Monthly Archives: March 2010

Commenters team up to drive liberal from site

Here’s a problem. One of our most prolific online commenters — cjensen — has been banned from, apparently because of a concerted effort by his opponents to trigger auto-redaction of his comments.
The auto-redact feature hides a comment if enough commenters flag it. The function is intended to remove the most vile remarks as quickly as possible.
But now, it seems, commenters who don’t like cjensen’s vigorous liberal views have ganged up enough to trigger a series of auto-redactions resulting in an auto-ban.
Obviously we can’t have commenters removed from the site because people disagree with their opinions, whether they involve politics, football or some other topic. So we’ll have to come up with a way to address this.

Dolly vrs Corker hoax never saw print

Earlier this week we chased a report that Dolly Parton had ripped Sen. Bob Corker during a radio appearance over Corker’s supposed intercession on behalf of the payday loan industry, which contributed to his campaign.
031210corker1_t607.jpgThe New York Times earlier had reported that Corker pushed for changes in legislation to benefit the industry, and we passed on that report with Corker’s vehement denial. We later wrote a story about Sen. Christopher Dodd supporting Corker’s denial.
The Dolly angle emerged later, and several blogs and aggregators picked it up, attributing the singer’s criticism to an appearance on WAXO-1220AM (Kickin’ Country) in Lewisburg. We looked into the rumor but couldn’t confirm it, so we never published a word, in print or online.
Next day, Corker’s office put out a release that said, in part:
“WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., made the following statement today debunking false reports that he attempted to carve out an exemption for payday lenders in financial regulatory reform negotiations. This is a classic example of the old saying ‘why let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ I realize salacious stories sell more newspapers, but the assertion that I have showed favoritism toward payday lenders in regulatory reform negotiations is categorically false and not based on reality. …”
In this case, actually, the truth did get in the way of a good story, in the News Sentinel anyway.

Data become bigger part of

One of our content goals this year is to present more searchable databases on
A few weeks ago, Steve Ahillen, our longtime executive sports editor, moved to the new job of data editor, and he has been ramping up our data offerings. More than 30 databases are now available on our data page They range from nursing home ratings to pothole complaints.
Among the new ones Steve has added are the names and pay of employees of local government, including Knoxville and Knox County.
Within the next few months, we hope to have a revamped “data center,” a data blog that will encourage citizens to search the information and help us in our watchdog reporting and dozens more databases.

Candidate endorsement interviews starting

Toward the end of this week we’ll be starting our latest round of interviews with candidates seeking the News Sentinel’s endorsements.
More than 30 Knox County candidates are in contested races for the May primary, and they all have gotten letters inviting them to meet with the newspaper’s editorial board. One problem is that, since the retirement of editorial page editor Hoyt Canady, I’ll be handling many of the interviews myself, although publisher Patrick Birmingham will be joining in several.
We typically spend a half hour with each candidate. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover in that time. The sessions start with each candidate making a brief, introductory statement that is video-recorded and posted on
If anyone has any particular questions to ask, I’m open to suggestions.

Yup, that’s my son

Readers of the Westside Shopper News today may have seen a column by one Isaac McElroy.
Yes, that’s my son. Isaac is a 17-year-old junior at West High School. He’s interested in writing and is taking journalism this semester. This week he started freelancing for the Shopper News. Though his first assignment involved politics, my understanding is that he’ll mostly be covering sports.
For those who may be wondering, the E.W. Scripps Co. has clear rules about nepotism. No one can have a relative working under him or her. But the rule doesn’t apply in this instance. Sandra Clark, the editor and publisher of the Shopper News, doesn’t report to me in any way. (Her indepedence shouldn’t come as a surprise given the lively criticism of “the other paper” that often appears in the Shopper News.)
Naturally, I’m proud of Isaac for landing this part-time job and for his writing ability. But I’m not sure I’d wish a journalism career on my worst enemy, let alone my son.
Just kidding. Despite the challenges, it’s a great way to make a buck.

Tough to break into editorial-cartooning biz

One of the perks of being an editor is that, a couple of times a year, I receive samples from cartoonists who would like to break into the newspaper business.
I always enjoy checking them out, but I feel bad, too. There may be more editorial cartooning jobs in America than there are spots playing for the NBA, but not many.
As most of Knoxville knows, our cartoonist, Charlie Daniel, has been holding down his gig very successfully for decades, and he did the same at the Knoxville Journal when it was around. Our graphic director, Dan Proctor, is a very talented editorial cartoonist as well, but his cartoons typically appear just once a week.
Here’s a sample of a recent submission I got from a couple of guys named Greg Cravens and Jay Schiller. They welcome feedback.

Mayors bask in Sunshine Week

As I noted earlier, this is Sunshine Week, when the American Society of News Editors draws attention to the importance of open government and freedom of information.
One of the first e-mails I read this morning was from former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, who ran an admirably open administration. He recommended questioning all of the gubernatorial candidates about their views of openness, which we plan to do within the next couple of months.
Later in the day, I joined representatives of the League of Women Voters as Mayor Mike Ragsdale proclaimed Sunshine Week in Knox County.
Ragsdale pointed out that his administration has posted the following documents on the county’s Web site under County Snapshot:

“We have worked hard over the years to increase our level of transparency to our citizens. Making our information accessible and our meetings open makes our government stronger,” Ragsdale said. “The League of Women Voters and the press need to help ensure it stays this way.”
It’s great to have public officials speaking out for openness.

New video feature spotlights chefs

Talid Magdy is one of our talented Web producers and videographers. He has had us in the music video business for the past couple of years with his Blue Plate Special presentations drawn from WDVX’s terrific lunch-time series on Gay Street.
Now Talid is developing another video series, this one featuring local chefs. The first one profiles Cedric Coant of Le Parigo.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Talid, who spent part of his life in France, started with French cuisine.

Sunshine Week puts heat on government

Sunday marks the start of Sunshine Weekswlogo.jpg. It’s the time each year when the American Society of News Editors raises awareness of the importance of open government and freedom of information.
Tennessee has had some successes in recent years, but there also have been setbacks, and lots of challenges lie ahead.
My column for Sunday on the issue follows as an extended post.

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