyes.

The sight of people reading newspapers.

Not at breakfast in a tiny diner in Keene, Calif. Not at any of the truck stops and travel centers we visited on our journey. Nowhere, man!

There was a time when we would travel to hither and yon and spot newspapers spread out on people’s tables at restaurants. I would spot a newspaper — sometimes crumpled up — on the floor of men’s restrooms. We would stop for gasoline along the way and would see news racks full of newspapers waiting to be purchased by those wishing to learn what was occurring in their community or their nation or around the world.

These days? Newspapers are MIA!

OK. It’s a sign of the times. Newspapers are becoming part of our history. I consider it a glorious part, too. They are fading faster than yesterday’s news.

It makes me sad.

However, they still have their place as a chronicler of a community’s life and its future. I am delighted to be a freelance writer for a company that owns a group of weekly community journals that do that for our communities in North Texas.

If only there were more of them out there.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Memoir: It’s back!

I have written about this already, but I feel the need to give you an update on the progress I am beginning to make — yet again — on a project I decided to undertake.

A memoir of my career is in the works. What’s new about it? Well, I had put it on ice for far too long. I would get busy, distracted, tired out and wouldn’t spend the time I needed to complete it.

It’s going to be a compilation of the people I met and some of the cool things I was able to do and places I was able to see while working as a newspaper journalist for nearly 37 years.

My bride gave me the idea to write it and to give it to members of our family. Kathy Anne and I soon will celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary, a fact I just thought I’d throw out there, as it has no particular significance to the memoir I am writing, except that the memoir was her idea in the first place.

My career enabled me to meet some fascinating figures. Some of them were historic figures, indeed. You’ll read about a couple of presidents of the United States, one foreign head of state, a few who wanted to be POTUS. You’ll read about notable journalists with whom I had the pleasure of meeting and — in a couple of cases — actually get to know on a personal level.

I once stood in the same room with one of history’s most iconic and revered figures. I didn’t meet him, but just standing about 40 feet away was enough to overwhelm me. Spoiler alert: That person was Nelson Mandela. 

I don’t have a title for this piece of work. I’ll come up with one about the time I finish it. I once wrote that I wasn’t sure I could ever finish it. I have changed my mind. It’ll come to an end.

Here’s what I wrote earlier about it: Memoir in the works | High Plains Blogger

I once was the model of self-discipline. Once I set my mind to something, nothing stood in my way. That drive has waned just a bit as I have grown older.

But the way I look at it all right now, at this stage of my life, I realize that I have lived most of my life already. The clock is ticking, which means I have to get busy and finish this project.

Therefore, I will do so.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Media relevance vanishes

A quick return to a community where my wife and I lived for nearly half of our married life together has produced a series of bittersweet memories.

We came back to Amarillo, Texas, for a quick visit with our son and to acquaint our new Ford pickup with our new travel trailer. We didn’t get out too much to mingle with friends, but we see did a number of them at a Rotary Club luncheon.

I must have heard a dozen references to the job I used to do in Amarillo, which was to edit the opinion pages of a once-vibrant newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News.

That paper, or what’s left of it, has become a non-presence in the community that once relied on it to tell the Texas Panhandle story, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows.

“Man, we sure miss you,” came one greeting. “Why don’t you move back?” another friend said. “I once read the newspaper to know about the community, but I can’t find anything in it that tells me what I want or need to know,” yet another friend said.

Hey, I don’t say this to shore up my own ego. I want to relate to you what I sense is missing in a city of 200,000 residents that once turned to its newspaper of record to report on what is happening around the corner, or at city hall, or at the county courthouse.

I went shopping for a copy of the Globe-News. I couldn’t find one anywhere on sale. Surely, they still peddle the newspaper … somewhere! Don’t they?

It’s always good to see good friends and to catch on their lives. The good feelings are diluted by the bitter feeling that boils up when I realize that such a big part of my professional life no longer matters to the people I enjoyed serving.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Milestone ahead!

I am approaching a milestone date and I want to forewarn you of the event. I have written about it before, starting with some bitter feelings toward my former employer and the circumstances leading up to my departure from a career that brought me great joy, a bit of success and a whole lot of fun.

It was Aug. 30, 2012 when I got called into the office of a new hire at the Amarillo Globe-News. The newly installed “vice president for audience” told me, “There is no easy way to say this, but we have decided to offer your job to someone else, and he accepted.”

Hmm. I knew who the “someone else” was, but I asked if it was him. My colleague said yes.

We exchanged a few words, I rose from my chair, went to my office, called my wife and said, “I’m out.” I called my sons to tell them the same thing. I collected my thoughts and went home, but not before visiting with the publisher of the newspaper on my way to the car. We had a tense conversation. He asked me to come back the next day to “think about” my next move. I didn’t need to think about it. I quit.

I came back the next morning, cleared out my office … and was gone.

The publisher had implemented a strategy that sought to reorganize the newsroom at the AGN. He told us all our job descriptions had been rewritten. We could apply for any job we wanted. I chose to seek the one I had done there for nearly 18 years. He had something — and someone — else in mind for me and my AGN career. So, he acted.

The years since my departure from full-time print journalism have been a joyous ride. Some of it has been a bit uncertain. However, I have not only survived, I consider myself fortunate to have been spared the misery that has befallen daily newspapers in the decade since and the unique misery that afflicted the Texas Panhandle’s premier newspaper.

This blog has been a lifesaver for me. I get to keep pontificating about issues of the day. As I have told you already, I have a couple of fun freelance gigs that keep me busy near the North Texas home my wife and I purchased a few years ago.

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Thus, it has been a rapid 10 years since my life changed.

***

A couple of quick post-scripts …

The VP for audience and I have become friends and we stay in touch. He moved on not long after he gave me the news I didn’t want to hear. I reached out to him not long ago to reconcile and to inform him I harbored no hard feelings toward him.

The publisher? He “stepped down” from his post a while ago after the paper was purchased by another company. He and I never forged any kind of relationship during the years we worked together. We don’t speak now. That’s fine with me, too.

Life is so good.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Saddened by newspaper images

The images I keep seeing of the place where I spent the longest stint of my newspaper career keep tugging at my heart.

The Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News buildings have been vacant for some time. What’s left of the newspaper staff moved into a suite of offices in a downtown bank tower. Someone reportedly has purchased the G-N site, which will become a place that manufactures lubricants.

The images just tear my guts out.

The press room still has paper in the presses. I saw one picture of encyclopedias piled up. Another one had bound volumes of old editions. The newsroom looks like the staff fled the building in haste, leaving paper and assorted trash strewn across the floor.

I would pay real American money to know what the G-N’s final days were like as the company that purchased it from the owners for whom I worked got ready to vacate the site.

Next month marks a decade since I walked off my job after nearly 18 years as an editor of the opinion pages. I don’t miss it these days. I got over the pain — and the embarrassment — associated with my sudden departure from a career I pursued with great joy for nearly 37 years.

To be candid, seeing the images of what is left of the Globe-News only heightens my relief and happiness at being away when the end arrived.

Life goes on.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Fifty years ago … everything changed!

I cannot believe it’s been 50 years — to the day — that a group of burglars broke into an office building, got caught rifling through files and then in the course of an investigation became part of a history-making constitutional crisis.

The term “Watergate” became part of our vernacular. Who would have thought it in real time?

On June 17, 1972, the dipsh**s hired by the Republican National Committee thought they would steal some files belonging to the Democratic National Committee. It was reported initially as a burglary; the Washington Post put the story deep inside its next-day edition.

Then a couple of reporters — Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — began hearing whispers about who was behind the burglary. They told their editors that the story smelled fishy. They sought to get to the truth.

Oh, brother, did they ever find it!

They trooped down many blind alleys. That’s what happens to the most intrepid reporters. Bernstein and Woodward were two of the best. They persisted and eventually uncovered a coverup that would bring down a president, who resigned because he had abused the power of his office to prevent the truth from getting out.

Watergate has become almost a synonym for political misdeeds. How often do we see the “gate” suffix attached to scandals? To my mind, Watergate stands alone.

Woodward and Bernstein personified the very best of investigative journalism. They sought to hold those in power accountable for the mischief they committed. They succeeded famously.

***

When the break-in occurred, I was a freshly scrubbed college student. I was newly married. I had just returned from a tour of duty in the Army. I wanted to be a journalist.

Woodward and Bernstein taught us in real time the value they bring to their craft. They made a difference. I was among thousands of other journalism students who also wanted to make a difference.

These men personified the best of a noble craft.

Fifty years is a lifetime. My own career surely didn’t produce the notoriety that showered Woodward and Bernstein. They spurred me to stay the course over many years in print journalism.

For that I am eternally grateful.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Story breaks my heart many ways

The reporting from Ukraine is breaking my heart for many reasons, some of which I did not expect when it began flooding our homes with information in that faraway land.

One reason is so obvious I shouldn’t have to mention it. The destruction is beyond belief. The pain of the people who endure it also defies my ability to comprehend how they cope and how they can hope for a better future.

But then I watch the broadcast and cable TV journalists covering the event and I am filled with compassion for them as well. What are they feeling when they confront such misery? How do they possibly report the news dispassionately?

I did not have the honor — and that’s how I would describe it — of covering a war in real time back when I worked in the field full time. The closest I came occurred in 1989 when I visited the Killing Fields at Choeng Ek, Cambodia, where the survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide had erected temples containing the skulls of thousands of victims dug from mass graves.

I visited with those who lived through that horrifying episode. I can recall one comment from a woman with whom I was visiting. She told me, “If the Khmer Rouge come back, we all will become soldiers.”

I got on the bus that would take us back to Phnom Penh … and I sobbed.

Thus, I have difficulty imagining how the reporters covering the Ukraine War can avoid getting caught up in the raw emotion of seeing the destruction being inflicted on brave people in real time.

For all I know, they are sobbing, too. That doesn’t make them less professional. It just reveals their humanity.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Time of My Life, Part 59: Still in the game

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was an angry dude for some time after my daily journalism career ended abruptly in August 2012.

The anger has vanished. I decided some time ago to write a blog series highlighting all the good years I had reporting on and commenting on the communities where I lived and worked. I have done so.

This is the 59th edition in that series but I want to tell you briefly about why I am still having “the time of my life.” You see, I am a freelance reporter who gets to write news stories for two media outlets here in North Texas where my wife and I have lived for the past nearly three years.

I write for a weekly newspaper in Farmersville, a community about seven miles east of us in Princeton along U.S. Highway 380. My bosses at the Farmersville Times allow me to cover city council and school board meetings there. I also get to write occasional feature stories about the people who live in Farmersville.

This gig represents a return to where it all began for me. My first part-time reporting job was in Portland, Ore., working for the weekly Community Press. I covered sports events there. I don’t do any sports reporting these days, but my task is straightforward: attend the city council and school board meetings and report on the decisions that affect the community.

In short, I am having a blast.

I also have a second gig. I write a blog for KETR-FM, the public radio station at Texas A&M University/Commerce. That freelance gig is a freewheeling affair. My boss there allows me to write blogs in which I get to express my opinions on issues of the day. He also asks me to write what he calls an “original reporting” piece for the website, ketr.org.

The best part of all of this is that my wife and I get to take time off whenever we want. We recently returned from a nearly monthlong journey out west. My bosses at the Farmersville Times knew I would be gone. No problem, they said. We’ll cover the meeting in your absence, they assured me. And so it goes.

I have told folks many times in my retirement years that “separation anxiety from full-time work is greatly overrated.” I believe it now more than ever. I have been blessed to have been able to stay “in the game” with these part-time jobs.

Thus, I continue to have the “time of my life.”

Memoir in the works

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The question comes with surprising frequency when I tell folks what I did for a living for nearly four decades.

It goes something like this: Are you going to write a book about it?

My answer is usually the same: Well … not exactly. However, I am renewing a commitment I made some years ago not long after my career in daily print journalism came to a sudden halt, which is that I am going to finish a memoir I intend to write for my sons and any other family members who are interested in reading it.

You see, my career enabled me as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers in Oregon and Texas to do many things not available to other human beings. It also allowed me to cross paths with people I admired and, yes, loathed from afar.

I was able to meet a future president of the United States, a former POTUS, someone who was running for the high office. I flew over an erupting volcano, I endured a landing and takeoff from a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. I stood in the presence of one of the 20th century’s most iconic political figure.

My wife has been nudging me to finish what I have started. Yes, I got started some time back on this memoir. I have let the effort lapse, much to my dismay.

Then we met recently with one of my oldest and dearest friends. He, too, likes to write and has paid marvelous tributes to his late wife. My friend encouraged me with affirmation that the highlights of my career are worth sharing with my sons.

It’s a project that needs finishing. My only “problem,” if you want to call it that, is that I am not sure I ever will be able to finish it, to tie a bow around it and present it. Why? I keep recalling individuals and occurrences that filled me with so much joy.

But … the work will commence.