Tuesday, October 7, 2008
(Note: I'm still on the job as your chapter Webmaster, Middle Tennessee Pro SPJ members. Yes, I've relocated to Houston, but we have the Interwebs here, too, so keep those links and news items about Nashville media coming my way: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Curious souls who want to know what I'm doing in Texas can check us out at www.texaswatchdog.org.)
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The Leaf-Chronicle also earned the most first-place honors with eight. It won for make-up and appearance, local features, best personal humor column, best spot news story, best education reporting, investigative reporting, public service and best sports photograph.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I know Pete from editors' meetings and conventions and can say unequivocally that he's a wonderful guy, a talented journalist and a good soul, if not the "dangerously handsome man" he claims to be. He has five kids, loves to "bust a phrase," holds dear the value of a great story, and prefers to chase his whiskey with beer. He's a rabble-rouser of the best sort whose wardrobe is even worse than Jeff Woods'.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Anyhow, I thought the best way to say how special Jim is would be to share some of my favorite Jim stories -- those about Jim or told by Jim.
Once, when Jim was a GA reporter at The Tennessean several years ago, there was a police-involved shooting here in Metro -- as I recall, some sheriff's deputies were serving some warrants on a bad dude who was holed up in a house. He shot at the deputies, and then they shot him dead. Jim was part of the team who covered it. The next day some obituary-style info on the dude ran in the paper under Jim's byline -- date and time of services, names of survivors, et cetera, phrased in the way that was our style at the time: Survivors include his mother, Jane Doe; brothers John Doe, Jim Doe, Jack Doe, all of Nashville, and sister Janet Doe, of Cookeville, or whatever.
A couple of days later, Jim got a complaint letter from a reader that went something like this: "Dear Mr. East, please cancel my subscription to your newspaper. How dare you say that 'all of Nashville' is in mourning for this loser who shot at a cop."
I remember the day I covered the Olympic torch coming through the Nashville area on its way to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Games. It was a long day on the job, and I missed the best part of it, learning only the next morning from my co-workers about Jim's comedic re-enactment of the torch relay outside Cafe 123, across the street from the newspaper building, "running" in slow-motion for dramatic effect while holding aloft his flaming cigarette lighter. (Smoking probably hasn't helped Jim's health. I remember he once started a Christmastime column for Williamson A.M. by saying he'd heard the local chamber of commerce encouraging people to see Franklin all lit up. So, he wrote, he "lit one up" and drove around looking at the lights.)
Another great Jim-mail story: Jim wrote the the funniest newspaper column I think I have ever read, back a few years ago for Williamson A.M., in which he described the pre-Easter season and various conveniences and pleasures that Williamson Countians were giving up for what he repeatedly referred to as "Lint" -- referred to it not just twice, but a total of 16 times in the text. (The foregone pleasures included reloading their own shotgun shells, playing tennis at Maryland Farms Athletic Club, and carrying firearms to Spring Hill city meetings.) Not long after, Jim started getting letters: Did he know he misspelled "Lent" all the way through his column?
But my favorite Jim story is one that Jim told himself. I can't tell it nearly as well as he did.
It was back in about 1984 or so, and Jim was -- and I may have my facts wrong here -- the Tennessee press secretary for the presidential campaign of Walter "Fritz" Mondale. The campaign arranged a big event in Memphis that would bring in a huge political name: Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.'s mayor and former civil rights activist (this was years before his crack-smoking, "the b*&^% set me up" days).
Even better, the event where Barry was going to speak was at the big Memphis church pastored by none other than the Rev. Al Green.
This was going to be huge. Barry, who had been elected DC mayor six years earlier, was a major national celebrity. He also had Tennessee ties, having attended the University of Tennessee and having participated in the Nashville sit-ins.
So Mayor Barry traveled down to Memphis from DC. The campaign was supposed to arrange to get him to the church. Something logistical went wrong somewhere. When the appointed time came for the event to start, not only was Mayor Barry not present, the campaign didn't even know where he was.
So, here were thousands of people and the press, all gathered at this church. The candidate is there. Al Green is there. But the special guest, the mayor of Washington, D.C., is nowhere to be found.
Jim and the other campaign staffers start scrambling. Eventually, they find that Mayor Barry is being chauffeured from the airport by a well-meaning campaign volunteer who was legally blind, and who had decided to detour on the way to the church and drive to his own neighborhood to show off Mayor Barry to his friends.
I think they eventually did get the mayor to the church, though there was a pronounced delay. And I don't think the legally blind volunteer was allowed to do anymore driving on behalf of the campaign.
Like I said, I can't tell it nearly as well as Jim did.
But one more thing about Jim.
I interned here at The Tennessean the year between my junior and senior years at Vanderbilt, and that's when I first got to know Jim. I returned to school in the fall and went back to writing for the student newspaper, and one day we had to report on some criminal matter that involved a student -- I can't remember if it was on-campus or off-campus. I forget who we had to call to interview, but I remember that I was dreading it. At some point, I called the Tennessean newsroom for some kind of assistance in dealing with the police, and they connected me to the cops reporter on duty -- Jim.
I told Jim about my dilemma. Well, you just have to make the call and ask, he told me: "You never ask any questions, you never get any answers."
It's simple, but it's profound. I've never forgotten it.
I have worked as an editor for a few years now. While I don't think I speak from the position of authority with which Jim spoke to me that day, I have repeated that phrase many times to reporters I have worked with. It never fails to help.
Jim, you probably won't see this while you're feeling bad, but I love you, and you're in my prayers. Get well soon. :)
(If you've got a favorite Jim story you wouldn't mind sharing, please post it in the comments below or feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Williams, a past winner of the IRE Medal and winner of both the Peabody and Columbia-duPont awards, received the third-highest number of votes in the balloting, which took place Saturday night at the Intercontinental Miami hotel.
You can read more about the conference at the IRE conference blog (and you can read a little bit, but not nearly as much or as interesting, at my own personal blog).
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
The Commercial Appeal filed suit against Memphis City Schools on Friday in an effort to force the district to turn over information about those who applied to become the next superintendent.
The complaint asks a Chancery Court to order the school district and the Iowa-based search firm Ray and Associates to produce the names, titles, resumes and application forms of those who sought the district's top job.
The district denied an open records request by The CA seeking the information.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Scene Editor Liz Garrigan lauded Woods' work as "kicking tail":
In fact, I named the package of pieces "Mayor Bubba Smackdown," and we argued to the judges that the Nashville Scene provided a public service to Nashvillians by reporting and editorializing over several months' time that Bob Clement was far from the best choice to run this $1.8 billion major American city. An independent panel of judges apparently agrees, though the best we can hope for is probably third place as these types of journalism awards typically go to papers discovering that corporations are poisoning poor people, not to grumpy, unshaven wretches singularly obsessed with picking on political hacks desperately in search of power.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Faced with new scrutiny of the infamous Bredesen Bunker, your Tennessee governor's office is making the unlikely claim that emails transmitted on public computers and with state addresses are not necessarily public record, a mind-boggling stance that contradicts years of accepted practice here and throughout the country.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Larger cities would get more time to respond to public records requests and people would have to pay for any search that takes longer than an hour under changes made to an open records bill in a House subcommittee on Wednesday.
The House State Government Subcommittee agreed on voice votes to the changes, most of which were suggested by Rep. Ulysses Jones, a Memphis Democrat, and advanced the measure to the full House State and Local Government Committee.
The panel also agreed to revise the legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve McDaniel, a Parkers Crossroads Republican, to require that only Tennesseans may request records in writing and that elected and appointed officials be notified about any records requests made about them.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Dr. Larry Burriss, journalism professor and First Amendment expert, wonders why some people say that further discussion on the topic of a proposed Bible theme park in Rutherford County should be cut off. “Why the county officials and the consultants, people who are supposed to know what they are doing, can't even agree on what the park is really all about. And if they're confused, imagine what is going on in the public's mind. Now, I’ve got to give credit to some of the opponents of the park. They’re organizing rallies and protests. And that’s a good thing; they’re getting involved. But it’s also important to listen to what everyone is saying. No, debate and discussion on public policy issues is never a bad thing. Being willing to debate and discuss is how we resolve public concerns.”
Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Below Top 20 Markets — Demetria Kalodimos and David Sussman of WSMV-Nashville for “Radioactive Dumping.” This original investigation revealed that the state of Tennessee had, for 20 years, been allowing the dumping of low-level radioactive waste in ordinary landfills located around the state. They followed the story from the local level all the way to the national, including tracing the origin of much of the radioactive material. The pieces led to dramatic results, state government action and a moratorium on the dumping.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
It has been quite a journey and if I said everything I feel in my heart to say I’d be here writing deep into the weekend and you’d probably stop reading after the 800th word. That said, I am very proud of what we cobbled together here. While there are always things that one looks back on with regret, with a wish to be able to go back and do things differently, that is, for the most part, not the case here. Not for me.
(Your chapter Webmaster was both a competitor and a fan of "V-Squared.")
An editorial from The Jackson Sun about proposed changes to the state's open government laws: For too long, public officials have been able to play fast and loose with the rules and deny the public access to important information. If we'd like to see anything more this year, it would be for language to be added to the law which would specifically open up e-mail records to public inspection. On the open meetings front, we'd like to see meetings where school superintendents' evaluations are discussed remain open. And we'd like to finally see substantial penalties adopted for those who knowingly choose to flout the law.
An editorial from The Commercial Appeal: Under Mayor Willie Herenton, Commercial Appeal reporter Trevor Aaronson reports in today's editions, access to public documents is a snap for those with political or business connections to city government. Requests for documents from the general public and the press, however, are met with a formal process that routes everything through a bottleneck at the City Attorney's Office and delays the flow.
An excerpt of an interview with John Seigenthaler in Sunday's Tennessean: People want to know and, indeed, need to know. When people talk to me about, "Is there a people's right to know?" — there is a people's need to know. And that need really cries out for openness in government.
Friday, March 14, 2008
WHAT: Luncheon speaker, SPJ Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter, hosted by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Friday, March 28, 2008
WHERE: Location TBA. Watch this blog for more details!
HOW: Register in advance to email@example.com.
Charge: $10 SPJ Members, other journalists and students; $15 all others.
SEE YOU THERE!
GORE, WALES, SEIGENTHALER AND SUNSTEIN AT MTSU INTERNET EVENT MARCH 27
Free Public Event Tackles ‘Accuracy, Privacy and the World Wide Web’
(MURFREESBORO)—Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore will be joined by speakers such as Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, author Cass Sunstein, First Amendment advocate John Seigenthaler and The New York Times’ Jonathan Landman at a Thursday, March 27, event at MTSU that explores the First Amendment and the Internet.
“Accuracy, Privacy and the World Wide Web: The First Amendment and the Internet” is free and open to the public. The event, sponsored by MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, will be held in the Keathley University Center Theater.
“I am thrilled that Al Gore will be able to join us in this very important discussion about the Internet,” said Beverly Keel, director of the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence. “The Internet is the new century’s wild, wild West, an ever-changing world not bound by laws that apply to conventional broadcast and print media. We will examine the current Internet landscape, its evolution and effect on public and private figures. We will discuss how traditional concepts of the First Amendment have transitioned into the cyber age of blogs, YouTube and chat rooms.”
At 9:45 a.m., the daylong event will begin with Cass Sunstein, author of Republican.com 2.0. He will discuss the Internet’s effect on democracy and self-government. At 10:25 a.m., veteran journalist John Seigenthaler will reveal his personal experiences with Wikipedia in “The Wonderful World of Wikipedia: Sinbad, Fuzzy Zoeller, Ann Coulter and Me.”
At 11:25 a.m., Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will discuss "The Future of Free Culture: Challenges, Changes, and Opportunities."
At 1 p.m., former Vice President Gore, a visiting distinguished professor at MTSU, will share his observations about the Internet. As both an early and leading proponent of the Internet and frequent subject of Internet blogs and news reports, he has a unique perspective on this technology.
At 1:45 p.m., Gore will be joined by Wales and Seigenthaler for an hourlong roundtable discussion.
At 4:20 p.m., a panel discussion will address bloggers, online defamation and the Internet’s impact on mainstream journalism. The panelists are Sunstein; Robert Cox, president, Media Bloggers Association; Dr. Karen B. Dunlap, president of The Poynter Institute; Landman, deputy managing editor of The New York Times; and attorney Charles Sizemore, who represents a couple who filed a lawsuit against bloggers for libel and invasion of privacy.
At 6 p.m., the “Frontline” documentary “Growing Up Online” will be shown. The location of this screening will be announced soon. It will be followed by “What Parents Should Know About the Internet,” a panel featuring educators (including Anna Benson of Metro Nashville Public Schools) and students that will be moderated by Dr. Becky Alexander, MTSU assistant professor of education.
For more information, contact Beverly Keel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Writes Phil Jones, formerly of CBS News, in the News-Sentinel:
Ron McMahan was one who believed that public officials and even those in
the private world should be held accountable and his accomplishments to that end
have earned him a vaulted place in the history of American newspaper journalism.
Sure, he spent several years working in Washington, but that was never home for
him and he never was "one of them." In his heart, Ron McMahan was always "one of
us" - a journalist - a proud reporter.
Writes a poster on KnoxViews:
Ron was a big, gruff guy who could sometimes be absolutely infuriating, but
working for him was a privilege for which I will always be grateful. It was so
much fun I couldn't believe I was getting paid.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
CHRIS CLARK IS NEW CHAIRHOLDER FOR MTSU 1ST AMENDMENT STUDIES
Veteran Newsman to ‘Pass Along Legacy’ of Fellow Journalist Seigenthaler
(MURFREESBORO)—Award-winning broadcast journalist Chris Clark has been named chairholder of MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, announced Beverly Keel, director of the program.
Clark, who was the longest-tenured anchor in the Nashville market, retired from WTVF in 2007 after 41 years behind the anchor desk. During his four decades at the CBS affiliate, he was a champion of First Amendment rights and open government.
“Chris Clark is a distinguished Nashville journalist with a national reputation who has had a career-long commitment to First Amendment rights and values,” said John Seigenthaler, for whom the Chair is named.
“His presence in the Seigenthaler Chair at MTSU will be of special interest to students who see a merger of broadcast, online and print journalism as an exciting pathway to their own careers,” Seigenthaler said.
Clark noted that “John Seigenthaler, as editor and publisher of The Tennessean, and I, as news director of WTVF, have joined forces on numerous occasions to fight government efforts to circumvent the people's full and free access to information. On numerous occasions these efforts have taken us to court, and in almost all instances our efforts were successful in defending First Amendment access for our readers and viewers.
“John has been a tireless fighter in defense of the First Amendment. His enthusiasm and leadership in this cause has inspired journalists throughout the country. I consider my appointment as a Seigenthaler Scholar the highlight of my career. What better way can a journalist contribute to the future defense of the First Amendment than to pass along John's legacy?”
As the Seigenthaler Scholar, Clark will teach courses in electronic media communication, deliver public lectures and conduct research. “Being a Seigenthaler Scholar will also give me the opportunity to study some of the issues that are of concern to journalists and the public at large,” Clark said.
Clark graduated from the University of Georgia’s School of Journalism and began his career in Atlanta before making the move to Nashville. His reporting took him all over the world for stories in Somalia, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Israel and the Dominican Republic.
His career highlights include being summoned by former Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington to mediate the release of hostages held by a state penitentiary inmate. As news director, he led the station’s conversion from film to electronic coverage. As chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Freedom of Information Committee, he played a key role in convincing the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow an experiment with cameras in the court, a move that persuaded the justices to allow cameras in state courts. Previous distinguished chairholders include Wallace Westfeldt, former producer for NBC and ABC News; Bill Kovach, former editor of The New York Times and curator of the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard; Tom Wicker, former columnist for The New York Times; John Henry Faulk, humorist and popular CBS radio personality blacklisted during the Red Scare and a hero of free expression rights; and Jim Squires, former editor of The Chicago Tribune.
The John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies was instituted in 1986 to honor Seigenthaler’s lifelong commitment to free expression values. Seigenthaler, longtime president, editor and publisher of The Tennessean, is now chairman emeritus of that newspaper.
He was also the first editorial director of USA Today and the first chairman of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He is a leading nationwide spokesman for First Amendment freedoms.
The purpose of the Chair is to provide programs of excellence centering on the First Amendment’s protection of free press and free speech rights for MTSU’s College of Mass Communication. The Chair funds a variety of activities, including distinguished visiting professors of First Amendment studies, visiting lecturers addressing issues of freedom of speech and press, research related to free expression, and seminars and meetings dedicated to expressive freedom.
One of the largest programs in the nation, the MTSU College of Mass Communication offers degree concentrations in 14 major areas—ranging from journalism to digital media and media management to recording industry management—and is accredited by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
UPDATE, posted Feb. 8: Mr. Weems doesn't work for the DNJ anymore.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
If you don’t know what on earth we’re talking about, here’s an explainer. “Social networking” Web sites are all the rage these days – MySpace, Facebook, etc. – and they let you have online “friends” who keep up with your goings-on and communicate back and forth with you. The phenomenon has created its own verb form, “friending,” for the act of asking someone to be your online “friend.” (And the reverse is to “be friended by” another online user.)
Journalists are doing social networking, myself included (heck, and those of you in Middle Tennessee may have noticed that the revamped Tennessean.com has its own system of online “friending”). So, I’m figuring that it’s just a matter of time before some well-meaning source somewhere in the USA sends a “friend” invitation to a journalist.
If you’re that journalist, what do you do? (And if this has happened to you, what did you do?)
I’m old-fashioned, and my gut instinct is to say “you should politely decline. We cannot allow there to be friendship or a perception of friendship with sources.”
But is online “friending” the same as being friends with someone in real life? Will sources make that distinction? More importantly, will our readers/audiences make that distinction?
I’d been thinking about this for several weeks now. But I saw Michael Silence’s post yesterday on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Web site – which picked up a snippet of a Poynter.org piece about journalists creating a “digital identity” – and thought I should post on the blog about it.
What are your thoughts?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The executive editor of The Nashville City Paper and former president of the Middle Tennessee Pro chapter, Brewer touted the important work the Society is doing, called on his fellow Tennessee journalists to provide more coverage of executions in the state prisons, and talked about the expansion, online and otherwise, of The City Paper.
He began by saying he’d just gotten back to Nashville from Fort Worth, where the SPJ chapter traditionally “brands” the new national president, presenting him with a cattle brand with his/her initials on it.
Brewer lauded the progress made in Congress of the proposed federal shield law, which has passed the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, becoming successful “beyond the wildest dreams of a lot of people.”
“This is not a country where we need to be putting journalists in jail,” Brewer said.
The president also reported that SPJ recently made a $20,000 donation to the Chauncey Bailey Fund, which was created in honor of the Oakland Post editor who was killed by someone he was writing about.
Membership in the society is around the 9,000 mark, Brewer said.
SPJ is also launching a “Citizens’ Journalism Academy,” intended to bridge the gap between citizen journalists/bloggers and those in more traditional media, talking about journalistic principles such as accuracy and fairness. The academy program will include four seminars, in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Greensboro, N.C.
After talking about SPJ, Brewer talked about The City Paper, and not surprisingly, there were several pointed questions from the attendees in light of Matt Pulle’s column last week in The Nashville Scene, which said The CP planned to go online-only.
The City Paper is “aggressively going toward more online journalism, as is the rest of the world,” Brewer said. Chapter President Milt Capps of the Nashville Post Co. followed up – was there a timeline by which The City Paper intended to drop its print edition and go online only? No, there’s no timeline, Brewer said. The goal is not to do away with the print product, he said.
The publication is becoming less of a newspaper company and become more of a media company, he said, with new blogs and online products, and niche offerings like the Dining Compass.
Brewer said he was proud of the aggressive reporting The City Paper had done, listing major scoops about the MS-13 gang, human trafficking in Nashville, and former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr.’s possible run for governor. He also said he was proud of having hired and trained strong young journalists
Brewer called on his fellow journalists to make a better showing at the drawings for media witnesses to executions. Spots are going unfilled, he said, and the press has to be there to serve as watchdogs of government action.
“Folks, we need to cover executions in the state of Tennessee,” he said.
Brewer also talked about the proposal in the legislature to weaken the state’s open meetings law. The state’s rural publications are not as organized as the urban ones, while the legislature is led by lawmakers from rural areas, he said.
Brewer also entertained one last question about The City Paper’s most famous staffer, columnist Rex Noseworthy. Brewer said he never can seem to find Noseworthy in the office, and said he’d probably fire him pretty soon.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
WHO: Clint Brewer, executive editor, Nashville City Paper, and National President, Society of Professional Journalists
WHAT: Luncheon speaker, SPJ Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Sunset Grill, 2001 Belcourt Ave., Nashville (37212)
WHY: Brewer will report on The City Paper and the progress and challenges facing the national Society of Professional Journalists.
HOW: Register in advance, pay at the door. RSVP to email@example.com or call (615) 250-1544. Charges: $15 SPJ Members, other journalists and students; $25 all others.
SEE YOU THERE!
Karin Miller Joins AARP Tennessee Team in Key Role
Former AP Reporter Heads Up State Communications
Nashville, TN--AARP has appointed Karin Miller to the position of Associate State Director of Communications for AARP Tennessee. Miller has more than 15 years of experience as an Associated Press reporter, spending much of her time covering Tennessee politics. Prior to her career with the AP, she wrote for The Tennessean and the Nashville Business Journal. She is a graduate of Belmont University.
“Her experience with the media, combined with her knowledge of Tennessee and the General Assembly, will help AARP move its policy agenda and promote critical issues of importance to our members,” said Rebecca Kelly, AARP Tennessee State Director.
As a member of the Capitol Hill Press Corps, Miller established a reputation for accuracy and integrity that won her the respect of her colleagues across the state, as well as the elected officials she covered.
“I am thrilled to join AARP at a time when its voice is becoming so relevant as our population ages,” said Miller. “I look forward to helping AARP communicate its positions on such critical issues as retirement security, health care reform and making our communities more livable.”
Miller, who will be responsible for creating and implementing communications strategies for AARP’s work throughout the state, will replace Patrick Willard, who was named AARP Director for Advocacy in October.