Tag Archives: media

Is the SUV color that vital?

The media keep repeating something that has me wondering about its relevance and importance.

An SUV plowed through a Christmas festival crowd in Waukesha, Wisc., over the weekend. Five people died. Dozens more were injured. Many of the injured are children and several of those children are in ICU and are listed in critical condition. Our hearts break for the victims and pray that the injured recover.

But why are the media reporting constantly that the SUV is a red vehicle? “A red SUV drove at a high rate of speed … “ And so it goes.

Is the color of the vehicle so relevant that it matters in reporting on this human tragedy? Someone needs to explain it to me. Please.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Newspapers dying, but not yet dead

A friend of mine sent me this snippet from a podcast given by acclaimed sportswriter Mike Greenberg.

He writes about the cultural value of reading an actual newspaper. Not something you see online. Greenberg said:

“I fervently believe people comprehend things better when they read them on paper than when they read them on their phone or on line. Your generation and all generations to come are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures, and that is a cup of coffee and a newspaper. It is a pleasure you’ll never know. It is one that I’ll never cease to enjoy. To my dying day, if they continue to print newspapers, I will continue to read them that way and there is something about a cup of coffee and a newspaper, not reading it on-line; there is an experience reading a newspaper. It is a loss for the culture.”

I am one of those, too. It’s not that I feel necessarily smarter or have greater comprehension skills than those who don’t read newspaper.

It is to say that I will go to my own grave being dedicated to the work that journalists do to inform me of the community where I live and of the world we all call home.

Thanks, Mike Greenberg.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Time of My Life, Part 61: In it for the duration

I have written about all the good times I had while practicing my craft as a journalist.

Today, I am having more fun than I could have imagined more than nine years ago when my print journalism career came to an abrupt end in the Texas Panhandle.

I have made a commitment to my wife and to my other bosses that I intend to keep writing for a weekly newspaper and for a public radio station for as long as I can string sentences together.

I am having the time of my life once again.

These days I consider myself to be retired. In fact, it’s a sort of semi-retirement. I get up each morning not having to report to work. That part of my life is perfect.

I get to cover city government and school issues for the Farmersville Times, a weekly newspaper that is part of a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County, Texas. The group, C&S Media, is owned by a husband-wife team for whom I work. I have pledged to them that I intend to keep working for as long as I am physically — and mentally — able to do the job.

Then there’s the other job I have. I write for a website published by KETR-FM radio based at Texas A&M University-Commerce. My assignment there recently changed. I had been writing opinion columns for KETR.org, but my boss at the station, news director Mark Haslett, assigned me to cover two water projects in Fannin County exclusively. They are Bois d’Arc Lake and Lake Ralph Hall. Bois d’Arc Lake is filling up with water as I write these words; Ralph Hall remains more of a long-term project.

I made the same commitment to KETR that I did to my bosses at C&S Media: I intend to do this for as long as I am able.

My career took me to many places around the world. It enabled me to cross paths with famous and infamous individuals. I was able to do things that most folks do not get to do … such as flying over an erupting volcano, landing and taking off from a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and visiting the place where I once served during wartime.

That was then. The here and now allows me to learn more about the place my wife and I now call home.

I am living the dream.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Will stay at it … for the duration

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Walking through the ‘hood this morning with my wife and Toby the Puppy, I made a declaration that I want to share here.

It was simply this: I do not miss going to work every day, meaning that I enjoy this retired life. And I also intend to keep working part-time on my two reporting gigs for as long as I am able.

I need to lay down an important marker: The length of my reporting gig well might not be totally in my control. I do work for someone else in both instances. They might decide down the road that they no longer need my meager writing and reporting skills. If they bid me adieu, well, that’s the way it’ll have to be.

However, I am getting no indication that will occur. At least not today or perhaps even next week.

That all said, I have learned quite a bit about myself as I have trudged into this world of being a Retired Guy. I hated the way my working life came to an end. I have ditched the anger and have embraced fully the life into which I was thrust.

I have learned that I simply enjoy stringing sentences together. I write my blog daily (which I am doing at this very moment). I also write for a weekly newspaper, the Farmersville Times, which circulates in the community that sits just seven miles east of us in Collin County, Texas. And then there’s the blog I write for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce.

I just cannot stop writing. Nor can I stop meeting people and learning about the communities where my wife and I frequent these days. Indeed, my wife recognizes that in me and she acknowledged that desire when I declared my intention to keep writing for the duration. “It’s what you do,” she said.

So, with that I hope to keep doing it until I no longer am able.

Time of My Life, Part 58: It goes with territory

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My morning started at the Sam Rayburn VA Medical Center in Bonham, Texas, where I went for a routine exam.

During the course of the examination, the radiology technician and I engaged in some light-hearted banter that wove its way eventually toward some of the complaints she gets from veterans such as me.

“If I say something that someone doesn’t like, they go to” speak to the personnel office, she said. “Then I hear from her” and have to explain, she added.

No one tells the personnel office about all “thousands of good things that go on here,” she said.

I laughed. Loudly, in fact. It reminded me of an aspect of my career that I shared with the radiology technician. I will share it with you.

I told her that “when I was a working guy, I wrote editorials for newspapers.” One of the aspects of the job was getting feedback from readers. It could be positive. It could be negative. I told her that “I lost count many years ago of the time someone would say, ‘Hey, I really liked that editorial you wrote.’ I would ask him or her ‘Which one?’ They couldn’t remember, but only told me they liked it,” I explained. Did it frustrate me? Of course it did! I wanted to know the particulars of what pleased this individual; I didn’t tell her that part.

Then I told her, “If they disagreed with an editorial I wrote or a position I laid out, why they were able to recite it back to me … word for word.” 

Such is the nature of that line of work and so it is with what my new friend at the Rayburn VA Center has chosen to do.

I ended up telling her, “I hope you know it just goes with the territory.”

She understands.

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.