After more than eight years of laboring as WKRN-Channel 2’s news director, an eternity in the television news world, Matthew Zelkind is leaving at the end of this week to become station manager at WRIC, an ABC affiliate in Richmond, Va.
It’s a deserved promotion for Zelkind, an intense, stubborn, affably neurotic fellow who made Channel 2 the most consistent station in the market, if never the highest rated. The longest serving news director in town, Zelkind presided over a local news operation that might not have toppled university presidents and busted errant cops, but was always solid, honest and, in instances of dicey weather, indispensable. Since losing reporters Jay Korff and Dan MacDonald, the station slipped a bit over the last year, but watching Channel 2 never made you think that television news was going to hell. You don’t always feel that way watching its rivals.
“We are a much better station than the ratings would sometimes indicate,” Zelkind says. “We do good work. We’re credible and respectable.”
Zelkind himself could have his moments, but he was generally liked in the newsroom, a notable accomplishment considering that most television news directors are about as revered as Saddam Hussein at a Kurdish picnic. While television reporters are infamous gossips, few people at Channel 2 ever bad-mouthed their boss. Even his detractors begrudgingly gave him his due. (One notable exception is ace reporter Phil Williams, who, after clashes with Zelkind, left Channel 2 in the late ’90s to ply his trade at WTVF-Channel 5.)
Zelkind says that while he has come to love Nashville, working as a station manager has been a longtime career goal. “It’s very bittersweet,” he says. “This is always what I wanted to do, but I hate leaving everybody.”
The Ku Klux Scene?
Apparently, someone thinks that the Nashville Scene’s demographics skew to the right. The way, way, way right.
Last Thursday, on New Year’s Day, dozens of residents in the Granny White Pike area woke up to find an otherwise innocuous edition of the Scene’s Annual Manual in their driveways, with a Ku Klux Klan flier attached to the front. “I want you,” the note reads, “for the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Realm of Tennessee.” Desperately Seeking the News e-mailed the contact person listed on the flier to ask why the KKK hijacked the Annual Manual to advance the white-supremacist organization, but, thankfully, he failed to respond. This contact’s e-mail handle, however, was virtually identical to others listed on various Klan Web sites, suggesting that if this was somehow a prank, it was a somewhat elaborate one.
For the record, the Klan is not a paid advertiser with the Scene. And the KKK’s distribution point, a friendly, upscale neighborhood, isn’t likely to provide them with any new recruits.
Apparently, this tactic is a familiar one to various Klan watch groups. “There are numerous instances, all across the country, of them inserting fliers into various free newspapers,” says Mark Potok, the editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report. “The reason they do it is because it’s a hard crime to prosecute.” (While the Scene is free, swiping stacks of it is illegal.)
Once a powerful and feared organization with about 5 million members in the 1920s, the Klan has evolved into a cartoonish cadre of a couple thousand underemployed goofy white men nationwide. Different Klan groups try ardently to enlarge their base because, as Potok points out, “recruiting means dues, and dues mean the Klan leader doesn’t have to work.”
Journalism on the cheap
A quick review of The Tennessean’s “Issues” section last Sunday: On the first page were two stories, one from the St. Petersburg Times, the other from the The Philadelphia Inquirer. One the second page was another pair of other papers’ stories, one from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the other from the Lexington Herald-Leader. On the third page was a piece from the Associated Press and another from the Chicago Tribune. Then there was the regular column from staff writer Mike Morrow, in which he recounts what other publications are reporting about Tennessee politics. Overall, exactly two pieces in the entire section originated from inside 1100 Broadway, not including the editorials. We’re not sure what the issues editor does all week, but we want that job.
If The Tennessean is saving money running stories from other papers, it didn’t show it during the holiday season. Newsroom sources say that, unlike past years, The Tennessean didn’t throw a company holiday party. It did, however, give staffers a $25 gift certificate to Krogermore generous and useful than the umbrellas and cheap windbreakers of past years.
Attention local English teachers: Have fun trying to diagram the following sentence from Rage editor/reporter K. Danielle Edwards, who recently wrote: “For the city that’s best known for country music to become a Renaissance-like hot-bed, really, does not have to be a dream constantly rerouted in cyclical conversations about the 'Nashville problem.’ ”