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Editorial Results (free)

1. Drake Cleaners Presses On as It Nears Century Mark -

Every day, tens of thousands of motorists on Poplar Avenue’s Midtown leg drive past a longstanding landmark near the neon satellite sign for Joe’s Liquors. It’s on the other side of Poplar, on the northern border of a parking lot at Evergreen Street.

2. 8 Ways to Protect Your Online Identity -

Each year, millions of Americans are victims of data breaches. Credit card fraud alone has affected 41 percent of consumers over the last five years, according to Aite Group's 2014 Global Consumer Fraud Survey.

3. New Goodwill Location Opens in Midtown -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. has opened its newest Attended Donation Center & Bookstore in Midtown, at 651 N. McLean Blvd. next to Dino’s Grill and Café Eclectic.

4. New Goodwill Location Opens in Midtown -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. has opened its newest Attended Donation Center & Bookstore in Midtown, at 651 N. McLean Blvd. next to Dino’s Grill and Café Eclectic.

5. Goodwill Center Helps Job Seekers Reclaim Dreams -

The event was held in the shadow of the shuttered Raleigh Springs Mall, in the expanded section of the Goodwill store at 3830 Austin Peay Highway. It was the grand opening of the Goodwill Job Center.

6. New Business Helps Clients Organize Homes, Lives -

When Amy Tuggle and her mother, Fran Cutshall, moved to Memphis from St. Louis recently they each decided to make a career change.

7. Lehman-Roberts’ Longevity Paved by Family Ownership -

Lehman-Roberts Co. is a highway paving contractor that president Patrick Nelson regards with the kind of pride that might at first seem out of place for work that involves asphalt and roadwork.

8. ‘A Step Closer’ -

The general contractor for the Crosstown redevelopment project recently applied for three building permits totaling $115.3 million as the development team approaches a key period for financing the ambitious project.

9. Ride-Sharing Services Launch in Memphis -

Competing ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber have landed in Memphis.

The services, which have been popular in bigger markets, announced in recent days their respective expansions into new markets, including Memphis.

10. Caissa Public Strategy Opens DC Office -

Fueled by a demand for the specialized services it provides, Memphis-based consulting firm Caissa Public Strategy has expanded with the opening of a new office in the nation’s capital.

Caissa founder Brian Stephens said the reason for the expansion there isn’t necessarily obvious. Caissa didn’t hang out its shingle in Washington to focus on landing new work there – instead, the new office is intended to help Caissa have better relationships with its clients there who need work done in the South.

11. Park Expresses Purposeful Giving in Book -

Whether it’s on television, on the radio, in print or around town, Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club President Jeremy Park seems to be everywhere, and a quick scan of his professional history reveals a similarly expansive career.

12. Crosstown Construction Bidding Process Underway -

Construction documents for the ambitious Sears Crosstown redevelopment project have hit the street.

Memphis-based Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. is serving as the general contractor for the $180 million project, and bids for subcontracting work on everything from electrical systems to plumbing went out this week.

13. Dickerson to Carry Tradition of Service as Young Lawyers Division President -

Jake Dickerson, associate with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, is the incoming 2014 president for the Young Lawyers Division of the Memphis Bar Association.

The division arranges and hosts continuing legal education seminars, networking events, pro bono opportunities and fundraisers such as the annual golf tournament benefiting the Porter Goodwill Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis. MBA members 36 years or younger, or within their first three years of practice, are automatically members of the division.

14. Events -

The Shelby County Trustee’s Office will host a “Home Sweet Home” workshop for seniors Monday, Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Goodwill Senior Center, 163 W. Raines Road. Trustee staff will provide information on senior property taxes and how to effectively pass property to heirs. Cost is free. Visit shelbycountytrustee.com.

15. Events -

Ignite Memphis, Vol. 6, will be held Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Crosstown Arts, 430 N. Cleveland St. Twelve Memphians will enlighten attendees on a variety of topics via five-minute, 20-slide presentations. Cost is $15. Visit ignitememphis.com.

16. ServiceMaster to Spin Off Struggling TruGreen -

The ServiceMaster Co. plans to spin off its TruGreen lawn care business at the end of 2013 after several years in which the Memphis-based collection of residential- and commercial-services companies has struggled with the right business model for the TruGreen brand.

17. FBI Promotes McCall to Special Agent in Charge -

A. Todd McCall has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis division, one of the bureau’s 56 field offices nationwide. McCall, who most recently served as chief of the digital forensics and analysis section in the Operational Technology Division, is now responsible for the management and oversight of more than 200 personnel and all investigative matters under the FBI’s jurisdiction spanning from Memphis to Cookeville, Tenn.

18. Former Theater Site Heads to Auction Block -

The Internal Revenue Service is auctioning a Midtown building with an interesting history.

On Friday, Aug. 9, at the Shelby County Courthouse, the IRS will auction the building and a vacant lot at 319 Dr. M. L. King Jr. Drive and 323 Dr. M. L. King Jr. Drive. The minimum bid the IRS is seeking is $12,356. The IRS seized the building for nonpayment of IRS taxes due from Faith Village.

19. Boys & Girls Clubs Brings After-School Focus -

Editor’s Note: Part of a series about the “Our Children. Our Success.” campaign. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis intend to keep familiar elements for children and parents in the coming school year with after-school programs as well as tutoring.

20. Literacy Mid-South Joins ‘Our Children. Our Success.’ -

Editor’s Note: Part of a series about the “Our Children. Our Success.” campaign. The effort to prepare parents for what promises to be a milestone school year in Shelby County now involves the community’s recently retooled literacy organization.

21. Market of Riverdale Bend Sells for $6.2 Million -

7114-7186 Winchester Road Memphis, TN 38125

Sale Amount: $6.2 million

Sale Date: July 2, 2013

22. Market of Riverdale Bend Sells for $6.2 Million -

Four tenants in common have paid $6.2 million for the Market of Riverdale Bend shopping center on Winchester Road in Southeast Memphis.

The four buyers, shown in descending order of ownership percentage, are Peter Laspina Jr. (49.5 percent); 25-19 34th St. Realty Corp. (34.83 percent); Riverdale Center Investors LLC (14.67 percent); and Riverdale Market LLC (1 percent).

23. ‘Back to Life’ -

Memphis resident Geraldine Harris has been shopping at the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis ReStore since it opened two years ago, finding discount prices and unique items she couldn’t locate anywhere else.

24. Coaching Hire Presents Risk/Reward for Grizz -

So the Grizzlies finally made it official and promoted lead assistant Dave Joerger to head coach. This qualified as breaking news about as much as reporting that barbecue has been discovered in Memphis.

25. Data Facts Leading by Example -

Last week we highlighted Friends For Life Corp., which is an organization helping people affected by HIV/AIDS to live well. This week let us discuss an important trend in corporate philanthropy and spotlight a local company leading by example.

26. Chamber Prepares to Celebrate 175 Years -

Despite arriving this year at the ripe old age of 175, the Greater Memphis Chamber still has a spring in its step.

When the chamber blows out the candles, so to speak, during its milestone bash Friday, April 12, at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the event will underscore the organization’s storied history, which predates the Civil War. This year also sees the continuation of the chamber’s push to be more of a civic force in the community, helping to bring together government and private businesses.

27. Memphis Goodwill Opens Oakland Store -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. opened a new Attended Donation Center in Oakland Monday, Dec. 10.

The 1,850-square-foot space was previously a Starbucks Coffee Co. in an outparcel of a Kroger-anchored shopping center at 7275 U.S. 64. It is Goodwill’s first donation center in Fayette County.

28. Scharff Elected to Legal Roles at Buckman, Bulab Holdings -

Jonathan Scharff has been elected vice president, legal and general counsel for Buckman and corporate secretary for Bulab Holdings Inc., Buckman’s parent company. Scharff has more than 22 years’ experience in the legal industry, including positions at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale PC in St. Louis and Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC in Memphis. In his new position, he will oversee legal needs in U.S. and global operating companies and work with associates in preventing and managing legal risks.

29. Memphis Goodwill Opens Area's 23rd Donation Center -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. has opened a new Attended Donation Center in the Fox Meadows Shopping Center, 3101 S. Mendenhall Road.

30. Big-Box Vacancies Prove Hard To Fill -

The closing of big-box stores in recent years belonging to the likes of Borders Group Inc., Circuit City Inc. and others has left suburban shopping centers around the country with lots of space to fill.

31. Best Buy to Cut Costs and Close Stores -

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Best Buy Co. said it plans to close 50 U.S. big box stores and open 100 small mobile locations in the U.S. in fiscal 2013 and cut $800 million in costs by fiscal 2015. The news came Thursday as the biggest U.S. specialty electronics retailer posted a fiscal fourth quarter loss partly due to restructuring charges.

32. Loeb Tells Rotary About Overton Square Plans -

Among the first of Bob Loeb’s comments when he addressed the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, Jan. 10, was that when his firm finishes the redevelopment of Overton Square, the hope is to pass the Rotarian Four-Way Test.

33. CRE Activity Stays Strong During 2011 -

Despite hard times, local commercial real estate firms were able to ink plenty of deals in the past 12 months.

Memphis’ industrial leasing activity kicked off in January when Buena Park, Calif.-based Pacific Logistics Corp. signed a 60,000-square-foot lease in ProLogis Park DeSoto for its first Memphis-area location.

34. Kindness Revolution Offers Membership -

The Kindness Revolution, a Memphis-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of kindness and values-driven leadership in customer service, schools and communities, is offering free membership.

35. Thomison Joins PGM/Trumbull -

Dr. John Thomison has joined Pathology Group of the Mid-South/Trumbull Labs LLC.

Hometown: Nashville

36. District Lines on Tap for Commission -

Five days is a long time in politics. That’s the gap between the Monday, Dec. 19, meeting of the Shelby County Commission and the special meeting of the commission last Wednesday.

At the special meeting, commissioners again floated a new redistricting plan that would keep the 13-member body at five districts covering all of Shelby County.

37. CBRE's Truitt Awarded By Commercial Alliance -

Realtors Commercial Alliance, the commercial division of the National Association of Realtors, has recognized Kelly Truitt of CB Richard Ellis Memphis, an affiliate of CB Richard Ellis Inc., as a recipient of the 2011 Realtors Commercial Alliance National Award.

38. ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital Makes Memphis Stop -

After a week in Memphis, the second generation of the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital and its crew of 22 goes back to work for one more year of flights around the world.

Memphis was the final stop in the goodwill tour of the DC-10 donated and outfitted by FedEx Corp. and maintained by the Memphis-based company since 1992.

39. Wilkinson Follows Road Less Traveled -

During his 50-year tenure in real estate, Dan Wilkinson helped establish the Memphis office of Colliers International as one of the dominant industrial real estate companies in the local market and has been involved in more than $1 billion in sales in Memphis and North Mississippi.

40. Waiting For The Tip -

Great seasons end.

Great cities endure.

That’s not just one of the Memphis Grizzlies’ new marketing slogans. Capitalizing on last season’s success and building an enduring franchise are aspirations for the organization as it copes with the reality of the NBA lockout and the ongoing dry spell of professional hometown hoops.

41. Theatre Memphis to Hold Overstock Yard Sale -

Theatre Memphis will hold its Overstock Yard Sale for the second year Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the theater, 630 Perkins Road Extended.

42. Company Buys 11 Acres On Thousand Oaks -

NAI Saig Co. has negotiated a pair of investment sales in recent weeks. Corolla Management Corp. has purchased two sites totaling 10.6 acres on Thousand Oaks Cove from Bank of Bartlett for $925,000.

43. 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.

44. Memphis Goodwill Finances U.S. 64, Austin Peay Stores -

6899 U.S. 64
Memphis, TN 38134
Loan Amount: $3.2 million

Loan Date: Aug. 1, 2011

Maturity Date: n/a

Borrower: Memphis Goodwill Inc.

45. Goodwill Finances Austin Peay Store -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. has financed a Goodwill store at 3830 Austin Peay Highway through First Tennessee Bank NA for $1.4 million.

46. $3.2 Million Loan Filed for U.S. 64 Goodwill -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. has filed a $3.2 million loan through First Tennessee Bank NA for its thrift store at 6899 U.S. 64. The 51,354-square-foot, big-box retail location was built in 1988 and previously housed a lumber store. It sits on 7.1 acres at the southeast corner of U.S. 64 (Stage Road) and U.S. 70 (Summer Avenue).

47. Germantown Collection Sells for $7.3M in Foreclosure -

7810 Poplar Ave.
Germantown, TN 38138
Sale Amount: $7.3 million

Sale Date: June 23, 2011
Buyer: GA Poplar Avenue Germantown LLC (c/o Principal Real Estate Investors)
Seller: Jason A. Strain, substitute trustee
Original Borrower: CH Realty III/Germantown LLC
Original Lender: Principal Life Insurance Co.
Orig. Loan Amount: $8.7 million
Orig. Loan Date: Oct. 12, 2004

48. Goodwill Files $1.2M Permit to Overhaul Stage Store -

Goodwill Memphis Inc. has filed a $1.2 million permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for its store at 6899 U.S. 64 in Bartlett (also known as 6899 Stage Road).

49. Thrifty Real Estate - One area that has seemed to thrive in the recession is discount retailers, including thrift and dollar stores.

Low-cost operators, including nonprofit organizations like Memphis Goodwill Industries, are able to find more affordable property than in previous years. That’s because as market conditions have dropped, so has price per square foot, said Dave Leutwyler, Goodwill executive vice president.

50. Beutelschies Guides IDB Through Wide Range of Issues -

The rules of economic development are as specific as the terms of any business agreement. That’s because the incentives used to bring new businesses to Memphis and expand existing businesses here are contractual agreements.

51. Memphians Come Together in Flood Response -

At first glance, the Great Flood of 2011 has been a tale of two cities. Hundreds evacuated their homes, and the rising water caused millions of dollars worth of damage to property and infrastructure throughout the city.

52. Events -

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence will hold the sixth annual Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence Conference Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Clark Opera Memphis Center, 6745 Wolf River Blvd. The title of the conference is “Giving, Grants & Goodwill: The New Face of Philanthropy,” and Rip Rapson, president of chief executive officer of The Kresge Foundation, will speak. Cost is $110 for members, $150 for nonmembers and $65 for college students with a valid ID. Call 684-6605 or email info@npexcellence.org.

53. Events -

Rhodes College will host Memphis historian Jimmy Ogle who will present a continuing education class titled “Historic Memphis and its Highlights” Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Dorothy King Hall on campus. Seating is limited so reservations should be made by calling 843-3965.

54. Nonprofit Excellence Gears Up for Conference -

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence will offer the nonprofit community a full day’s worth of respected industry speakers, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking opportunities during its sixth annual conference Wednesday.

55. MBIN Signs New Lease At Bellbrook Park -

A Memphis-based wholesaler of collectable items has signed a new industrial lease in the Southwest submarket.

MBIN Global Inc. has signed a new lease for 26,250 square feet at Bellbrook Industrial Park, 1004 Brooks Road.

56. Destination King’s Tagg Honored as ‘Rising Star’ -

Mary Catherine Tagg, director of operations for Destination King, has received the “Rising Star” award at the fifth annual Association of Destination Management Executives Achievement Awards.

57. Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence Plans Spring Workshops -

As many Mid-South nonprofits continue to struggle with funding, the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence, which serves nonprofits in more than 30 counties in Eastern Arkansas, Northern Mississippi and Western Tennessee, is working to strengthen them through its 2011 annual conference and a series of spring workshops.

58. Coming into Focus -

In the realm of urban attractions, museums present somewhat of a paradox.

Often, they’re privately funded. But in a broader sense – a civic sense – they’re public spaces. They’re open to the public, shaped to address a public issue or meet a public need.

59. Events -

The Memphis Gavel Club will meet Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave. Henry Brenner from Goodwill Industries will speak. For more information, call Bob Gray at 494-8639.

60. Rotary Club Seeks Scholarship Applicants -

The Memphis Rotary Club is seeking applicants for the 2012-2013 Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships.

The scholarships, which are designed to further international understanding and goodwill, provide for study aboard in more than 160 countries where Rotary clubs are located.

61. Kindness Revolution Hosts Memphis Celebration -

Feb. 14-20 is Random Acts of Kindness Week, and local do-gooders will be honored for their compassionate ways during the Memphis Celebration of Kindness, set to take place Thursday from 5:30 to 7:00 at Le Pavillon, 1052 Brookfield Road.

62. Kings of the Court -

When the Harlem Globetrotters bring their acrobatic, ball-spinning, high-flying brand of showmanship to FedExForum Wednesday, fans will likewise bring with them certain expectations.

They’ll expect to leave the arena having seen the team dip into a deep bag of tricks that includes seemingly impossible ball-spins, wild dunks and comedic antics.

63. Memphis Goodwill Announces Highland Discount Store -

Memphis Goodwill’s retail store at 574 Highland Ave. has become a half-price location. The new 50 percent discount concept is being implemented at the Highland store only.

64. Memphis Goodwill Wins C'ville Chamber's Top Honor -

Memphis Goodwill has been honored with the 2010 Business Champion Award by the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.

The award, which honors an outstanding business of the year, was handed out recently at the Chamber’s annual awards luncheon.

65. Looking at Local Cause Marketing -

Part One of Two-Part Series

The nonprofit sector survives and thrives with the support of all of us. Individuals, families, foundations, public agencies, and businesses and corporations all play key roles in the work of nonprofit organizations across Memphis, the Mid-South and our country. One way that businesses support nonprofits is through cause-marketing campaigns that highlight selected organizations through the promotion of products and services.

66. $300K Plough Grant to Memphis Goodwill to Aid Job Creation -

The Plough Foundation has awarded a two-part $300,000 grant to Memphis Goodwill Industries to support the nonprofit’s Community Workforce program, which provides vocational training to individuals with disabilities and other obstacles to employment.

67. ‘Positive Signs’ Abound in Retail Market -

Perhaps more than any other commercial real estate sector, the retail market is braced for positive change in 2011.

Turnaround is certainly on the minds of retailers and retail landlords, who have seen 7.5 million jobs lost since the end of 2007.

68. Give Back to Help Fight Crime -

Last week we examined how you can create an exclusive marketing promotion that creates a win-win for your company and supported nonprofit. This week, based on input from Trevor Beahm with masterIT, let us look at how giving back can actually help save lives and fight crime.

69. Memphis Goodwill To Hold Reverse Job Fair -

The Memphis Goodwill Vocational Rehabilitation Service Center will host a Reverse Job Fair for potential placement partners Nov. 10.

Company managers and owners are invited to tour the new center, meet the staff and learn about Goodwill’s vocational rehabilitation program.

70. Marlo Thomas Book Looks at Laughter -

A lesson learned with laughter, it is said, is a lesson learned well.

In learning about comedy, Marlo Thomas had some of the best teachers in the world in her father Danny Thomas and the other legendary entertainers who were fixtures in the Thomas household, where they would swap stories and entertain each other.

71. The Kindness Revolution Partners With Goodwill -

Memphis Goodwill Inc. and The Kindness Revolution have teamed up to promote the awareness of values in communities.

72. Events -

The Small Business Chamber Breakfast Club will meet Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Office Suites Plus, 6000 Poplar Ave., suite 250. For more information, visit www.smallbusinesschamber.com.

73. Events -

The Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence will hold a workshop Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at its office, 5100 Poplar Ave., suite 502. Daniel Moore, audit manager at Watkins Uiberall PLLC, will speak on the topic “Understanding Nonprofit Accounting.” Cost is $60 for members, $110 for nonmembers and $55 for those in the Program for Nonprofit Excellence. For more information, call 684-6605 or visit www.npexcellence.org.

74. Winbranch Apartments Sell for $2.4 Million -

3595 Millbranch Road
Memphis, TN 38116
Sale Amount: $2.4 million

Sale Date: Sept. 7, 2010
Buyer: Winbranch Realty Partners LLC
Seller: LBUBS 2004-C4 Millbranch Road LLC
Loan Amount: $975,000
Loan Date: Sept. 7, 2010
Maturity Date: Sept. 1, 2011
Lender: The Leshum Group LLC

75. Church Health Center Seeks $25 Monthly Donations -

The cost of a really cheap night out can add up to something significant for Church Health Center.

The medical ministry that provides health care to the working uninsured is asking people to donate $25 a month so it can meet increased demands.

76. Goodwill to Relocate Collierville Facility -

Memphis Goodwill Industries will open its new Attended Donation Center in Collierville with a ribbon-cutting Thursday at 9 a.m. at 330 Market Blvd.

77. The Un-Fair -

What’s happened to the fair just isn’t fair.

Let’s review: The Mid-South Fair has left Memphis for the Delta, but is stuck in a parking lot in Southaven. The Delta Fair is actually in Memphis, but is under contract to manage the Mid-South Fair. The guy running the Mid-South Fair ran away. The guy running the Delta Fair wanted us to run away from the Mid-South Fair. Now he’s running both.

78. AT&T Donates to ‘Project Learn’ -

AT&T has donated $105,000 to 21 Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee.

Each of the selected clubs will receive $5,000 to support Project Learn.

Project Learn is a program designed to reinforce and enhance the skills and knowledge young people learn at school through “high-yield” learning activities, including leisure reading, writing activities, homework help and games that develop and strengthen cognitive skills.

79. Herenton's First Political Loss Likely His Last -

MEMPHIS (AP) – Willie W. Herenton, a charismatic, combative public figure who has towered over the Memphis political landscape since he became the city's first black elected mayor in 1991, is letting the curtain drop on his long career in public office.

80. Memphis Commemorates ADA’s 20th Anniversary -

With the passing of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, public and private officials are intensifying efforts to help the disabled find jobs.

City officials are working with organizations like Shelby Residential and Vocational Services and Goodwill Memphis to help the disabled find jobs in an extraordinarily difficult job market.

81. Goodwill Expands With Atoka Donation Center -

Memphis Goodwill will open its first attended donation center in Atoka, Tenn., on Thursday.

The new donation center will bring the total number of centers in the Mid-South to 17. The grand opening and ribbon cutting will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

82. Crafton Joins Memphis Goodwill As Director of Marketing, PR -

Kimberly Crafton has joined Memphis Goodwill Industries as director of marketing and public relations.

83. Memphis Goodwill Joins Donate Movement -

Memphis Goodwill Industries will participate in the Donate Movement, a new public awareness movement to emphasize the positive impact that donating clothing and goods can have on communities and the planet.

84. Service, Care at Heart of Work For Rotter -

Cary Rotter’s goal is simple: to provide elderly clients and their families with the best possible in-home care.

But the Memphis Comfort Keepers president and owner said he faces many challenges in bringing that goal to fruition, the greatest of which is hiring the right people.

85. ‘Everybody’s Down Here’ -

Despite its name, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is more than a celebration of all things pork. The Memphis in May fixture is also big business.

Nowhere is that more evident than during the Thursday and Friday lunch hours, when many of the booths run by local and out-of-town companies invite clients and colleagues for some ribs or a sandwich – and a chance to say thanks or perhaps make a sale.

86. Above and Beyond -

Banks try a little of everything to get customers in the door and build goodwill in the communities they serve.

A slightly higher rate on CDs than the bank down the street is paying; tellers who remember details like where a customer’s children go to school; fundraisers; sponsorships.

87. Crump Makes His Name In Local Real Estate -

His surname is synonymous with Memphis political history, but Patrick Crump’s passion lies in Memphis real estate.

88. Institute of Classical Architecture Elects McClure to Chapter Board of Directors -

Mark McClure has been elected to the board of directors of the Tennessee Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America. He will serve a three-year term.

89. Goodwill Opens First Millington Store -

Memphis Goodwill Industries will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for its first store in Millington today at 9 a.m.

The new store is a 27,000-square-foot retail and donation center at 8059 U.S. 51 N. About 12,000 square feet of space will be devoted to the shopping and sales floor and the facility has an option to expand that shopping space to up to 17,000 square feet.

90. Social Media Icons -

It’s been 46 years since Marshall McLuhan declared, “The medium is the message.”

In that time, the visionary media critic’s five-word analysis has been debated and interpreted in ways even he likely couldn’t imagine.

91. Making a Comeback -

More than 100 collectible Beanie Babies will be among the items offered at a future fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities Memphis, thanks to a gift from 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

92. Obsidian Public Relations Expands Office Presence -

Obsidian Public Relations has moved its offices to an expanded space within the EmergeMemphis building, 516 Tennessee St., Suite 126.

93. Events -

Vaco Mid-South will host a continuing education seminar today at 8 a.m. at the Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Road. Topics of the event are “Fair Value Measurements,” “Goodwill and Intangible Asset Impairment” and “Extensible Business Reporting Language.” Cost is $75. To register, call Joe Fracchia or Justin Farmer at 333-2250.

94. Events -

The Memphis Animal Shelter Advisory Board will meet today at 10 a.m. in the second floor conference room of City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Mayor A C Wharton Jr. will attend.

95. Restaurateur Determined to Thrive At New East Memphis Location -

In the parlance of the sweet science, a knockdown occurs when a boxer is knocked to the mat but rises to fight again.

Antonio Martinez knows something about that principle.

96. Collins: Council Should Be Active Partner in City Business -

Harold Collins is the chairman of the Memphis City Council, assuming the post as Myron Lowery became interim city mayor July 31.
Collins remains the chairman as Lowery returns to the council following the election of A C Wharton Jr. as mayor earlier this month. Like 10 of the 13 City Council members, Collins is about halfway through his first four-year term on the body.
We talked with Collins about the council’s role in the transition from Willie Herenton’s leadership to A C Wharton Jr.’s.

97. Kroc Center’s Backers Want It to Be a Gathering Spot for Diverse Groups -

From its days as a horseracing track in the latter half of the 19th century, the Mid-South Fairgrounds has a long and captivating history, including a fair share of disputes over the best uses for the sprawling property that sits in the middle of Memphis.

98. Goodwill Expands Memphis Presence -

Goodwill has expanded its operations in Memphis, opening a new Attended Donation Center at 1890 Berryhill Road in Cordova.

99. 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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