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Editorial Results (free)

1. Wells Joins Evans Petree as Associate -

Julie Wells has joined Evans Petree PC as an associate in the East Memphis office, focusing her practice in health care law and general business matters. She previously worked at Baptist Medical Group, where she played an integral role in physician practice acquisitions and contractual-related matters.

2. Bell Joins First State Bank as Commercial Loan Officer -

Jonathan Bell has joined First State Bank as vice president/commercial loan officer. Bell, who has more than 13 years of experience in the banking industry, will provide banking services for businesses in Collierville and the surrounding area.

3. Council Hears More on Police and Fire Budget Decisions -

Memphis City Council member got deeper Tuesday, Feb. 4, into the specifics of Memphis Police and Fire Department budget decisions.

But they didn’t get a clearer picture of what the direction forward will be as they and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. prepare to make some hard decisions about public safety in dealing with the city’s unfunded pension liability.

4. Baptist CEO Set to Retire Next May -

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. President and CEO Stephen Reynolds will retire next May, with Jason Little, Baptist’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, taking over as the hospital system’s next president and CEO.

5. Commercial Real Estate Market Reawakens -

After suffering through a prolonged slump, the Memphis commercial real estate market this year began to shake off the rust that gathered during the “Great Recession,” and brighter days could be ahead for the prime markets in the apartment, retail, office and industrial sectors, according to local experts.

6. Inman Joins Next Day Access as Franchise Manager -

Greg Inman has joined accessibilities solutions provider Next Day Access as franchise manager for the Memphis office, where he will supervise sales, marketing, service management and hiring. Next Day Access offers wheelchair ramps, stair lifts, bathroom safety products and other accessibility products for people with disabilities or accessibility challenges.

7. Race for the Cure Ready at New Home -

Participants in Saturday’s Komen Memphis-MidSouth Race for the Cure will see some significant changes this year.

One of them will be a change of scenery. After 20 years at The Shops of Saddle Creek in Germantown, the race is moving to Carriage Crossing in Collierville.

8. Catholic Charities Launches Program For Homeless Veterans -

This month Catholic Charities of West Tennessee launches a new program called St. Sebastian Veteran Services to provide critical assistance to homeless veterans and their families and to those facing imminent eviction or foreclosure.

9. Chisley Named CEO of Methodist North Hospital -

Gyasi C. Chisley has joined Methodist North Hospital as CEO. In his new role, Chisley will lead thousands of associates and aligned and contracted medical staff. He says that as health care transitions from volume to value, his platform is to grow outpatient practices, physicians and services while creating a viable patient-centered environment.

10. Woeppel Named CEO of UT Medical Group -

Charles “Chuck” Woeppel has been named chief executive officer of UT Medical Group Inc. Woeppel, who has served as the organization’s chief operating officer since 2012, will also continue in that role.

11. Commission Weighs Fire and Ambulance District Legislation -

Shelby County Commissioners may go to Nashville with the new year, seeking state legislation to create a utility board and district for fire and ambulance service in unincorporated Shelby County, Lakeland, Arlington and Millington.

12. Second-Quarter Bankruptcies Up 2.3 Percent -

The second quarter of 2013 showed a slight boost in West Tennessee bankruptcy filings as consumers who couldn’t pay off debt accumulated in late 2012 filed for bankruptcy.

All chapters combined – Chapters 7, 11 and 13 – climbed to 3,164 Shelby County bankruptcies for the three-month period ended June 30, up 2.3 percent from 3,093 bankruptcies filed during the same three-month period in 2012, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

13. Propelling City Forward Bloodworth’s Design Goal -

As he grew up in Memphis, Russell E. “Rusty” Bloodworth was fascinated by art, design and the use of space.

As a young boy his appetite for creation – through art and using household materials to build little communities – grew.

14. Harold Ford Sr. Buys Sycamore View Property -

1670 Sycamore View Road Memphis, TN 38134

Sale Amount: $1.8 million

Sale Date: April 8, 2013

15. Baptist Medical Group Buys Collierville Center -

Baptist Memorial Medical Group Inc. has paid $4.4 million for the 39,635-square-foot medical office building at 400 E. Market Blvd. in Collierville.

16. Kelsey: State Confirms Six-Year Auto Inspection Timeframe -

Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown says he is confident Shelby County vehicle owners outside Memphis won’t have to go through auto inspections for another six years.

17. 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.

18. Apperson Crump Expands in Triad III -

Memphis’ oldest continuously practicing law firm is expanding its presence in Triad III.

Apperson Crump PLC added 2,037 square feet to its seventh floor space in a vacant adjacent area between Silverleafe Capital Partners LLC.

19. Masson Named Senior Director at Caissa -

Rick Masson has joined Caissa Public Strategy as senior director. Masson, former chief administrative office for the city of Memphis, was also recently named special master to oversee the city-county schools merger. (For details, see the Monday, March 11, edition of The Daily News.) In his new role at Caissa, Masson will provide consultation and leadership on business development and project management.

20. Events -

The University of Memphis will screen “Duty of the Hour,” a documentary about Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Monday, Feb. 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the Michael D. Rose Theatre on campus, 470 University St. Cost is free. Visit memphis.edu.

21. Events -

Nike Inc. will host construction symposiums for locally owned small, women-owned and minority businesses Thursday, Feb. 7, and Friday, Feb. 8, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the U of M Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, 1 N. Front St. Attendees will learn about construction opportunities at Nike’s Memphis expansion. R.S.V.P. to Brenda Montgomery at bmontgomery@memphischamber.com or 543-3500.

22. Health Care Alignment Trend Accelerates -

The trend for alignment between hospital systems and private physicians hit the Mid-South in mid-2010 and has gained momentum since.

The area’s three major hospital systems – Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Saint Francis Healthcare – are padding their physician rosters with primary care doctors and specialists by acquiring practices in strategic locations throughout the Memphis market.

23. Midtown Momentum -

The Midtown real estate market has long been an anomaly compared to its Bluff City counterparts, with fundamentals as diverse as its demographics.

“The types of real estate that you’ll find in Midtown can be some of the most expensive or some of the most modest when it comes to prices and facility,” said Gary Myers of Gary Myers Co. “Retail in particular.”

24. Gammon Joins Methodist in Business Development -

Myra Gammon has joined Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare as a business development account manager for Community Care Associates. In her new role, Gammon is responsible for the development and management of the Occupational Health and Wellness Services program.

25. MED Buys East Memphis Land for $3.4 Million -

6525 Quince Road Memphis, TN 38119

Sale Amount: $3.4 million

Sale Date: Nov. 16, 2012

26. $3.5 Million McVay Station Begins -

Three Class A speculative office buildings have broken ground in Germantown at McVay Road and Poplar Pike.

The $3.5 million development, named McVay Station Professional Center, is by Jason Speed, local developer and contractor whose claim to fame was Corporate Gardens, a $24 million, 148,000-square-foot retail and office park delivered in 2001 on 14 acres at Forest Hill Irene Road and Poplar Pike.

27. Highpoint Church Buys Briarcrest’s East Memphis Campus -

After seven years of leasing space for its worship services, Highpoint Church has acquired Briarcrest Christian School Systems Inc.’s property at 6000 Briarcrest Ave. for $7.25 million.

28. I-Bank Tower on Poplar Sells for $14.4 Million -

5050 Poplar Ave. Memphis, TN 38117

Sale Amount: $14.4 million

Sale Date: Sept. 14, 2012

29. Integrity Oncology Adapts to Rapidly Changing Industry -

Integrity Oncology PLLC continues to evolve within an ever-changing health care landscape.

Last month the practice, which operates four area locations, moved its West Memphis office to a new 2,500-square-foot, freestanding location, and it anticipates a future move of its East Memphis office into the new Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.’s $65 million comprehensive cancer treatment center that will be built by 2015.

30. Improved Flight Path -

Air medical transport service Hospital Wing has consolidated its operations under one roof with a $1.2 million renovation and expansion of its headquarters near Downtown Memphis.

“The Wing” – as the company is usually called – celebrated the completion of renovations at its Memphis base with an open house event, Tuesday, Oct. 2.

31. Tapley Ranks 13th on National List of Most Successful Realtors -

Jimmie Tapley of Crye-Leike Realtors has been named the country’s 13th most successful residential Realtor by REAL Trends Inc. and The Wall Street Journal. The ranking is based on the number of real estate agents’ closed transactions in 2011. Tapley’s sales volume for the year totaled 437 transaction sides.

32. Brown Joins REACH As Vice President -

Stephen Brown has joined REACH Human Capital as vice president of business development. In his new role, Brown will assist companies in selecting and training employees.

33. 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.

34. Raines Road Warehouse Sells for $2.3 Million -

4049 E. Raines Road
Memphis, TN 38118

Sale Amount: $2.3 million

Sale Date: Aug. 3, 2012

35. C’ville Medical Office Financed for $2.2M -

O&W Properties LLC has financed a Class A medical office located in a historic Collierville residence for $2.2 million through First Tennessee Bank NA.

36. East Joins Carriage Crossing As Marketing Coordinator -

Kendra East has joined Carriage Crossing as marketing coordinator. East’s new responsibilities include creating and implementing the lifestyle center’s yearly marketing budget, spearheading onsite events and leading merchant communication.

37. Gill Presses on Despite Enduring 4th Recession -

Ray Gill, president of Gill Properties, got into commercial real estate because of his interest in land but now wishes he’d spent some time reading palms and tarot cards.

38. Fla. Company Buys Cordova Retail Center -

Coral Springs, Fla.-based Swiss Capital Group LLC has acquired The Shops of Woodland Hills in Cordova for $3.1 million.

39. Hitting the Road -

Before Kate Hendrix of the Metropolitan Planning Organization could get started at Baker Community Center in Millington this week, a woman in the front row wanted to know where Interstate 69 would be built.

40. White Joins BankTennessee As Mortgage Specialist -

Judy Sulton White has joined BankTennessee as a mortgage loan specialist. White has worked in the mortgage industry for 30 years and will focus on new-home financing options, mortgage refinances and custom construction loans.

41. Boling Center Focuses On Autism Awareness, Help -

Since April was first designated Autism Awareness Month back in the 1970s to educate the public about autism, the numbers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has continued to grow.

42. Thorpe Products Inks New Deal On Democrat -

Thorpe Products Co. is relocating its Memphis branch location to a site with higher ceiling heights and better proximity to its clients.

43. Site Work for St. Jude Tower Part of Permit Application -

315 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN 38105

Permit Cost: $5 million

Project Cost: $190 million

44. Gastro Group Opens Office In Senatobia -

Utley Properties has closed on a flurry of deals in its Northwest Plaza Shopping Center in Senatobia in recent weeks.

Dr. Ulric Duncan of Delta Gastroenterology PC has leased 1,200 square feet of space at 113 Northwest Drive for two years.

45. Methodist Adds Another Private Practice -

In alignment with the local and national trend of health care systems partnering with physicians groups, Eastmoreland Internal Medicine is the latest practice to join the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare family.

46. Methodist, West Clinic Form Alliance -

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and The West Clinic have joined forces to create a comprehensive, fully integrated cancer service.

As part of the partnership – which was announced Friday, Oct. 28, and will take effect Jan. 1 – about 110 direct patient-care employees at The West Clinic will become Methodist Healthcare associates. Doctors and administrative staff will remain with The West Clinic.

47. Methodist, West Clinic Form Alliance -

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and The West Clinic have joined forces to create a comprehensive, fully integrated cancer service.

As part of the partnership – which was announced Friday, Oct. 28, and will take effect Jan. 1 – about 110 direct patient-care employees at The West Clinic will become Methodist Healthcare associates. Doctors and administrative staff will remain with The West Clinic. 

48. Baptist Affiliate Acquires Integrity Oncology -

Baptist Memorial Medical Group announced Wednesday the formation of Integrity Oncology Foundation, the result of the recent acquisition of Integrity Oncology, a comprehensive oncology physician practice.

49. Staying Afloat -

Compared to the overall U.S. construction landscape, Memphis’ position appears to be managing fairly well.

Within the last 10 months, the city has landed several heavy manufacturing projects – Electrolux, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. and Kruger Inc., to name a few – in a time when, nationally, the manufacturing sector is stagnant.

50. Multifamily Comeback -

With signs of resurgence in the commercial real estate industry, the multifamily sector looks to bounce back at an impressive clip.

So far this year, Memphis has seen a handful of big-ticket multifamily sales, including Preserve at Forest Creek ($45.5 million), Lynnfield Place ($22.4 million), Legends at Wolfchase ($27.8 million) and Orchards at Collierville ($15.7 million).

51. Baptist Medical Group Acquires Lung Physicians -

Baptist Memorial Medical Group (BMMG) has announced the formation of Memphis Lung Physicians Foundation, the result of the recent acquisition of Memphis Lung Physicians.

Founded in 1978, Memphis Lung Physicians has locations in Memphis, DeSoto County and Collierville.

52. Campbell Clinic Rolls Out New Identity -

An established brand in Memphis health care has undergone a makeover. Campbell Clinic, a household name in orthopedic care for more than 100 years, is introducing its new brand identity to patients and the health care industry through its website, signage and billboards.

53. Bloodworth’s Sustainability Ideal Formed at Early Age -

At a young age, Rusty Bloodworth knew he wanted to be an architect. As he matured, that passion morphed to an interest in handling more than the arrangement of buildings, but rather the design of the environment.

54. Events -

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC will present “Family and Medical Leave Act Compliance: What You Need to Know,” Thursday, June 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the law firm’s office, 165 Madison Ave., 20th floor. For more information or to register, contact rsvp@bakerdonelson.com.

55. $39 Million Permit Filed For UTHSC Research Lab -

71 S. Manassas St.
Memphis, TN 38103
Permit Amount: $39 million

Permit Date: Applied April 2011
Owner: University of Tennessee
Tenant: University of Tennessee

56. St. Francis Opens Primary Care Clinic -

St. Francis Medical Partners unveiled its new location at 452 Perkins Extended Thursday during a ribbon-cutting event.

57. Ripples From Stanford Scheme Still Felt in Memphis -

The court-appointed receiver who’s unwinding the now-defunct operations of Stanford Financial Group – once fueled by money from a giant Ponzi scheme – is preparing to sell off Stanford property in Collierville.

58. Mt. Zion Upgrades to Larger Church in Frayser -

Two Memphis area churches have closed on a deal that’s been in the pipeline for about a year and a half.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 1280 Stonewall St., bought the 36,000-square-foot church at 1621 Dellwood Ave. in Frayser from Schoolfield United Methodist Church Inc. for $500,000.

59. Forbes: Memphis Near Top for Retirement Bargains -

In the past Memphis has been named in top 10 lists for murder, obesity, lack of education and lower standards of women’s health.

But the latest top 10 ranking has the city smiling all the way to grandma’s house.

60. Medical Impact -

The Medical Education & Research Institute has evolved into one of the elite medical training facilities in the country. The center’s list of faculty and students reads like a “Who’s Who” of medicine from all over the world.

61. Baptist Forms Partnership With Stern Cardiovascular -

Consistent with a national trend of health care systems partnering with physicians groups – cardiology groups in particular – Baptist Memorial Medical Group has announced its partnership with Stern Cardiovascular Center, one of the region’s largest cardiology group practices.

62. Baptist Group Partners With Stern Cardiovascular -

Baptist Memorial Medical Group has announced a partnership with Stern Cardiovascular Center, one of the region’s largest cardiology group practices.

“We are very excited and honored to partner with a prestigious group like Stern,” said Jason Little, vice president of Baptist Memorial Health Care. “This represents the logical next step in the long rich history between our two organizations.”

63. Luke’s Tree Brings Holiday Smiles to Le Bonheur Families -

A Collierville mother who lost her child to a congenital heart defect is channeling her heartbreak into a holiday mission to bring comfort to families of children in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

64. Omni Visions Deal Headlines Leasing Activity -

Omni Visions Inc. recently signed a new lease at Kirby Gate Business Campus, 2725 Kirby Parkway, for 3,523 square feet.

65. Argo Joins Crews & Associates as Vice President -

Hayden C. Argo Jr. has joined Crews & Associates Inc. as vice president for the investment-banking firm in the Memphis market. Argo will conduct fixed income securities sales.

66. Events -

LaunchMemphis will present a seminar with author Larry Farrell Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. at EmergeMemphis, 516 Tennessee St. Farrell will speak on the topic “Iteration Trumps Perfection.” Cost is $25. To register, visit www.larryfarrellbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

67. Campbell Clinic Expands Medical Center Location -

Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics is beefing up its presence in the Memphis Medical Center.

The practice plans to start renovations in September as it expands its footprint within The Memphis Professional Building at 1211 Union Ave.

68. Charter 411 -

The metro government charter, to be voted on Nov. 2, would combine the Memphis and Shelby County governments into one new local government.

The 49-page charter is the work of the 15-member Metro Charter Commission, which began in November and completed its work just weeks ago.

69. Infection Offensive -

Tennessee has lifted a curtain of secrecy, exposing the successes and failures of Memphis hospitals in preventing bloodstream infections.

The likelihood of getting a central line-associated bloodstream infection at some area hospitals is double what it should be. Data compiled by the Tennessee Department of Health in a recent report show some hospitals have a standardized infection ratio (SIR) of 2.0 or more when the national guideline is 1.0.

70. In Search of an Oasis -

Part of the path to inner-city recovery appears to run through a garden, or at least through the produce section of a supermarket. Nine farmers markets operate in various parts of Shelby County this summer, from Downtown to Collierville and places such as Germantown, Agricenter International and Cooper-Young in between.

71. New Germantown Building Will Have Retro Look -

Officials broke ground on a new development in Germantown Tuesday that will combine turn-of-the-century architecture with state-of-art medical imaging technology.

The Salvaggio Group LLC held a ceremonial ground-breaking in a lot on Poplar Pike next to Germantown High School, the future site of the Brownstone building, which will house the corporate and clinical offices of Memphis Radiological PC.

72. U of M School of Music Appoints Rushing Director -

Dr. Randal Rushing, professor of voice and soloist of the concert and opera stage, has been appointed director for the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music at the University of Memphis. Rushing has been a faculty member at the school for 20 years.

73. Annexation Reserves Raise Concerns for Metro Charter -  

The Metro Charter Commission now has a lot of work for its drafting committee, as the group’s task forces continue to report at the body’s weekly meetings.

Still to come are the recommendations about how the services will be divided into urban and general services districts, each with their own tax rates. Those recommendations will be critical to the proposed consolidation charter.

“We’re not there yet,” commission chairwoman Julie Ellis told Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner last week as Joyner looked for some indication. “These are all of great concern to all of us.”

An urban services district would be funded by a property tax rate for people who live in Memphis.

A general services district would be funded by a property tax rate for the entire county, including Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington.

Joyner is among those most concerned about where the money will come from to pay for those services.

“Two-percent of our population uses any service that is offered by the health department – 2 percent,” Joyner said as charter commissioners brought up county services used by Collierville residents. “(Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division) – but we pay handsomely for that.”

Afterward, Joyner questioned how to prevent a metro council from taxing Collierville residents beyond what they actually use.

“They can do it now, though,” argued Charter commissioner Chris Patterson, who said Collierville residents now pay for more than the services they use from county government. “It’s the same animal.”

Joyner and other suburban leaders argue they should be taxed depending on how much their residents use facilities like The Regional Medical Center at Memphis and the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department.

Consolidation proponents, however, argue The MED and the health department are countywide services that should be funded by all county taxpayers because the services are available to all county residents.

Meanwhile, the commission has tentatively approved seven recommendations from a task force on central support services.

The recommendations would establish departments within a metro government for building security, fleet management, printing and local government property maintenance.

All recommendations go to a drafting committee that will craft charter language and then take the written provisions back to the charter commission for votes on the language as well as the general idea.

Charter Commissioner Damon Griffin, who headed the support services task force, said the departments would not be full-fledged city divisions with directors appointed by the metro mayor and a tier of deputy directors. Each might have two or three employees and then outsource some work.

The task force recommendations approved by the Charter Commission also call for:

  • A chief information officer, appointed by the metro mayor, to oversee all IT operations.
  • A metro public information office to be part of the executive powers of the metro mayor. The office would serve as the spokesman for all parts of a consolidated local government and not just individual offices or departments.
  • Consolidated purchasing services as part of the department of finance and administration.

The charter proposal is due to be completed by mid-August with a vote on the November ballot.

...

74. Commission Races Hinge on Public Issues -

Two issues figure in to the 11 competitive races for the Shelby County Commission – the future of the Regional Medical Center and local government consolidation.

Any push card for a credible candidate includes either something about how to save The MED or the candidate’s opposition to consolidation – or both.

75. American Esoteric Laboratories Buys Land for New Headquarters -

1701 Century Center Parkway
Memphis, TN 38134
Sale Amount: $2 Million

Sale Date: March 18, 2010
Buyer: Memphis Pathology Laboratory/American Esoteric Laboratories
Seller: Whitten Partnership Ltd.

76. Events -

Methodist Hospice will host the Hospice Foundation of America’s 17th annual “Living with Grief” teleconference today from noon to 3 p.m. at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital-Medical Auditorium, 50 N. Dunlap St. The conference will focus on cancer and end-of-life care. For more information or to register, call Lettie Blundon at 516-1744.

77. Collierville Medical Files $3.1 Million Loan -

Collierville Medical Center LLC has filed a $3.1 million loan through IBERIABANK on its 39,635-square-foot office medical building at 400 E. Market Blvd. in Collierville.

78. 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.

79. 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.

80. Ford Remains Coy as Candidate Field Forms -

Interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford continued to weigh his political options over the weekend as other contenders on the May and August ballots prepared to take their campaigns to the streets.

81. Ford Considers County Mayoral Run -

Interim Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford is moving closer to a run for the office in the 2010 elections. Ford told The Daily News citizens have urged him to run since he took the job on an interim basis in December.

82. 2010 -

Is it over yet? That may be the most frequently asked question in the New Year. “It” is the worst national economic recession since the Great Depression.

Accurately reading the indicators will not be easy. Some will predict the recession is about to end, just as new indicators point to continuing economic agony for thousands of Memphians.

83. Let Us Peer Into Our Crystal Ball For What’s Ahead This Year -

2009 was the first full calendar year for The Memphis News. Looking back at the covers of those 51 issues, it’s easy to see that Memphis is at an important point in its history once again.

We began the year exploring the role of megachurches in our community. Near the end of the year, we covered the industrial megasite in nearby Haywood County.

84. Renal Company Sells Clinic, Leases It Back From New Owner -

4185 Pace Road
Memphis, TN 38116
Sale Amount: $2 Million

Sale Date: Dec. 17, 2009
Buyer: BanBan South Memphis LLC
Seller: RAI II LLC
Loan Amount: $1.5 million
Loan Date: Dec. 15, 2009
Maturity Date: March 7, 2011
Lender: First Security Bank

85. Wright Medical Buys Arlington Bldg. For Distribution Needs -

11481 Gulf Stream Ave.
Arlington, TN 38002
Sale Amount: $1.6 Million

Sale Date: Oct. 29, 2009
Buyer: Wright Medical Technology Inc.
Seller: Covington Furniture Manufacturing Co.
Details:  Wright Medical Group Inc. has bought a 56,340-square-foot building at 11481 Gulf Stream Ave. near its Arlington campus to increase distribution capacity. Operating in the transaction as Wright Medical Technology Inc., the company paid $1.6 million for the building, which was completed in 1973 and sits on 4.29 acres near the intersection of Tenn. 385 and U.S. 70.

86. Commission Expected to Choose County Mayor -  

This could take awhile.

Among the items on today’s Shelby County Commission agenda is the appointment of a mayor to serve the remaining 10 months left in the term of A C Wharton Jr. Wharton became Memphis mayor in the Oct. 15 special election to replace Willie Herenton, who retired in July.

The meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Three Shelby County commissioners and a former suburban mayor are vying for the appointment to serve as the next Shelby County mayor.

They are County Commissioners J.W. Gibson, Joe Ford and George Flinn and former Collierville Mayor Linda Kerley.

The Daily News will tweet the outcome this afternoon and a full account will be posted later today at The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

Commission Chairwoman Joyce Avery is serving as mayor for up to 45 days. She is not among the four contenders who filed an application and underwent a background check.

Issues to consider

Each of the four contenders identified the financial crisis at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis as a top priority if they are selected. All said they would not be a candidate in the 2010 county elections. Flinn qualified that slightly by saying he would not run in 2010 if he wins the appointment.

“The biggest challenge facing this interim mayor will be The MED,” said Flinn, who is a physician and radiologist. “Closure or scaling back of The MED will be devastating to the community as a whole.

“Yet, we know our severe limitations financially in the county. This is a serious challenge and I’m the only one here with 35 years of medical experience … to meet this.”

Gibson also accented his business acumen as CEO of Gibson Cos., which includes a commercial printing operation, land development services and a wholesale medical supply company.

“I would like to deal with trying to stabilize the Regional Medical Center,” Gibson said as he also talked of improving the access locally owned small businesses have to government contracts and to economic growth in general.

Gibson was appointed to the Metro Charter Commission, and reaffirmed last week what he said in October when his appointment was confirmed by the County Commission. He will resign the charter commission position if he wins the appointment as county mayor.

Ford, who is the longest-serving member of the current commission, talked of his reluctance to seek elected office despite being part of the city’s best-known political family. He retired in 2008 from the family business, N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home, and started his own funeral home that same year.

“I had no desire to be in politics,” the 11th of 12 Ford children said as he outlined his bid for the Memphis City Council seat his late brother James Ford gave up when elected to the County Commission. “The citizens in the district came to me … and said, ‘You’ve got to run.’”

Kerley opted not to seek re-election as mayor of Collierville in 2008, saying she needed to devote more time to her real estate company during the recession.

Like Ford, Kerley said she was approached about seeking the appointment and initially said no.

“But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I might be an alternate choice to have as a temporary solution,” she said.

Partisan politics

There are a few parliamentary wrinkles going into today’s decision.

It will take seven votes for someone to claim the county mayor’s office. But the three commissioners seeking the job won’t be able to vote even if they are eliminated over several rounds of voting. The ruling by Assistant County Attorney and parliamentarian Christy Kinard means the winner will have to get seven of nine available votes on the commission if all three commissioners stay in the running.

Picking one of the three commissioners also would mean the commission would then have to fill a vacant seat on the body as well.

Kerley touted her experience running the thriving suburb.

Kerley’s name was among those considered by the commission earlier this year for a vacancy on the County Commission that ultimately went to Democrat Matt Kuhn.

Democratic backers of Kerley identified her as a Republican, but that didn’t draw enough Republican support for her to claim the seat in predominantly Republican commission District 4.

“I do miss it. I didn’t think I would,” Kerley said of the practice of politics as she talked of her partisan political identity. “I’ve been called a Democrat by Republicans and a Republican by Democrats. I’m not a card-carrying anything. … I never thought it was fair for me to join any party since I could not give my total support to that party. I wanted to be very clear about that.”

Kerley estimated she has voted for Republican candidates approximately 95 percent of the time.

The distinction is important because unlike Memphis and Collierville municipal elections, county elections for non-judicial offices feature partisan primaries before general elections. The primaries apply to commission races as well. Flinn is a Republican. Gibson and Ford are Democrats.

...

87. Retirement Cos. Continues Work on Collierville Facility -

Memphis-based Retirement Companies of America LLC has taken another step in its plan to bring a retirement development called The Farms at Bailey Station to South Houston Levee Road in Collierville.

88. Ike’s Plans Expansion to Collierville -

A 10,000-square-foot Ike’s drugstore is coming to West Poplar Avenue in Collierville now that the Arkansas-based company that owns and operates the chain has bought the land and announced plans to begin building after the start of the new year.

89. Events -

The First Tee of Memphis/Mid-South Junior Golf Association will hold the Bennie Minor Golf Tournament today at 1 p.m. at Galloway Golf Course, 3815 Walnut Grove Road. The proceeds will benefit First Tee of Memphis. Cost is $750 for a three-person team. For more information, call 744-0333.

90. Service First: Nonprofit orgs struggle to balance client needs with funding shortages -

Rahema Barber gazed into the void of the Power House. It looked as though all the art had been wiped away: blank walls, empty rooms and silent space.

What had been a center of creative energy was about to become a shuttered building once again – just six years after the nonprofit Delta Axis had transformed the old coal plant into a venue for contemporary art and film.

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. Braking Point: Inside MATA's identity crisis -

The bus system in Memphis has an undeserved “mythology,” according to the people who run it. However, some who ride Memphis Area Transit Authority buses everyday – and many who don’t – contend the system is far from perfect.

93. A New Day for King Cotton: Biotech and agribusiness redefine themselves -

If you’re in the right place at the right time during May, you might glimpse a motorcade cutting through mid-day traffic, followed by a green bus with a big papier-mache boll weevil on top. Nothing hints at Memphis’ agribusiness roots like that longtime foe of the cotton plant.

94. County Mobilizes Against Swine Flu -

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has detected swine flu in Shelby County, giving local officials a head start toward fighting the spread of the virus, and has begun efforts to develop a vaccine for global use.

95. Shelby County Deals With First Swine Flu Case -

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has detected swine flu in Shelby County, giving local officials a head start toward fighting the spread of the virus, and has begun efforts to develop a vaccine for global use.

96. 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.

...

97. Events -

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners will meet today at 1:30 p.m. in the commission chambers, 160 N. Main St. For more information, call Steve Summerall at 545-4301.

98. Wharton: Don’t Divert Stimulus Money From County -

Almost as important as the amount of money city and county leaders hope to get from the new presidential administration is how the money reaches Shelby County.

The money is from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus proposal. Memphis and Shelby County government, as well as all six of Shelby County’s suburban municipalities, are putting together wish lists of projects that could qualify for the funding.

99. Church Health Center Sees Growing Demand -

More patients from more diverse backgrounds are calling on the Church Health Center as people lose insurance because of the economic downturn.

The nonprofit organization, which provides medical services to working people without health insurance, has experienced a 70 percent increase in new patient orientations from a year ago, said Marvin Stockwell, public relations manager for the CHC.

100. Landmark Community Bank Names Newell Chairman of Board -

Chuck Newell has been elected chairman of the board of directors of Landmark Community Bank and will be based in Landmark’s Collierville branch.

Newell brings more than 28 years of banking experience to the board and currently serves as the president and CEO of Merchants and Planters Bancshares.