Monthly Archives: May 2012

Why comments off on Ownby story

We’ve had several readers ask why we disabled comments on the stories about County Commissioner Jeff Ownby being arrested for indecent explosure on Sharps Ridge.
ownby_t607.jpgChuck Bowers wrote: “Your ban on bloggers’ response to the County Commissioner’s apparent no-no is puzzling and discomforting. Although i personally doubt it, it gives the appearance of bias and censorship. Please consider re-opening this item, which has widespread community interest. Doesn’t the public have the right to weigh in on commission controversies? You have effectively compromised such a right.”
Blogger Katie Granju wrote: “While I appreciate and supprt the News Sentinel’s compassionate decision to disable commenting on this morning’s Jeff Ownby stories, as someone who has been terribly traumatized by stories about my dead child in which commenters were allowed to have at our family all they wanted, I’d really like to see some standardized guidelines released to our community from our newspaper of record that clearly lay out how the decision is made regarding which specific stories receive the respectful kindness of disabled comments, and which stories are opened up to allow the mob to publicly to rip the subjects of that story to shreds.”
It wasn’t bias or selective compassion that prompted us to disable comments on that story. The fact is, we have learned that some subjects bring out the worst in comments. In our ongoing efforts to raise the level of civility in our comments, we have decided to be more aggressive in controlling these forums. That includes disabling stories that are sure to be trouble. Given the subject matter, if we had opened up the Ownby article to comments, we almost immediately would have been deleting many of them.

News Sentinel launches weather radio app

weatherapp.PNGWe launched a new iPhone app this week called Storm Shield. It acts just like a weather radio, sounding an alarm when severe weather is approaching, even if the phone is on silent mode.
You can program the app to watch for many different weather conditions, from tornado warnings to extreme cold watches to tsunami advisories. You can also select five locations you want monitored and have the app monitor wherever you are.
The app costs $4.99, but that’s a lot cheaper than a weather radio. Phase II of the app will include video streaming. It’ll be interesting to see how it reacts during this thunderstorm season.

Help pours in for evicted senior

We are getting deluged with offers to help Mary Cate Jones, the 78-year-old woman who was due to be evicted today from the home she and her husband built 56 years ago. forecloseLO_Evict10_web_t607.jpgHer story was featured on the front page of this morning’s paper, and people have been opening their hearts and wallets to assist.
Already, the eviction has been delayed until the end of the school year so Jones’ grandchildren can finish classes. More assistance may be in store. We are referring the many calls and emails we’re getting to Jones’ daughter at 865-851-4321 or 865-933-5853.
In the newspaper business you quickly learn that it’s difficult to change the world but easy to make a difference in an individual person’s life. And it sure feels good when that happens.

Bearden girl wins $5,000 1st Amendment prize

Bearden High School had its Senior Celebration today, and Azur Priode was among the students honored. She received a $5,000 scholarship from the First Amendment Center in Nashville for being one of the winners of a national Free to Tweet competition that encouraged students to celebrate the First Amendment through social media.
AzurPriode.JPG Azur created a very cool YouTube video that captured dozens of scenes around Knoxville showing the First Amendment in action. “The First Amendment is abundantly present in our everyday lives,” she wrote with her entry. “A two and a half minute video is a small tribute to the freedoms that we are allowed living in The United States of America. Let Freedom Ring!”
I had the pleasure of presenting her with the check just before today’s ceremony. Azur is planning to attend the University of Tennessee next year to study forensic anthropology.
The First Amendment Center, by the way, has an online quiz to test your knowledge of these basic American freedoms. Try it, if you dare.

‘Tookie’s’ death will be topic of forum

The death of ‘Tookie’ Stanford touched my family as well as many others. He and my youngest son sat in classes together at West High School before they both graduated in 2011. Tragically, the young basketball standout took his own life less than a year later after returning from a brief sojourn to college.
tookie3.jpgCan anything positive grow out of such a sadness? At the News Sentinel, we hope so. We are teaming up with the Beck Cultural Exchange Center to hold a community forum on May 15 to explore what lessons can be drawn from Tookie’s death, in hopes that other young people can avoid his despair.
The event, starting at 7 p.m. at the Beck Center, will begin with a showing of the News Sentinel documentary “A Community’s Child: The Story of Phillip ‘Tookie’ Stanford.” It tells of Tookie’s rise from childhood hardship and horrors to a bright hope of success that was too quickly lost after high school. Radio talk show host Hallerin Hilton Hill will moderate the forum. Panelists will include rapper Brian “B.T.” Tate, Mickeeya Murray Harrison of TribeOne, Andre Canty of the Beck Center and me.
Everyone, especially young people who are graduating from high school this month, is encouraged to attend. Please RSVP by visiting out Facebook page, or call 865-342-6448 for more information.
The following Sunday, May 20, the outcome of the discussion will shared on “The Hubert Smith Radio Show” on WUTK (90.3) from 10 a.m. to noon,