Desperately Seeking the News 

Sour notes and strong arms

Sour notes and strong arms

Scott and Arlo, free-lance shock jocks for radio station WKDF-FM, won’t win any journalism awards for asking country music singer Vince Gill about his love life. But the unlikely pair became First Amendment martyrs last week after overexcited security thugs, purportedly acting on Gill’s instructions, cornered the two radio personalities, grabbed Arlo’s tape recorder, and stole his tape of the interview. The incident occurred last Thursday during a movie premiere party at Planet Hollywood.

The guard who took the tape immediately gave it to Warner/Avalon publicist Steve Gudis, who said he turned it over to Gill at the artist’s request. Gill demanded the tape after Arlo asked him, “So it’s safe to say, you’re not dating Amy Grant?”

Arlo said his question referred to persistent rumors about the relationship between Gill and Grant. Grant is married to singer-producer Gary Chapman, and Gill is currently in the middle of a divorce.

According to Arlo, Gill answered angrily, “No! Real classy guys. Why’d you have to bring that shit up? Go on, git! The interview’s over.” Another witness said a half-dozen security guards immediately surrounded the two journalists while other guards restrained Gill.

Arlo said he told the guards he would erase the question about Grant but “never had the chance to do it.” Several guards pinned him against a wall, he said. “While one held my arm, another took the tape recorder and popped out the tape,” which also included interviews with other celebrities, according to Arlo.

On Friday, Tennessean celebrity columnist Brad Schmitt reported that Scott and Arlo “were in a restricted area without proper credentials” and that, according to unnamed “producers,” Gill didn’t realize he was being interviewed because the reporters didn’t have media passes. Another publicist told Schmitt the guards had every right to seize the tape. Schmitt never talked to Scott or Arlo.

The KDF reporters told the Scene they were both wearing press passes on their KDF T-shirts and that Arlo, carrying a large tape recorder and microphone, identified himself to Gill and persuaded the singer to grant an interview. A Planet Hollywood spokesperson confirmed that she issued press passes to Scott and Arlo but said the pair should not have been backstage with Gill.

WKDF manager Steve Dickert said he is “astounded” that security guards would seize his reporters’ tape and that the station “is looking into what possible recourse we may have.” Dickert said it was the first time in his 25 years at the station that anyone had confiscated a reporter’s tape.

Scott and Arlo, whose respective real names are Scott Malone and Michael Loring, said they haven’t done many interviews and didn’t know that the guards had no right to seize the tape. “Now we know what our rights are,” Arlo said. “Next time they won’t get it so easily.”

No one blames Gill for angrily ending the interview. Most people would have done the same thing. But a radio reporter’s tape is no different from a print reporter’s notebook—or his wallet. No one has the right to take it. That’s called stealing.

Medical news

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is “the only institution in the world performing surgery to spina bifida lesions on a fetus still in the mother’s womb,” according to a Vanderbilt press release. The news merited a congratulatory editorial in The Tennessean, which called the operation a “medical milestone” and compared this “truly amazing technological feat” to the roving robot on Mars. Where, then, did the news of this breakthrough appear in The Tennessean? It ran a week earlier, buried at the bottom of Page B-1, disguised as a human-interest feature. Sources at Vanderbilt say the young intern sent by the paper to cover the story simply didn’t understand what she was writing about.

♦ The Banner, which has pretty well quit trying to do its own reporting on the Columbia/HCA investigation, is apparently trying to develop a friendly source on the Columbia board. That’s the most likely explanation for a recent flattering profile of board member Dr. Frank Royal, “family practitioner and community leader,” who talked about the “softer side” of the controversial hospital chain.

The story by Banner medical writer Bill Snyder sympathetically described Royal as a solo practitioner trying to “survive in the changing health care system” while coping with confusing and unfair government regulations. “I just do the best I can,” poor-mouthed Dr. Royal.

If Snyder had been better prepared—or had tried to write a news story instead of a puffy feature—he might have asked how Royal, the family doctor, accumulated more than 100,000 shares of Columbia/HCA stock, now worth about $3.4 million, or why Royal fortuitously cashed in 5,000 shares when the stock was selling at $43.25 a share, just nine days before federal agents raided Columbia hospitals in Texas and sent the price plummeting. Because of those sales, Royal and other Columbia board members have recently been sued for insider trading.

How could Snyder have known all that? It was published a week earlier in The Tennessean.

Amplification

Last week, this column reported that an ad for Have a Nice Day Cafe was “designed” by the Scene’s staff. In fact, Full House Productions created and designed the ad. The Scene staff set the type and produced camera-ready art.

To comment or complain about the media, leave a message for Henry at the Scene (615-244-7989, ext. 445), call him at his office, 615-252-2363, or send an e-mail to hwalker@bccb.com.

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