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Editorial Results (free)

1. Oldham Catches Criticism for County’s Rape Kit Backlog -

Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham took fire at a weekend political forum over his department’s backlog of 300 untested rape kits, which Oldham revealed during budget hearings before the Shelby County Commission earlier in the week.

2. Bill to Make Changes to Hall Tax Fails -

A proposal to make changes to the state's Hall tax has failed this session.

The sponsor of the measure withdrew it from the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday after the committee voted to add an amendment the sponsor felt hurt the legislation.

3. 2014 Campaigns Hit the Streets -

With the April filing deadline behind them and early voting for the county primaries a week and a half ahead, those running for elected office in Shelby County this year kept a full weekend schedule.

4. Museum Milestone -

When the National Civil Rights Museum formally reopens Saturday, April 5, it will be with the “breaking” of a ceremonial chain at the new entrance to the building that was once the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

5. Harris Files Ford Challenge at Deadline -

Memphis City Council member Lee Harris is challenging Democratic state Sen. Ophelia Ford in the August primary for District 29, the Senate seat held by a member of the Ford family since 1975.

6. Sustainability is a Win for All -

Editor’s Note: This column will appear Tuesdays through April in honor of Sustainability Month for Memphis and Shelby County.

This April marks the third annual Sustainability Month for Memphis and Shelby County. It has been remarkable and rewarding to watch the growth in activity and awareness around this important issue.

7. High Court Seems Divided Over Birth Control Rule -

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court seemed divided Tuesday over whether employers' religious beliefs can free them from a part of the new health care law that requires that they provide coverage of birth control for employees at no extra charge.

8. The Daily News Claims Four Awards -

The Daily News and The Memphis News earned first place honors over the weekend for editorials in the annual Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors awards.

The editorials were judged the best among Division 3 newspapers across the state of Tennessee, newspapers with a circulation of up to 15,000.

9. Senators Consider Supporting AG Election -

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle says he may swing his support behind a proposed constitutional amendment calling for the popular election of the state’s attorney general.

10. Senators Consider Supporting AG Election -

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle says he may swing his support behind a proposed constitutional amendment calling for the popular election of the state's attorney general.

11. Senate Defeats Proposal to Elect Attorney General -

NASHVILLE (AP) – The Senate on Wednesday defeated an effort to change the Tennessee constitution to require the popular election of the attorney general.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet received 15 votes in favor and 14 votes against. Proposals need at least 17 votes – a majority of the 33-member chamber – to pass.

12. Tennessee Senate Passes Supermarket Wine Bill 23-8 -

NASHVILLE (AP) – Local governments could hold votes on whether to allow wine sales in supermarkets and convenience stores, under a bill the state Senate passed on Thursday.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro was approved on a 23-8 vote after the companion bill was revived in the House this week. Five Republicans voted against the measure, along with three Democrats.

13. Full Senate to Vote on Latest Attorney General Election Proposal -

NASHVILLE (AP) – The state Senate is taking another run at changing the way Tennessee's attorney general gains office.

Under a proposed constitutional amendment advanced to a full Senate vote Tuesday, the attorney general would stand for popular election rather than being appointed by the state Supreme Court.

14. Counterpart Communication Design Picks Up National Awards -

Memphis-based Counterpart Communication Design has won four awards at the 2013 American Graphic Design Awards, hosted by “Graphic Design USA,” a print news publication for the graphic design community.

15. Business Lessons -

John Faraci answered without hesitation when asked this week about his biggest mistake as a corporate leader.

It was the $100 million plant he green-lighted for construction by International Paper Co., the Memphis-based company of which he is now CEO.

16. Counterpart Communication Design Picks Up National Awards -

Memphis-based Counterpart Communication Design has won four awards at the 2013 American Graphic Design Awards, hosted by “Graphic Design USA,” a print news publication for the graphic design community.

17. Everyone Needs a Coach to Reach Peak -

Kevin Sheridan, CEO of Rutgers Permanent Painting, was considering refocusing his business on selling a new, higher-quality product. What finally pushed him to jump was Mark Green, one of more than 120 coaching partners with Gazelles.

18. Events -

Memphis Rotary Club will meet Tuesday, April 30, at noon at the University Club of Memphis, 1346 Central Ave. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will present the State of the County address. Cost is $18. R.S.V.P. to Taylor Hughes at taylor@memphisrotary.org.

19. Events -

ArtsMemphis will present the Stax to the Max music festival Saturday, April 27, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. outside the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, 926 E. McLemore St. Admission to the festival is free; discounted museum tickets are $2 between noon and 5 p.m. Visit staxmuseum.com.

20. Events -

A Main Street to Main Street Multimodal Connector Project design review meeting will be held Monday, April 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers in City Hall, 125 N. Main St. The public can learn about and view designs for the project. Contact Michael Carpenter at michael.carpenter@memphistn.gov or 636-6596.

21. Attorney General Selection Bill Passes Senate -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A proposed constitutional amendment to give lawmakers the power to select the state attorney general passed the Senate on Wednesday even though opponents argue there’s no need to change the current process.

22. Boyle Celebrates 80 Years, Sponsors Art Exhibit -

Boyle Investment Co. turns 80 this year, and has partnered with the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art to celebrate.

23. Supermarket Wine Bill Advances by 1 Vote in Senate -

NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal to allow wine to be sold in Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores scored its first legislative victory on Tuesday after years of frustration.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 to advance the bill that would allow cities and counties to hold referendums next year to decide whether to expand wine sales beyond the state's nearly 600 licensed liquor stores.

24. Swimming in Memory -

THE POOL’S CLOSED. My first date was Ann Wiggs. I took her to a dance in the cafeteria at White Station at the beginning of the seventh grade. She was tall and all elbows and angles. I was short and dumpy and all nervous. We didn’t so much dance as run into each other to music. I was 11. She was 12.

25. Bill Targets Hotel Pay for Capitol-Area Lawmakers -

NASHVILLE (AP) – A bill filed in the state Senate would end an automatic hotel allowance for lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Statehouse.

Under current rules, every lawmaker receives $173 each day to offset meals and lodging while they are participating in legislative proceedings, regardless of whether they spend the night at a hotel.

26. Food and Drug Administration Proposes New Food Safety Rules -

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed the most sweeping food safety rules in decades, requiring farmers and food companies to be more vigilant in the wake of deadly outbreaks in peanuts, cantaloupe and leafy greens.

27. Regions Could Be in a Shopping Mood -

The bank with the biggest customer deposit share in Tennessee – and the second biggest in Memphis – may be getting bigger soon.

That’s according to some of the analysts who follow Regions Financial Corp., the Alabama-based financial services giant that was the last of the large banks to get a green light to pay back its Troubled Asset Relief Program investment from the federal government. Regions also recently put another question mark behind it via the sale of its Memphis-based investment unit Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. to a new owner, Florida-based Raymond James Financial.

28. Main Connector -

The attention Downtown Memphis’ South Main Historic Arts District and its surrounding areas has received this year has far-reaching implications for future development.

Recent high-profile deals the community has seen get the green light include the Chisca Hotel redevelopment, Storefront Improvement Grant Program, branding efforts with North Star Destination Strategies, growth at The Orpheum Theatre Memphis and Memphis Central Station, a flurry of apartment and loft rehabs, and retail activity with a new athletic club and restaurants.

29. Senior Sector -

The 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 were said to have remodeled society as they moved through it.

It was the baby boomer generation that drove the cultural shift to consumerism with SUVs and mini-vans. That demographic just turned 65 and real estate developers have taken notice.

30. County Approves Sales Tax Hike -

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has told Shelby County Commissioners that he will probably veto a proposed half-cent countywide local sales tax increase bound for the Nov. 6 ballot in Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County.

31. Commission Approves Countywide Sales Tax Referendum -

Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, Aug. 13, a half cent sales tax hike ballot question that would go to voters in Memphis and the unincorporated county on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The item was added onto Monday’s commission agenda by Commissioner Mike Ritz who said he proposed the ballot question to check a planned citywide referendum on a half percent local sales tax hike.

32. Court: Party Names to Appear on November Ballot -

Tennessee voters will be able to see the party affiliations of candidates listed on the November general election ballot after a federal appeals on Friday cleared the way for the change.

The ruling means that candidates running under the flags of the Green Party and the Constitution Party, as well as Democrats and Republicans, will be identified.

33. Queen of the Mississippi to Launch Service -

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A comeback for old-fashioned paddlewheel riverboat travel on the Mississippi River continues this weekend with the departure from New Orleans of the Queen of the Mississippi, a brand new, quintuple-decked vessel mixing 19th century trappings meant to evoke the Mark Twain era with modern amenities including Internet access, satellite television, an exercise area and a putting green.

34. Green Building, Design Slowly Take Hold in Memphis Area -

When residential and commercial construction hit new boom times – whenever that might be – the rebirth will take place in a new era with new rules.

“People are becoming more environmentally aware, and that’s going to change the market,” said Don Glays, executive director of the Memphis Area Home Builders Association. “There are a lot of advantages to buying green, and people are starting to understand that.”

35. Citizens Express Budget Concerns -

Memphis City Council members heard from and saw a lot of opponents of plans to close five Memphis public libraries Tuesday, May 22, during an hour and a half of comments from the public.

“I was going to suggest instead of cutting libraries that you improve them,” said Kaye Veazey.

36. State Seeks Stay of Ruling on 3rd Parties in Tenn. -

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) – Against the backdrop of the 2012 presidential election, a legal battle is under way that will determine how many roadblocks minor political party candidates face when trying to get on election ballots in Tennessee.

37. Honors Continue For Architect Of Memphis Sound -

Memphis music icon Willie Mitchell was honored on what would have been his 84th birthday last week with a Tennessee state historical marker at his Royal Studios.

38. Petties Trial Focuses on Turner Killing -

The point at which the prosecution ends and the defense begins in the Craig Petties drug organization trial in Memphis Federal Court should be when the 2006 murder of Marcus Turner becomes the center of attention again.

39. Petties Trial Focuses on 2006 Murder -

The second witness to testify in the Petties organization drug trial that begins its fifth week Monday, March 5, was Lucy Turner, a police dispatcher from West Memphis, Ark. and the mother of Marcus Turner.

40. Council Weighs In on Electrolux Incentives -

Some Memphis City Council members want to at least slow the appropriation of local government funding to Electrolux North America Cooking Products if the company isn’t more responsive to hiring local for the construction of its Memphis manufacturing plant.

41. Commitment, Teamwork Help Whitaker Realty Thrive -

Though the last four years of the recession-afflicted economy have been a dark cloud of pessimism in the real estate world, Whitaker Realty LLC owner Mark Whitaker has weathered the storm and found success by carefully choosing his clients and providing careful oversight on expenditures.

42. Celebrating Beauty -

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens was established in 1975 by Hugo and Margaret Dixon, when the philanthropists bequeathed their home and art collection to the Memphis community as a public museum.

43. ServiceMaster, Other Cos. Support Habitat Mission -

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis has a busy couple of weeks ahead as it closes its books on the fall building season.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, marked the dedication of The ServiceMaster Co. home at 3477 E. Oak Side Drive in Trinity Park, the first all-green neighborhood being developed by Memphis Habitat. The will be the Memphis-based home and commercial services company’s fifth sponsorship home with the nonprofit.

44. State to Purge Noncitizen Voters From its Rolls -

NASHVILLE (AP) – A new law designed to curb illegal voting by noncitizen residents has gone largely unnoticed, overshadowed by Tennessee's new voter identification law.

But the state elections office will soon compare the names of more than 20,000 noncitizens who hold Tennessee driver's licenses with voter registration records. Anyone listed as a noncitizen and registered to vote will be given 30 days to present proof of citizenship or be purged from the rolls.

45. Events -

Bank of America will host a free customer outreach event at which customers can meet face to face with home retention specialists to review options for home loan modifications Friday, Sept. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 1, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, 255 N. Main St. To register or for more information, visit www.bankofamerica.com/homeownerevent or call 1-855-201-7426.

46. Schools Planning Commission Begins Work -

The 21-member schools consolidation planning commission goes to work Thursday, Sept. 29, in a conference room at the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement in Shelby Farms.

47. Many Cities Imposing Broad Cuts as Revenue Shrinks -

WASHINGTON (AP) – More than half of U.S. cities have cut staff, canceled construction projects or raised fees this year, according to a report from the National League of Cities that catalogs the vast damage from shrunken property- and income-tax revenue.

48. Events -

Talk Shoppe will present “The Mastermind Principle: From the Book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill” Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Better Business Bureau, 3693 Tyndale Drive. For more information, call Jo Garner at 482-0354.

49. Theatre Memphis Delves Into Real Estate -

David Mamet’s profane and powerful “Glengarry Glen Ross” gets a sharply edged treatment at Theatre Memphis’ Next Stage.

50. In the US, Two Housing Markets and Two Directions -

In America, it's starting to feel as if there are two housing markets. One for the rich and one for everyone else.

Consider foreclosure-ravaged Detroit. In the historic Green Acres district, a haven for hipsters, a pristine, three-bedroom brick Tudor recently sold for $6,000 – about what a buyer would have paid during the Great Depression.

51. Social Media Replacing Traditional Advertising -

The model for advertising once was for businesses to purchase advertising space in a traditional newspaper or magazine and tout product offerings to its audience.

Nowadays, anybody can be an ambassador on the Web.

52. Events -

The local chapters of The National Association of Women Business Owners, Commercial Real Estate Women and Women’s Business Enterprise Council South will hold Great Women Great Things 2011, an education seminar, luncheon and trade show, Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave. Seating is limited. Cost is $45. For a full schedule, a complete list of speakers or to register, visit www.wbecsouth.org/gwgt2011.

53. Events -

The Memphis Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals will meet Monday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Blvd. Officer Brian Hanson of the Bartlett Police Department will speak about violence in the workplace. Cost is $20. For reservations, contact Sharon Gardner at 752-6213 or sharon.gardner@asentinel.com.

54. Luttrell Makes Picks for Schools Planning Group -

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has picked his five choices for the schools consolidation planning commission: two higher education officials, a corporate attorney, an Episcopal priest heading BRIDGES USA and an elementary school principal.

55. Luttrell Makes Picks for Consolidation Planning Group -

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has picked his five choices for the schools consolidation planning commission: two higher-education officials, a corporate attorney, an Episcopal priest heading BRIDGES USA and an elementary school principal.

56. In Midwest, Obama Seeks Ideas for Jolting Economy -

PEOSTA, Iowa (AP) – Seeking some help from rural America, President Barack Obama on Tuesday implored Iowans to share ideas with him about how leaders can give an economic jolt to the nation's heartland. He promised better days in a time of relentless joblessness, saying, "We'll get through this moment of challenge."

57. Grow Your Business Tour Takes Message Across State -

Mid-South small-business coach Robert Staub is preparing to embark on a monthlong, statewide tour to bring his growth strategies to small-business owners in 13 Tennessee communities.

58. New Mileage Standards Aim for Less Fuel, Pollution -

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and automakers ushered in the largest cut in fuel consumption since the 1970s on Friday with a deal that will save drivers money at the pump and dramatically cut heat-trapping gases coming from tailpipes.

59. Young Draws Attention to Office of Sustainability -

Paul Young has been very busy and very visible in the last three months.

The head of the joint city-county Office of Sustainability has been keeping a busy schedule, in part because of several high-profile sustainability undertakings that are reaching critical points at about the same time.

60. Brighter Day -

With the flip of a switch Tuesday, June 21, at the corner of South Mendenhall and East Raines roads, the Sharp Manufacturing Co. Memphis plant upped its solar power generating capacity.

61. Angelica Corp. and Americraft Win PILOTs -

When Brian Lewandowski, vice president and general manager of Americraft Carton Inc., told local economic development officials Wednesday, June 15, that conditions might be favorable for his company to relocate its expanding Memphis operation – and that the depressed real estate market especially favors buyers right now – one official piped up.

62. Girls Inc. Celebrates 65 Years of Empowerment -

Many of the city’s most influential citizens gathered Thursday, June 9, to celebrate the Memphis girls and women who embody the “Strong, Smart and Bold” motto of Girls Inc. of Memphis.

63. Mayors Launch Office of Sustainability -

When Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell launch their joint office of sustainability this week, it will be the latest move in a continuing realignment of both local governments.

64. Despite Opposition, Solana Moves Forward -

Despite neighborhood opposition and zoning hurdles, a new Germantown senior living facility promises a unique concept and dozens of amenities.

The Solana – a 182-unit senior living facility at 8199 Poplar Ave. east of Kimbrough Road in Germantown – has recently broken ground and is shooting for a late summer 2012 opening.

65. GOP, Dems Clash Over 3rd Parties on Tenn. Ballot -

NASHVILLE (AP) – Republicans are balking at a Democratic senator's proposal to make it easier for minor parties to be listed on the Tennessee ballot.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis wants to set a threshold of 10,000 signatures from eligible voters for a third party to be recognized in the state, down from a GOP proposal of about 40,000 signatures from registered voters.

66. Events -

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC will present a breakfast seminar titled “Covenants Not To Compete: Managing Restrictions and Expectations,” Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at its office at 165 Madison Ave., 20th floor. For more information or to register, contact Nicolette Thomas at 577-2328 or nthomas@bakerdonelson.com.

67. FedEx’s Jackson Named Top 100 Thought Leader -

Mitch Jackson, vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability at FedEx Corp., has been named one of 2010’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

68. Charities Turn Super Sunday into Day of Giving -

Several Memphis-based nonprofits are using Super Bowl Sunday as an opportunity to encourage citizens to give back to their community.

For the seventh year in a row, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis, a nonprofit housing ministry dedicated to providing decent housing for all members of the community, is asking football fans to party with a purpose this Sunday for its annual Home Team Huddle.

69. Pushing Up and Ahead -

Fresh off a year capped by major office deals and new leadership atop the development agency that oversees it, it’s already clear the story of Downtown Memphis in 2011 will be dominated by forward momentum.

70. Memphis Orgs Gear up for MLK Weekend -

Perhaps more so than in any other city because of its prominent place in the history of the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Memphis serves as a strong reminder of King’s legacy of service to others and his powerful advocacy for social change through nonviolent action.

71. ‘Roam’ through this Buckman Exhibit -

Aperfectly matched duet of sculpture and painting will open the Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center at St. Mary’s Episcopal School with a new year’s exhibition at the Levy Gallery, where viewers can expect imagery of a physical and metaphorical journey.

72. Events -

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will hold a green certification workshop Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Marriott Memphis Downtown, 250 N. Main St. The workshop will discuss a state green certification program for the tourism and travel industry. To register, contact Patricia Gray at 615-741-9004 or patricia.gray@tn.gov.

73. Events -

The WRVR Toy Truck will collect new toys and gifts to benefit children served by Porter-Leath Monday through Dec. 3 from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Bud Davis Cadillac, 5433 Poplar Ave. For more information about the toy drive or how to donate, call 577-2500, ext. 1167, or visit www.porterleath.org.

74. Events -

The Memphis Turkey Trot Four Miler and Two Mile Turkey Leg Relay will be held Thursday at 9 a.m. at Shelby Farms. To register or for more information including a course map, visit www.memphisturkeytrot.racesonline.com.

75. Construction Slated for Solana Senior Facility -

8199 Poplar Ave.
Germantown, TN 38053
Permit Amount: $19 million

Project Cost: $30 million
Permit Date: Applied November 2010
Completion: Spring 2012
Owner: Formation Development Group LLC
Tenant: Dogwood Ridge Senior Living
Contractor: three
Architect: Rogers Construction

76. Poll Shows Beebe With Huge Lead Over Keet in Ark. -

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Poll results released Friday show Gov. Mike Beebe has a 26-point lead over Republican Jim Keet, who is trying to derail the Democrat's run for a second term.

Stephens Media commissioned the poll that shows Beebe leading Keet 59 percent to 33 percent. Green Party candidate Jim Lendall has 1 percent support, with 7 percent undecided.

77. CBU to Bless Newest Building -

Christian Brothers University will celebrate Friday the launch of its most recent addition.

The Living Learning Center, adjacent to Pender Hall on campus, is expected to open in fall 2011.

A blessing of the ground will take place Friday at 12:30 p.m.

78. The Law of Attraction -

The state of Tennessee is basking in the glow of its growing reputation as a top destination for companies following a myriad of accolades for its favorable and welcoming business climate.

While Chief Executive magazine ranked the Volunteer State the nation’s third best for business, Southern Business & Development magazine named Tennessee its State of the Year.

79. Wharton Flips Switch On Tiger Lane -

With a crowd of several hundred watching, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Wednesday evening flipped the switch on the lights for the new Tiger Lane project at The Fairgrounds.

It lit up a set of streetlights and parallel lower trails of blue lights that mark the parking and tailgating areas along the green space.

80. Yeates Joins A2H As Project Manager -

Arthur Yeates has joined Askew Hargraves Harcourt & Associates Inc. (A2H) as an architectural project manager.

81. Rally Time -

As soon as he heard the Memphis Redbirds were coming to town in 1998, Buddy Young bought season tickets and has renewed them every year since.

From the first two seasons at the old Tim McCarver Stadium to the debut of AutoZone Park in 2000, from Albert Pujols’ walkoff home run that won the Pacific Coast League title the first season at AutoZone to last year’s championship run, Young has been a die-hard Redbirds supporter.

82. Rescuers Pray for No More Victims in Tenn. Floods -

NASHVILLE (AP) — The dark waters of the Cumberland River slowly started to ebb Tuesday as residents who frantically fled the deadly flash floods returned home to find mud-caked floors and soggy furniture. Rescuers prayed they would not find more bodies as the floodwaters receded.

83. Census Says Women Equal to Men in Advanced Degrees -

WASHINGTON (AP) - Women are now just as likely as men to have completed college and to hold an advanced degree, part of an accelerating trend of educational gains that have shielded women from recent job losses. Yet they continue to lag behind men in pay.

84. Events -

Talk Shoppe will present “The Dollars and Sense of Building Green” today from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, 3693 Tyndale Drive. For more information, call 482-0354.

85. Events -

The Memphis Rotary Club will meet today at noon at the University Club of Memphis, 1346 Central Ave. Judge Janice Holder will speak. For reservations, e-mail Taylor Hughes at taylor@memphisrotary.org.

86. Congress: Connections With Toyota -

Several lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is holding a hearing Wednesday on the Toyota recalls, have Toyota factories and offices in their states or even their districts. A look at some of the automaker's ties:

87. MAAR Prez: Stage Set for Better Home Sales -

2009 went into the books as the worst year for home sales in 18 years, but a slight improvement in the final quarter signaled a sliver of hope for a beleaguered real estate industry.

Shelby County saw just 14,600 home sales last year, an 11 percent decline from 16,406 home sales during 2008 and a 29 percent decline from 20,706 home sales during 2007, according to the latest data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

88. Mud Island Makeover -

In August 1976, Roy Harrover, the Memphis architect who designed such landmarks as Memphis International Airport, Memphis College of Art and the NBC Bank Building wrote a six-page description of a project then known as Volunteer Park.

89. Local ULI Leads Green Charge -

Memphis might lag behind other cities when it comes to developing and connecting green spaces, but a collaboration of organizations is working to improve this community’s “greenprint,” or its collection of parks, trails and other natural areas, and then link them to regional and national green spaces.

90. Health Care Reform Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated -

Dr. Mark Green is chief of staff at Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, Tenn.

We are running out of time for meaningful health care reform in America. The plans coming into or out of Washington are highly influenced and essentially all garbage.

91. A River Runs Through Us: Memphis’ once and future connection with the Wolf -

A cottonmouth slithers through the marsh. A wolf spider clings to a cypress tree. A white heron soars above the bottomland forest.

Paddle a canoe down the Ghost River section of the Wolf River in Fayette County and you’ll travel through multiple, distinct ecosystems teeming with wildlife. But while animal sightings convey the true spirit of the Wolf, only one creature – the elusive “river rat” – can verbalize why this river and its wetland corridor are so important.

92. Events -

The Mid-South Real Estate Investors Association Inc. will hold a roundtable discussion today from 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Germantown Athletic Club, 1801 Exeter Road. To register, call 751-7101 or e-mail info@midsouthreia.org.

93. Events -

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence will present a workshop titled “Advocacy & Public Policy” today from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Alliance office, 5100 Poplar Ave. Alliance for Justice will lead the workshop. Cost is $65 for members, $125 for nonmembers and $55 for those in the Program for Nonprofit Excellence. For more information, call 684-6605 or visit
www.npexcellence.org.

94. Events -

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence will present a workshop titled “Advocacy & Public Policy” Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Alliance office, 5100 Poplar Ave. Cost is $65 for members, $125 for nonmembers and $55 for those in the Program for Nonprofit Excellence. For more information, call 684-6605 or visit www.npexcellence.org.

95. Fred Smith Talks Green: Helps the environment and Fedex's bottom line -

Fred Smith is going green. In the case of the FedEx founder, however, it’s a different shade – something like military fatigue green.

96. Home Sales Figures Less Ghastly in April -

April is the first full month of spring, but this past April delivered a more important distinction for Shelby County’s sluggish housing market: It was the first month since October that home sales exceeded the 1,200 mark.

97. Deadline: What it's Really Like Inside the City's Big Daily - EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Dries was a reporter at The Commercial Appeal from June 1997-October 2005. This story is based in part on his experiences there and more recent conversations with other CA staffers.

The fall evening six years ago when Chris Peck became the editor of The Commercial Appeal was treated with utmost secrecy inside the newspaper at 495 Union Ave.

Then-publisher John Wilcox was determined to prevent leaks of that night’s decision to any other media outlets. So not only would the choice be a secret to those outside the building, but inside as well.

Then-Metro editor Charles Bernsen camped out in his small office at one end of the newsroom with the blinds drawn across its large window. He emerged just before the regular 11 p.m. deadline to tell editors on the copy desk he was sending the story, written from home by a trusted reporter.

The article by Tom Charlier in the Oct. 9, 2002, edition described Peck as “a veteran journalist who built a national reputation for innovative leadership and unblinking coverage of difficult topics” as the editor of The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash.

Otis Sanford, the CA’s deputy managing editor and the other finalist for the top job, was promoted to managing editor. It was the first of many changes in the past six years to the newspaper’s masthead, where its top leaders are listed.

New era dawns

Peck arrived in Memphis shortly after the article and, although he would officially take over in January after Angus McEachran’s retirement, there was a great deal of anticipation – and, uncharacteristically for a floor full of reporters – not much background checking on Peck.

Before selecting Peck, executives of the CA’s parent company, the E.W. Scripps Co., had set up a committee of CA employees and solicited their opinions on what they wanted to see in the next editor. Many said they wanted a new direction at the newspaper.

Peck came to Memphis from a short stint as the Belo Distinguished Chair in Journalism at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He had served as editor at the Spokane Spokesman-Review just prior to the academic post.

Peck left that paper on the heels of a journalism controversy that got little play outside the Northwest and continued to linger as recently as two years ago. It concerned financing for a large public project involving the newspaper’s owners.

Meanwhile, hopes were high among some CA staff members that Peck would change the dysfunctional management style at the paper. Others believed no creative undertaking the size of a newspaper is possible without some level of dysfunction. And still others were leery about any optimistic assessment for any reason.

Bernsen was among the first to leave the CA after Peck’s hire. Louis Graham, who had been expected to head the Metro desk even if Sanford became the new top editor, replaced Bernsen.

Six years later, departing and current staffers describe the CA’s management style and newsroom atmosphere as “toxic.” They also complain that little has changed in terms of who runs the newspaper on a daily basis despite a frequent shuffling of the management chart.

None would talk with The Memphis News on the record for fear of reprisals. Even past staffers didn’t want their names used because of the prospect of doing freelance work for the newspaper. Those still in the newsroom and on the payroll wouldn’t talk on company phones.

Profits and losses

What ails The Commercial Appeal has a lot to do with what ails the newspaper industry in general these days. But that’s a black-and-white version that misses large colorful splotches unique to the institution.

Decisions made during the past six years to pursue a growth strategy targeting “suburban” readers, as well as longstanding practices for managing talent, have also helped bring the newspaper to where it is today.

Managers at the newspaper, in separate interviews with The Memphis News, insist it is stable, profitable and will remain a seven-day-a-week operation despite recent moves that severely cut the reporting staff, eliminated classified ads from the already thin Monday and Tuesday print editions and an admission that the newspaper probably won’t be covering less urgent topics in the future.

Asked if the demise of classified ad sections in the Monday and Tuesday editions could be a sign that the Monday and Tuesday print editions might vanish entirely, publisher Joe Pepe was unequivocal.

“No. That’s not going to happen, at least under my tenure here,” Pepe said. “A lot of the transactional classified business is done online anyway. Everything that you see in the paper every day of the week is also online. So putting the Monday and Tuesday (classifieds) online was essentially just a way for us to save on some newsprint costs while not taking away from the advertising.”

The CA is profitable, Peck and Pepe insist, although they won’t release any numbers.

“We’ve projected a profit for 2009,” Peck said. “We were profitable in 2008. So, I fully expect we’ll be profitable in 2009.”

Pepe responded, “Absolutely,” when asked if the CA is profitable. When asked if he would be more specific, he replied, “No. Good try.”

Doing less with fewer

The newspaper is not alone in its reluctance to give out specific financial data. Most businesses consider such information to be proprietary.

The optimistic assessment is in contrast to a letter subscribers got this month from Karl D. Wurzbach, vice president of circulation, saying subscription rates would go up by $2 a month effective Nov. 1.

“This is the only way we can continue to deliver to your home every day,” he wrote. “This increase is across the board, for everybody, with no exclusions.”

Wurzbach’s letter also noted that the CA had dropped home delivery to 11,600 subscribers in outlying areas during a five-month period. The weekday newsstand price had already increased from 50 cents to 75 cents.

“It was costing us more money to print and deliver than we earned in revenue,” he said in the letter. “No company can survive using that business model. … Simply put, we are making very difficult decisions to help our business survive.”

Both moves in the appearance and delivery of the paper came in the week after 20 reporters and editors faced the ultimate “difficult decision.”

The newspaper made the decision of whom to fire using a controversial system that ranks reporters in the particular section of the paper they work for. The key to the ranking is not reporting ability or even a byline count; it’s how a reporter gets along with his or her editor. It had already been a key to longevity at the CA before Peck arrived in Memphis and made it a formal part of employee evaluations.

“You have to grieve those who are no longer with us in a genuine way because they were great contributions,” Peck said. “But you really at that point also have to rather quickly turn your attention to the task at hand. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

But the veteran employees “grieved” by management are the same employees management had ranked as the least valuable in their respective departments.

That included Jimmie Covington, the longest-serving reporter at the paper until his dismissal in March after years of being shuffled from one suburban bureau to another. Covington was a veteran of the county government and Memphis City Schools beats.

The layoffs also included Frederic Koeppel and Christopher Blank, who provided much of the newspaper’s arts coverage and who apparently won’t be replaced with full-time reporters.

There’s now no mention of the “master narratives” Peck once included in his “blueprint” for the CA. They included long-form stories on race, the city’s musical heritage, barbecue and the river. It was to be a departure from the newspaper being what Peck referred to as a “news utility,” or all-purpose paper of record.

“What we have to do is prioritize our staff resources,” Peck said just weeks after 20 people in the CA newsroom either resigned or were fired in the latest series of cutbacks – the deepest to date for the editorial staff. “I think where that’s going to lead is making sure that we have the nuts and bolts of hard news coverage. That’s probably police reporting, court reporting, government reporting, school reporting. We want to make sure we’ve got those bases covered.”

Whatever is left of a full-time reporting staff will be devoted to issues and institutions such as FedEx, the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team, the Memphis Grizzlies, the economy and the medical center.

“If we run out of people at that point, then we’re going to turn to freelancers and more community-generated content,” Peck said. “I think we’ll be able to fill a lot of holes there if we need to and I think it will work out fine.”

Wanted: free (or reduced) labor

Pepe offered a basic definition of citizen journalism.

“All blogging is citizen journalism,” he told The Memphis News. “In a lot of cases it’s unsubstantiated. It’s not objective. It’s not edited content. It leans more toward opinion and subjectivity. Anytime we have citizen journalism, it’s still going to get edited. It’s still going to get verified. It’s going to get checked for facts before we post it. We apply the same rules to citizen-sponsored journalism as we do to our top line reporter.”

Sanford said citizen journalism “has its place” and has been discussed since the early 1990s. It shows up in the pages he governs in the form of opinion pieces and letters to the editor. Non-newspaper employees also serve on the CA’s editorial board.

“Now, I am a traditional, old-fashioned journalist,” Sanford said. “And I believe that while citizen journalism has its place, I’m not one – and maybe this is an old-fashioned view – but I’m not one to think that citizen journalism can ever take the place of the traditional journalism that I know and love. I just don’t believe that.”

The names of reporters and photographers cut in the most recent round of layoffs are already turning up in CA coverage as freelancers. Instead of a straight name with “The Commercial Appeal” below it, their names now appear with the phrase “special to The Commercial Appeal” and, of course, they receive no health benefits or regular paychecks from the newspaper.

Worldwide wakeup call

Before Peck’s arrival in Memphis, the CA was more than out of touch with the need for an Internet presence. The newspaper was hostile to such a move.

Posting a story on the Web site that was anything more than a teaser paragraph before the actual newspapers rolled of the presses and into delivery trucks was seen as handing the story to the competition.

It was a philosophy that had served the newspaper well in competing with television news, even with the rise of 24-hour cable news channels.

However, there have been consequences for being late to the Internet party, and financial consequences for not taking the Internet seriously.

“Right now all the revenue is generated off advertising,” Pepe said of print journalism’s gradual realization that it needed to be in the Web business as well. “Until search engines are firewalled – until all local media either together or individually start charging for content online – it’s going to continue to be a source of non-revenue in terms of content. That then means that revenue for all Internet ventures will be based on advertising.”

After Peck arrived, the move to unique content for the Web site was still slow in coming.

Editors exerted the same multi-tiered control over copy that might mean a story was not edited for Web or print until later in the day, closer to the print deadline.

Scraps often erupted over how copy was edited after it left the editors and went to the “new media” department. It might be a change in a few words or a new, snappier lead (first sentence), but some editors clearly didn’t like having their work changed as much as they might have imagined reporters liked having their work rearranged.

Reporters are expected to take such changes without protest, and protests are rare even when edits distort meaning. Reporters can always fall back on the excuse that the story got messed up after it was out of their hands.

But that brings into play another rule for newsroom survival – always, always make a hard copy of the story you turn in to your editor.

The anonymity of snark

The comments section on www.commercialappeal.com, where readers may post their thoughts at the bottom of stories, has been wildly successful if you look just at the number of comments some stories generate in a short amount of time.

But success isn’t the word that comes to mind if you start to read the comments on a regular basis.

They routinely crackle with racial tension and even racial slurs. When some staffers complained about the slurs and called for better policing of such comments, Peck reportedly asked for a list of what slurs should be considered cause for removing comments.

Sanford had a different take in March as he spoke at a University of Memphis panel discussion about race and the media.

“Please stop reading those comments,” Sanford told a crowd of 100 people on campus. “You’ve got … anonymous people who go on our stories … and make unbelievably goofy and stupid comments. And then that becomes, unfortunately, the reality. And we have to stop that. We can’t stop the comments because the Web people have told us, ‘Well, that’s how you get people in there.’ But please don’t listen to that.”

To civic groups and even individual citizens who contact the paper with complaints and concerns, Sanford is its face, voice and ears. When the CA participates in media forums, chances are the speaker will be Sanford.

For the past two years, Sanford has been in charge of the paper’s editorial board and Viewpoint section. It’s a position that evolved after editorial page editor David Kushma’s departure, when Kushma’s duties came to be included in Sanford’s.

“That just didn’t work right,” Sanford told The Memphis News. “We had a lot of discussions about this. Corporate was even involved in it. We agreed that the editorial pages, Viewpoint, the editorial board – we would sort of restructure the newsroom operation and the editorial board and the editorial opinions of the paper so that would fall directly under the publisher and I would be running that. I think that was a good thing to do.”

That means that Sanford works for Pepe, not Peck, as he did when he was managing editor.

Gum-popping good times

Peck met with each reporter in his office shortly after he arrived in Memphis. He appeared to be taking notes on a legal pad as he listened to their comments and suggestions.

However, trying to find Peck’s strategy over the years has been no simple matter. There wasn’t much beyond slogans that included “rebuilding the jet while flying it” or “building a 21st century newspaper.” The latter phrase was still being used six years into the new century.

One reporter who tried to get into Peck’s head in terms of management philosophy hit a brick wall with a thud, although he is still employed at the CA.

On that occasion, Peck was in no mood to discuss philosophy despite a casual-sounding e-mail asking if the reporter had a few minutes to talk. Instead of a dialogue, Peck gave the reporter $50 in cash and a list of books he could buy to read. He also sent the reporter back to the night cops beat for objecting to how a story was edited.

The editorial page and op-ed page were the first parts of the paper that changed. Peck wanted more letters to the editor. He also wanted to stop the practice of rigorously fact-checking letters.

This drew dissent from Kushma, who was eventually overruled and left in the first round of buyouts in 2003 that followed Peck’s arrival. Some of the other changes were in the Metro section – the hard news engine of the paper.

Reporters were switched around, which is a normal part of life at the city’s daily newspaper unless you are declared immune from such changes. The six or seven Metro editors were immune for the most part from the changes.

The newspaper’s home office in Cincinnati had long maintained that the paper was top heavy with such editors. Peck talked a lot about change, but didn’t change that.

At one of Peck’s first meetings with the Metro staff, a reporter asked Peck when there would be changes for the editors as well. Peck’s answer was to talk about Dentyne gum and how the company that makes it had allegedly improved its sales figures by repackaging the gum.

The analogy was that the CA was going to undergo a similar repackaging: What was under the wrapper would remain the same.

For weeks after the meeting, fellow reporters left numerous packages of Dentyne on the questioner’s desk.

Before Peck answered the question, some staffers remained hopeful because they saw most of the problems with the new management as a result of Peck having to answer to John Wilcox, the CA’s publisher. It was a key difference in the management structure.

Before Wilcox’s arrival, McEachran had served as editor and president – a title that gave McEachran near absolute power over everything the newspaper did, editorially and otherwise.

The Dentyne story showed that if there was a struggle between Wilcox and Peck, it wasn’t much of a difference of opinion. They essentially agreed on a newsroom strategy that continued to unfold.

Neighborly gestures

Of those at the top of the masthead, only Sanford has seen all of the changes unfold from one regime to the other.

“In terms of news, certainly the newspaper has changed dramatically under Chris,” Sanford told The Memphis News. “There have been significant changes in focus and really in newsroom culture.”

Asked to characterize whether the change has been good, bad or indifferent, Sanford said, “I’m not going to say. I’m going to let others decide that. The readers can determine that.”

Peck’s take on newsroom culture at the CA is almost as neutral.

“The culture is not one where people are necessarily beaming with big smiles every day because it’s a difficult time in the industry,” he told The Memphis News. “I think that I have tried to be very realistic with people with what’s going on in the business – and very realistic about our expectations of what we need from our staff, from my office all the way down to the last person who leaves at night.”

The Neighbors sections were abolished with Peck’s settling in – sections included every Thursday for each zone of the city that also contained honors rolls of all schools in and out of the zone, and other such listings. It had the kind of items that readers might like to cut out and post on their refrigerators. No matter where you lived in Memphis, you got a Neighbors section.

Peck wasted no time in making the refrigerator postings a rallying cry for what was to replace Neighbors. They would be hyper-local sections that would contain only news about that part of the county. Some would be written by a staffer, but most often written by citizens in that area. Often, the citizens were members of a group or organization that was the focus of the piece.

Soon the philosophy began to apply to the news that appeared in other parts of the particular delivery zone.

Not every section of the city got a suburban edition. Vast sections of North and South Memphis as well as Frayser and Raleigh were out of the loop.

Peck first pleaded ignorance to and has since repeatedly denied a central tenet of life in Memphis. Memphians often have family that might live in another part of town. Thus someone Downtown might want to see the honor roll of Tara Oaks Elementary School in Collierville or someone in Bartlett might be interested in what is happening in Arlington.

This often led to readers wondering what they missed in other parts of the city, and being suspicious of only receiving certain news.

New suburban bureaus were opened as full-time postings in Mississippi and Arkansas and state Capitol coverage from Jackson and Little Rock, respectively, was abandoned. Meanwhile, the newspaper’s greatest success in a suburban edition was being changed to make it fit the cookie-cutter mold of the new suburban bureaus.

Escape hatch

The newspaper’s DeSoto County edition opened late in McEachran’s tenure. It was one of the few times McEachran talked about marketing studies as he explained a concept to the newsroom. But it was because the data were clear.

DeSoto County readers wanted a newspaper that covered North Mississippi and did not mention Memphis, at least on the front page. The DeSoto County bureau had a separate sales and management staff. And the CA edition delivered in DeSoto County had its own front page that was DeSoto County-centric. It was even called The DeSoto Appeal. And it was a hit out of the box, with plans to duplicate the model in Tipton County while maintaining a different model within Shelby County because of the differences in attitudes clearly shown in the marketing study.

Peck wasn’t interested in the distinction.

When Pepe arrived as publisher in late 2005, the CA got someone with experience in such suburban editions. Pepe came to Memphis from St. Louis, where he headed the Suburban Journals – a collection of 38 weekly community newspapers.

Pepe said the CA’s suburban business strategy as modified several times over has worked. That strategy is to get advertising from small businesses in the community receiving the directed section – businesses whose reach and revenue can’t sustain a pitch to the paper’s larger audience.

“In St. Louis, they’ve been in place for 50 years,” Pepe said. “So they were humming. Here, we’ve had them in place for three or four years. I would suggest that if we’d not done this, that we would have even greater financial problems, only because the dependency on the larger advertisers would have been even greater than it is.”

“Zoning,” as it’s called, is now a three-day-a-week proposition.

“We still do zoning Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. We have a suburban, urban and a DeSoto zone. I think that’s where we need to be,” Peck said. “What we’re trying to do is balance the best of both worlds. Make sure our readers have the best of what’s going on in greater Memphis, but that we also provide a degree of zone content that is either geared toward the metro area, the suburbs or DeSoto County.”

But the practice has been much different than the theory behind the advertising and the needs of news consumers. As valued as the suburban coverage has been throughout Peck’s tenure, the bureaus have been places where reporters with troublesome attitudes toward editors have been exiled.

It was the next destination for many of those summoned for personal meetings with Peck as the first round of buyouts began in late 2003. In some cases, reporters have welcomed the assignment to be able to get out of the Downtown newsroom.

In the doghouse

The first round of buyouts under Peck in 2003 was brutal – even more ham-handed and graceless than anyone imagined possible. And the CA is not an organization noted for having an optimistic outlook.

All employees who were older than 40 and had been at the company 20 years or more got packets outlining the terms of the buyout. But within that group, Peck singled out about a dozen copy editors, reporters and photographers, including some of the most senior reporters and photographers in the organization. He had already begun discussions with several in the group who had been ill or had surgery.

Each got an e-mail from Peck asking if they had a few minutes to talk in his office. Peck would later quarrel with an assertion that he had threatened those in the group in the one-on-one talks. But he did tell each of them that if they didn’t take the buyout, they would be assigned more onerous duties.

One was told that if he didn’t take the buyout, he would be working nights and weekends. When the employee said he already worked nights and weekends, the meeting ended abruptly. A features reporter and another reporter each were told they would be working the night cops beat if they didn’t accept the buyouts.

The night shift started at 4:30 p.m. and ran until 1 a.m. or so. It involved listening to a police scanner and checking for such news that had to be written on deadline. The night cops reporter is the only news reporter on duty at the paper after 5p.m. unless there’s a late City Council meeting or someone on dayside decides they are on a roll and continues working.

Most papers have the night cops beat, and it is usually where beginning reporters start. It’s a good way to learn the basics of print reporting and determine whether a reporter can hold up under deadline pressure. At the CA, it is a beat assigned to reporters who are out of favor – firmly, decisively and usually terminally out of favor.

Under Peck, even summer interns don’t have to work night cops.

The Newspaper Guild, the union that represents reporters, photographers and copy editors, took the unusual move of passing a resolution that complained about Peck’s singling out employees. The same day the union passed the resolution, Peck called into his office the reporter who had made the proposal. I was that employee.

“I would really like for this not to find its way to Cincinnati,” was his reaction after he quarreled over whether his other talks with employees had amounted to threats.

The guild membership had voted unanimously for the resolution to be sent to Scripps management in Cincinnati. Peck later talked union leaders out of sending it, despite the membership vote.

Some of the squeezed employees took the buyout. Others stayed and were shuffled out to the suburban bureaus the following August, and were among those laid off this past March.

‘Treacherous ground’

The guild’s idea of a protest was to have reporters in the newsroom wear green on certain days of the week. This signaled that contract negotiations weren’t going well or weren’t going at all.

It’s been six years since the last labor contract expired that included guaranteed annual raises. Then the guild went to the idea of wearing green buttons – no words on the buttons, just green buttons that Scripps brass in town would see during their visits to Memphis. The brass never got near the newsroom. Still later, the guild kept the idea of the green color scheme but added the wording “We All Merit A Raise” to protest the company’s proposal of merit pay raises instead of a percentage raise guaranteed in the contract.

At one point, the guild was optimistic that the company was getting the message. So the guild urged members not to file grievances against management to keep the goodwill going.

In October 2007, the most visible sign of dissent in years came outside the framework of the guild and stalled contract talks. As the CA prepared to publish a series of articles on the impact of Memphis businesses around the world, a lead piece about FedEx to be sponsored by FedEx was ordered rewritten and the reporter, Trevor Aaronson, refused. The newspaper had approached FedEx about sponsoring that particular piece. Dozens of staff members, in a rare public move, signed a petition objecting to the practice Peck referred to as “monetizing content.” They felt it crossed the line separating the editorial part of the newspaper from sales. National trade magazines and blogs, which normally overlook the CA, took note of the flap.

Peck retreated, telling Editor & Publisher, a print trade magazine, “I went to our publisher and said, ‘We have probably gone half a step more than we should have gone on this project.’ It is treacherous ground when you start talking about having an advertiser in a section that has them in the reporting.”

Aaronson later left the CA, but has been quoted as saying he enjoyed the freedom he was given to pursue his own interests.

“I don’t care to talk about my experiences there,” Aaronson wrote in an e-mail.

The favored few

The stage for the latest round of layoffs that came in April was set with the release of fourth-quarter figures for Scripps.

Profits were way down. The chain ended the year with its share prices down 51 percent or $22. The chain announced it would freeze the pension plan, cutting 401(k) matching funds from the company. At the CA, the 401(k) match has always only applied to managers.

Mark Watson, head of the triumvirate of labor unions at the CA, including The Newspaper Guild, broke the news about the layoffs, calling it a “crisi-tunity.” He was among those laid off weeks later.

The weekend after the announcement, Peck in his Sunday column once again lectured about the hard economic times.

From the start, Peck’s quest was to garner favorable attention within the city and in journalism circles across the country by winning awards. At first, he touted every award the paper won, which, for writing and reporting, were usually the monthly Scripps awards from the home office in Cincinnati.

But he later reversed that and said the paper should note only awards of national stature. Photographers regularly won those, but reporters didn’t.

When some reporters complained their work was always excluded from consideration, Peck directed that reporters submit on a monthly basis any work they wanted to be considered for award entries.

Those suggestions were then forwarded to the very editors who had been excluding their work in the first place and who remained in control of contest entries.

Like other newspapers, the CA’s approach to awards is sometimes to deem a story to be eligible for an award, possibly before the first interview is done or the first word is written.

But a contest entry had to have the right byline as well – the right reporter doing a story for a contest was usually not the one covering the beat from which the story arose.

Pamela Perkins, who left the paper voluntary in the November 2008 round of layoffs, along with music writer Bill Ellis, who left in 2005, won a national award in 2004 from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri for their continuing coverage of the return of Stax Records and the surrounding Soulsville neighborhood in South Memphis. Their writing won first place in the arts and entertainment category of the Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards.

There was no companywide e-mail congratulating them as there had been for awards in the monthly Scripps competition.

Stephen Price’s work as one of several reporters working on the deadly shooting of a child on Rosamond Avenue in 2002 caught the attention of Florida’s Poynter Institute, a leading journalism think tank. Other reporters deemed more worthy were praised the next day in the inevitable self-congratulatory e-mail in which management separated those it favored from those it didn’t.

Price had blended into the neighborhood crowd as police cleared reporters from the area, came back with the story no one else had and wrote it on deadline.

The Poynter Institute carries a lot of weight in Peck’s newspaper philosophy. Several times, he’s used Poynter fellows to mediate discussions with community leaders about the newspaper’s policies. But when Price’s account of the shooting aftermath in the Rosamond neighborhood was reprinted in Poynter’s annual anthology of the nation’s best journalism of the past year, CA management once again did not acknowledge the accolade.

Curious ideas

As the 2004 presidential season began, Peck revealed an important part of his views on political coverage to an editors’ forum in Washington. It was the same night as the Iowa caucuses.

The remarks to the American Press Institute gathering didn’t get much publicity, even after they showed up on an industry blog. It took a few more months. He never said anything about it to anyone who worked at the CA.

Peck said having reporters cover campaign events was a waste of time and resources. Instead, he said citizen journalists should cover the events – those who were already going to attend the rallies anyway.

“We have to get over the notion that we have to do it all ourselves,” he told Chad Capellman of API as he talked of having editors find volunteers to write summaries of what was said. “It’s not doing the democracy any good to send out a reporter to write down a regurgitation of what a candidate is saying in a staged event.”

Peck also said newspapers should compete with comedy shows such as “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live” as a source of political information. Also, Peck called for focus groups of readers to determine what issues should be discussed.

“Don’t let the candidates drive coverage of the three issues they want to ride to get elected,” he told the API group.

Being the newspaper’s political reporter had been a difficult posting for some time, even before Peck arrived in Memphis. Bernsen had a checkered history of political coverage that turned into a deep distrust and contempt for politics when he became the head of Metro.

Each election season he would dutifully call those assigned to political coverage to his office and haul out a set of his own news clippings, which he said illustrated the kind of reporting he wanted. Under no circumstances, he insisted, would the candidates be setting the agenda for the newspaper’s coverage.

Such tension is normal in the planning of most media coverage of politics. It’s a game candidates, their representatives and the reporters who cover them play constantly.

Bernsen’s decision was not to play the game at all. He did not want coverage of campaign events and rallies. And the end of an election meant the end of political coverage. Any attempt a candidate made to establish or give voice to an issue was uniformly rejected even if it obviously hit a nerve with voters. To him, the whole process was rigged and the newspaper’s view was the only valid one.

There was supposed to be a wall between the reporting that was allowed on the political process and the endorsements of candidates that the CA editorial board made. Most candidates interested in the newspaper’s endorsement never believed there was a wall. If there was, they reasoned, editors not on the board would still find a way to limit or tilt coverage of those who weren’t endorsed.

Prism of perception

The CA began 2009 with a curious 15-part series that recapped the public life of Mayor Willie Herenton.

Herenton has had problems with the newspaper throughout that public life. And similarly, the newspaper’s leadership has had problems seeing straight when the subject was Willie Herenton.

The paper’s until then consistent political coverage was missing in action when Herenton launched a surprisingly strong-willed bid for mayor in 1991. Editorially, the newspaper had strong reservations about the People’s Convention that Herenton took by storm, clearing the first political obstacle in what became a historic campaign.

His willingness to participate in the convention, whose goal was to come up with a consensus black challenger to incumbent Dick Hackett, put off those in the newspaper’s front office. It translated to next to no coverage of a campaign effort that was on the streets every day, while Hackett pursued the local equivalent of a rose garden strategy of speaking to small groups at select backyard parties.

When Herenton won, the ambivalence turned into hostility.

Herenton had a good relationship with several reporters who had covered his tenure as city schools superintendent – even through the sexual harassment lawsuit that came near the end of his tenure there and just before his entry into the 1991 mayor’s race. (The harassment case stemmed from a relationship Herenton had with a teacher.)

Those reporters had to walk a fine line. A favorable comment by Herenton in public that got back to editors could mean that reporter would be perceived as biased toward Herenton. The problem many reporters had with walking the tightrope was editors increasingly viewed a reporter’s duty to the paper as a requirement to shank their sources in print to show where their loyalties lay.

The editors were convinced a 2005 recall petition mounted by radio talk show host and blogger Thaddeus Matthews would succeed. They considered it a foregone conclusion that Matthews would gather more than enough signatures on the petitions and do it well before the deadline to file with the Shelby County Election Commission.

The newspaper’s planned coverage moved past the recall drive itself. The editors ordered up a piece on who was likely to run in the recall election that followed. They approached at least two reporters with the task before the effort flagged just enough for the piece to become an article on who might run for city mayor in 2007.

The fact that politicos across the city were still waiting to see if the 2006 county elections would offer any opportunities didn’t cross their minds. Calls to those politicos were met with widespread laughter and wonderment at the eccentric methods afoot at the CA. The petition drive failed and Matthews backed Herenton’s 2007 bid for re-election.

Distance learning

By this past February, CA management signed off on a content-sharing agreement with fellow Scripps paper The Knoxville News Sentinel, as well as The Tennesseean newspaper in Nashville and the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Feb. 5 agreement was already in effect by the time an internal memo from News Sentinel management surfaced in early March in Editor & Publisher.

The CA and the Knoxville newspaper had used such a strategy for years in covering politics. The result was that the CA continued to do without any local political coverage beyond biographical pieces introducing candidates.

Statewide races for governor and the U.S. Senate were covered from Knoxville or by the CA’s Nashville bureau chief, Richard Locker, or in some cases by Bartholomew Sullivan, a former CA reporter who now works for the Scripps News Service’s Washington bureau. That meant candidates for statewide office coming to Memphis were usually covered before they got to the city or after they left.

The agreement was most visible during the 2006 U.S. Senate race between Republican Bob Corker of Chattanooga and Democrat Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis. One of the campaign’s crucial events was a showdown between the two at Memphis International Airport.

Corker had called a press conference there. Ford crashed the event ahead of time and the two faced off in the airport parking lot – a few inches from each other with television cameras and microphones surrounding them.

There was no CA reporter in the press pack. Sullivan covered what became known as the “parking lot debate” from the D.C. bureau.

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