Arguably the two brightest business journalists in town, former Tennessean reporters Bill Carey and David A. Fox are planning on starting their own online publication, which they hope will be the leading source of news for the city’s monied class. Called NashvillePost.com, the site will blend breaking news with longer features and business advice. NashvillePost should be fully operational in early January.
“We talked to a lot of business people and discovered that there is a widespread dissatisfaction with local business press.” says Fox. “There’s definitely a demand for intelligent business coverage.”
Carey and Fox have their work cut out for them. With subscription rates expected to run around $8 a month, they estimate that they’ll need around 1,500 subscribers in their first year just to cover costs.
To promote their site, the pair will rely on direct mail and bench ads.
Pointing to the daunting economics of on-line media, skeptics say that there might not be that many people willing to pay that sum to subscribe to a business Web site.
“People aren’t accustomed to paying for Web information,” says Ed Cromer, editor of The Tennessee Journal, a high-end political newsletter. “I think it will be very difficult for them to get 1,500 subscribers, but one advantage of them doing it on the Web is that you can keep your costs down.” He adds, “These are very talented folks and I’m sure they’ll put out a good product, but it will be toughjust like any new venture.”
Typical of all good journalists, Carey and Fox are natural skeptics themselves, and they too seem to hold doubts about their publication’s prospects. But they both maintain that their ability to break meaningful stories regularly will ensure NashvillePost’s success.
“If we don’t write stories people talk about, we don’t deserve to survive,” says Fox. “Nashville is a cluttered news market, and for us to succeed, we’ll have to write stories that make a difference.”
Fortunately for Carey and Fox, the main clutterer of the market, The Tennessean, doesn’t exactly rival The Wall Street Journal in business coverage. Long the weak link of the paper, The Tennesseean’s business section often frustrates serious readers with a hodgepodge of mushy features and random wire stories. In addition, the section has a penchant for missing major local stories that national media outlets wind up snatching.
With 6,400 readers, the scrappier and often wiser Nashville Business Journal does boast the occasional scoop, but the paper rarely generates any kind of buzz. Editor Bill Lewis, however, does not seem too worried about his new competitor. “I think our business readers like to hold a paper in their hands,” he says. “Besides, there’s so much free information on the Web right now. I would probably look at this site, but I wouldn’t see it as a threat.”
Over a breakfast at the Noshville Deli, an animated Bill Carey flipped derisively through coffee-stained pages of The Tennesseanin one case chiding the paper’s reporters for failing to break the closing of the local office of Arista Records. A perfectionist, albeit an occasionally overbearing one, Carey has the kind of credentials you want for someone helping to launch a business publication. In addition to covering business news for The Tennessean for four years, Carey also covered the state Senate for the paper for another two. A Vandy grad and former aviator during the Gulf War, Carey has also written for Business Week and The Wall Street Journal while recently wrapping up a book on local business history.
The low-key Fox is no slouch himself. The Nashville native received an undergraduate business degree from the University of Virginia after which he worked as a commodities trader at the Chicago Board of Trade and as a stock broker. He then worked at The Tennessean business desk for five years covering the local health care community.
The site’s format will be simple. One column will be a longer feature story that will rotate out every week or so. Another column will have daily news stories, while yet another will have business briefs that will be updated frequently during the day. Stories the pair said they would have broken include the golden parachute deal for First American chairman and CEO Dennis Bottorff and the recent turnover at the white-shoe law firm of Bass Berry & Sims.
Fox and Carey both admit that the concept of an online business newspaper would not have had a prayer as recently as two years ago. But now with Nashville ranked among the top cities in per-capita online use, coupled with people’s growing reliance on the Internet for everything from old Buddy Guy albums to vital health care information, a Web site on local business is not a far-out idea. It’s not a can’t-miss either, but what in business is?
Starring Robert Urich
Like many of Gannett’s products, The Tennessean often gets criticized for being unimaginative. But when the paper does try something new, it looks ridiculous. Recently, the paper’s already skimpy Local News section has been running a newspaper novel that will be presented daily in 29 (!?) chapters. Never mind that the series reads like a made-for-cable movie with all the predictable clichésour protagonist is a burnt-out investigative reporter who prefers vinyl to CDs and can’t figure out how to program his VCRhow do you justify placing this story in the local news section?
Right now, the Purcell administration is finally finding some focus, the Police Department is still reeling from allegations of impropriety, and Al Gore’s campaign is, according at least to The Washington Post, struggling to make the transition to Nashville. In other words, there’s a lot of news going on in this city. The Tennessean should not be shrinking its news hole with a syndicated feature that is, at best, a one-shot item in the paper’s Living section.
WSMV-Channel 4’s Nancy Amon’s in-depth investigation of a shady Spring Hill photographer has paid off. The story quoted three women claiming that the photographer, Randall Maxwell, asked them not only to pose nude but simulate various sexual acts. Now Spring Hill police are trying to serve Maxwell with a warrant for sexual battery after an 18-year-old woman claimed that when casting her for a movie part, he made inappropriate sexual contact. Spring Hill police Lt. Ron Coleman told The Tennessean, “I’ve been investigating him since July. But everything we had on him was borderline. Nobody filed any complaints against him.” That fact did not stop Amons, who not only helped bust Maxwell, but ran him out of town. According to police, Maxwell has left the state entirely and may be hiding out in Dallas.
Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or by phone at 244-7989, ext. 445.