After 70 years as an NBC affiliate, WSM-AM, Nashville’s oldest and best-known radio station, has quietly left the NBC network and joined ABC.
“We agonized over the change,” said station vice president and general manager Bob Meyer, “but NBC today is no longer what it once was.” Meyer has also canceled NBC’s Mutual Radio Network, now carried on WWTN-FM, WSM’s sister station. WWTN will begin broadcasting ABC news in March, he said.
Founded in 1925 to help National Life & Accident Insurance sell policies (WSM stands for “We Shield Millions,” the company’s motto), WSM was one of the earliest affiliates of the NBC network. From the top of what the station described as the nation’s tallest radio tower, WSM’s clear-channel signal carried the Grand Ole Opry to much of the United States and was probably the single most important factor in transforming Nashville’s image from Athens of the South to Music City USA.
WSM did not publicize the network change, which occurred two weeks ago, but has received “surprisingly few” calls from listeners, Meyer said. He added that NBC showed little interest in trying to hold on to one of the network’s oldest affiliates.
Meyer said ABC provides better-quality and more comprehensive news than NBC does. But WSM listeners will probably be even happier about the addition of ABC commentator Paul Harvey. After the change occurred, Harvey himself called the station, Meyer said. Harvey said he had always wanted to be on WSM and asked if the staff could come up with a pair of Opry tickets.
The people’s court
The trial of accused serial killer Paul Reid is still months away, but only four courtroom passes are left for representatives of the media, according to Davidson County court administrator Larry Stephenson. At a meeting last week, Stephenson assigned local journalists 11 of 15 reserved seats to watch Reid’s arraignment on Wednesday. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Stephenson said, the passes will determine who covers the trial.
“We’re taking care of the local media first,” he explained, after handing out passes to representatives from Channels 2, 4, and 5, The Tennessean, Nashville Banner, and Nashville Scene. After the other four passes have been issued, no other media will be allowed in. Space has been reserved for friends and families of the victims and the defendant, but there are no seats for the general public, Stephenson said.
Courtrooms are supposed to be for everyone. Beyond the immediate families of the victims and the defendant, the restincluding the pressare just spectators. Stephenson’s plan is well-intentioned but will likely collapse under complaints from other media, such as the Associated Press and the Tennessee Radio Network, who weren’t at last week’s meeting. First-come-first-seated isn’t a perfect plan either, but it has worked well enough in the past. If the press want seats, they can jostle with everyone else.
As it turned out, only 30 people showed up for Reid’s appearance last weekabout 20 relatives of the victims and 10 reporters. The courtroom holds 70. Despite the number of empty seats, Stephenson stuck to his plan. Only those journalists with passes were allowed inside. The court administrator said he may change his mind and allow the public to see the trial. He ought to.
Odds and ends
According to The Tennessean’s Mark Ippolito, Dollar General president Cal Turner agreed to pay $75,000 toward rebuilding a burned-out store in the Sam Levy Homes “as long as the neighborhood matches that amount.” But according to the Banner’s Patricia Lynch Kimbro, it was the residents who “insisted on doing their part by volunteering to raise $75,000” after Turner had already promised a new store. The real story is somewhere in between.
Knowledgeable sources say it was Mayor Phil Bredesen’s wife, Andrea Conte, who suggested the fund-raising idea and promised to help the residents come up with the $75,000. It was an offer that Turner could hardly refuse.
♦ Six weeks ago, on the front page of its Sunday edition, The Tennessean pictured an Hispanic thug and printed an implausible story about “hundreds” of Hispanic gang members in Nashville. More recently, when Metro Council passed a non-binding resolution expressing concern about crime among illegal Hispanic immigrants, The Tennessean’s editorial writers reacted with predictable, liberal outrage. The paper milked the story for several days without ever mentioning that the morning daily itself was partly to blame for Council’s action.
♦ In case you need any more convincing that Nashville needs two daily newspapers, here’s how each paper treated the same story on the same day:
“School board offers Council olive branch” (The Tennessean, July 11).
“School board lashes back at Council” (Nashville Banner, July 11.)
♦ Gannett, corporate owner of The Tennessean and about 90 other papers, is known for its formulaic pursuit of mediocrity and for picking news editors the way Greyhound picks its drivers: smart enough to follow instructions but not bright enough to get bored. Perhaps that explains the following ad in Editor & Publisher magazine, placed by a medium-sized, Gannett-owned paper near Camden, N.J.:
“We’re looking for an [assistant city] editor who can coach reporters before they head out on assignments, help them organize their stories when they return, and then polish good writing until it shines. Candidates will have a college degree and three years newspaper experience. The ability to read, write and speak English also required.”
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