Tag Archives: media

In defense of newspapers

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Every so often I find myself answering the same question and I have refined my answer to a level I can explain with relative ease.

It came to me again this morning right here in Princeton, Texas. A young dental hygienist asked me what I did for a living. I told her I am retired but was a journalist for nearly four decades. I reported for newspapers, I told her, and then gravitated to opinion writing and editing.

She gave me the obligatory “I like holding a newspaper in my hands” while reading it and then asked: Do you think the reporting is unbiased?

Hmm. It is, I told her. I mentioned that many newspapers around the world — large, small and all sizes in between — continue to do first-rate reporting. They get to the facts, report them fairly and accurately.

What has changed, I told my new friend, is the audience. Consumers of news now seem to want more opinion, I said. I encourage her to look carefully at how large newspapers are covering events of the day.

I didn’t get a sense of her bias, although I reminded her that in my years working as a journalist I learned that “bias inherently is in the eyes of the consumer.” People ascribe bias to solid news reporting when it doesn’t comport with their own world view. Thus, the audience has changed its outlook.

Newspapers continue to do good work. The big folks — Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, you name ’em — keep churning out good work for readers to consume. Some newspaper publishers do look for ways to cover stories intending to embarrass certain people in high places. I have learned to look the other way when I see the names of certain news organizations plastered on stories that have that ring of sensationalism.

I admit freely — and I have done so repeatedly over the years — that I do not disguise my own bias. I have it. You have it. We all have our bias. However, I am able to disseminate hard, cold facts from what I call “advocacy journalism.”

Believe me, there remains plenty of great reporting of just the facts out there.

Time of My Life, Part 55: Recalling this byline

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A brief exchange with a longtime friend reminded me of an aspect of my former career that inexplicably had escaped my top-of-mind consciousness.

My friend and I were exchanging views about the devolution of the Republican Party in my home state of Oregon. I mentioned how the Oregon GOP had produced giants such as U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield and Gov. Tom McCall. Then my friend threw another name at me: Norma Paulus.

And that triggered a remembrance that had gone dormant over many years.

In early 1977, I was working on the copy desk of the Oregon Journal, the now-defunct afternoon newspaper in Portland. I was an aspiring reporter at the time. I had worked as a freelance sports writer for a community weekly newspaper. The Journal was my first full-time job in a newsroom, which thrilled me to no end.

Then the city editor called me into his office and offered me a chance I snapped up with maximum gusto. Norma Paulus, who was Oregon’s newly elected secretary of state, was talking that night to a group of accountants. Would I be interested in covering that speech for the newspaper?

Well … yeah!

So I went to the meeting that night. I listened to Paulus, who then was a political superstar in Oregon, deliver a bone-dry speech to a roomful of bean counters. I cannot remember the precise content of her speech, but in the moment I managed to somehow weave a story and turned it in the next morning to the city desk.

That afternoon, when the presses started, I grabbed a copy and pored through the Oregon Journal and found my story: It was a bylined piece on Page 2.

Here’s another lesson from the good old days: Back then, reporters didn’t generally put their bylines on stories. That decision was left to the editor(s) to determine whether it merited a byline. If it didn’t pass muster or required too much rewriting from the editor, the reporter didn’t receive credit for writing it.

My story made the grade, I am proud to report. The editor put my name on it and it was published in all its (supposed) glory.

The next task that awaits me is to find that story, which I am certain I saved. It’s likely tucked away in a file cabinet. All I need to do is find it and read what I wrote. It must’ve been a doozy.

Blog about to reach new milestone

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Once long ago I read that it is good for bloggers to write about their blog. So that’s what I’ll do with this brief post.

High Plains Blogger is about to reach a milestone of sorts. That would be 600 consecutive days of fresh posts. Why brag about that?

Well, let’s just say that I am so darn happy to be able to write about things that are near and perhaps not so dear to me. I enjoy venting. Ranting is good, too. So is handing out bouquets on occasion.

I enjoy sharing my life’s journey with you, along with tales of our adorable puppy, Toby, who we refer to as Puppy.

Yes, I also enjoy keeping up with current political trends. Brother, we have had ’em over the past few years, yes? I get worked up over things I see occurring that displease me. As we enter a new presidential era with the departure of No. 45, I look forward to offering commentary — positive and negative — on policies enacted by No. 46. I will admit that my criticism likely won’t be as visceral as it was during the previous presidential administration, but what the hell … that’s just me.

I’ll reach 600 consecutive blog-post days sometime next week. I might acknowledge it in the moment. If I forget, I’ll get to it eventually.

Meantime, I want to thank you in advance for reading this blog and sharing it with your friends and loved ones. It keeps me going.

How will they remember us?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As I communicate occasionally with former colleagues of mine around the country I am left with a stunning realization.

It is that the communities where I worked for 37 years in daily journalism are not alone as the newspapers that once served them with pride — and occasionally with tenacity — are dying before the communities’ eyes.

There was a time when I was feeling a bit of a complex about the communities where I worked. I started my career in Oregon City, Ore.; the newspaper that served that town is now gone, closed up, the building wiped off the slab on which it sat. I gravitated to Beaumont, Texas, where I worked for nearly 11 years; the company that owns that paper is now trying to sell the building and the news staff has been reduced to virtually zero. Then I moved to Amarillo and worked there for nearly 18 years; same song, different verse than what is playing out in Beaumont, except that Amarillo’s newspaper staff has vacated the building and is now housed in a downtown bank tower suite of offices.

Did I contribute to their death or terminal illness?

Then comes the other question: How will our descendants remember us?

I have a granddaughter who’s almost 8 years old. I actually wonder what she will say if someone were to ask her, “What did your grandpa do for a living?” Could she answer the question in a way that makes sense to her and to the person who asks it? I hope her mommy and daddy will help explain it to her. I will do my best to put it in perspective when the moment presents itself.

I am proud of the career I pursued. I did enjoy some modest success over the decades. My peers honored my work on occasion with awards. It’s not about that, of course. We did our jobs with a commitment to tell the truth and, in my case as an opinion writer and editor, to offer our perspectives fairly and honestly.

This transition is playing out everywhere in the land.

I spoke this week with a friend in Roanoke, Va., a fellow opinion journalist, who told me that paper also has suffered grievously in this new age of social media, live-streaming and cable TV news/commentary. I hear the same from others in the upper Midwest. I see circulation figures from major newspapers and cringe at the calamitous decline in paid readership.

For example, my hometown newspaper, the (Portland) Oregonian, once circulated more than 400,000 copies daily; the World Almanac and Book of Facts says the paper now sells 143,000 newspapers each day.

I feel like a dinosaur … and I take small comfort in knowing that there are many of us out there who lament the pending demise of a proud craft. I hope for all it’s worth that whatever emerges to take our place will continue to tell the truth and do so with fairness.

POTUS-press relationship restored

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Those of us who have toiled, or are still toiling, in the business of providing information through media outlets to the public took serious objection to a president of the United States labeling the media as “the enemy of the people.” 

I am part of the former group. I am now retired from daily journalism. Still, I am heartened to see that the White House press briefing room might be allowed to return to its original mission: to allow the media to question the White House press spokespeople on issues of the day.

Press secretary Jen Psaki, on the first day of the Biden administration, delivered her first press briefing to the media assembled in front of her. It was wonderful to see a return to the way these events are designed to go. Reporters ask questions of her about presidential policy; she answers the questions directly.

Psaki reminded reporters that there likely will be differences between President Biden and the media that cover him.

Biden’s presidential predecessor didn’t like the way covered him. He bristled at tough questions. He would label stern questioners as peddlers of “fake news,” which was the height of irony, given his own fomenting of lies and mistruths.

Earlier presidents got hectored as well from the press that sought to get to the truth behind issues of the day. They didn’t like the treatment any more than Biden’s immediate predecessor. They realized that a free and aggressive press is essential to holding government officials accountable for their actions, their statements and their policies that affect all of us.

I am looking forward to seeing how the POTUS/media relationship develops in the Joe Biden Era. It won’t always be warm and fuzzy. I want it to be constructive even in the face of criticism that comes with the territory.

Hoping to eradicate an ‘e-word’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I suppose you could surmise that there is a virtually endless array of things I anticipate with the inauguration of Joe Biden as our next president of the United States.

One of those things is the elimination of certain epithets we hear far too often from the man he will succeed, Donald J. Trump.

I want to discuss one of them briefly here. That would be the term “enemy.”

Joe Biden is wired entirely differently than Donald Trump.

Biden has said categorically and without equivocation that political foes are not enemies. He has worked through many decades in public service seeking compromise with politicians from the other party. He works well with Republicans while being what he calls himself as being a “proud Democrat.”

The president-elect understands that effective legislation quite often is the result of compromise. He doesn’t see the GOP as comprising enemies. They merely are opponents. Donald Trump exhibited an all-too-often and annoying tendency to cast his foes as enemies.

Indeed, he infamously referred to the media as the “enemy of the American people.” My goodness, it is no such thing. Previous presidents have been made uncomfortable by harsh questions posed by the media. None of them to my knowledge ever referred to reporters as anyone’s “enemy.”

I expect to see President Biden restore the sense of respect we all can have for those with whom we disagree. I also expect to see him eradicate the careless and reckless use of the word “enemy” within the White House.

Waiting, waiting, waiting …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Back when I worked full time for newspapers, this was the night we all cherished and perhaps even dreaded.

Election Night would bring us into our newsroom; I would be stationed in the editorial page office. Our reporters were spread out, manning phones or in the field covering election returns from polling places, or from campaign headquarters.

I generally would await election results and then prepare a next-day editorial commenting on the news of the day, which dealt with who won or who lost. We would try to offer a modicum of perspective, even as events were unfolding in real time in front of us.

I no longer do that. I sit at home. My wife and I are watching news shows that are telling us all we need to know, and even all we might not want to hear.

However, nights like this remind me of the thrill that came with reporting and commenting on issues, seeking to put it into context and to ensure we deliver the next day as complete a package of news reports and commentary as we could to thousands of folks who actually — in the old days — used to depend on their daily newspaper to inform them.

The old days are gone forever. However, my interest in politics and policy remains quite strong. I no longer attend newspaper vigils awaiting election returns. I do retain a serious interest in what those returns mean to the community where I live and to the nation I love.

This year certainly has heightened that interest, elevating to a level I cannot recall since, oh, the first time I got to vote for president in 1972. I was a youngster then, full of pi** and vinegar. These days I am so much older and decidedly less, um, zealous.

The interest remains high. But I’ll leave the deadline pressure of getting the news out on time to the youngsters. Have at it, gang. I’ll pick my newspaper off the driveway in the morning.

Sick of the anger

(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald John Trump is an angry man.

He is too angry. He is too riven with insecurity. His narcissism is beyond belief and redemption.

I want to speak briefly today about the anger. I am sick of watching him rail against “fake news” that is nothing of the sort. I have had my fill of him contending that the media are against him because, well, they just are. I long ago lost tolerance for his anger-laced epithets against his presidential predecessors, chiefly his immediate predecessor, Barack H. Obama.

I didn’t watch the final debate Thursday night he had with Joe Biden. I didn’t need to watch it to help me decide who to support in this year’s election. I was without TV reception, so I’ll catch it later.

I keep reading that Trump was on his better behavior, that he didn’t interrupt Biden or the debate moderator as he did in that first sh** show.

Imagine getting four more years of Trump’s anger emanating from the White House. I cannot go there. I will not go there. I cannot stand the thought of him being re-elected to a second term.

Joe Biden is not pretending to be Mr. Happy Joy-Joy. He is a serious public official. He also is devoid of the anger that Donald Trump demonstrates every single day.

I want my president to speak to me seriously, but without rancor.

Time of My Life, Part 51: A new beginning

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I understand that Scripture tells us about new doors opening when one slams shut.

It happened to me in 2012. A career in print journalism came to a screeching halt in August of that year. I was adrift for just a little while.

Then a friend from Panhandle PBS got in touch with me. Linda Pitner was general manager of the public TV station — affiliated with Amarillo College — at the time. She wanted to know if I would like to write a blog for the stations’ web site.

Would I? Of course I would! With that, a career that came to an end got restarted in an entirely new form at Panhandle PBS. I was doing things for public TV that my former employer at the Amarillo Globe-News didn’t think I could do. I had joined the world of online journalism.

I have to say that I had a serious blast writing that blog and doing the kind of video blogs — such as the one I attached to this brief post. The gig didn’t last an overly long time. Panhandle PBS brought in a new GM eventually and he decided that my services no longer fit the direction he wanted to take the station.

We parted company. That didn’t end my blogging time.

A local CBS affiliate GM asked me the same thing Pitner did: Would I like to write for KFDA-NewsChannel 10? Of course I would, I told Brent McClure. So, he hired me as a freelancer to write features for the website. I would write them and then the on-air news anchors would introduce the features in a brief segment during the evening newscasts. They would assemble video presentations to complement the text I had submitted to the website.

That, too, was a seriously good time for this longtime print guy. The KFDA gig, though, came to an end when budget constraints kicked in. No worries for me.

My wife and I gravitated from Amarillo to the Metroplex in 2018. The fun continues.

Another friend of mine — who is news director at KETR-FM public radio — gave me a shout. Mark Haslett and I worked together at the Globe-News for a time; prior to that he was an executive at High Plains Public Radio in Amarillo, so we knew each other pretty well.

Haslett asked if I would — you guessed it — write a blog for KETR, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. Why, yes! I would! So I have been writing a blog for KETR and once again am having the time of my life.

That’s not the end of it. When we settled in Princeton, just east of McKinney and just a bit northeast of our granddaughter in Allen, I put a feeler out to the publisher of the Princeton Herald. Did they need a freelance reporter? The publisher, Sonia Duggan, said “yes.” So … she and I agreed that I could write for the Farmersville Times, which is another weekly newspaper in a group of weeklies Duggan owns with her husband, Chad Engbrock.

Therefore, I have come full circle. I am now covering city council and school board meetings for a weekly newspaper, along with banging out the occasional feature article.

It’s where and how it all began for this old man.

And I am still having the time of my life.

Growing city needs strong newspaper

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I was speaking the other day to a member of my family; we were talking about two issues simultaneously: the growth and maturation of Amarillo, Texas, and the long, slow and agonizing demise of the newspaper that formerly served the community.

It occurred to me later that both trends work at cross purposes. I find myself asking: How does a community grow and prosper without a newspaper telling its story?

That is what is happening in Amarillo, I told my family member.

The city’s downtown district is changing weekly. New businesses open. The city is revamping and restoring long dilapidated structures. Amarillo has a successful minor-league baseball franchise playing ball in a shiny new stadium in the heart of its downtown district.

The city’s medical complex is growing, adding hundreds of jobs annually. Pantex, the massive nuclear weapons storage plant, continues its work. Bell/Textron’s aircraft assembly plant continues to turn out V-22 Ospreys and other rotary-wing aircraft. Streets and highways are under repair and improvement.

Amarillo is coming of age. Its population has exceeded 200,000 residents.

What, though, is happening to the media that tell the story of the community? I can speak only of the newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years before walking away during a corporate reorganization of the newspaper. The company that owned the G-N for more than 40 years sold its group of papers … and then got out of the newspaper publishing business. It gave up the fight in a changing media market.

The newspaper’s health has deteriorated dramatically in the years since then. Two general assignment reporters cover the community. That’s it. Two! The paper has zero photographers and a single sports writer.

The paper is printed in Lubbock. It has a regional executive editor who splits her time between Amarillo and Lubbock and a regional director of commentary who does the same thing.

There exists, therefore, a serious dichotomy in play in a growing and increasingly vibrant community. I see the contradiction in the absence of a growing and vibrant newspaper that tells the whole story about what is happening in the community it is supposed to cover.

Spare me the “it’s happening everywhere” canard. I get that. I have seen it. None of that makes it any easier to witness it happening in a community I grew to love while I worked there. I built a home there and sought to offer critical analysis of the community from my perch as editor of the Globe-News editorial page.

I do not see that happening these days.

Meanwhile, Amarillo continues to grow and prosper. If only it had a newspaper on hand to tell its story to the rest of the world.