Readers of The Tennessean woke up last Thursday to find out that “Flower Power hasn’t wilted among ’60s activists.” In a bracing exposé, staff writer Monique Fields, who seems to cover everything that isn’t news, reported on how three former ’60s activists now living in Tennessee will likely vote Democratic in the next presidential election. That’s a real stunner.
You’d think The Tennessean would bury this anemic account on washed-up flower children in its “Living” section. Nope. It ran on the front page of the paper, a section typically reserved for, well, news.
Here in the midst of one of the most competitive mayor’s races in the city’s history, The Tennessean seems to be running more and more of these so-called trend stories on the front page. On July 6, the daily’s lead story was a Ray Waddle piece on how Reform Jews are looking to the past. While well written, the story’s big, bold headline gave the appearance that this was breaking news. It wasn’t.
This past Monday, The Tennessean’s lead story was about the fact that 70 to 80 percent of rape victims know their attackers. Even if it was worth running, the report didn’t exactly break new ground, nor did it warrant the kind of placement you would expect for a big, breaking news story.
To be fair, even the best papers, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, run trend stories on their front pages. But they don’t do so at the expense of real news. The day The Tennessean ran its un-illuminating piece on rape victims, it didn’t run a single story on any of the Metro elections, including the mayor’s race.
Sadly, the morning daily does have room for “Daily Traffic Jammin’,” a completely useless look at new or continuing construction on local roads and highways. This spring, The Tennessean was admirably crucifying the Tennessee Department of Transportation for, among other things, allowing too many construction projects to run well past their completion date.
Now the paper is giving TDOT what essentially amounts to free advertising by giving the bloated bureaucracy an unchallenged forum to post its handiwork. Also, the map that allegedly illustrates where the construction is taking place is about as easy to read as Finnegan’s Wake.
Every Monday, a special column titled “On the Driver’s Side” accompanies “Daily Traffic Jammin’.” Written by the once promising Dorren Klausnitzer, the column discusses lane squatters and common road courtesy while offering insight like, “If you’re going slower than the speed of traffic, then it’s common practice to move to the right.”
Not only is the column unhelpful, it also eats up valuable real estate in the paper’s already skimpy local news section. (This past Monday, for example, there were only five bylined local news stories, one of which had to do with the Lilith Fair.) The Tennessean may have armloads of focus group research that indicates this kind of feature is exactly what its readers want, but if anything, it alienates intelligent Nashvillians from their morning daily.
File this one under local guy makes good. John Seigenthaler the younger was named weekend anchor of NBC’s Nightly News, The Tennessean’s John Shiffman reported. Seigenthaler, who shined here in Nashville at WKRN-Channel 2 and WSMV-Channel 4, in part replaces onetime Golden Boy Brian Williams, who was anchoring the newscast every Saturday.
Many have viewed Williams as Tom Brokaw’s heir apparent, but his evening program on MSNBC, The News With Brian Williams, has struggled to blend sober news along with the chattier fare typically favored by MSNBC. Even if that show has curtailed Williams’ momentum, he’ll likely contend for the top anchor spot when Brokaw retires. In the meantime, the hometown boy deserves one big laurel.
And finally ...
The June 14 issue of Advertising Age reports that Nashville boasts the fourth highest percentage of online users (49 percent) in the country. Austin, Texas, headquarters of a little company called Dell Computer, was No. 2, while Raleigh-Durham, long thought of as a more technologically savvy city than Nashville, ranked ninth.
You can reach Matt at 244-7989, ext 445, or at email@example.com.