Monthly Archives: August 2008

Staffing the national conventions

Much is being said in the news biz about the 15,000 reporters supposedly covering the national political conventions. At a time of shrinking resources, does such an investment in manpower really make sense.
Of course not. Although the conventions are considered major “news events,” very little news has occurred at any of them for the past 40 years. Sure, it would be nice to have reports on how the local delegates are reacting to the big dance. But wouldn’t it be better to be digging out some real news back at home?
Having said that, I’ll now admit that the News Sentinel has three journalists in Denver right now for the Democratic convention.
Here’s why. Tom Humphrey, our statehouse reporter, and Tracey Trumbull, our photo director, are on loan to the Rocky Mountain News, our sister E.W. Scripps Co. paper. For the Rocky, the convention is one of the biggest local stories in years. The editor asked for help, and we agreed to pitch in. We’re hoping Tom and Tracey can find a little bit of time to send us some Knoxville-oriented news while they are there.
Michael Collins. our Washington correspondent, also is in Denver. But he is working for Scripps Howard News Service, providing stories for all the Scripps papers. Again, we’ll get only a little localized content from him. He’ll also be at the Republican convention next week.
There was a day when convering the national conventions was a plum assignment made by every newspaper of any size. Nowadays, I don’t see how herd coverage of such a heavily scripted event can be justified.

Charlie Daniel cartoon on conventions

Charlie Daniel cartoon on conventions

News Sentinel proud to publish fake news

Craig Leuthold has chained himself to Tank Strickland’s chair in the County Commission chambers. A robotic probe is prowling the sixth floor of the City-County Building looking for signs of intelligent life. Commissioner Victoria DeFreese is impersonating a model train, and a karoake contest has decided the recent Knox County campaigns.
These are the latest “APB reports” from the fertile imagination of Scott McNutt.
April Fool’s Day editions are a prank that college newspapers sometimes pull. But the idea of publishing fake new stories tends to send shudders down the spines of most American editors. So why is the News Sentinel regularly running fictitious news these days?
Because it’s so darn funny — and well done.
McNutt is a former managing editor of MetroPulse who has done freelance work for the News Sentinel from time to time. I didn’t realize his talent as a humorist, though, until I started reading his satrical accounts of Knox County “news” on the KnoxBlab Web site.
Scott and I met, and I talked him into taking his musings onto in the form of a blog called Snark Bites. Now, about three times a week he takes the news of the day and adds his own highly creative spin.
Some recent headlines:
Mayor Unveils New Reply to Critics
“Just say ‘Huh?'” policy effective immediately

Moncier sues to swear at new county officials early
“We need a head start on cussing these jerks out,” says combative attorney

Louisville KY Buys Knox County
“They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse” says Mayor Ragsdale

Check out the Snark Bites. There may be more truth than humor to them.

Corrections may be sign of accuracy

A reader sent me this e-mail:
“I have been keeping track of the amount of “corrections” you publish. It seems to be getting out of hand. Just today, 8-1-08, there were four. What is happening? Almost everyday there is a “correction” to a story. More than not, it seems it is a very important correction. “814 million vs. 814 thousand.” Just a small example.
“I see on WBIR, behind the reporter, a sign that says, “Accuracy First”. This, to me, is not happening with your paper. Please reduce the corrections for credibility’s sake.”
I responded with thanks and a request to publish the note as one of our Readers Corner items on Page A2. But I also pointed out a bit of irony in the complaint. After all, which shows more concern for accuracy, publication of corrections or a sign saying “Accuracy First?”
The reason the News Sentinel runs corrections is because we are committed to being as accurate as possible. Every time we identify a mistake, the persons involved must complete an internal error report, and we correct all that can be corrected.
How often do TV news programs air corrections? Is that because they make fewer errors, or is it because they correct fewer of their mistakes?