We all know the kind of person Tennessean publisher Leslie Giallombardo is likely to select to replace outgoing editor Frank Sutherland: an editor or managing editor at a smaller Gannett paper who can effortlessly roll out words like "reader-friendly," "interactive," "demographic" and "community." We just know this. At Gannett, they don't pay you to be innovativethey pay you to stay the course...or if necessary make gradual and largely meaningless changes. Like, for example, adding more white space to the paper.
So Frank Sutherland's likely successor will be a run-of-the-mill Gannett-oid who can continue to render the paper about as relevant as Dean Cain. If, however, Gannett were truly interested in reversing The Tennessean's sagging fortunes, it would recruit someone outside of Gannett, perhaps even outside of working journalism. Someone different, someone smart and someone who doesn't have a whole lot of experience in a contemporary newspaper trade. Someone like Al Gore.
There are obviously many problems with a Gore candidacy. The first is that there's no indication he'd want it. Right now, he's planning to launch a new, youth-oriented media cable television network. Certainly, taking the helm of an old media relic like The Tennessean can't be too appealing. Also, Al Gore may be a Nashville residentBelle Meade, actuallybut as a recent New Yorker profile revealed, he needs to log on to MapQuest to find the Grand Ole Opry House. Finally, there's the public image that Al Gore projects, which the New Yorker tagged as belonging to "Mr. Goofy." Generally, decent editors are somewhat personable, even if it's in a disingenuous way.
Still, Gore is intelligent, understands public policy and the strange dynamics of political campaigns. He'd be able to see through Bredesen's TennCare plan or Purcell's political ambition. He has a quirky array of intellectual interests, which could make him a more interesting editor. And he knows how to get around federal campaign finance laws, which demonstrates a certain level of sneakiness that would come in handy when submitting his monthly expense forms.
Finally, when he was a reporter, he was passionate about his job, perhaps more so than he was running for president. With John Seigenthaler as his editor, Al Gore busted former Metro Council member Morris Haddox for accepting a bribe. The council member was ultimately cleared, but Gore showed that as a journalist he was interested in doing more than writing explanatory issue pieces. Maybe he can import that aggressive ethic to 1100 Broadway.
If the vice president isn't interested in editing a relatively obscure daily, I still hope that Giallombardo goes beyond the casting call of Gannett hires and chooses someone outside the loop. Journalism is too important to be left to the conventional journalists. These mid-level editor types at chain dailies are a part of a system that hasn't worked for years. It's a system that loses readers, particularly smart ones, and eschews important reporting in favor of placating suburban sensibilities. Maybe it will take the inventor of the Internet to reinvent daily journalism.
E-Mail Matt at MPulle@Nashvillescene.com