Glossed Over 

Atlanta publisher to start local mag

Atlanta publisher to start local mag

For all 10 of you who still lament the demise of Nashville Life, along with the rest of us who would love something livelier in its place, Jane Birdwell, the publisher and owner of Atlanta citymag, says she plans to launch a new magazine here in September.

”The economy in Nashville is so healthy to do what we’re doing,“ Birdwell says. ”I don’t see how we can’t be successful.“

Time Warner might well agree. Two media sources say that the mammoth multimedia corporation, which, among other ventures, publishes Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, is interested in not only buying Atlanta citymag but starting similar magazines in smaller markets such as Nashville, Charlotte, and Palm Beach. A Time Warner official, however, said that while the company is impressed with the magazine, they are not interested in either investing money in Atlanta citymag or in starting other magazines in the South.

Birdwell says that Time Warner officials, along with representatives from other large corporations, have courted her recently, but no concrete offer has been made.

If all goes according to Birdwell’s plan, the magazine would be titled Nashville citymag and would have the look and feel of the Atlanta version—a glossy, lifestyles pub. With stories on fashion, health and fitness, and working parents, citymag—which would publish eight times a year— would not require a paradigm shift for old Nashville Life readers. But there are some key differences. Atlanta citymag is broader, thicker, sexier, snappier, and certainly glossier, and at least some of the features, like a listing of nontraditional art venues, might appeal to the younger readers Nashville Life struggled to reach.

Of course, don’t expect hardcore news. Unlike, say, New York Magazine, which regularly blends tough feature stories and investigative reporting along with some of its fluffier items, citymag won’t try to ruffle the feathers of the city’s power players. ”I don’t believe a city magazine needs to be controversial,“ says Birdwell.

Sean Copeland, now out of Atlanta, will be the publisher of Nashville citymag. According to Birdwell, Copeland will hire a local editor and already has two finalists. (Birdwell would not yet disclose the names.) In addition, the magazine will boast a complete editorial and sales staff.

Laurels and Darts

This past May during sweeps month, local TV newscasts characteristically tried to outsleaze, outscare, and outhype their rivals in their Pyrrhic quest for higher ratings. From airing the revelations of a psychic to help solve a nearly three-year-old crime toäwell, actually, let’s just stop with that lowlight; few newscasts managed to distinguish themselves on any story of note. Without wasting any more time on all the junk that was aired, let’s spotlight two very worthwhile pieces, which perhaps not-so-incidentally were both done by Channel 5.

First, reporter Ben Hall—aided by a hidden video camera—caught state lawmakers returning from a golf trip to the Alabama coast. The lawmakers group—which included Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh and House Finance Committee Chair Matt Kisber—flew on a Learjet courtesy of Tennessee businessmen Garry Sasser and Ron Cooper. Because of a technicality, the trip did not violate Tennessee state law that forbids such excursions paid for by interested parties, but nevertheless it showed, perhaps more than any grumpy column from The Tennessean’s Larry Daughtrey, how state lawmakers are too cozy with the state’s business industrial complex to pursue tax reform.

The second top-notch story was an exposé by Jennifer Kraus on the Oklahoma-based Feed the Children charity. The station filmed Steve Highfill, the executive director of the Nashville branch, along with other employees, walking away with armloads of food and other donated goods from the warehouse to their cars. The story has led to an investigation of the charity by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Whores and Wrestlers

Newspapers don’t have sweeps month but you wouldn’t know it from reading The Tennessean of late. After the arrest of Tennessee Titans back-up defensive back Steve Jackson on charges of patronizing prostitution, the daily ran seven stories over a seven-day period that either reported, re-reported, or pontificated on the incident.

Also, last Thursday, The Tennessean buried perhaps the biggest international story of the week—that a war crimes tribunal was preparing to indict Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic—on page 5-A.

To give you an idea of your daily paper’s provincialism, on that same day, the front-page-above-the-fold story was about a Hickman County Circuit Court judge who sentenced a woman for wearing a T-shirt with a message from professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin: ”The 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Whoop Ass.“

And speaking of whooping ass, The Wall Street Journal scooped The Tennessean on the city’s biggest business story of the year. In their Tuesday online edition, The Wall Street Journal reported that Nashville’s last big-time bank, First American Corp., was acquired by Birmingham’s AmSouth Bancorp. Tuesday’s Tennessean had nothing. Later that morning, long after the Journal story appeared, The Tennessean’s online edition belatedly reported the acquisition in a brief wire story from the Associated Press.

To reach Matt, call him at 244-7989, ext. 445, or email him at MPulle@nashvillescene.com.

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