As part of our storm coverage this morning we published a photograph of a 1989 check that landed here, apparently blown from Rainsville, Ala. Soon we began getting complaints that we had violated the privacy of the account-holders. Said one caller:
“Here you’ve got a family that has presumably lost, if not everything, a lot, and you published their bank account number in the newspaper. … I’m not a person who is going to use this to my advantage, but, God knows, there are plenty of people who will.”
It’s a good point. It’s possible that the account is still active, and there may be a way for an unscrupulous forger to use the information to make an illegal withdrawal. We did blur the account number on the photograph when we posted it online.
But as it turns out, that isn’t a concern, at least regarding one of the names on the account. Coincidentally, the granddaughter of the woman named on the check lives in Knoxville. She called to say that was her grandmother who signed the check, and she had been dead for 10 years. The check was to her eye doctor.
The following letter arrived earlier this week:
“It appears that the News Sentinel in this past year has taken a decidedly anti-Christian turn. It has not gone unnoticed. While Christians have grown used to being tolerated as merely one member of a so-called “highly diverse religious community”, a status that is in total neglect of their numbers and influence, they are now becoming the objects of calculated indifference if not outright scorn.
“This Easter weekend is a prime example. On Saturday, we had to endure Citizen’s Voice columns where the story of Jesus is read as a “mix of fact and fiction, myth and legend” and where Planned Parenthood objectors (read “Christians”) are characterized as primitives with pitchforks and torches. And on Sunday, if it weren’t for a small, half-inch “Happy Easter” snippet in the margins of the front page or Hobby Lobby’s standard one page testimonial, one could see no evidence that this was Easter weekend at all let alone the highest holy day of the Christian world. I am not that old, but I seem to remember front page headlines in three inch bold print that simply said, “He is Risen!” We certainly are not in Kansas anymore.
“Christians are still afforded the sop of a religion page on most Saturdays, yet they have to cringe with apprehension each week to see if Islam or Wicca or some wacky sect will be given “equal treatment.” The Christians that the News Sentinel plainly adore are those with very liberal views such as Ina Hughs who we must endure weekly. And then there is the Unitarian Universalist Church that has been featured ad nauseum, a “church” that loves everything and stands for nothing.
“The recent campaign by the sentinel’s staff in their unsigned editorials bashing Bill Dunn’s HB 368 and reinforced by Daniel’s sarcasm have a strongly anti-Christian flavor that shows neither charity or informed opinion. I have also seen some crank and crackpot letters to the editor published recently that seem to serve no other purpose but to make Christians look ridiculous.
“Newspapers are in trouble all across the country. The News-Sentinel is no exception. If it dies a slow and painful death, it will one day be able thank in part its loss of vision in serving the community in which it lives by allowing this creeping anti-Christian bias to predominate.”
The writer raises an important issue. In a predominantly Christian community, how extensively and overtly should the newspaper reflect those religious beliefs?
There actually were several references to Easter in Sunday’s paper. Besides the “Happy Easter” in the nameplate, we promoted on A1 our Local centerpiece story about the recovery of a church deacon who was burned during an Easter vigil last year. The Local front also featured a humorous Sam Venable column about “peeps” Easter candy. On the Books page Ina Hughs wrote a review of a history of Palestine during the days of Jesus. In Perspective, there were several acknowledgements. Charlie Daniel’s “Rosy’s Diner” comic focused on an Easter basket. The top of the “Drawn Conclusions” feature was an image of a cross, a sunrise and the caption “He has risen!” There also was a guest column about a lesson learned in childhood about the everyday practice of Christ’s teachings.
Although it wasn’t explicitly an “Easter” story, the A1 centerpiece feature was selected to resonate with the spirit of the day. It was a special feature on two local women — photographer Cathy Clarke and basketball player Cait McMahan — whose linked lives were shattered by accident and tragedy and who have courageously struggled through recovery to find new hope and purpose.
Should we have done more? Perhaps. And on some Easters we have. Next year, a Page 1 centerpiece with a direct Easter theme may very well be called for. But in a community such as Knoxville, there are many different sets of beliefs, even among people who would all identify themselves as Christian. The News Sentinel strives to reflect the entire community, and we welcome feedback on how best to do that
Jamie Satterfield, the News Sentinel’s court reporter, has been a leader in using Twitter to deliver courtroom news. Today she participated in a national tweet-up on trial Twittering.
The roundtable was moderated by Danny Glover, editor of the Capitol Hill Tweet Watch Report, as part of his fellowship with the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the City University of New York’s John Jay College. Other participants were from the Austin American Statesman and the Wichita Eagle.
Glover used the handle @JusticeWeb. Satterfield’s handle is @jamiescoop. Here’s an example of an exchange the roundtable generated:
@JusticeWeb: Can #trialtweets, as some defense lawyers have argued, create unfair trial atmosphere?
@jamiescoop: No! Unless a juror is reading my tweets (if so we’ve got bigger worries). #trialtweets allow people to observe from afar.
The #trialtweets hashtag is the place to go for anyone interested in reading the entire roundtable.
Editor & Publisher magazine picked Jigsha Desai of our staff as one of its “25 under 35” emerging media leaders. Jigsha, 29, is our visuals editor, directing our photography and videography. Before that, she was our online editor, and she still plays an important role in maintaining our websites.
As she describes on her personal website, Jigsha grew up in Zambia and came to the United States as a teenager to continue her education. We were lucky enough to hire her after she graduated from Temple University, and she has been at the News Sentinel for almost nine years now.
E&P wrote: “Desai led the newspaper’s embrace of video, launching a weekly video column called “Random This” with the other online producers at the newspaper. She launched the paper’s effort to develop newspaper blogs, managing more than 50 Movable Type blogs. She also created an online community called GoSmokies.com about the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.”
She has done much more, too, and we’re hoping she’ll continue to help guide us into the future for many years to come.
I thought Republicans were supposed to favor limited government. What’s with all the bills this year to close public records and cut back on announcements of government action?
Here’s a list up for consideration next week by the legislature, under the control of the GOP for the first time in history. The list is provided by Frank Gibson, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government:
1. HB1875 would allow state and local government to collect labor charges to prepare records for public inspection. Fiscal note says state would get $75,000 and local government $1.64 million a year from citizens/reporters asking to inspect public records. It is scheduled in House State and Local Government Committee at 1:30 Tuesday.
2. HB1309/SB1263 would allow all sunshine and other government public notices to be posted ONLY on local government websites in Hamilton County even though 32,000 households in Hamilton County do not own a computer.
3. HB1539 would close 911 call and dispatch records. On House State & Local Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Committee Chairman Curry Todd, a retired Memphis policemen, argues that citizens and reporters should not even be allowed to have police scanners because they sometimes arrive at incidents before police or other emergency personnel.
4. HB1774 allows local government to withhold any information on economic and community development that local officials and their attorneys deem to be “of a sensitive nature.” Local city councils/commissions would get to decide what to hide, and that means more unannounced and closed meetings. It’s up in House State & Local at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
5. HB284 would take all sunshine and other public notices out of newspapers in Knox County and put them only on local government websites for two years as a “pilot” project. Being proposed despite fact 47,450 of the 197,700 households in the county do not own a computer. A recent survey by Connected Tennessee says only 43,000 of the 197,000 households have ever visited a local government website. It’s up in Senate State & Local at 10:30 Tuesday and at 3:30 Wednesday in House Judiciary subcommittee.
Here’s another example of the hazards of parody in the newspaper game. After coach Derek Dooley named columnist Mike Strange to be guest coach of the Orange Team in the upcoming scrimmage, sports editor John Adams held a “press conference” to announce he would not coach the Orange Team this year and was, instead, going to Southern Cal.
The video was a pretty funny spoof of Lane Kiffin’s famous departure interview. Naturally, though, some people took it seriously, and multimedia editor Jack Lail was asked in the community today if John Adams was really leaving. He’s not.
Well, ‘Snuffy Smith’ is back on the comics pages, and I’m getting lots of positive reaction.
“Thank you for continuing Snuffy Smith!” wrote one reader. “This comic strip is my long-time favorite and, I’m delighted you decided to keep it! Life is ‘great’ once again! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
To allow for Snuffy’s return, we adjusted one of our comics pages to remove two cartoon panels — “Brevity” and “Argyle Sweater” — which had done poorly in our recent survey but which we had retained because it is more difficult to remove panels than it is to replace strips.
Of course, we’re now hearing from anti-Snuffy readers and fans of “Brevity” and “Argyle Sweater.” They don’t seem to be as numerous as the Snuffy fans, however. But they do seem equally fierce in their opinions.
Here’s an email I got from one, and the photo he attached:
“We were tickled to see the artwork Snuffy Smith cartoonist John Rose sent you in a last-ditch effort to make you and your readers forget you live in the 21st Century (“Snuffy Smith Now A News-Sentinel Fan”). Please don’t call him the “creator” though – the original creator died in 1942!
“Here’s a quick sketch of our new mascot (Ziggy!). Looks like he’s a fan too! All’s fair in love and war, and comics!”
We are getting a lot of calls from readers today upset that today’s Jumble puzzle includes this message: “Attention readers: After today Jumble will no longer be featured in newspapers.”
“I have been a subscriber for about 15 years,” said one woman. “Is it true the Jumble will be gone after today? Some days I don’t always get to read the newspaper, but I always do the puzzles. I would be very unhappy to see the Jumble puzzle gone.”
The answer to her question lies in the answer to the puzzle: Two words, five letters each, in quote marks. I don’t even have to do the puzzle to figure out the answer: “April Fools.”