Monthly Archives: April 2010

Scripps stock shooting up

The E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the News Sentinel, sold its United Media licensing operations (“Peanuts” and other comics characters) this week for $175 million, and JPMorgan Chase and Co. raised its rating on the stock from “neutral” to “overweight.”
As a result, shares, which had been steadily rising, shot up about 12 percent.
SSP closed at $11.45 per share today. On April 30 a year ago, it closed at $1.97 a share.
Too bad I didn’t take out a second mortgage on the house back then and sink it all in my company. Oh well, still good news.

Bill to close handgun database dead?

The Associated Press is reporting that a bill to close the database of gun-carry permits appears to have failed again this session.
Last year, furor erupted over our sister paper, Memphis’s Commercial Appeal, putting the database online, and several bills were introduced to close the database to the public. Toward the end of the session, though, the last bill died after some Republicans grew concerned about losing the opportunity to use the database to create mailing lists.
This year lawmakers have looked for a way to keep the data available for direct-mail marketing and fund-raising while closing it to the press and general public.
The most recent version in the Senate, sponsored by Dewayne Bunch of Cleveland, would have allowed citizens to see information about revoked permits. After the Judiciary Committee amended the bill to close those records, too, the bill was withdrawn from consideration, likely killing it for the session.

Scripps editors get new boss

Chris Doyle, publisher of the Naples Daily News, today was named vice president of content for the E.W. Scripps Co. That means he’s my new boss.
042710doyle_t300.jpgChris had experience as a writer and editor before switching to the business side of newspapers. He worked as a reporter and city editor at the Key West Citizen and was on the city desk of The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., before moving to the advertising department of that newspaper. He advanced into advertising management and eventually was named president and publisher of the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Ill. He joined Scripps in Naples in 2006.
One part of his background I especially like. He was a founding board member of the Illinois First Amendment Center and helped create the “Worsty Awards” given to government agencies in that state with the worst records of violating open meeting and open records laws.

Palin sketch annoys reader

At least one reader believes the sketch of Sarah Palin that ran in the paper was politically motivated. She wrote to the artist:
042310proctor-palin02_t607.jpg“I KNOW I could have done a better job than you in the sketch you drew of Sarah Palin and I am artistically challenged. You made the judge look normal and Sarah like a cartoon character. It was blatantly obvious that you don’t care for her (must be a member of the jealous LIBERAL MEDIA)!!! She is a very pretty lady and very competent…sorry your ability is not in the same league as hers!!!”
Dan Proctor, our design director who also serves as courtroom artist when needed, actually did two sketches of the former Alaska governor. The A1 page designer selected the one she did because it best fit the context of the story and layout the page. It ran below a much larger photo of the Palin looking pretty much like the beauty queen she once was.

Charlie Daniel’s rough drafts now online

Most people don’t realize that Charlie Daniel, our editorial cartoonist, produces about twice as many cartoons as appear in the paper.
Charlie bats out drafts of two or three concepts each morning, then presents them to his editor, who almost always defers to Charlie’s judgment on which one should run in the paper.
Charlie then completes the top choice, and, until recently, the unused dratts were consigned to the circular file.
But no longer.
Charlie’s rough sketches now are being posted on They’re good, just unfinished.

Barker takes over editorial page

Scott Barker is the News Sentinel’s new editorial page coordinator, replacing Hoyt Canady, who retired earlier this year.
Barker.jpgScott has been one of the paper’s outstanding reporters since 1999. A University of Tennessee English major from Roane County, he has covered local government, politics and the environment, winning a passel of state and national awards.
He was the reporter who first broke news of the County Commission’s Sunshine Law violations in 2007, and last year he led the News Sentinel’s coverage of the TVA ash spill. His commentary on the disaster appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
Our editorial board will continue to set editorial policy, but Scott’s now the prime contact regarding letters to the editor, guest columns and editorials.

Body photo draws complaint

We got just one complaint about including a photo of the dead suspect in our gallery of pictures from the Parkwest Hospital shooting scene:
“Though this man has taken two lives the apparent treatment of his body is with disregard. The photo (3 of 15) shows a hoard of officers around the body standing nonchalantly with their hands in their pockets, which is a clear indication that danger has passed and therefore time has been had to cover the body or restrict the view. …The push to bring the public information as fast as possibly sometimes compromises our judgment. No, we don’t have to look if we don’t want to, but … we should know where to draw the line when it comes to publishing potentially damaging images.”
I OK’d the use of the photo online, though not in print, and we decided it would not be prominently featured even on the Web site. I felt the image had strong storytelling qualities, as the reader noted. I did not think it was gruesome, and I knew that online it would not be accidentally thrust before someone who was unaware of the general subject matter.
Would I have acted differently if the photo had been of a victim rather than the suspect? Absolutely.
Maybe it’s callous, but I felt, and thought readers would feel, less sympathetic toward a man who had just shot three innocent people.
Parkwest body.jpg

Dooley forgets who he’s working for — the public

UT coach Derek Dooley has clamped limits on press coverage of team practices
OK, no surprise. Other coaches have done the same, wanting to limit player distractions and hide team secrets.
But last weekend’s scrimmage was closed — unless reporters paid $50. The rationale was that the scrimmage was part of a coaches clinic, and attendance was part of the $50 fee.
So, what were the reasons for closing the scrimmage in the first place? Clearly distraction and secrecy weren’t, since reporters with 50 bucks, not to mention a bunch of high school coaches, were permitted to watch.
We turned down the offer on principle, as our sports editor John Adams noted. David Climer, columnist for the Tennessean, was more pointed in his criticism. “Derek Dooley studied at the Nick Saban School Of Tyrannical Coaches,” he wrote.” He wants to control everything, including media access.”
What Dooley forgets is that he is a very highly paid government official running a publicly owned program operating in a state-owned facility. To exclude the media, and by extension the viewing/reading public, he demonstrates his disdain for the people paying his salary.
The attitude is reminiscent of assistant athletic director Bud Ford’s “this is our building” declaration when he was protecting Lane Kiffin from media scrutiny when Dooley’s predecessor announced his abrupt departure..
The UT Athletic Department has been able to operate unlike any other government agency by falling back on the argument that it takes no tax dollars. But it’s still a state-run operation. It’s dollars are state dollars, and it should err toward openness and access whenever possible.
Some day it might even want the goodwill of the media and the public.

New community columnists stir things up

Our new batch of community columnists are off to a good start.
Dr. Jim Ferguson, writing from the right, generated 10 comments on his column about health care legislation.
From the opposite direction, John Lyons drew 14 comments on his column lambasting the TEA party and Sarah Palin.
Next Sunday, Loida Velazquez discusses Latinos in East Tennessee and Shadab Siddiqi writes about being a Knoxville Muslim traveling to see family in India.

Amateur news gatherers get great stuff

With cell phones loaded with sophisticated cameras and video and audio recorders, potential reporters are everywhere nowadays.
0040110preacher01_t300.jpgBringing good amateur content onto the pages and Web sites of the News Sentinel is a priority these days. We know our reporters can’t be everywhere, but someone with the tools to capture the news usually is.
A few days ago we got a terrific, multimedia report from a University of Tennessee student, Jessica Hoaglin, who was there when a pair of itinerant preachers showed up on campus and students spent the next couple of hours trying to drown them out.
Hoaglin came up with photos, video and a story, which we posted on The package drew 85 comments, one of our most-commented stories of the week.
Speaking of strong, amateur content, our Reader’s Eye photo feature on Mondays has been a great success. Each week we select a photo off our im.knoxnews site. Today’s shot from Erik Loftis of a concert at Barley’s Taproom was especially dynamic. This wasn’t from a cell phone, though. It was shot with a Canon Rebel xti.