Monday, December 21, 2009

Dobie's latest project 'as close to heaven as it gets'

Former Nashville Scene editor Bruce Dobie is now with Dobie Media Inc., which produces the EvieSays online calendaring platform (did that phrase exist five years ago?) for major media sites. The company is raising $1.5 million in new capital, our former chapter president Milt Capps writes in a new post at Venture Nashville:

Although Dobie said he misses writing, he described the daily challenges of advancing EvieSays as being "as close to heaven as it gets."

He explained: "At this moment, as the media world is reinventing itself and transforming into something digital, my little company is at ground zero. We are right in the middle of the creative destruction. This is much more entrepreneurial than the Scene. The Scene was a copy-cat--we simply started something that had done well in other markets. You can argue about how well or poorly we pulled it off, but it wasn't truly original.

"But at eviesays," Dobie continued, "we're writing the rules. It requires looking around corners, lots of imagination. On top of that, our potential audience is not just Nashville, but it's everyone on the planet who has access to a cell phone or computer. When I come to work in the morning like I did yesterday, and my sales guy is yelling out that we've just gotten an email from someone in Macau asking for our calendar, and then we all rush to look up just where the heck Macau is, well, it doesn't get any more exciting than that."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Proud to be a 15-year member of SPJ

When I took my mail out of the mailbox this evening, I didn't know why I was getting a little package from SPJ.

When I opened it up and shook it out, out fell a letter from headquarters -- and my 15-year pin.

It's a little hard for me to believe it's actually been 15 years, but I'll take headquarters' word for it. And I'm proud to have been a member of SPJ for 15 years now.

If you're a journalist and you're not a member of SPJ, you should be. Join now by clicking this link.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How has the Internet affected our industry? SPJ and the Federal Trade Commission need to hear from you

Middle TN Pro Chapter SPJ members and friends,

We all know how much the Internet has affected our industry. SPJ wants to hear from you about it.

As many of you know, the Federal Trade Commission will hold hearings Dec. 1-2 in DC on the Internet’s effect on news organizations’ business models. SPJ National President Kevin Smith will testify at those hearings.

The SPJ national committee on digital media needs to hear from journalists about what you think and what the FTC needs to know. I'm a committee member, and I'm asking all of you to please write up as little or as much as you want to share and e-mail it to us at by Nov. 2. We will share your comments with the FTC and with Kevin.

The FTC is seeking thoughts on:

  • the economics of journalism on the Internet and in traditional media
  • how news outlets’ business models might evolve in response to the Internet
  • innovative forms of journalism that have emerged on the Internet
  • how competition may evolve in markets for journalism and advertising
  • potential changes in governmental laws and policies to support journalism.
The digital media committee has a complete press release, with more details, posted online at this link.

Thank you,

Jennifer P in Houston

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SPJ calls on members to encourage their U.S. senators to vote for federal shield law

From an SPJ e-mail just now:

Dear SPJ members,
SPJ is calling on you! Help the Society fight for a federal shield law to uphold the free flow of information.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss, and hopefully pass, S. 448 - the Free Flow of Information Act. The bill would create a federal shield law that would grant protections to journalists who refuse to reveal confidential sources, even when compelled by a subpoena and the threat of penal action. Currently, journalists and their sources are only protected by privilege statutes or administrative rules in certain states. There is no federal shield law protecting journalists and their sources.

Now is the time to act. The nation's journalists need your voice. SPJ encourages members to contact their senators and let them know how important S. 448 is to a free press.

Every member's support is important, and we particularly encourage those represented by senators on the Judiciary Committee to contact that senator before he or she meets Sept. 17 to discuss and finalize S. 448. The following is a list of Senate Judiciary Committee members (Click on names for contact information):

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Ranking Member
Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Edward Kaufman (D-Del.)
Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)
Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.)
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman
Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
Russell Feingold (D-Wis.)

We also encourage all SPJ members to contact their senators and voice support for a federal shield law.

To learn more about SPJ's efforts, click here. Read shield law press releases sent earlier this year on SPJ News.

Thank you for your continued support of SPJ and this vital piece of legislation.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Remembering Hank Allison

Katie Allison Granju, blogger and daughter of longtime Nashville newsman and journalist Hank Allison, remembers her father in a touching post. (Hat tip to Phil Williams.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

WPLN going to all news during the day, dumping classical music

More Iraq and Barack and less Bach, perhaps? The change is coming next Tuesday morning, the station says. Read more at the WPLN Web site.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brewer, SPJ's 'secret weapon,' honored with President's Award

INDIANAPOLIS -- Clint Brewer, a former president of the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter and former national president of SPJ, was honored at the SPJ national convention tonight with a president's award for his work on behalf of a federal shield law.

"This guy could change minds," SPJ President Dave Aeikens said in giving the award to Brewer, who, as chairman of the national committee on government affairs, was tasked with visiting members of Congress and trying to win them over to supporting SPJ's position. Aeikens said members of SPJ's law firm, Baker and Hostetler, called Brewer "the secret weapon."

Congratulations to Clint, to the family of the late Robert Churchwell, and to all the honorees at tonight's banquet. :)

Harnisch matches gifts to Terry Harper Memorial Fund

INDIANAPOLIS -- Nashville newswoman-turned-philanthropist Ruth Ann Leach Harnisch is matching the $13,000 raised for the Terry Harper Memorial Fund, created in honor of SPJ's executive director who died of brain cancer earlier this year.

Some $8,000 was raised Thursday night at silent and live auctions held during the opening night reception at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and Terry's family also contributed $5,000.

Harnisch, a friend to many members of Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter, is matching that pool of money, SPJ officials announced tonight. Given that it started with $9,000, that brings the total amount of the fund to about $35,000.

Harper was also honored Saturday night by being posthumously given the Wells Memorial Key, the Society's highest honor. (Previous Wells Key winners include two journalists with Nashville ties, Frank Gibson and Reginald Stuart.) The award was presented to Terry's widow tonight at the presidential installation banquet on the last night of SPJ's national convention.

Banner writer Robert Churchwell honored with SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement

INDIANAPOLIS -- The late Robert Churchwell, the first African-American member of the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter of SPJ and a pioneer who broke the color barrier for black staffers at major Southern newspapers, was posthumously awarded SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement tonight.

The presentation was made at the presidential installation banquet on the final night of the 2009 SPJ National Convention in Indianapolis, where the Society celebrated its centennial year.

Churchwell's widow, Mary, and one of their five children accepted the honor on behalf of the late Nashville Banner reporter, who died earlier this year at age 91. The crowd gave them a standing ovation as the award was presented by outgoing SPJ national president David Aeikens.

Mary Churchwell thanked the assembled crowd and joked that, while she knew her husband loved her, she suspected writing might have been his first love. She recalled their children bringing him pieces they had written for school, and his perpetual first reaction: "Hand me a pencil."

Policinski among speakers at SPJ national convention

INDIANAPOLIS -- Our chapter board member Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center on the Vanderbilt University campus, was among the speakers at tonight's president's installation banquet at the SPJ National Convention.

"Without a free press, without journalists, who will hold government accountable?" Policinski asked attendees gathered to celebrate SPJ's 100th birthday over dinner and slices of birthday cake. He introduced a short film clip on the history of the news and its importance in American history and culture.

We jailed Gibson -- and raised $200 for the LDF

Thanks largely to our Middle Tennessee Pro chapter members and former Tennessean colleagues, we had our dear friend (and chapter treasurer) Frank Gibson "jailed" today as part of the "Jail-and-Bail" fundraiser for the SPJ Legal Defense Fund. We raised $100 in filing fees for 20 charges, ranging from "impersonating a University of Tennessee graduate" to "being a nuisance to politicians," and Gibson had to raise $100 in bail to regain his freedom.

Indiana: The Old West. Who knew?

I was pleasantly surprised at Thursday night's opening reception for the SPJ National Convention to learn that the venue -- a museum I'd never heard of, called the Eiteljorg Museum -- is for Western and Native American art. I didn't expect to find such in Indianapolis. The museum looks really cool, and if I get to come back to Indianapolis sometime, I'm going to put it on my to-do list with (finally) seeing the speedway. (This is my fourth trip to Indy, and the third trip this year alone, and I still haven't seen the speedway.)

While walking up the steps to the museum I was impressed by this huge statue right outside the front door, towering over me. I took a picture of it, and a man walking up behind me stopped and asked me if he could tell me anything about it. "Who is it?" I asked. He said it's a Blackfoot man, and it's called "The Greeting," because the man is apparently greeting someone, and he told me all kinds of intricate details about it and the artist, George Carlson. Turns out, the man talking to me was the curator of the museum. You always meet cool people at SPJ convention events.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Former Scene man Tobia among those backgrounded by contractor for DoD

Former Nashville Scene reporter P.J. Tobia, now working in Kabul, Afghanistan, is among the reporters who got checked-up-on by Pentagon contractor Rendon Group. In a first-person piece (via, he called the review "creepy," and shared the contractors' findings about him, including this nugget:

Based on his previous embed and past reporting, it is unlikely that he will miss an opportunity to report on US military missteps. However, if following previous trends, he will remain sympathetic to US troops and may acknowledge a learning curve in Afghanistan.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The scene from the national convention

INDIANAPOLIS -- I'm in Indianapolis for the national convention marking SPJ's 100th birthday! I hope to be blogging some here and also Tweeting (follow me at @jpeebles; I may also Tweet some about SPJ at @texaswatchdog. Meanwhile, follow all convention-related Tweets by searching for the "hashtag" of #SPJ/100).

Tonight kicked off with the opening reception at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art just a couple of blocks from the convention hotel. The highlight of the reception was a live auction, for which SPJ had a real, live auctioneer, to raise money for a memorial fund in honor of late SPJ Executive Director Terry Harper, whose widow attended tonight's event.

Among the items sold at the live auction was a director's chair from the Watergate Hotel -- last year's SPJ convention was in DC -- autographed by Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

There was also a silent auction that included an honest-to-Goodness Associated Press teletype machine used in the 1950s in Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scene, Nfocus sold to SouthComm

As reported by Nashville Post (another SouthComm pub), some words from Chris Ferrell:

“We essentially are unbundling the daily. The City Paper is our brand for news and sports, the Nashville Post and BusinessTN are our business news brands and the Scene gives us the strongest brand in the market for coverage of arts and culture. With this acquisition, we’ve built out our Nashville model. Over time, we will look to replicate our work here in other cities.”

SPJ signs on to letter to stop off-the-record briefings

From E&P's Joe Strupp:

NEW YORK -- A joint letter from a group of news outlets and journalism organizations -- ranging from The New York Times to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press -- is being sent today to some 600 press secretaries urging them to stop the practice of off-the-record briefings.

An announcement from the Sunshine in Government Initiative, which is coordinating the protest, states that the letter is an effort to stop the anonymous briefings that often limit how reporters can attribute information.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Late Banner reporter Robert Churchwell to be given SPJ's lifetime achievement award

The late Robert Churchwell, who broke the color barrier for black journalists at major Southern newspapers and who was the first black member of the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter, is being posthumously honored with SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Here's the press release from SPJ:

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to honor pioneering Tennessee journalist Robert Churchwell with the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. Churchwell, who died Feb. 1, 2009, was the first black journalist to work as a full-time reporter for a Southern general interest newspaper.

The Helen Thomas Award is presented to an individual or individuals for a lifetime of contribution and service to the journalism profession. The award is named after longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas for her dogged pursuit of the truth in a career that has spanned almost 60 years. Thomas received the inaugural award in 2000.

In 1950, the Nashville Banner, a conservative daily paper, hired Churchwell after his graduation from Fisk University, where he’d studied English after a four-year tour in the Army. The white-owned paper didn’t hire the World War II veteran to show its racial integration agenda, but rather as a business decision to attract black readers.

Though he spent most of his career with the Banner, Churchwell’s early treatment – even by his employer and colleagues – was anything but pleasant. Initially he wasn’t assigned a desk in the newsroom and worked from home, dropping off stories to an editor. Some fellow journalists ignored his presence and routinely directed derogatory epithets toward him. He was also barred from staff meetings during his early years at the Banner.

Eventually Churchwell garnered the respect he deserved – from the community and his colleagues – being named to the education beat and holding the post for 20 years until his retirement in 1981. Among many awards for community activities and journalism is a 1994 induction into the regional hall of fame of the National Association of Black Journalists. In 1996 he earned a presidential citation from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

Aside from his monumental first in a white-dominated newsroom, Churchwell also made strides within the professional journalism association community. In 1965, he became the first black member of Sigma Delta Chi’s Middle Tennessee Professional Chapter. He served as chapter vice president in 1969. Sigma Delta Chi later became the Society of Professional Journalists.

Churchwell will be recognized Saturday, Aug. 29 during a dinner at the 2009 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference in Indianapolis.

  • Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information on SPJ, please visit

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Channel 5 wins National Press Club Award

Jennifer Kraus, Bryan Staples, Kevin Wisniewski and Mike Rose of NewsChannel 5 won the National Press Club Award in the broadcast category for consumer journalism for "An Alarming Failure." From the NPC Web site:

Nashville’s WTVF News Channel 5 won the NPC’s Consumer Journalism Award broadcast category for “An Alarming Failure,” a ground-breaking examination of the differences between the popular ionization-type smoke detector and the photoelectric model in a smoky fire.  The stories resulted in legislation being introduced in Tennessee banning the installation of ionization smoke detectors in new homes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NPR ombudsman speaks in Nashville Wednesday

Make your reservations now to hear Alicia Shepard, NPR's ombudsman, speaking next Wednesday at the studios of Nashville's NPR affiliate, WPLN

As the ombudsman of one of the most trusted news sources,  acts as an internal watchdog for fairness, accuracy, and advocate for listeners. This discussion is a "must-hear" for reporters and listeners alike.

This special event is being put on by NPR, WPLN, and the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter of SPJ.

When: Noon Wednesday, April 22
Where: Nashville Public Radio, 630 Mainstream Drive (in MetroCenter), Nashville, 37228
How much: $7 SPJ members, $10 non-members. Cost includes box lunch.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Channel 4's Dan Miller dead of heart attack at 67

My condolences go out to our friends at WMSV, who have lost a colleague and dear friend. From the Channel 4 site:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Longtime WSMV-TV anchor Dan Miller died Wednesday night of a heart attack in his hometown of Augusta, Ga., at the age of 67.

Miller was in Augusta to watch practice rounds of the Masters Golf Tournament with fellow friends and longtime co-workers Terry Bulger and Rudy Kalis ...

Miller, born in 1941, was the recipient of multiple Emmy Awards, was voted Best News Anchor in Nashville more than 20 times and recognized by Television/Radio Age as the Most Popular News Anchor in the United States.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eddie Jones, former Banner chief, dies at 85

"He was a true citizen journalist," John Seigenthaler told The Tennessean. "He believed in objective, good-news journalism."

Monday, March 9, 2009

One day left to register for Friday API training event in Murfreesboro

Tuesday, March 10, is the last day to register for Friday's "New Newsroom workshop" on the MTSU campus. Get more details here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Get ready for Sunshine Week later this month

Don't forget that National Sunshine Week is coming up March 15-21.

Tennessee's four major dailies agree to share content: Memphis Flyer

A snippet:

Representatives of the four largest newspapers of Tennessee -- Nashville's Tennessean, Memphis' Commercial Appeal, Chattanooga Times-Free Press and Knoxville's News Sentinel -- met Feb. 4, 2009, to explore opportunities to cooperate to leverage their resources. During the discussion, all agreed that readers would be best served if the papers found ways to eliminate duplicate effort and share content of interest throughout the state. 

More details in bullet points in the Flyer story

An obversation from Trace Sharp at the NewsTechZilla blog:

You can look at this in a couple of ways. First of all, keeping Tennessee local with a share program lessens the need for AP content. It also saves money.

SPJ aids publication trying to get records from CCA

If you've ever looked at your SPJ renewal notice and wondered what that money goes toward, here's just one example: Helping people get public records. SPJ has signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in an effort by the Prison Legal News to wrest records from the private Corrections Corp. of America. (Remember: The state's public records law says that records are public if they are in the possession of a private entity performing a government service in place of a governmental agency.)

Here's the whole statement from SPJ national:

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists has joined an amicus brief written by the Tennessee ACLU supporting a magazine that won an open records battle in its quest to cover and analyze prisoners’ rights.

The brief supports the appeal of Prison Legal News, which is fighting off an appeal by the Corrections Corporation of America, a private company that operates state prisons in Tennessee, after a lower court determined that the CCA was subject to the state’s open records laws. The amicus brief argues that the trial court was correct in determining that the law in Tennessee requires contractors of the corrections system to turn over records upon public request, just as government agencies must do.

The Prison Legal News has also appealed the lower court’s decision to deny it attorneys’ fees in the case. “The Prison Legal News should have its legal fees paid by CCA,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens. “It would serve as a good deterrent to those who refuse to release public information.”

Joining the ACLU and SPJ in supporting the Prison Legal News on appeal are the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press, and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors.

This is the second case SPJ has supported in 2009 by joining an amicus brief. The last case, in January, involved the appeal of a historical society in Nebraska asking for open death records at a state mental hospital. Read about the case and SPJ’s support here. Learn about SPJ’s legal advocacy and other news items by reviewing the news archive here.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well- informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit

And you can read more about public records and FOI issues not only here but on the TCOG blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

C-A's gun permit database stirs up a ruckus

The Commercial-Appeal's recent posting of the state's database of handgun carry permit holders has stirred up a hornets' nest. Pro-gun groups are protesting, people are filing bills in the legislature to close the records and criminalize their publication (hello, prior restraint!) and people are posting maps to the editors' houses. Read a response from C-A editor Chris Peck, and commentary from The Scene's Jeff Woods, who quotes our own Frank Gibson.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Scene: Brewer out at 'City Paper'

Clint Brewer, former president of the Middle Tennessee Pro chapter and former national president of SPJ (and, honest disclosure, someone your chapter blogger would call a friend) has been fired from his post as editor at the Nashville City Paper, SouthCom chief Chris Ferrell tells Jeff Woods:

He cited (a) economic reasons and (b) his desire to give "separate and distinct voices" to the Monday and Thursday editions of the City Paper. "

Channel 2's parent company files for bankruptcy; little local effect expected

Little local impact is expected, The Tennessean reports:

“We’re not anticipating layoffs, we’re not anticipating staff changes, we’re not anticipating changes in programming,” said Gwen Kinsey, general manager of WKRN-TV and WATE-TV. “All of those things are going to continue as always.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

TPA honors Bredesen, 3 lawmakers for open government work

The Tennessee Press Association honored Gov. Phil Bredesen and state legislators Randy McNally, Joe Haynes and Steve McDaniel. More from the AP via WRCB-TV in Chattanooga.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Remembering Robert Churchwell, who broke Southern newspapers' color barrier

Robert Churchwell Sr., who died this weekend, was the first black staffer at a major Southern newspaper, a title that was both a huge accomplishment and a huge burden.

From Tennessean reporter Colby Sledge

Mr. Churchwell began reporting solely on the African-American community in an attempt by the Banner to increase circulation among black readers. The 1998 book The Children — the account by former Tennessean reporter David Halberstam of the Nashville civil rights movement — said Mr. Churchwell met with hostility in his own newsroom and among some African-Americans unhappy with his decision to work at the Banner.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tweeting today's Online News Association workshop in Nashville

NewsComa reports that she is live-tweeting the ONA event on "Journalism Has a Future" at the First Amendment Center. She's newscoma on Twitter, and the hashtag for the event is #onanash.

NPT, WTVF take lead in regional Emmy count

Nashville Public Television and WTVF-Channel 5 were the biggest local winners at the Midsouth Regional Emmys given out last Saturday.

NPT took 11 Emmys, including for historical and cultural documentaries, and historic or cultural program/special. WTVF took five, including for news excellence, investigative report for "Stories of Abuse," and business/consumer report.

WKRN-Channel 2 took three Emmys, and WSMV-Channel 4, WZTV-Channel 17, Vanderbilt University News Service and the Renaissance Center took two each.

Read the complete list of winners here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Online journalism workshop in Nashville Friday

Don't forget that the Online News Association is putting on a workshop here in Nashville on Saturday -- yes, that's this Friday, Jan. 30 -- titled "Journalism Has a Future." It's at the First Amendment Center on the Vanderbilt campus. Register here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unpaid week off for Tennessean and other Gannett employees

From the NY Times:

The Gannett Company, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, said on Wednesday that it would force thousands of its employees to take a week off without pay in an effort to avoid layoffs.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Our top 10 posts for 2008

Happy New Year, everyone! In case you missed any of them, here were our top 5 posts this year:

Don't forget, SPJ friends and other Nashville media folks: Send us your tips, your links, your thoughts, your comments in 2009.