Q&A With WriteByNight Consultant Kenneth Hanner
Kenneth Hanner (Austin, Texas) works as an editor for The Washington Times website, www.times247.com, and writes a weekly political item for Washington-based Human Events. He is the former national editor of The Washington Times, where he worked for 26 years, and the former managing editor of Human Events, where he also edited weekly newsletters written by Newt Gingrich and Robert Novak.
Where are you from?
I was born in Omaha, Neb., grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., and spent nearly 30 years in Washington, D.C. Eventually, I had reverse Potomac Fever, tired of the political scene, and fled for wonderful Austin, Tex.
How did you get your start as a writer?
I got lucky when The Washington Times was founded in 1982 and the editors had to find 200 editors and reporters in a few months. I had a contact and snuck into the newsroom without any prior experience. Amazingly, I stayed around for 26 years, including 14 as national editor.
Who are some of your influences?
The Times had an amazing cast of characters over the years: Jeremiah O’Leary who covered every president since Franklin Roosevelt and actually broke the story that was the basis of the movie The Exorcist; Hugh Aynesworth, who was on the scene on the day JFK was shot and was in the theater when Oswald was seized; Wesley Pruden, the courtly Southerner from Arkansas who was editor in chief for many years; ex-cop Jerry Seper, who made life miserable for Bill Clinton with his hard-edged reporting; my good friend and long-time boss Fran Coombs, who once commented, “Journalism is war.”
What is your favorite thing about educating writers at WBN?
The writers are appreciative of any suggestion that can improve their work.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting started. (If only I hadn’t played that same video game over and over.)
What is your strangest writing experience?
Most of my career was as an editor, rather than as a writer or reporter. Nearly every day is strange in a big city newsroom, but the 2000 election night stands out. I got home at around 3 a.m. after a grueling day and evening, thinking the election was over. Only when I woke up two hours later did I learn that it was too close to call.
Where do you see the world of writing and publishing heading?
The future of daily newspapers is pretty dismal with Craigslist taking away classified ad revenue, Internet aggregators appropriating content, young readers getting news online (or not even caring to become informed about current events), and the cost of news print soaring. Instead of the old model of a small, elite number of gatekeepers deciding what news is fit to print, journalism has become democratized as anyone with a laptop can blog and anyone with a cell phone can Tweet.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Make sure you have a day job.