By: Gina V. Ramsey
For anyone who has ever been mesmerized by a story, you know the luxury of being transported within your own imagination.
As a kid, journalist John Canalis would happily spend his Saturdays reading all day.
“I was always a big reader,” John said. “I had such a passion for reading, for literature. We had newspapers around. I’d pretty much read anything.”
And although being a reader doesn’t automatically translate to being a writer, those who form that deep connection with the written word can’t help but want to try a hand at it.
Hot Off the Press
Raised in Santa Monica, John gravitated to his high school newspaper for a creative outlet and wrote general interest stories on art and entertainment. Eventually when he made the move down the 405 freeway to attend Cal State Long Beach, he found himself again around writing.
“I sort of stumbled into it,” John said. “At a friend’s suggestion, I began writing for an alternative weekly paper.”
In order to report for the campus paper, The Daily 49er, he had to enroll in Journalism classes as a requirement. Once immersed in the campus newsroom, John discovered how much he really took pleasure in it.
“I fell in love with the atmosphere,” he said.
Eventually he moved his way up to city editor, then editor-in-chief.
“I learned so much there,” John said. “Some journalists are shy; we’re readers and writers. Reporting is a different skill. It didn’t come naturally [to interview and ask questions]. But the job itself gave me the courage to overcome shyness.”
From Shy Reader to News Writer
A graduate of Long Beach State’s Journalism & Public Relations Department, John worked for the Press-Telegram for 10 years in several roles, including reporter, business/city editor, assistant city editor, county government reporter, and writer for a weekly column, The Canalis Report, in which he wrote essays exploring topics around the city.
“It was a type of service Journalism, doing in-depth reporting on things about our local neighborhoods, a lot of ‘why is this the way it is?’ One of the most widely read stories was about why Long Beach had so many cracked sidewalks that weren’t fixed. It turned into an infrastructure project,” he said. “I really loved working there [at the Press-Telegram]. I got to explore my own backyard and serve our readers.”
Do As I Say, And As I do
Aside from reporting, John also taught journalism classes for 14 years at several local colleges, including his alma mater where he currently serves on the advisory board for their Journalism & Public Relations department.
During his years as business editor at the PT, John developed an interest in economics, budgeting, and finance, so he decided to earn his MBA in 2009, all the while teaching, working as a full-time reporter, and raising a family.
“There were a lot of very early mornings and late evenings [juggling my time].”
In 2010, he joined The Los Angeles Times where he served as executive editor of their Times Community News section, which publishes local papers such as the Daily Pilot and TimesOC, among others.
In 2019, John transitioned to his current position with The Times as assistant managing editor for administration, where he serves as a liaison between the newsroom and Human Resources to develop editorial budgets.
“Nowadays, I edit once or twice a month or whenever I’m asked to help out,” he said. “I love those moments. I’m still very passionate about it. It feels like a treat, not like work.”
Write! And Rewrite!
Even during the decline of print news, there was never a lack of up-and-coming journalists.
“Newspapers might have been shrinking and running out of opportunities, but it’s never been hard to attract the talent,” John said. “There have always been people who want to ‘run into the burning building.’”
As online publications increase, John points out the importance of honing the elements that have always served quality reputable news sources.
“Just having an online presence to get attention isn’t a substitute for good fundamentals,” he said. “It does make a difference.”
John encourages anyone with the desire to get into journalism to write and read as much as possible.
“Write and edit for your school publication and read everything you can.”
As with any medium, it takes practice, practice, and more practice.
“Just get it out, write it down,” he said. “[When I write] my first draft, it doesn’t come out beautifully. It can be garbage. But then I rewrite all day until it’s where I want it to be.”
What makes reporting and writing so unique is the reach it has into so many different spheres in the community.
“It’s truly been an incredible experience,” John said. “I’ve talked to people in all lines of work. We normally live in our silos depending on what we do: officers with officers, teachers with teachers, etc. We [journalists] can gain so many different perspectives because we have access to interact with everyone in our society.”