Annette Karnes and her husband Stephen Karnes pose for a photo in their home.
credit: Anette Karnes

The street paper movement lost another one of its own this summer.

Stephen A. Karnes, founder and executive director of The Journey Street Newspaper in Fort Worth Texas, died July 30, after a struggle with lung cancer. Karnes founded the Journey in 2010, and ran the paper with his wife Annette, who said that her husband of 26-years “fell in love” with the street news model after he discovered the International Network of Street Papers while searching the internet.

“It was a match made in heaven,” Annette said. “He fell in love with the concept [and] the idea.”

The two had once been homeless together for about a two-year period as they grappled with addiction, Annette said.

At the time he was clean, sober, medically retired, and was looking for something to do with his time and The Journey also allowed him to give back, Annette said.

She said he had her full support.“I’ve always backed him up on everything from the very beginning,” Annette said. “Even if no one else did, he always knew that I was going to be there for him.”

Karnes started slowly, Annette said.

“He started it off kind of like a newsletter type [of publication],” Annette said. “[He] did it on the printer, and made the first real Journey.”

The first issue was just two pages, Annette said.

Though it was small, “It was his baby, and it had breathed life,“ Annette said.

The paper slowly grew to about 16 pages, Annette said. She has a framed copy of the first issue they had printed.

“It’s got our signatures on it,” she said.

The board suggested they reformat the paper and make its design and layout look more professional, Annette said. She eventually took over laying out the paper.

“It took Steve a couple of months to think on that and put his trust into me,” Annette said.

Annette said she had taken a class or two at the Texas Center for Community Journalism prior to putting her first issue together.

“They were just one-day classes,” Annette said. “Considering that’s all I had, and put the first one out, it was pretty amazing. “How I put it together is, I went around town pulling publications and then tearing the publication apart visually,” Annette said. “And I put in my head what I would like incorporated into our paper, and that’s how the format that you see today came to be.”

Karnes said he liked the way his wife designed the paper.

“I’m continuously impressed with my wife’s layout skills,” Karnes said in August 2015. Karnes would distribute PDF copies of the paper to homeless agencies in his area, and in late 2015 The Journey got its first vendor, Annette said. He sold the paper for about a year and a half.

On January 8, 2016 Karnes was diagnosed with stage 3 small cell carcinoma, Annette said.

After his diagnosis, Annette said she made him make her a promise, “no negative thoughts, no dark thoughts, we’re going to think ourselves well and we’re going to enjoy what time we have.”

“I took on being the rock, being the positive enforcer and keeping all things positive,” Annette said.

Annette said the paper was suspended in September 2016 so she could focus her attention on taking care of Steve.

“He agonized over it for months and then he finally gave in,” Annette said.

Over time Karnes condition deteriorated, and on Sunday July 30 at 11:50 a.m. he passed away, Annette said.

“I was by his side the whole time,” Annette said.

She said plans to start the Journey again at some point.

“I made a promise to him to keep the Journey going,” Annette said. “But I need to grieve for a while.”