Jason Cannon

Interview by
Published on
February 7, 2023

In this episode...

On this episode of Life By The Mile, veteran journalist from the Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ) Jason Cannon gives us the inside scoop on the important role of responsible journalism in the trucking industry! Jason talks about the crucial role that responsible journalism plays in keeping this vital sector informed, accountable, and transparent. From uncovering the latest trends and developments to exploring the impact of technology on the industry, it is imperative for journalists to deliver accurate and relevant news today to help everyone in the trucking industry to make important decisions. Don't miss out on the opportunity to learn about this critical component of the global supply chain and the journalists making a difference. Enjoy Episode 126 of Life By The Mile, delivered by FreightWorks.

Jason Cannon

Jason Cannon is the Chief Editor at CCJ — Commercial Carrier Journal


I'm not the guy who's gonna sit here and be the Doom and Gloom Prophet that everything's gonna crater in on itself and you can't make a living being in the trucking industry rates are too low we're all going to go to business you know I I'm not that guy welcome to life of the mile delivered by brakeworks one of America's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by Trucking indicted to tell a story compelling driver's story I need to do something insightful industry Excellence all here right now it's life of the mile delivered by freightworks I'm your host Butch Maltby you know when we started this journey launched by freightworks life of the mile it was done with the intent to tell the stories the powerful stories of drivers and beyond that the incredible intricacies of logistics and the like and I'm thrilled I'm personally thrilled that today we have the opportunity to have Jason cannon on he's the chief editor at ccj the commercial Carrier Journal and you know Jason I'm just going to say this real quickly I came into doing this work with no background none in trucking Logistics and you don't know this but your your publication your platform has been my platform to to learn and I'm really grateful that you're here today well I I appreciate that um this was also my platform to learn I don't have a didn't have a trucking background until I I came here so you and I have that in common we do we also have some other things in common that relate to uh we'll talk about this later small town newspapers and and the importance of local journalism and and and the like Jason Cannon the chief editor at ccj the commercial Carrier Journal uh he's responsible for maintaining the excellent print editorial product improving online audience development and increasing ccj's readers knowledge of business and safety related industry issues we always start by asking the question tell us a little bit about your journey how did you end up to where you are now which is really a significant portal of information inspiration and incitement to Quality action in the whole Trucking industry how did you get here um well I I started off at a 10-year career in community newspapers I sort of entered the end of the the newspaper industry at the worst possible time I was coming in as that industry was imploding on itself um I managed to survive the implosion but I did decide that that was not an industry where I could see at the time being you know third in my early 30s making it to my you know late 60s um was very fortunate to discover that uh Randall Riley our parent company had a need for somebody that knew how to write they were willing to overlook the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about Trucking um and they hired me on to write for and edit their aftermarket and heavy truck dealer Publications I did that for about five or so years um and then an opportunity uh became available at ccj um they asked me to take it on I I was perfectly willing to do that obviously because here I am uh that was on the equipment beat which is sort of our maintenance and trucks and components be I went and got my CDL shortly after taking that job I still do all of our test drives and everything that involves heavy equipment I handle all of that because I'm the only one that's licensed to drive it and um I've been editor of ccj for four or five years uh 2020 sort of that weird year that if you told me 2020 was a year ago I'd believe it if you told me it was six years ago I would believe it it feels like just yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time that is that is that is well said and actually it was like you were speaking something that you were typing out that's an elegant description of that what what did you find early on coming into the industry that was interesting to you I mean what what was different what was interesting what did you find puzzling what did you find curious

and a Gearhead do my own maintenance do my own yeah I fixed the stuff around the house I fixed the stuff on the cars and the trucks here um I've always been drawn to the maintenance aspect which was interesting that I got my start on the aftermarket and service side so I was able to kind of get really get in tune and stay in tune with the maintenance managers uh with the Fleet Maintenance aspect with the technician aspect um I have sort of maintained that beat even as a isn't even if as I have kind of moved along in ccj I've still kind of maintained that beat that is something that I enjoy um it's a lot of fun when you start talking to a guy who's a a career technician or you know he started his career as a technician now he's you know vice president of maintenance for a ccj top 250 Fleet um and they start talking about you know things that you understand obviously I'm not as gifted in that realm as what they are but when you start talking about you know fluid change intervals and tire problems and pressures and you know things like that and the effects that uh you know how an after treatment system works and all that when you when you're able to understand that at least on a a very basic level compared to how they understand it I always enjoy being able to talk to the maintenance guy I like talking to the fleet the you know the management the boss the uh the business side of it too but I I really have an affinity for the for the maintenance side I enjoy that a lot now when you when you talk about the industry these days I mean you've been in it enough to know that there are Cycles where do you see us right now

uh I mean we're obviously on a down cycle I guess if you want to call it that but we're coming down from a historically high place so when generally when I get asked this question it's hard to not acknowledge that fuel prices are higher rates are a little lower but rates are lower than they were when they were historically High if you take a big step back and then you look at where rates are now they're not completely out of bounds with what would be considered an average um where you start to make the argument where things are out of bounds is maintenance costs and fuel costs and things like that so have has the revenue of trucking kept up with the expense of trucking not necessarily but I'm not the guy who's going to sit here and be the Doom and Gloom Prophet that everything's going to Crater in on itself and you can't make a live-in being in the trucking industry rates are too low we're all going to go out of business you know I'm not that guy um we we did see a lot of people when spot Market rates got super heated that jumped into that market and you know they they paid way too much for their truck because the used Market was nuts right now are are those guys in trouble yes are those guys a big a a huge part of the the population that moved Freight not very that's not to say that that's not sad news for those guys but they sort of came in under outlying business conditions they paid way too much for their assets their truck notes are way too high it was great when they were making historically High rates but everybody that that really understood how business work could see maybe at six months maybe it's 12 months maybe it's 18 months but when rates normalize your truck payments not gonna normalize your truck payments going to be static and you're going to have a hard time making that payment right and and so for a lot of those folks and we you know we need to recognize and I sense that in your voice we need to recognize these are real people and real stories they jumped in believing that there was going to be a high water mark that was sustainable over time they purchased assets that were priced too high for what they're able to sustain over time and and they don't have a lot of you know capitalization behind them right yeah I mean it's it's like you know what we saw with uh cryptocurrency right I mean for everybody that bought Bitcoin at two dollars there's people that bit that bought Bitcoin at sixty thousand dollars so everybody that made a mint there's a lot of people who also lost their shirt and you know that that's that I don't know that that's really unique in any industry but that's just that's sort of what happened uh it if you timed it right you made a lot of good money you're probably able to pay off that truck if you timed it wrong you were in a lot of trouble you know what I can I can tell you're a journalist not just by looking at your Vita or your LinkedIn page but you had a phrase there that I promise I'm tempted to steal and I don't steal you made a mint but you lost your shirt you you go ahead you don't you have to cite me but it's just no whatever whatever you need no no I'm going to cite you but I like that a lot that is that is what I call a word missile that that captures the the whole situation for a lot of a lot of different markets now let me ask you something that's not related to trucking and Logistics specifically talk a little bit about Hometown journalism because it's something real close to to my heart I actually write off and on I guess column for the Daily Courier here in Rutherfordton or as they say here Ralston North North Carolina and I'm I'm just a big believer in small town local journalism can you talk about that a minute sure I'm a Believer too I mean I grew up in community newspapers I work for the largest newspaper I work for was a daily and it was still a community newspaper um I can tell you that Community journalism is hard and I don't think a lot of people appreciate that that you're never really off duty I was a publisher for several newspapers and I've had more people than I could count show up on my front porch at eight o'clock on a Saturday night that they have a complaint over something that we've written they have a complaint over the fact they missed their newspaper I mean it's you know you're pretty much a an open Target you know they see you at Walmart they see you at the grocery store and they've got something to tell you they don't care what your office hours are they need you to know it they want you to know it right then so um being a local journalist is a labor of love uh you really have to understand that there is no punch in punch out um when people want to talk to you they want to complain to you um you know it you it's open season on you but it can also be really rewarding um I put a lot of little kids in the newspaper uh I have we've got you know I've been out of the news the local newspaper business for I've been with Randall for 11 years I've been out of the newspaper business for 12 years but um I'm probably in thousands of scrapbooks um I was I spent years on people's refrigerators and you know that's that's the kind of impact a local journalist can have on their community and I I share a quick story with you um I was working at a small Daily Newspaper in Alabama when the 2000 Soldier the 2000s U.S soldier was killed in Iraq uh that young man lived in my hometown or in our hometown and he grew up in that Hometown and we had no idea like we we didn't really know what was going on I got a call from the our Newsroom I just happened to answer the phone uh I I got a call from the New York Post letting me know what was going on and they've been trying to connect with the family and the family won't talk to them and they wanted to know how we could help well I knew this I I knew this gentleman's mother and I told him like look you know there's really nothing I can do I can't force her to talk to you but I called her and expressed my condolences and told her that you know my newspaper would like to do a story on this that this has happened and we wanted to get you know your thoughts on it and she told me that story and we wrote that story and when I got ready to leave and I I did this story in her living room and when I got ready to leave she asked me if I'd do her a favor and I told her that I would and she said some guy in New York has been blowing up her phone wanting her to tell the story of how against the war in Iraq that she was he was to she what took away from that conversation you just want me to tell you negative things about my feelings about what we're doing in Iraq when in the reality she's just found out her son had been killed and my Approach was we want to tell his story to the community he grew up in this is what's happened to this young man and the the war in Iraq was really just sort of the I guess the enabling factor of that it was not even really part of my story and uh they wound up running my story because they couldn't get their own but it's probably not the story they wanted because you know Their audience the New York daily news's audience is not you know at the time I was working at the Clanton Advertiser which means absolutely nothing to anybody out there listen to that listen to this podcast but um my Approach was one that I guess the mother could appreciate that I wasn't being intrusive I wasn't I wasn't trying to lead her into what I wanted her to say I just sat in her living room told her that you know know we was I was as sorry as I could be expressed all of my condolences and I just let her talk and I just took notes as she talked so um it it that's not the that's not everybody's journalistic approach but um it took it took me a long way you know I don't I like to write I like to listen I don't really so much like to talk you know what I'm doing here with you is not really my thing I'm usually Where You Are so you know I I like to do a lot more listening than I do talking and you know being a journalist has afforded me that opportunity folks we want to make sure just real quickly as a short little life of the mile and freightworks Commercial if you're going to be at the Mid-America truck show we're going to be there March 30th to April 1st at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville make sure you check that out it's a wonderful opportunity for you to get to know the wife of the mile podcast team but also freightworks and if you have ideas for guests we're going to have some interesting incentives for you to tell us about that Jason let me let me ask this question when you look when you look at ccj and and and obviously uh you know you may not have all the answers here but when you look at the days ahead what do you see happening for information transmission on platforms like yours like what's your vision going forward

um the days of throwing somebody a piece of paper in their driveway or stuff it in their mailbox and that being a viable vessel for uh consumption or basically over we we no longer have a print product we we have transitioned to full digital and that and that means everything that digital encompasses videos podcasts um Daily website we were a monthly we were a monthly Mac paid print magazine or a monthly free subscription as long as you were qualifying a trucking Fleet um print magazine but we were daily on the internet so if you were a religious it Reader of the website by the time you got the print product you probably read most everything that was in there right now we had a lot of data science that says those are mostly two completely different people that the the people who read and print preferred the print the internet people were basically that that was their preference but um when we decided to take a step away from from print we did so with both feet and uh you know we we do Twitter we do Facebook we do LinkedIn we do 24 7 digital on the website um some of our properties have Tick Tock some of our properties have Snapchat um you know it's basically we we are aware everybody wants to go or we try to be by the way folks Jason Cannon Chief editor at ccj commercial Carrier Journal and it's Demopolis is that the way you say it Alabama that's correct um if you want a little uh 30 seconds of nerd history if you're familiar with your American slash European history the Demopolis was founded by a bunch of Napoleonic expats that when Napoleon was disposed they were kicked out of France they were friends um so if so if you've ever heard of the Vine and Olive Colony yes that's that's Demopolis that's that's where I live did you grow up there I did not I grew up in Birmingham which is about two hours north of here right um newspaper Tour of Duty I ran the newspaper in this town for a while and when I got out of the newspaper business my oldest daughter who just who is now in her second year of college was about to start kindergarten and we had decided that we didn't want to move her right as she's going into school so we just decided to throw down some roots and we've been here ever since so so you I I want to say this gently you know where all the dead bodies are uh from 10 years here and in the newspaper I know where a lot of them are Maybe not maybe not all of them but okay you know what whenever I've said that to like a local share I said it to a local retired Sheriff here in Rutherford County I said to him I said Dan you kind of know where and the head of the local radio station they were both talking and I looked at both of them I said Jim Bishop the head of wcab they call you the Godfather and Dan good they call you the sheriff beyond all sheriffs and they looked at me and I said that means you probably both know where all the dead bodies are and I thought they were going to say oh that's ridiculous you know what they did they looked at each other they they looked at each other so in small towns you never really know do you yep yep but I understood that reference yeah do you have do you have a local radio station there uh we do um it sort of comes and goes though it's okay the formatting changes every six months and then the ownerships change five or six times since I've lived here uh they offered me a job once when I'm still at the newspaper in hindsight I probably should have taken it um but um we do but if you ask me what the format was right now I couldn't tell you right and of course there's been so much aggregation and you know radio media the convergence of Technologies and and all the those things Jason what strikes me is that I don't know where this came in your DNA but you've been able to Pivot through different changes in the information distribution flow of things or where did that come from like when you were young did you write did you want to make a rocket to go the moon or like what was in your DNA early on that allowed you to be able to be flexible like this

the way I was raised was you know I was very old school I think a lot of folks would consider it old school was um you know you're just you're presented with circumstances you either figure it out or you don't it's a very sink or swim um and you know I think I try to be a very slim person I you know I sometimes you can't you have to play the hand you're dealt um and I was a print guy and we when we when we decided to wind down the print product I don't know that I celebrated that but you have to embrace what's left and what was left was digital and then all the opportunities that came with that pivot I mean we're able to do so much more on digital than we were ever able to do in print we can reach more people there's more flexibility on the platforms I mean I can't give you a video in a print product but I can give you video digitally six or seven different ways so I mean you can either kind of sit back and and cry and whine and mourn the loss of the print product or you can figure out how to Pivot and develop a really excellent digital product um and I think what you know we and and maybe not specifically me but we as a company had decided to do is you know celebrate print for what it was and then celebrate digital for what it's going to become we are looking forward by the way and are thrilled as an asset-based Carrier about 150 trucks and drivers uh re-purbishing our Fleet with new Peterbilt 579 Ultra Lofts the drivers are loving those we're really looking forward to being at this uh event this innovators event Jason and uh you know at the risk of it sounding self-indulgent which it's not your article you wrote in July of 2022 on on our podcast and what we're trying to do we tell people we don't really know what we're doing but we're trying it you know we we the company Josh farmer the founder you know start this company started as a biodiesel like making biodiesel out of Greece from uh from restaurants it started with one truck that was purchased as I mentioned to you I think when we talked on on online and it's grown and we're really grateful and we feel blessed and I don't I don't miss anything that comes out from your platform and I'm a voracious reader and there's always content that's that's valuable so at the risk of it sounding gratuitous and patronizing which it's not I'm just grateful and on behalf of everybody at freightworks we're we're really thankful for the tireless work that you and the team do well we we appreciate your readership we appreciate uh your team's readership um you know coming from a community newspaper background um you know one subscriber is just as important as a hundred so um no I I appreciate the the compliments I appreciate you opening up your newsletter every morning I appreciate you clicking on the headlines and kind of seeing what we're doing so thank you you're welcome now there comes a place where the airplane lands or the truck stops and this using that metaphor and you have got more hats than you know what to do with but if you if you will just indulge us we've got two that we'd like to offer to you and and William will get your address to make sure he can send it and if you're not a hat wearer you give it to somebody so uh the first Jason the first half that we have is uh this life of the mile hat it was debuted at Matt's last year and uh so that's there for you if you want it or got the freightworks one cap and uh it is kind of iconic that one there under what goes so you tell us which one you want we'll send it uh oh they're both pretty spiffy I don't you're asking me this it's like asking you to pick a favorite child um let's go with the one okay you know what that seems appropriate because folks uh you know Jace Jason Cannon here Chief editor at ccj commercial Carrier Journal it's freightworks one and this is life of the mile delivered by freightwork some your host butch malpe but Jason Cannon is an example of the kind of content that we want to bring to inform and Inspire we know a lot of truckers listen to podcasts as they're on the way so be safe and you know Jason I'm will you be there down in Florida here in February early February absolutely I will um Jeff Christie who is our content director he sort of runs point over that program um and I sort of I took up under Jeff so I will be there um I will get to see you guys we'll enjoy you know it's a solid two and a half-ish days of excellent content sharing I think you guys the the people who come into it with the right spirit and everybody comes into this program with the right spirit because I think they all understand kind of what's going on inside that room um they walk away with a lot of good ideas um some fresh takes um it's really hard to go home without a good idea you really had to have tried to not go home with something to do when you leave innovate or something it's it's it's just absolutely excellent and the fact that you've been a catalyst behind that we're really grateful for so again Jason Cannon Chief editor at ccj commercial Carrier Journal make sure folks that you go to their platform and consume often the information that's there it's absolutely vital that you do that if you want to keep your finger on the pulse what's happening with Trucking and Logistics in America it's incredibly important and I'm a voracious reader and there's always something there of interest so this life of the mile delivered by freightworks again our guest Chief editor ccj Jason cannon that's the commercial Carrier Journal we look forward to seeing you in early February same here have a blessed day you too thank you thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to this channel by clicking here we'll see you there

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