In the best sign yet that the Metro Council's silly homophobia is something of an anomaly, two new gay publications hit the streets last month: Church Street Freedom Press, whose publisher Tim Toonen describes it as a "gay Nashville Scene," and Sports Nashville, a slick-looking magazine that inexplicably features Jeff Fisher's ass on its debut cover.
Already filled with ads, Freedom Press is a slim weekly meant to appeal to straight and gay readers alike. Last week's feature story covered the opening of a new dance club and restaurant on Church Street, the focal point of Nashville's burgeoning gay culture and inspiration for the paper's moniker. The week before, Freedom Press ran a timely story on the needlessly controversial reappointment of lesbian attorney Maria Salas to the Metro Human Relations Commission. Throughout the paper, there are also notices for gay bowling tournaments and ads for Mr. Gay Tennessee, a men's contest for which there's "no talent required." For the uninformed, Freedom Press provides a snapshot of gay life in Nashvillereporting the stories straight papers only cover to plug politically correct diversity quotas.
If there's a problem with Freedom Press, it's that it's too polite. Unlike its more aggressive rival Out & About, a gay monthly that reports hard news and takes opinionated stances on local issues, Freedom Press so far is more interested in promoting than exposing. Toonen himself tells Desperately that his weekly will "always show the gay community in a positive light." The problem with that credo is that some of the most interesting stories in journalism leave nobody looking good. In any case, what's the point of having a newspaper if not to call people out?
Start-up newspapers are about as risky a proposition as a one-night stand with Courtney Love. Add to that unfavorable dynamic two other competitors, Out & About and XenogenySports Nashville is only gay in the same way teenagers view tucking their shirts in as "gay"and you get an idea about how tough it will be for Freedom Press. Toonen himself has sunk $10,000 of his own money into the paper and concedes that he has no other investors.
All of those caveats aside, it's easy to root for Freedom Press. Its reporters and editors know the community they cover, and it shows in every story. Besides, with churchy pawns like Metro Council member Buck Dozier making it a political strategy to quietly stick it to the gay community, the debut of a yet another mainstream, polished gay publication suggests that the homophobes are losing. But the best news about the launch of Freedom Press? Toonen says that not a single local business objected to having his newspaper distributed outside their storefronts. Nashville is turning into a more tolerant and interesting place to live, and papers like Freedom Press can help lead the way.
Straight and narrow
At first glance, Sports Nashville, a new magazine covering local athletics, looks more gay than anything Freedom Press has published. Its debut cover features a reasonably buff Jeff Fisher in white T and tight Levi's, casting a serious look to his side and showing off his moneymaker. One female colleague blushed at this rare rear view of the Titans head coach, while the guys in the office were more like, "What the hell is this?" It looks likeand Desperately is showing its age herethe folks at Sports Nashville were trying to mimic the famous Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA album cover. Other photos in the pub include three shirtless Titans, a shirtless Predator, a shirtless Eddie George and a shirtless George Plaster. (OK, we're lying about one of those.)
Unfortunately, the magazine's relentlessly promotional copy makes it seem like the Nashville Sports Council produced itand if you turn to the editor's note, lo and behold, you find out that it's a partner. How credible would a business magazine be if it partnered with the Chamber of Commerce? But despite the new magazine's dubious affiliation, it features a few worthwhile profiles of lesser-known athletes, including Vandy pitching ace Jeremy Sowers and UT alum and decathlete star Tom Pappas. (The credit goes to writers Andrew Maraniss and Josh Pate, respectively.) Most of all, it has several well-written stories on track and field, softball and swimming sports that get short shrift at every other paper in town. There was also a brief piece on a Metro Parks outreach program for minority swimmers. Who knew?
The cover profile is the most interesting story in the magazine, but for all the wrong reasons. If you could pick any local writer to pen a profile of Jeff Fisher, would you select a) a writer, or b) a television sports anchor who hosts a weekly call-in show with the Titans coach during football season? Well, Sports Nashville went with b, choosing Channel 2's John Dwyer. In addition to botching lottery games, Dwyer is no Frank Deford. Here's a sample of Dwyer's prose: "Permanently tan. Hair grazing the collar. The mustache." Dwyer writes about Fisher in a love poem that took a turn South of creepy. "Just 10 pounds off his varsity weight. The sunglasses. So what's behind those iridescent Oakleys? Blue eyes in front. Two more in backalways observing, preparing, calculating."
The story took a sleazy turn, though, when Dwyer suggested, with absolutely, positively no attribution or evidencenot to mention relevancethat Jeff Fisher's marriage was troubled. Then he put the coach on the spot and asked him to "to separate fact from fiction about his marriage." Fisher should have told him to buzz off, but instead he fumbled around awkwardly like John Kerry addressing a group of Southerners. "I believe it's private, and I believe I have a right to my privacy," Fisher began innocently enough. "I have a responsibility to answer, and I also have an opportunity not to answer, not to discuss those things."
And that was it. In the future, Dwyer should save his rumor mongering for the Channel 2 break room.
If you really want somebody to know something, you could just tell them.
I doubt she'd choke on yours.
The story on "the Lutheran," ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, was from January. I was…
Bill, I agree. But you're messing with Betsy's MO.