Series on poverty begins Sunday

Some 71,000 people in Knox County live below the federal poverty line. Starting Sunday, the News Sentinel will be profiling a few of them, a task that proved more challenging than we expected when we started the project.

Three News Sentinel journalists — photographers Amy Smotherman Burgess and Michael Patrick and writer Kristi Nelson — determined more than a year ago to focus fresh attention on the plight of the poor in our community. They began spending an hour or two, here and there, shooting photos, collecting stories.

But poverty carries a stigma, and many people did not want their stories told, especially if they had school-aged children who might be taunted. Folks living on the edge also have other things to worry about than getting in the paper. Time and again, the journalists hooked up with someone to profile only to lose track of them. Their phones were disconnected. They moved without notice. They missed appointments for reasons unknown.

Sometimes, too, the journalists had to break off contact if the facts they needed were not forthcoming or the subjects proved deceitful.

Many agencies that interact with the poor were not helpful, either. Protective of the privacy of their clients, they were unable or unwilling to connect the journalists with people who wanted their stories told. One notable exception was the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee.

Ultimately, though, several gutsy individuals agreed to share their stories, and the result was the “Struggling to get by” series that runs Sunday-Wednesday.

The purpose of the timing is twofold.  As we consider our blessings the week of Thanksgiving, it’s appropriate that we also think of those who are less fortunate. On Thanksgiving Day, too, the News Sentinel kicks off its annual Empty Stocking Fund campaign — for the 102nd year. It will be just one of many opportunities that people will have this holiday season to act on behalf of those who are in need.

Motley Fool returns to News Sentinel

Motley Fool“The Motley Fool” is back in the paper. The popular personal-finance feature was discontinued a few weeks ago, after the theme of the News Sentinel’s Monday features section changed from “Dollars & Sense” to “Tech.”

Well, the theme of the Friday section has now changed from “Get Active” to “Home & Garden,” and readers made it known that they missed the Fool feature. It was back today, on Page 6D.

Unfortunately, our personal-finance coverage will take a hit early next year. We received notice from the Wall Street Journal that it is discontinuing its “Wall Street Journal Sunday” pages, which we’ve carried in our Business section for about 12 years. The change won’t happen until February, and we’ll be looking for replacement content between now and then.

Why we named A.J. Johnson in story on rape allegation

Less than two weeks ago I wrote a column discussing the News Sentinel’s handling of an accusation of sexual assault against University of Tennessee running back Marlin Lane in April 2013. At that time we decided not to write a story about the incident based on our guidelines for identifying suspects who are not actually charged with crimes. The Tennessean in Nashville recently made the incident public for the first time.

In the column I promised that we would be discussing the guidelines within the newsroom and reviewing how they were applied to the Lane case. I also stated: “In today’s environment, with the new Title IX guidelines for universities dealing with sex-assault accusations and the heightened societal concern, it is possible, perhaps likely, that the call would have gone otherwise.”

Linebacker A.J. Johnson on Oct. 11, 2014.

Linebacker A.J. Johnson on Oct. 11, 2014.

Little did I know that the issue would re-emerge so quickly. Monday, in compliance with the Title IX guidelines, UT issued a statement that a rape allegation involving a UT student had been reported. Soon other media outlets in town were quoting anonymous sources as saying that all-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson was a suspect. The News Sentinel also was told anonymously that Johnson was a suspect, but as a matter of policy we do not attribute such defamatory information to unnamed sources.

Later in the day, however, football coach Butch Jones acknowledged at a press conference that the allegation involved UT football players, and not long after that, the university announced the suspension of Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams. We wrote a story tying the rape allegation to the suspensions, something we never did in the Lane case. Lane also was suspended, although he never was charged and ultimately was reinstated on the team.

So what was different this time?

First, the rape allegation was announced by UT. Then, Jones said publicly that UT players were involved. Meanwhile, there was widespread speculation, rumors and reports about which players were implicated. Finally, the incident arose at a time of heightened public concern about the issues of campus sexual assault and domestic and sexual violence by football players.

The upshot was that, although Johnson and Williams have not been charged with a crime – and may never  be – we have linked them to the allegation, even though we still don’t have on-the-record or documentary information that they actually are suspects in the case.

Jumble puzzle will feature well known cartoonists as ‘Guest Jumblers’

Starting Monday, well-known cartoonists will be acting as “Guest Jumblers,” illustrating and, in some cases, creating puns for the scrambled word puzzle that appears daily in the News Sentinel’s comics section.

jumbleThe regular Jumble artist is Jeff Knurek. The guests he invited to participate this year are:

• Mort and Greg Walker, creators of “Beetle Bailey”
• Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman, co-creators of “Baby Blues”
• Jerry Van Amerongen, creator of “Ballard Street”
• Cathy Guisewite, creator of “Cathy”
• Patrick McDonnell, creator of “Mutts”
• Lynn Johnston, creator of “For Better or For Worse”

“I’ve played Jumble for many years,” said Baby Blues co-creator Rick Kirkman. “My wife and I used to do Jumble a lot together. This was a chance to be a part of something on the comics pages that was there long before I became a syndicated cartoonist. What an honor.”

Jumble is marking its 60th anniversary this year. This is the second year for Guest Jumbler Week.

‘Go Knoxville’ section debuts Thursday

The News Sentinel’s new “Go Knoxville” publication hits the streets Thursday. The section – “Go” for short – will be in free-distribution racks in high-foot-traffic areas starting on Thursday afternoons and will be included in the daily newspaper on Fridays in place of our “” entertainment guide.

"Go Knoxville" logo

“Go Knoxville” logo

“Go” will pick up many of the features of “”: coverage of local music by Wayne Bledsoe and Jer Cole; stories by Amy McRary on the arts and on family happenings; dining reviews by the anonymous Grub Scout; Kevin Saylor’s Notsville parody column; Matt Ward’s pub crawls; Chuck Campbell’s music reviews; extensive coverage of new movies; and listings of every sort of local happening.

But there will be new content as well: an “Outdoors” section featuring a weekly excursion and an calendar of activities provided by the Outdoor Knoxville initiative; a column by “Downtown Randall Brown” highlighting don’t-miss events, especially in the central city; and a pair of new comic panels: “Bliss” by Harry Bliss and “Loose Parts” by Dave Blazek.

We also will be adding a couple of popular features from the recently shuttered Metro Pulse: “News of the Weird” and “Free Will Astrology.”

The section sports a brand-new look, as well.

Digitally, the content of “Go Knoxville” as well as daily things-to-do coverage still will appear on our website (though the URL will work, too).

This first edition includes a special treat: a Hike of the Month by writer Morgan Simmons and photographer Adam Lau. Readers familiar with this feature will recognize Lau’s spectacular visuals. Hike of the Month will appear regular in “Go” instead of our Friday features section, which now will change its name from “Active Life” to “Home and Garden,” reflecting its increased emphasis on the great indoors.

News Sentinel launches new iOS apps

News Sentinel's new app for iPhone and iPad

News Sentinel’s new app for iPhone and iPad

The News Sentinel has launched a new version of its iPhone and iPad apps. (Fear not. An Android version is in the works and will launch later this year.)

The new iOS app merges our previously distinct tablet and smartphone apps. The app now dynamically reconfigures for either screen size. It also is iOS 8 compatible, so it’s good to go for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The look-and-feel features edge-to-edge images, and video plays with a touch on articles. Alerts include direct links to stories.

On the iPhone, the new version is just an update. On the iPad, though, you’ll need to go into the App Store to get the new app.

Beware bogus subscription renewal notices

Some News Sentinel customers have reported receiving bogus subscription renewal notices. Apparently this is part of a national scam. Here’s an explanation from the Newspaper Association of America:

Sample of bogus subscription renewal notice

Sample of bogus subscription renewal notice

“These notices falsely imply that they are sent on behalf of the named publication and falsely represent that the consumer is obtaining a favorable price. In reality, these notices are not authorized by the publications whose subscriptions are advertised, and often quote prices substantially higher the actual subscription price. Unfortunately, many consumers are taken in by these misleading notices and pay the excessive prices to the scammers. When they do, the scammers renew the consumer’s subscription with the newspaper and keep the substantial difference between the price they charged and the actual subscription price.

“The scammers appear to operate under more than 40 different names, which include Circulation Billing Services, Publishers Billing Emporium, Readers Payment Service, and Associated Publishers Network. In the recent cases that have come to our attention, the return address for the scammers has been in White City, Oregon, Henderson, Nevada; or Reno, Nevada. But there may be others perpetuating similar scams.”

Here’s how you can tell a News Sentinel bill is legit:
• Our Knoxville News Sentinel logo – lighthouse and our local address
• Your subscription frequency will be listed (what days receive the newspaper)
• You will have the ability to pay for 13-, 26- or 52-week billing terms
• Your payment is sent to our home office in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Readers with questions should call: 865-521-8181.

Knoxnews adds WaPo to subscription package

The Washington Post on a smartphone.

The Washington Post on a smartphone.

Starting next week, premium subscribers to the Knoxville News Sentinel will be able to add unlimited access to The Washington Post online at no extra charge. Premium subscribers are those who receive both print and digital products. Digital-only subscribers will not be eligible for the offer.

The service will launch next Wednesday. News Sentinel subscribers who have activated their digital accounts will receive an email telling them how to add The Post. Print readers who have not yet activated can do so by going to They’ll then be able to add access to Post content. More information about the partnership will be in the Sunday paper.



Sensible resolution to cameras-in-courtroom dispute

I’m glad we had a simple resolution to the cameras-in-the-courtroom issue that arose with Clarence “Eddie” Pridemore, Knox County’s newest chancellor. Pridemore’s election sparked controversy because he knocked off a widely respected incumbent, Daryl Fansler, in an election that had little to do with credentials and much to do with partisanship.

Knox County Chancery Court Judge Clarence "Eddie" Pridemore.

Knox County Chancellor Clarence “Eddie” Pridemore.

Notice posted on Chancellor Pridemore's courtroom door.

Notice posted on Pridemore’s courtroom door.

Pridemore’s ascension to office was newsworthy, so last week the News Sentinel filed a request to use cameras in the courtroom during his first day on the bench according to the Supreme Court’s “Rule 30.” Under the rule, these requests are to be granted unless one of the parties involved believes the photography will undermine the decorum or safety of the courtroom. If that happens, the judge is to hold a hearing, if possible, before issuing a ruling.

In this case, however, Chancellor Pridemore just sent an unsigned order through the clerk and master’s office saying cameras wouldn’t be permitted in his courtroom all week. We contacted our attorney, Rick Hollow, and he began working through Clerk and Master Howard Hogan to get the decision reversed. If Pridemore had stuck to his position, Hollow would have sought a hearing on the matter. We and WBIR-TV were prepared to appeal, if necessary.

Happily, though, Pridemore had a notice posted on his courtroom door this morning saying that cameras were to be permitted. I’d hoped for such an outcome. We didn’t want to pick a legal fight with the new chancellor his first day on the bench, but at the same time we had to stand up for the Rule 30 process.

News Sentinel losing Scripps lighthouse, but light will shine on

More than three dozen years ago I started my career with the E.W. Scripps Co. at the newspaper where the company’s logo and motto originated.
The lighthouse and “Give light and the people will find their own way” were the creations of

Scripps Lighthouse

Scripps lighthouse

Carl Magee, the crusading journalist whose weekly Independent evolved into The Albuquerque Tribune. He used the logo and the motto on his column during the early days of New Mexico’s statehood.
Magee did great investigative work, helping break the Teapot Dome scandal, which sent Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall to prison. When Scripps bought The Trib in 1923, E.W. liked the icons so much he put them on all of his newspapers.
Last week, the E.W. Scripps Co. announced a merger with Journal Communications Inc. The Scripps newspapers and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be spun off into a new company called Journal Media Group. Meanwhile, the E.W. Scripps Co. will become a pure-play broadcaster, operating all the TV and radio stations.
The lighthouse will live on, but I, and my News Sentinel colleagues, will be bidding it farewell. I’m excited, though, about the future of the new company and the News Sentinel’s role in it.
Journal Media Group will be a very healthy corporation. It will have no debt or pension obligations — those stay with Scripps. Its revenue will be about half a billion dollars a year, and it will produce a very solid profit out of that.
“One of the benefits is having as much financial flexibility as one could hope for starting out as a new public company,” said Tim Stautberg, who will be president and CEO of Journal Media. Stautberg now runs Scripps’ newspaper division, so we are familiar with his leadership, which consistently focuses on the special role our newspapers play “in helping each community grow stronger and be a better place to live, work and play.”
Within that new company, the News Sentinel will be one of the most important properties. Over the past several years, we’ve been either first or second among Scripps newspapers in revenue and profit. We’ll be one of the big players in Journal Media.
We’ll have a new big sister, though. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is one of America’s great newspapers. It has won three Pulitzer Prizes since 2008, two for local investigative reporting. The new company will be headquartered in its market.
“In Milwaukee we have the flagship newspaper of the portfolio,” said Stautberg. “It made the most sense financially and I think spiritually to base this new company in Milwaukee.”
He is optimistic about the future of the business.
“We’re in a business that matters and will continue to matter,” he said. “What we’ll do in our newsrooms and what we will do with our sales professionals and the others throughout our buildings are special things, unique in each of our markets.”
The News Sentinel has had a long relationship with Knoxville, dating back to the founding of the Sentinel in 1886. Scripps launched the Knoxville News in 1921, and the two papers merged in 1926.
The News Sentinel will fulfill its mission of giving light in Knoxville for years to come — even if the lighthouse logo is gone.