By the time George Cogswell, president and publisher of The Commercial Appeal, finished announcing that Louis Graham would become the newspaper’s new editor, many employees began standing and cheering, according to the CA’s report on the naming of the new boss. Cogswell moments earlier Monday referred to “the campaign” by many inside and outside the newsroom to persuade him and the newspaper’s corporate parent, Scripps Howard, to make Graham, 56, the successor to Chris Peck, who retired March 17 after more than 10 years leading the newsroom.
Graham, managing editor since 2011 and interim editor since Peck’s departure, was one of three finalists who interviewed last month. Cogswell quoted such words and phrases sent to him about Graham as “leadership” and “compassion” and “integrity” and “best boss I’ve ever had.”
“I have found him to be of the highest integrity and someone who truly cares about Memphis,” Cogswell said. “His 33 years at The Commercial Appeal will serve our readers incredibly well and will provide our newsroom with the leadership necessary to leap forward with our digital content platforms.”
The National Archives and Records Administration has released 785 pages of documents related to Ernest Withers, a photographer and free lance newsman acting as an FBI informant on activities of Dr. Martin Luther King as part of a legal settlement between the FBI and The Commercial Appeal, which filed a lawsuit seeking the information.
The CA has a report on what’s said in the documents in Sunday’s newspaper that begins as follows: James Bevel flashed a wide smile, looking more like a guest at a cocktail party than a suspected subversive whose picture was about to land in an FBI file.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s head of “direct action,” Bevel was in Memphis on this March 1968 afternoon to help organize a massive demonstration King planned. And when news photographer Ernest Withers began shooting pictures, as he routinely did at civil rights meetings throughout the South, Bevel grinned without a hint of concern.
Yet, unknown to Bevel and others at this gathering at LeMoyne-Owen College, Withers, a paid FBI informant, passed photos he snapped that day to an FBI agent, along with details he overheard. His report fueled deepening skepticism within an already hostile FBI as to whether King intended to keep his movement nonviolent.
“He (Bevel) gave a most virulent black power talk,” agent William H. Lawrence wrote after debriefing Withers. Reportedly saying whites will use economic pressure to “attempt to exterminate the Negroes in the United States in some form of genocide,” Bevel encouraged the group to read the black separatist newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, and “come into the black power movement.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The editor of The Commercial Appeal is retiring after 11 years in the paper’s top position.
Chris Peck notified the staff Thursday afternoon.
Scripps newspapers Vice President of Content, Mizell Stewart told The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/XMfhVc) managing editor Louis Graham will serve as interim editor. He said a national search for Peck’s replacement — both in and out of Scripps — will take place immediately aiming to hire a replacement within 90 days. Scripps is the parent company of the publication.
The paper hired Peck, 62, in 2002 to replace the retiring Angus McEachran.
Peck is a past president of the Associated Press Managing Editors and the current secretary of the American Society of News Editors.
Stewart said Peck would continue to contribute to the paper’s editorial pages
The Commercial Appeal will not be forced to release comments and identifying information about those who commented on stories related to the public controversies over the reorganization of Shelby County’s public schools, the newspaper reports. U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays issued a ruling Thursday night rejecting the Shelby County Commission’s motion to compel The Commercial Appeal to release that information. The commission’s lawyers from the firm Baker Donelson had filed a motion last week asking the judge to force The Commercial Appeal to comply with a July subpoena request asking for the identities of all online commenters to 45 stories that ran between Nov. 19, 2010, and July 12, 2012.
In denying the motion, Mays wrote that the information would not be relevant to the case.
“The Commission’s claim that the information it seeks concerning the opinions of the general readership of The Commercial Appeal is relevant to determining whether racial considerations were a motivating factor in the Tennessee General Assembly’s decision to enact the Municipal School Acts is not well taken,” the judge ruled.
“The information sought by the Commission is not relevant to the underlying issue to be decided and is not an appropriate subject of discovery in this case.”
The commission claimed that harvesting some comments and identifying information about the commenters could help them prove that new state laws enabling new municipal school districts in suburban Shelby County were motivated at least in part by racially discriminatory intent.
Attorneys for The Commercial Appeal said Thursday the law firm representing the Shelby County Commission has run afoul of the First Amendment, two federal statutes, the Tennessee reporter’s shield law and “just plain good sense” in a subpoena asking for the identities of commenters on stories about planned suburban school districts. Memphis attorney Lucian Pera and Washington attorney Paul Alan Levy, a member of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, asked in a letter to the Baker Donelson law firm that it withdraw the subpoena request. The request was filed in federal court July 25, asking for the identities of all online commenters to 45 stories that ran between Nov. 19, 2010, and July 12, 2012.
In the letter, the newspaper attorneys said those stories produced more than 9,000 comments on The Commercial Appeal’s website and included stories that ran after legislation already was passed in the Tennessee legislature to authorize referendums on whether to set up independent school districts in six municipalities.
Meanwhile, TNReport says Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is not happy with a Shelby subpoena for legislator email: Sen. Mark Norris says he will comply with the Shelby County Commission’s requests for all correspondence dealing with the controversial Memphis-Shelby schools merger. But the Senate majority leader and chief architect of legislation dictating rules for combining the school systems thinks the demand is being made principally in the spirit of hassling him and other lawmakers.
“It is a major fishing expedition, but you know, knock themselves out. We’ll give them what we have,” said Norris, a Republican from Collierville, told TNReport this week.
Lawyers for the Shelby County Commission are asking the General Assembly to fork over any communication related to laws dictating rules for the merger between the two school systems as they assemble a case in court to block six suburbs from beginning their own school systems.
The commission is asking for documents dating back as far as 2010 relating to three laws dictating rules for the merger, namely SB25, SB1923 and SB2908.
Whoever posts at commercialappeal.com under the name “Timeout” is steamed at the Shelby County Commission, and he’s far from alone. So reports the Commercial Appeal: At 2:33 p.m. Monday, Timeout posted his thoughts on the commission’s controversial 8-5 vote to support a subpoena seeking to force the newspaper to reveal the identities of anonymous commenters on its website.
“What’s next? … Will drones with listening devices be flown around my house? Background investigations for those who have put up pro-muni signs in their yards? Why are some of the commissioners acting as if they are taking direction from Vladimir Putin?”
Timeout’s rant joins nearly 1,200 other posts on the newspaper’s website since the subpoena story first broke Sunday. A majority of those comments are highly critical of the commission’s actions.
The subpoena arose as part of the federal court motion the commission’s attorneys filed in June to block the referendums on separate school districts for Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington. In that motion, attorneys argued that those behind the referendums are trying to discriminate by carving out majority white suburban districts from the new unified school system.
The E.W. Scripps Co. on Friday announced a change in leadership at The Commercial Appeal As reported by the CA: Joe Pepe, president and publisher, and Karl Wurzbach, vice president of sales and marketing, have left the company, according to Tim Stautberg, senior vice president, newspapers, for Scripps.
The leadership change was made “with full confidence in the bright future of The Commercial Appeal,” Stautberg said. “This enterprise has been one of the most-decorated news organizations in the Scripps portfolio for decades
“This enterprise has been one of the most-decorated news organizations in the Scripps portfolio for decades. I think we have the potential to significantly strengthen our engagement with readers and advertisers across our print and digital platforms.”
A new publisher will be named within the next few weeks, Stautberg said
In Sunday editions, the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Memphis Commercial Appeal jointly reported the launch of Politifact Tennessee, which is designed to check the veracity of statements made in the course of state political and governmental doings.
Excerpt from News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy: Today, Tennessee joins the PolitiFact network. The News Sentinel and its sister paper, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, have launched PolitiFact Tennessee.
The project has both print and online components. Each Sunday and Monday, the News Sentinel will publish new Truth-O-Meter rulings, complete with details of the evaluations.
Then, during the week, other rulings will appear on the Tennessee portion of PolitiFact.com.
Among the first batch of comments to scrutinized by the Tennessee Truth-O-Meter are U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen’s claim that the Republicans have “never done anything” to lower the budget deficit, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s remarks about the 100-watt incandescent light bulb and state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s assertions about the cost of drug tests.
Researching the Truth-O-Meter rulings is a team of veteran Scripps journalists: Zach McMillin in Memphis; Steve Ahillen in Knoxville; Richard Locker and Tom Humphrey in Nashville; and Bart Sullivan and Michael Collins in Washington, D.C.
Bill Adair, the creator of PolitiFact, is personally overseeing the Tennessee launch, as he has the launches of all PolitiFact sites.
— Note: Commercial Appeal Editor Chris Peck on Politifact, HERE.
The Commercial Appeal is launching a comprehensive, paid digital content plan designed to deliver premium content to users of smartphones, tablets and other digital devices.
From the newspaper’s report on the move:
All print subscribers to The Commercial Appeal will get the full suite of digital apps at no additional charge. These subscribers will only have to register for the digital service either by going to the Apple or Android app stores or through the commercialappeal.com website. Instructions on how to register are posted in each place.
Our apps can be downloaded for free and allow limited access to content from The Commercial Appeal. To enjoy all of the content requires a paid subscription.
.. For news consumers interested in local and breaking news but who choose not to be print subscribers, a monthly digital-only subscription to The Commercial Appeal app will start at $9.99. Customers who only want to read a single day of news content from their digital devices may sign on for a 99-cent day pass.
…Obituaries, classified advertising and some breaking news will continue to be offered free on the app, and on the newspaper’s website, commercialappeal.com. Non-subscribers who use their computers to visit the website and view more than 10 articles a month will be asked to subscribe. They will have an opportunity to sign up for full access for $9.95 per month, or 99 cents a day. Once signed up, website users also will be able to access Commercial Appeal content on smartphones and tablets.