Recently, The Tennessean e-mailed a rather probing survey asking readers to evaluate the worth of gossip columnist Brad Schmitt. But the survey, titled ”Are You Mad About Brad?,“ did not come from the paper’s management. In fact, the top brass didn’t even know about it. Instead it came from Eileen Sisk, a recently hired copy editor who apparently took it upon herself to gauge reader opinion about the paper’s most visibleif not visceralwriter.
The survey is briefand amusingenough to reprint here:
1. How do you feel about ”Brad About You“?
a) I love Brad; don’t change a thing.
b) I hate Brad; get rid of him.
c) I don’t care either way about Brad.
2. Do you think ”Brad About You“ belongs in the A section or would it fit better in another section of the paper?
a) Don’t mess with Brad; I want him to stay where he is.
b) Brad is fluff; put him in the Living section.
c). I think Brad belongs in the back of the A section.
d) I don’t care where you put Brad.
3. Do you think ”Brad About You“ is crucial to the identity of The Tennessean?
c) No opinion.
4. Do you have any other thoughts to add about ”Brad About You“? If so, please give your opinion here.
Reached by the the Scene, Schmitt said he didn’t know about the survey and had no comment. But he couldn’t have been too pleased. After all, the survey seemed to have implications for the future of his column. And how many people like to have their job performance open to public evaluation? To make matters worse, it wasn’t Brad’s editor who disseminated the survey but a copy editor, a low-ranking worker bee whose job could be analogized, for example, to an assistant sports trainer for a college track team.
Interestingly, although managing editor David Green was not aware of the surveywhich was apparently sent to about two dozen readers who had recently e-mailed letters to the newspaperhe was at least indirectly responsible for it. ”We ask all staff members to use a variety of methods to talk with readers about a wide variety of issues,“ Green says. But was it appropriate for a copy editor to go behind a columnist’s back? ”Obviously, there is some protocol that needs to be respected,“ he says.
For her part, Sisk says all full-time staffers are encouraged to perform ”reader ascertainment surveys“ designed ”to put a finger on the pulse of the readers of the city.“
She says the informal poll was ”nothing personal against Brad; it was not written as a personal affront. The fact is you guys are making a mountain out of a molehill.“
In any case, Schmitt can rest easy. Green says that the paper is not contemplating making a change to his column.
Last week, The Tennessean was the subject of some ridicule from guests on Brit Hume’s current events show on Fox News. Apparently the paper’s failure to cover the Al Gore slumlord story captured their attention.
As our daily was once again receiving national press for all the wrong reasons, its leaders continue to be oblivous to the widespread perception that the paper’s news judgment is shot. Last Friday, The Tennessean ran what had to be the millionth feature to play off CBS’ Survivor series. The story was aboutyou guessed itthe art of eating bugs. It ran with a screaming front page headline.
In the piece, the reporter quoted a UT professor who recommended that if you want to eat bugs, remove the ”legs, the head, and any part that’s hard.“ A Vanderbilt professor also waxed poetically about the nutritional value of an insect, saying that it’s as complete a meal as a portion of chicken. Finally, Tennessean editor and wine columnist Frank Sutherland contributed to the inanity of it all by suggesting that if one were forced to eat insects, ”a white Zinfandel“ would suffice.
Never mind that this kind of frivolous story should have been relegated to the paper’s perpetually anemic Living section if anywhere at all. The same day the paper ran the bug story on the front page, it buriedon page 11Athe revelation that Al Gore had somehow lost a year’s worth of potentially damning e-mails subpoenaed by federal investigators.
Going, going, gone
Coming off an impressive May sweeps in which the station’s ratings jumped in nearly every newscast, WKRN-Channel 2 is about to lose two of its most well-known reporters. As originally hinted at by The Tennessean’s Joe Biddle, sportcaster Mike Hill is officially leaving the station to join the Fox Sports Network in New York. Also leaving is weekend anchor Tammi Arender, who also reported the ”To Your Health“ segments for the station. She’ll be leaving Nashville for Louisiana to be closer to her family.
Matt Pulle can be reached at 244-7989, ext. 445, or MPulle@nashvillescene.com.