Monthly Archives: July 2012

Goodbye, Dear Abby

The News Sentinel is bidding farewell to its Dear Abby column. I don’t know how long we’ve been running it. But it has been a long time.
As most readers know, there really is no such person as Abby, and there never was. The column is part of a family enterprise that has its roots in 1936 with twin sisters Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman. While at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, they teamed up on an advice column for the Collegian Reporter under the pen name of PE-EP, drawn from their initials.
In 1955, Esther, then married and nicknamed so she was Eppie Lederer, took over a column for the Chicago Sun-Times and began dispensing advice under the pen name Ann Landers. Not to be outdone, Sister Pauline, began doing likewise the following year at the San Francisco Chronicle. She adopted the pen name Abigail Van Buren by combining the Biblical name Abigail with the last name of President Martin Van Buren. The two became fierce competitors as their columns were picked up by newspapers across the country.
dear_abby.jpgIn 1987, Pauline’s daughter, Jeanne Phillips, began co-authoring Dear Abby, and she took over the column entirely when her mother retired from the advice game in 2002.
Pauline Phillips is still alive at 94, but sister Eppie died in 2002. At the time, the Chicago paper launched a search to replace “Ann Landers.” The person the editors found was Amy Dickinson, a divorced mother with a teenage daughter, who’d been a writer for National Public Radio and a columnist for TIME magazine.
amy.jpgBorn in 1959, Amy represented a younger generation than the Friedman twins, or even Jeanne Phillips, who was born in 1942. Since becoming an advice columnist, her popularity has grown steadily, and now Amy appears in dozens of other newspapers. Starting next week, Amy will join the News Sentinel, too, in place of Dear Abby. Amy also will replace the Carolyn Hax column in the Sunday newspaper.
Amy Dickinson, a distant relative of poet Emily Dickinson, is known as a strong reporter with a common sense outlook on life’s challenges. I think readers will find her style to be fresh, engaging and enjoyable.

Burchett subpoena of News Sentinel on hold

fanslerr-crop2_t120.jpgRick Hollow, the News Sentinel’s attorney, alerted me this morning that Chancellor Daryl Fansler has recused himself in the Burchett divorce case. Hollow conferred with Al Harb, Tim Burchett’s attorney, and Harb agreed that the development put on hold the mayor’s subpoena of the News Sentinel’s guest logs and lobby surveillance video.
I had been under order to appear with the materials tomorrow morning, but the paper entered a motion to quash the subpoena, claiming privilege under Tennessee’s reporter’s shield law. Now we’ll await further developments.

Mayor subpoenas newspaper’s records

County Mayor Tim Burchett has slapped me and the News Sentinel with a subpoena.
According to the document, I’m to deliver at 9 a.m. on July 11 “the sign-in sheets for every visitor visiting the Knoxville News Sentinel between May 15, 2012, and June 24, 2012,” and “all video-tapes or other video recorded medium containing surveillance of the front entrance, visitor parking area, and other parking areas adjacent to the visitor parking, and/or lobby between May 15, 2012, and June 24, 2012.”
burchett02_t607.jpgObviously the mayor wants to know who provided the newspaper with records from the Elect Burchett checking account, which revealed more than $15,000 in checks written to the mayor’s wife that were not listed on the mayor’s campaign disclosure report, plus a check for more than $4,000 written to the mayor’s wife that was listed as a reimbursement for paying a company that says it did not do any work for the Burchett campaign.
Tennessee has a law that protects journalists from having to reveal anonymous sources. This subpoena, crafted by the mayor’s divorce attorney, Al Harb, is a novel attempt to get around that “reporter shield” law. Rick Hollow, the News Sentinel’s lawyer, can find no record of any similar maneuver in Tennessee, and I’ve never heard of any politician trying this elsewhere in the nation either.
Needless to say, we’ll be fighting this subpoena vigorously.