The latest victim of cost-cutting at WKRN-Channel 2, which hosted Volunteer Voters, Kleinheider managed for over a year to keep a full-time gig that involved various parts cutting and pasting, original reporting and, until recent months when a new general manager decided that voice from a traditional media outlet was a liability, peppering posts with his own brand of socially conservative ideology.
According to the blog’s site meter, VV averaged 2,550 visits a day—a miniscule readership by mainstream media standards but a healthy one for a local blog. Its loyalists might have been a relatively small collective, but they were the right readers.
Nevertheless, VV couldn’t deliver anywhere near the kind of critical mass, found almost exclusively with national blogs, to make such a website self-sufficient. So considering that Volunteer Voters required a full-time staffer but didn’t produce the revenue to mitigate those expenses, Kleinheider’s was, in fact, a long tenure.
Even he recognizes this, though the 31-year-old Kleinheider tells the Scene he thought he’d “beat” the threat of the corporate hammer when he wasn’t among more than a dozen Deuce staffers laid off a few weeks ago.
“Thanks…GM Gwen Kinsey and News Director Matthew Zelkind, who stretched the purse strings and allowed me to keep doing my thing longer than the bottom line may have warranted,” he wrote in his final blog post on Friday, which, at Scene press time, had received 129 comments, virtually all of them paeans to Kleinheider and the destination he’d built.
One of them came from Trent Seibert, a former Tennessean and Channel 2 reporter who now works for a statewide public policy outfit.
“The fact is, in newspapers and television in Nashville and all over the country, buyouts and layoffs are becoming the norm rather than the exception,” Seibert tells the Scene. “I have never understood how newspapers and TV think they can make more money by cutting the people who provide original content people want.”
Seibert, who estimates he checked out VV “about 47 times a day,” characterizes Kleinheider as “a pretty good shoe-leather journalist who, when he went to go dig something up, often did a better job than some of the press corps. As a reader, if there was something happening in politics in Tennessee, particularly in state politics—it may have been the Scene or the Tennessean or papers in Memphis or Knoxville—he gave me one-stop shopping for that.”
For his part, Kleinheider says he has no idea what he’s going to do next. “I had my dream job.” —L.G.
If Erma Bombeck bloggedGraying journalists usually make for terrible bloggers. Either they don’t grasp the informal nature of the medium and wind up penning short and mundane news stories, or they think of it as a way to unload whatever trivial thoughts pop into their heads. As you might have guessed from reading some of her more halfhearted efforts, Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr falls into that second trap. Her most recent blog post, titled “Whole Foods is Amazing...Amazingly Expensive,” doesn’t offer any fresh insight or perspective; it’s just a plainly written gripe one might see in an email exchange between two suburban housewives.
“If I lived near Whole Foods, it would be tempting to pick up supper there on nights I’m too tired to cook,” writes Kerr, who, when she feels like it, can be a good columnist. “The food is beautiful and fresh. But I just can’t justify it in my Ms. Cheap-level, anti-credit-card, pay-our-bills-on-time budget. I’d rather spend my whole paycheck elsewhere.”
In 2008, Kerr’s posted a whopping six times, and that includes her trenchant analysis on the pricing of organic foods. Other entries include an item about her husband calling to say that the power had gone out in their Bellevue neighborhood, and a press-releasey morsel about the city’s 911 campaign. In early February, she waxed about her guitar-playing hubby headlining at the Bluebird Cafe, and that was it for the rest of the month. Meanwhile, Sally the Dog, who authors a Tennessean blog, posted eight times during that same period. When a canine imposter, mimicking a dog’s musings on life, is a better blogger than you are, it’s time to take a long, hard look at how you’re spending your time.
Then again, why are we picking on Kerr when the political bloggers are nearly as invisible. The paper’s state and national political journal has two posts this month, while the Metro one has averaged a post every other day for the last six weeks or so. What’s the point of having a blog if it’s less timely than the dead tree product?
Tennessean editor Mark Silverman loves to brag about the paper’s array of online journals, even if most of them are meager efforts that are unlikely to keep readers coming back for more. By Desperately’s count, the paper has well over 40 blogs, including a recreation and fitness blog, a nature blog, a few shopping blogs, a pet blog and a Sally the Dog blog. The paper itself even has a column about blogs. Yet despite The Tennessean’s obsession with the medium, it’s not doing anything special with it. The blogs aren’t regularly updated, and when they are, readers can’t expect to find smart, breezy commentary and new reporting flashing on their screen. Instead, we just get half-assed puns about Whole Foods. —M.P.