Part of the Club? 

Bruce Dobie cozies up to Belle Meade

Bruce Dobie cozies up to Belle Meade

Nashville Scene editor and publisher David Brewster Dobie, whose paper has crusaded against secret meetings and mocked the elite, is now looking to become a part of a chosen and relatively secret group himself.

Sources say Dobie has applied for membership at the Belle Meade Country Club, arguably the most exclusive institution in the city. According to one member, Dobie “has been proposed as a member, has the required number of letters endorsing him, and has been referred to the secret committee.” That so-called “secret committee” will then decide if Dobie is Belle Meade Country Club material. It’s a safe bet that the media will be barred from covering those deliberations.

According to our source, the announcement of Dobie’s prospective membership has been posted in a notice attached to the club’s main bulletin board.

It’s no secret that Dobie, once a struggling young editor, has become the very picture of a rich and powerful businessman. His paper, once in the red, is now worth millions; and where once he railed against newspaper chains, he now has become a part of one in Village Voice Media.

So it only fits the pattern of ironies that the man who once railed against “biz pigs” is angling to join the Belle Meade Country Club. We can just see the editor/publisher sprawled out by the pool, reading the latest issue of Cigar Aficionado, while being attended to by the club’s genteel wait staff.

If the secret committee accepts Dobie into the family, the editor will be sharing cocktails with some of the city’s top businessmen, lawyers, and doctors.

Certainly, you want your editor to know who these people are, but on such intimate terms? What happens the next time Scene investigative reporter Willy Stern probes alleged management lapses at a local business or bank? Will he have to worry about reporting on one of Dobie’s fellow members at the club? And what about Dobie himself? How eager will he be for his paper to needle the rich and powerful when he has so attached himself to their luxuries, rituals, and cliques?

We wanted to ask these questions to Dobie himself, but he had no comment on the matter. “You have every right to ask the question, but I have every right to decline to answer,” he says. We’re guessing that the club frowns on its prospective members talking to the lowly members of the press.

Gore-d again

The most recent issue of Editor & Publisher reports that Tennessean photo editor Nancy Rhoda gave Vice President Al Gore $1,000 for his campaign.

“I’ve removed myself from editing photos of them,” Rhoda, who is a longtime friend of Tipper Gore, told the magazine about her perceived conflict-of-interest.

Of course, Tennessean editor Frank Sutherland, also a friend of the Gores, similarly removes himself from newsroom decisions about how to cover the vice president. So essentially, what you have is the paper’s editor and photo editor out of the loop on how to cover the most important story The Tennessean has reported on this year.

It’s smart to recognize a conflict-of-interest, but it’s smarter still not to overreact. Both should have disclosed their conflicts to their readers—before some outside reporter called them on it—and then gone about doing their jobs. It’s not as if their joint recusal has eased concerns about the paper’s bias. That same issue of Editor & Publisher referred to The Tennessean as “Gore Country,” and noted that during the entire primary campaign at least, the paper “carried not-so-hard-hitting coverage of a day in the life of the vice president.”

Information superhighway

A Tennesee version of C-SPAN may be coming to Nashville courtesy of Teddy Bart and Karlen Evins. The cohosts of the long-running Teddy Bart’s Roundtable have formed a nonprofit company, “The Public Forum,” and they plan to broadcast their news and analysis program on Metro’s public education cable Channel 10. In addition, the two plan for the station to broadcast legislative hearings in state and local government. Finally, Evins and Bart are developing a related Web site that will feature links to news reports and commentary on local and state issues ranging from TennCare to property taxes.

“We want to make all important information available, so that if you’re not fully informed, you only have yourself to blame,” Evins says.

Struggling media

The In Review endgame may include E. Thomas Wood, the former editor of the defunct Nashville Life. Wood confirms that multi-media entrepreneur Ned Horton, who is helping shop the financially plagued free weekly, has approached him about “taking part in the turnaround.” In Review recently suspended publication so that publisher and editor Boyer Barner can pursue the Sisyphean task of selling his paper.... Citing complaints and cost, The Nashville City Paper has halted free delivery to area homes. The paper will increase its presence on area newstands and will continue home delivery for a nominal fee.... In an announcement to all 10 of its readers, Telalink announced that it was selling NashvilleDigest.com, a Web site that links to the day’s top news stories. “We have not been successful in raising the capital necessary to get to the next level,” a message to readers said.

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