Monday, February 18, 2008

A Spectacular Doofus: A Brief Look at Mark Silverman's Long Career

Posted by on Mon, Feb 18, 2008 at 9:39 AM

This week I wrote about the Sonny Corleone of local journalism, none other than Tennessean editor Mark Silverman who recently hurled a newspaper at features editor Cindy Smith, though as far as we know he didn't pummel his brother-in law. Since the newspaper toss heard 'round the world, Silverman's staffers have blamed their boss's explosive management style for pushing good reporters out the door and intimidating those who remain into meekly following orders. That's not how you lead, which is why Sonny would have made for a horrible don. And as it turns out, this is hardly the first time Silverman has struck his staff as something of a mobbed-up tough guy. A 1997 Columbia Journalism Review story touched on that famous temper of during his brief tenure as the editor of The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Here are some highlights from the CJR piece that we didn't have room to include in the paper: • Staffers characterized Silverman's time there as a “reign of terror.” • Disobeying the first rule of damage control, Silverman defended himself by repeating the accusations against him and telling CJR, "I was not a hit man.” • When Ben Ivory replaced Mark Silverman, he could sense the culture of dread Silverman left behind. “Never," he said at a brown-bag staff lunch, had he “seen so many tight asses.” • Silverman also garnered his share of catcalls while he served as the editor and publisher of The Detroit News. Here is a sampling of comments about him from the Metro Times, a smart and engaging Detroit alt-weekly: • During a pointed interview with a Metro Times reporter, Silverman warned against “getting into a contentious interview with a guy like him.” • Upon his departure from Motown, Silverman was tabbed one of “the most spectacular doofuses in the history of Detroit journalism.” • Later, the Metro Times editors also lamented that they “don't have News publisher Mark Silverman to kick around anymore.”

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