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The Tennessean's bad, bumbling week

The Tennessean's bad, bumbling week

There are only a handful of Nashvillians whose obituaries in The Tennessean would be as lengthy, detailed and neverending as Gizmo's, the poor dog who was killed after apparently being kicked like a football, and who now is a household name to just about everybody in town. But for all the breathtaking, dramatic prose the newspaper has offered about Gizmo, it couldn't get the most important thing right: the dog's identity.

At the end of the week, The Tennessean added to its confusing series of stories on the death of Gizmo by admitting that ever since the dog's unceremonious demise, the newspaper had been running a photograph of the wrong animal. The paper's account of what happened is about as coherent as the first Mission Impossible movie. According to The Tennessean's correction, Gizmo's owners, Jelani Lewis and Jessica McKenzie, e-mailed a digital image of a dog they thought was Gizmo. Instead, it was a picture of a dog they had previously downloaded off the Internet. This dog's name is Gigi, another Yorkshire terrier, whose cuddly picture had been posted online by a New Jersey man named Eric Wang. The Tennessean found out about its error not from Gizmo's owners, but from Mr. Wang himself, who contacted the newspaper to say that Gizmo is really Gigi, now deceased, who belonged to his aunt.

Got all that?

While it's not the newspaper's fault that the owners sent the wrong picture, it's never good when a correction raises more questions than it answers. But here's the one puzzling aspect of all of this that The Tennessean hasn't really touched. How could Gizmo's owners mistake someone else's dog for their own? Dog owners are like parents; they don't normally have any trouble picking their four-leggeds out of a digital lineup, no matter how close the resemblance. Even if it was an innocent mistake, wouldn't they have later realized that The Tennessean photo of the dog wasn't Gizmo? Obviously, Gizmo's owners have been through a lot, and there is likely a coherent explanation for how the photo of a New Jersey dog ended up on the front page of The Tennessean. But we have yet to hear it.

'80s flashback

It wasn't just Gizmo. Last week, The Tennessean rattled off more mistakes than Ben Affleck's agent. On Wednesday, in a front-page story in Davidson A.M., the city's paper of record reported that the Sevier Park mansion was damaged in 1984 during the Battle of Nashville, "one of the last decisive battles of the Civil War," it explained. The Battle of Nashville was actually fought in 1864, a short 120 years before the newspaper reported.

The paper also reported that the mansion belonged to Jesse Benton, the sister-in-law of Thomas Hart Benton. According to the Metro Historical Commission, Jesse Benton was a man and actually the brother of Thomas Hart Benton. Ironically, the The Tennessean's story was about how the eight-member staff of the Metro Historical Commission was moving into the mansion.

Still hungry after all these years

On Sunday, Williamson A.M. freelancer Vicki Stout wrote about her trip to the Cool Springs J. Alexander's, a restaurant chain whose CEO, Lonnie Stout, is the reporter's ex-husband. Apparently, their split was amicable. Here are some excerpts of Stout's account:

"J. Alexander's is akin to fine wine; it seems to improve with age."

"J's had not rested on its laurels."

" 'Our mission is simple: We want to be your favorite restaurant,' he said. In my case, mission accomplished."

"The presentation is fantastic."

"It's a place to celebrate special occasions."

"The cheeseburger is Jimmy-Buffett-in paradise great."

"The plateful of pork is sheer perfection."

"The North Atlantic salmon is sheer perfection."

"The loaded baked potato is heaven."

"The eight ounces of red meat and melt-in-your-mouth blue cheese is as good as it gets."

When Stout wasn't providing literature for J. Alexander's annual report (and writing badly while she was at it), she helped the company's executive chef buck for a promotion. "We may have a collection of restaurants, but we are as un-chainlike as anything could be," Stout quoted him as saying. "We are closer to that favorite neighborhood eatery down the street."

In her entire gushy tribute to J. Alexander's, Stout didn't report a single dislike. Evidently, everything was, "sheer perfection."

In fairness, Stout told the paper that she was once married to the company's CEO. Mark Cook, Williamson A.M.'s community news editor, gamely admits that in hindsight the paper should have included some sort of "disclaimer" telling its readers that the reporter isn't exactly an impartial observer. Actually, he should have just found someone else to write about the restaurant. Preferably, someone who hasn't walked down the aisle with a member of J. Alexander's executive team.


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