Problems plague the "Urban Journal"

Problems plague the "Urban Journal"

Less than a year after hiring new staffers and announcing ambitious expansion plans, the weekly, black-oriented Urban Journal has missed several issues and has billed advertisers for papers that were apparently never published.

Formerly called the Metropolitan Times and, for a few months, the Times Mirror Tennessee, the Urban Journal has not published an issue since Oct. 21, a receptionist at the paper said last week. According to files at the Metro Public Library, which logs every issue as it arrives, the paper also missed both the Oct. 7 and Oct. 14 issues.

The last issue, however, dated Oct. 21 on the front, includes one page dated Aug. 19, seven pages dated Oct. 7, and eight pages dated Oct. 14. In several cases, the Scene has learned, these back-dated pages were used to bill advertisers who bought ads in issues that were apparently never published.

Nashville Electric Service, for example, bought advertising space the week of Oct. 7 to announce a pre-bid conference on Oct. 12, according to an NES spokesperson. The notice actually appeared on pages 11 and 19 of the Oct. 21 issue. But on each page where the NES advertisement appears, the date reads Oct. 7.

NES spokeswoman Teresa Corlew confirms that the paper sent NES a bill for the ad and a “tearsheet,” which is literally a page torn from the paper. The tearsheet was dated Oct. 7 and showed the NES announcement. Based on the tearsheet, NES paid $156 for the ad.

Three other Nashville businesses also confirmed that they paid for ads that supposedly ran in the Oct. 7 or Oct. 14 issues. They, too, received copies of back-dated tearsheets from the Oct. 21 paper.

For instance, the Oct. 21 issue includes two identical ads for season tickets to Vanderbilt basketball games. One ad appears on a page dated Oct. 7, the other on a page dated Oct. 14. According to Vanderbilt, the newspaper agreed to print the ad for four weeks in October. Vanderbilt agreed to pay for the ads with six season tickets and some cash. The university has sent the tickets but not the cash. A school official who asked not to be identified says he won’t pay the cash until he receives tearsheets. As for the tickets, he says, “We know where the seats are.”

A year ago, Urban Journal publisher Sam Latham announced the hiring of a new managing editor and other staffers, and said he planned to double circulation in the Nashville area. A few weeks later, though, the editor and four other staffers resigned because, as several wrote in a joint letter of resignation, they had been ordered to produce back-dated pages that they believed were intended to mislead advertisers.

At the time, Latham said the resignations resulted from a “misunderstanding,” and that the back-dated pages were “for archive purposes” only, not to bill advertisers. The Scene sent Latham a copy of this article last week. Asked to respond, he did not.

Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come

Too stressed out to watch television news or read the morning paper? Fear not. As a holiday gift to readers, the Nashville Scene offers this annual guide to the local media. Just memorize a few simple patterns and you’ll never again need to turn on the evening news or pick up a Tennessean.

Every day: On the evening news, there’s a story about a shooting/drug bust/bank robbery in (anywhere but West) Nashville; a bloody car wreck; a phony “live” shot from somewhere else; promotional give-aways; and about 23 minutes of weather. In The Tennessean, there’s a front-page story about UT football, wire service items rewritten by Brad Schmitt, a story about shopping/banking/meeting people/wasting time on the Internet, and a few sentences on foreign wars, natural disasters, and the impeachment of President Clinton.

Once a week: You’ll see a television story about multiple murders/robbery sprees/drug lords; Y2K is/is not a problem; inspections of restaurants you never heard of; a really bloody car wreck; cute animals in distress; and really bad weather. Every week in The Tennessean traffic is bad, the South is an embarrassment, Indians/teachers/gays/lesbians are mad about something, Jerry Thompson is getting better/worse, Second Avenue is changing directions, and the “Living” section is missing.

Once a month: On television there’s a special report warning that something you eat/wear/drive can kill you, and the cops do an undercover, drug/prostitution/stolen goods sting. The Tennessean announces that Nashville is getting a mass transit system; Jefferson Street is being revitalized; East Nashville is recovering from the tornado; the arena/stadium/Shelby Street Bridge is over budget, and a reporter describes in painstaking detail his/her illnesses/family crisis/warm memories of childhood.

Once a year: On television, a downtown building burns on camera; an alien is spotted (Channel 5 exclusive); Channel 2 hires/fires/rearranges anchors; and all three stations spend more money on bigger, fancier weather radar/skycams/graphics and less money on the people who cover the news. In The Tennessean, there’s another hope-we-win-a-prize investigation of children/the environment/poor people that no one reads; a novella by retired publisher John Seigenthaler on “Jack and me”/ “Bobby and me”/ “Civil Rights and me” that 10 people read; 50-percent turnover in the newsroom; a 12-part series on Kwanzaa; and an increase in advertising rates.

Now you can relax, turn off the television, cancel your Tennessean (they’ll keep sending you newspapers anyway), and live news-free because you’ll always know exactly what you’re missing.


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