Tuesday, October 7, 2008

World descends upon Nashville for Belmont debate

All eyes are on Nashville as the city prepares for the McCain-Obama presidential debate tonight at Belmont. Moderator Bob Schieffer rocked out with Brad Paisley this weekend at the Opry, the Red State Update boys got their credentials revoked by the Secret Service, and as recently as Saturday, TDOT was using a flashing warning sign on I-65 to direct "DEBAFFE" traffic, whatever that is, off to the Wedgewood Avenue exit. Will the Music City survive the show? We'll see.

(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: jpintn@gmail.com or jennifer@texaswatchdog.org. Curious souls who want to know what I'm doing in Texas can check us out at www.texaswatchdog.org.) 

Monday, August 11, 2008

SPJ's national convention just 4 hours' drive from us ...

The 2008 SPJ national convention is in Atlanta. It's coming up Sept. 4-7 at the Hyatt Regency on Peachtree Street. Sign up now!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Leaf-Chronicle, Tennessean, Southern Standard take top newspaper awards from TPA

From the TPA press release:

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

Channel 5 sold to New York media company

Landmark is selling the station to Bonten Media Group. No price disclosed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Governor signs into law changes in public records statutes

They include a seven-day deadline for records custodians to respond to records requests.

Cleveland alt-weekly chief to lead 'Scene'

Pete Kotz will take the helm on July 1, outgoing Scene editor Liz Garrigan writes:

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

Painting pictures and asking their questions

Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle publisher Gene Washer recalls a blind friend who gave him some good advice as a young reporter: "You’ve got a paint a picture of what the game was like for them and answer all the questions they may have asked.”

Scene's Pulle to swim Cumberland on Thursday

He's taking part in the en masse river crossing being organized by Metro Councilwoman Emily Evans. "Good luck, Matt," Scene editor Liz Garrigan writes. "We'll be at Brandon's."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's getting ugly in upper East Tennessee

The Bristol Herald-Courier is ripping the Kingsport Times-News, and it's getting downright personal. Seems the Bristol paper has been sharply critical of U.S. Rep. David Davis, and the Kingsport paper has echoed the Congressman's criticism of the Bristol paper. Now, Bristol Editor J. Todd Foster has called out the Kingsport paper, saying its reporter "has a bright future flacking for politicians. Lord knows, he’s better at it than at journalism." Spotted via Michael Silence.

So, you think this might be crossing the line a little bit?

Let's see, now ... Al Gore was a journalist and then went into politics. J. Percy Priest, for whom the dam and lake are named, was a journalist and then went into politics. Hey, if they can do it, so can I!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My favorite Jim East stories

My friend and former colleague Jim East has been under the weather lately. I know many of you know Jim, either from his many years at The Tennessean, Williamson A.M., the Franklin Review Appeal, UPI ... Well, everywhere, basically.

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 jpeebles@tennessean.com.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Williams elected to IRE board

MIAMI - Chapter board member Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter for WTVF-Channel 5, has been elected to the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. at its annual conference in Miami, Fla.

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

Honor for Channel 4 staffers

MIAMI - WSMV's Demetria Kalodimos and David Sussman have just been officially awarded their IRE Certificate at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference. They were honored for their series on "Radioactive Dumping," which showed that the state had been allowing low-level radioactive waste to be dumped at Middle Point Landfill in Rutherford County and a few other sites around the state. Congratulations!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Channel 5's Williams in running for IRE board seat

WTVF-Channel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams is running for a seat on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. at the upcoming Miami conference later this week. (Honest disclosure: Yes, your Webmaster plans to vote for him.) We'll let you know how it goes later this week.

Monday, June 2, 2008

C-A sues Memphis over school director records

Cuttin' and pastin' from the C-A:

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

Want to see state e-mails? That'll be $3,200 for each day you want to see

If the state can just get the Tennessee Center for Policy Research to request enough day's e-mails, it could maybe plug that $400 million hole in the state budget without laying off any workers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rivals.com: $30M in annual revenue and just 'one jackass' hired

Rivals.com, the college sports site based in Brentwood, is going gangbusters. Chief Shannon Terry told a group last week that he's hired about 90 people but only "one jackass," blogger and chapter president Milt Capps reports on his Venture Nashville blog. Lordy, that new media sure is different -- we folks in "old media" know that the percentage of jackasses would be much higher in one of our newsrooms. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sharing a funny, for no real reason

From the BBC's sketch comedy That Mitchell and Webb Look:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vanderbilt, Union students ranked among nation's top 100 student journos

Two students at Tennessee schools, Vanderbilt's Glenna DeRoy and Union University's Brittany Howerton, made UWire's list of the top 100. Vanderbilt student media adviser Chris Carroll says DeRoy "possesses an uncommon mix of intelligence, ability, initiative and reliability." Union communications arts professor Michael Chute says Howerton, who covered the deadly tornadoes that struck the campus in February, "exemplified the very best of journalism in that she put her own struggles aside and worked tirelessly to inform a nation clamoring for information about the storm and its effects."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

We've got a new address, everyone -- please update your bookmarks

Our SPJ chapter Web site has a new URL as of right now is http://www.spjchapters.org/nashville. We apologize for the inconvenience, but it's something we had to do for some technical reasons. The old URL, www.spj.org/nashville will refer people to the new address for a little while longer, so that gives everyone some time to update their bookmarks.

Scene's Woods is finalist for national honor

The Nashville Scene's Jeff Woods is a finalist for the new public service category in the 2008 AltWeekly Awards. The prize "recognizes the impact that stories and series done by member publications have had on their communities." He'll compete in a group with the Fort Worth Weekly, the Jackson Free Press, and the Weekly Alibi.

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

MTSU's McDonald wins Drue Smith Scholarship

Raye S. McDonald, who will be a junior this coming year at Middle Tennessee State University, has won the 2008 Drue Smith Scholarship, which is funded by the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and administered for us by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Raye is majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Spanish, and plans to be a sports broadcaster. She is involved in MTTV, the campus television station. Congratulations!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sumner businesswoman sues for access to records

Not much warmth felt from the Sumner County Airport Authority: Art McClellan, the authority’s attorney, called Moore “a crazy woman,” labeled each of her attorneys an “idiot” and said her complaint has no merit.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Plaudits for 'Unsafe to Fly'

The recent story on WTVF-Channel 5 by our chapter board member Phil Williams titled "Unsafe to Fly?" -- about faulty wiring on airplanes -- has been singled out for commendation by the SPJ "News Gems" blog.

Governor's office says e-mails aren't public

From The Scene's Matt Pulle:

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

Garrigan to step down as 'Scene' chief

She's going to be editorial director at Magellan Media. "... After 12 years at one place—as political writer, news editor, associate editor, then editor—it’s time for this root-bound journalist to repot herself," she writes on the Pith in the Wind blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

House subcommittee wants public to pay for records searches

From the AP:

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.

SouthComm to buy 'City Paper'

SouthComm, started by former Nashville Scene publisher and Metro Councilman Chris Ferrell, also owns NashvillePost.com. From the CP: "Company executives said the move will mean an increased focus on delivering news on the Web site and a reduction in the number of days the paper is published each week."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ramsey is state's most powerful media figure: BusinessTN

Financial advice guru Dave Ramsey ranked No. 19 on BusinessTN magazine's annual listing of the most powerful people in the state. Some other media folks: Henry Luken of Covista Communications, 85; Tom Griscom, publisher and executive editor of Chattanooga Times Free Press, 82; Jack Fishman, Morristown newspaperman, 81; conservative commentator Phil Valentine, 79; Charlie Anderson Jr. of Anderson News Co., 49; conservative commentator Steve Gill, 43; and Bruce Hartmann, president and publisher of the Knoxville News Sentinel, ranked at No. 39.

Story asks if C-A failed in covering the '68 garbagemen's strike

As part of its extensive coverage of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, the Commercial-Appeal did its own story looking at whether it fairly covered the 1968 strike by black sanitation workers. Dr. King had come to Memphis on behalf of the striking workers when he was slain.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Gun permit records to say open in TN following bizarre political dram

Wierdness surrounds bill that would have closed off information in handgun carry permit records, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Five-day deadline on public records requests passes out of Senate committee

The House version is up in subcommittee today.

Hobbs: State wants $200 to see public record

Conservative blogger and GOP spokesman Bill Hobbs has been told he'll have to pay up if he wants to get a copy of some video footage of blasting at the governor's mansion work site. (And he's since been told he can't get a copy of the footage at all.) The Nashville Scene's Jeff Woods is backing him up on this one.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

More than 250 types of government records not open under TN law

Our chapter FOI chief Frank Gibson is quoted: "Any special interest who has a friend in the legislature can get records closed fairly easily. It’s a slippery slope — you close one piece of information on a file and then two years later you close something else.’’

'Debate and discussion ... is never a bad thing'

A blurb in the newest edition of MTSU's Today's Response newsletter from our chapter board member Larry Burris:

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

TPA meets June 18-21 in Johnson City

The location, reports the April edition of The Tennessee Press, will be the Carnegie Hotel, and attendees will take part in a "Jimmy Buffett-themed party" at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. Check out www.tnpress.com for more or call the TPA offices at 865-584-5761.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Seigenthaler, Wikipedia chief have 'cordial' face-off in the 'Boro

John Seigenthaler and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales were joined by former Vice President Al Gore at the Thursday forum on the Internet and the First Amendment at MTSU. The Daily News Journal called the meeting "a pleasant exchange," despite the subject matter -- Seigenthaler, a personal friend of the Kennedy family who worked for Robert F. Kennedy in the Justice Department, has been falsely accused on his Wikipedia page of having been linked to RFK's assassination.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Think tank sues state over records delays

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research has filed suit against the state, accusing state spokeswoman Lola Potter of slow-walking the group's public records requests, the AP reported. Blogger Bill Hobbs (who is also PR dude for the GOP, but this was on his personal blog) echoed a similar sentiment.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We're on Facebook, y'all!

I've started a new "group" on Facebook for the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter of SPJ -- go to this link -- so all you Facebookers, come on over and join in. Right now it's just me and Dru Fuller, so hurry up and join us!

State may seal off state workers' personal data

Home addresses, home phone numbers and cell phone numbers would be off-limits.

Legislature weighs closing gun records -- and jailing journalists who publish the info

Free press advocates say the provision to criminalize publication of the information amounts to unconstitutional prior restraint. Says Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press: "You can't criminalize the publication of truthful information. Just can't be done. It's completely illegal, (and) I'm sure there are any number of thoughtful lawyers and judges who will be happy to point this out to them."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vanderbilt wants NYT, USAT for students, not Tennessean

Students will get free copies of the two national publications. University officials said they wanted to give students a broader perspective, and they feared The Tennessean could hurt student media economically. (Honest disclosure: Your chapter Webmaster is both a Tennessean employee and a former editor of The Vanderbilt Hustler. These facts are no surprise to the three people who actually read this blog, but we include that note here just as a matter of principle.)

'Volunteer Voters' blogger lands new gig at NashvillePost.com

Blogger A.C. Kleinheider, whose "Volunteer Voters" political blog got dropped by WKRN-Channel 2 recently, is going to work next week blogging for NashvillePost.com. Read more on the Post's Web site.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

WSMV's radioactive dumping probe wins IRE certificate

Channel 4, which outed the practice of the dumping of radioactive materials at Middle Point Landfill near Murfreesboro, has been honored with a certificate from IRE in its national contest. This just in from the press release:

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

Channel 2 pulls plug on 'Volunteer Voters' political blog

Its last post was Friday, blogger A.C. Kleinheider wrote in a going-away message, ascribing the move to those "unfortunate media budget cuts you hear about all too often these days." An excerpt:

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.")

Sunshine Week 2008 is here!

There's been lots of coverage in the local media of Sunshine Week so far, too much to list it all here. But here are some highlights:

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

Save the date! Chris Clark speaks to chapter luncheon March 28

WHO: Chris Clark, the longest-tenured news anchor in the Nashville market and the new chair holder of MTSU's John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies
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 milt.capps@gmail.com.
Charge: $10 SPJ Members, other journalists and students; $15 all others.

Gore, Wikipedia founder, NYT deputy ME to speak at MTSU

Al Gore, Wikipedia chief Jimmy Wales, New York Times Deputy Managing Editor Jonathan Landman and journalism godfather John Seigenthaler will be among the luminaries visiting MTSU later this month for a conference titled “Accuracy, Privacy and the World Wide Web: The First Amendment and the Internet." Poynter chief Karen B. Dunlap, Media Bloggers Association prez Robert Cox and Cass Sunstein of Republican.com 2.0 are coming, too. Here's the entire release:


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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

News-Sentinel's county commission coverage takes the big prize at Headliner Awards

The Knoxville paper won the Grand Prize in the print division and first place in the public service category at the National Headliner Awards for its work last year hammering at the Knox County Commission and its secret-meeting ways. (Link goes to KNS story about the award.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

McMahan, former 'Knoxville Journal' owner, editor, dies at 70

Ron McMahan, who had also been press secretary to U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, died of cancer in Florida, where he had lived recently.

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.

Ambramson, former 'Tennessean' reporter, dies at 70

Rudy Abramson, who co-edited the Encyclopedia of Appalachia and wrote for The Tennessean in the late 1950s and '60s, has died at age 70 after suffering a fall at his home in Virginia, The LA Times reports. He had worked in The Times' DC bureau from 1966 to 1993.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Memphis DA may subpoena blogger Matthews

DA Bill Gibbons wants to know who leaked a confidential police document to blogger Thaddeus Matthews, and he may subpoena Matthews to find out, the Commercial Appeal reports. Matthews says he's not giving up his source. "Though there is no case law in Tennessee on so-called 'nontraditional' journalists, it would just be very, very hard to argue that Matthews does not fit within the shield law's language," CA lawyer Lucian Pera is quoted as saying.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Chris Clark picked as MTSU's new chairholder for First Amendment studies

Here's the release:

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

Layoffs at Channel 2; weekend news broadcasts axed

It was due to changing media environment, station GM says.

Brinton retires again, this time from Channel 4

The "Word on the Street" reporter tells The Nashville Scene he has no plans to go back into television.

Channel 5 owner will sell station

Landmark says a deal could come within a few months.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dorsey to head communications for new Clement firm

Terri Dorsey, formerly of WSMV-Channel 4, will work for Clement & Associates, headed up by former U.S. Rep. (and Nashville mayoral candidate) Bob Clement.

'Tennessean' will no longer name juveniles until they're sent to adult court

Police reporter Kate Howard blogs on the change.

'DNJ' copy editor runs for Murfreesboro City Council

Jeffrey A. Weems is running for one of the three council seats on the April 15 ballot. Looks there are also three incumbents on the ballot.

UPDATE, posted Feb. 8: Mr. Weems doesn't work for the DNJ anymore.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Being 'friends' with sources: A discussion topic

OK, fellow Middle Tennessee journalists, your faithful chapter Webmaster has a question to throw out to y’all to maybe get some discussion going. What do you think about “friending” – or more likely “being ‘friended’ by” – sources and people you cover?

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?

Get ready for more chapter programs soon!

We forgot to mention in our recent post on the January luncheon that the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter is planning more meetings this spring, including one in the works on the proposed federal shield law in March or April. We're also aiming at having an evening social function sometime between now and Memorial Day, Chapter President Milt Capps said. And the regional conference will be in New Orleans around the end of March. It'll be a joint regional with Region 8.

'Scene': Passel of staffers leave 'Tennessean'

The Nashville Scene's Matt Pulle writes about the recent departures of several staffers from the Tennessean newsroom. (Honest disclosure: I'm a Tennessean employee and worked with nearly all the people mentioned in the story. This blog has only about three readers, and all of them know that already, but I add that disclaimer just as a matter of principle.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We're social bookmarking, y'all

We've got a new feature here at www.spj.org/nashville, everyone -- you can now social-bookmark our posts. See something you like? Add it to digg or whatever suits your tastes. Just click the little icon at the bottom of the post.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Brewer calls for more coverage of executions

We had a great turnout last Thursday at Sunset Grill for the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter’s first program of 2008, a luncheon with guest speaker and SPJ national president Clint Brewer.

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

Ludye Wallace among Nashville's freelancers

The former Metro Councilman is sporting a press pass these days, The Tennessean's Colby Sledge reports.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Allen of 'City Paper' new deputy press sec for Cooper

Reporter Jared Allen of the Nashville City Paper is the new deputy press secretary for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.

National President Brewer to speak to chapter Jan. 17

Start the new year right with a renewed commitment to the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter --don't miss the first luncheon meeting of 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 milt.capps@nashvillepost.com or call (615) 250-1544. Charges: $15 SPJ Members, other journalists and students; $25 all others.


Miller takes on new role with AARP

Veteran Capitol Hill reporter Karin Miller is the new associate state director of communications for AARP. Here's the press release:

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.

Enter your best work now for the Green Eyeshade Awards

Journalists in Tennessee and other Southern states can enter the 2007 contest. Deadline is Feb. 6.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

DNJ: More power to the ombudsman

The new state open records ombudsman needs more authority, the Daily News Journal says in an editorial.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

'Washington Post' blogger lauds Humphrey, Cromer

The Tennessee Journal's Ed Cromer and the Knoxville News Sentinel's Tom Humphrey have been called on by name as among the best political writers in the nation, in a list compiled by Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza.