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Editorial Results (free)

1. Young Volunteers Face Long Odds at Oklahoma -

Two games into the 2014 season, and it’s time for the University of Tennessee to play some big-boy football.

The Vols (2-0) took care of business at Neyland Stadium in the first two games against Utah State and Arkansas State.

2. Steffner Adds SIOR Role to Real Estate Resume -

Since Joe Steffner opened his own commercial real estate firm 10 years ago, the industry veteran has had a front row seat to some wild changes in the industry.

He experienced everything from the boom days of the early- and mid-2000s to the depths of the recession and its crushing aftermath as the decade ended.

3. Poplar Plaza to Undergo Renovation -

The venerable Poplar Plaza shopping center at Poplar Avenue and Highland Street near the University of Memphis is slated to undergo a second facelift.

Finard Properties LLC is expected to soon launch extensive exterior improvements to the massive retail center at Poplar and Highland, starting with a fresh coat of paint.

4. Conn’s Plans Home Store in Memphis -

Texas-based retailer Conn’s will be opening a store in Southeast Memphis, one of possibly three stores the home appliances and furnishings chain plans to open in Tennessee.

The retailer will open a Conn’s HomePlus in May in 42,296 square feet at the Cross Creek Shopping Center at Riverdale and Tenn. 385 that Babies “R” Us vacated.

5. Loeb Midtown Center Now Fully Leased -

Loeb Properties’ Belvedere Collection on Union Avenue in Midtown is 100 percent leased.

Agilitas USA Inc., operating as Results Physiotherapy, signed a new lease for 2,280 square feet in Suites 105-106 at the retail strip center.

6. Tripp Logistics Renews Nonconnah Corporate Center Lease -

Shawn Glemser, founder and owner of Tripp Logistics, a locally owned and operated logistics and transportation company, has renewed his lease at Nonconnah Corporate Center. Elliot Embry and Hank Martin of NAI Saig Co. represented the landlord, Nonconnah Holdings LLC.

7. CB Richard Ellis Brokers Four Multifamily Sales -

The multifamily group at CB Richard Ellis Memphis has closed on the sale of four properties in the Memphis market over the last several weeks.

Briar Club Apartments, a 272-unit apartment community constructed in 1985, sold for $8.7 million, or $32,093 per unit. Cinnamon Trails Apartments, a 208-unit apartment community constructed in 1989, sold for $8.6 million, or $41,461 per unit. respectively. CBRE Memphis represented the sellers, Briar Apartments LLC and Cinnamon Apartments LLC in the sale to New York based Briar Club LLC and Cinnamon Trail LLC.

8. Lakecrest II Sells for $4.6 Million -

The Lakecrest II office building in East Memphis has changed hands again.

Southland Primacy LLC acquired the 129,104-square-foot office building at 6055 Primacy Parkway from Jefferson-Pilot Investments Inc. Feb. 28 for $4.6 million.

9. 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.

10. Call Center ‘Gratifying’ for Local Office Sector -

Conduit Global’s announcement this week that it is locating a call center in Shelby County that will employ 1,000 people was a breath of fresh air for local office real estate professionals.

11. ‘Growth Mode’ -

The fun, quirky vibe found at Memphis-based Web design company RocketFuel is readily apparent via things like remote-controlled helicopter jousting sessions between employees, and life-sized cutouts of figures like Spock in the office.

12. Rock’n Dough Pizza Opening in Jackson -

The little Memphis pizzeria that could will soon be opening a new location in Jackson, Tenn.

The Rock’n Dough Pizza Co., owned by Jeremy and Amanda Denno, is slated to open a new restaurant and microbrewery at the Jackson Walk development in Jackson in October. The Dennos will team up with veteran local brewer Ben Pugh to create signature suds at the 4,100-square-foot restaurant.

13. Boyle Sells More Lots at Spring Creek Ranch -

After an initial offering went so well earlier this year, a group of area homebuilders has acquired 17 more lots at The Village at Spring Creek Ranch from Boyle Investment Co.

14. Agency Absorption -

The Downtown Memphis office market has long been one of the more cost-effective of the city’s submarkets when it comes to rental rates, especially when amenities and ambiance are factored into leasing decisions.

15. Levenger Leases Up EastPark IV -

A Delray Beach, Fla.-based specialty retail company is relocating its Memphis distribution warehouse within the Southeast submarket.

Levenger has inked 96,400 square feet in EastPark Distribution Center IV, 5265 Hickory Hill Road, bringing the 372,800-square-foot building to full occupancy. Levenger also has an operation at 3530 E. Raines Road.

16. Children’s Heart Foundation Given $15,000 for Relocation -

The International Children’s Heart Foundation was awarded a $15,000 commercial office grant Wednesday, Nov. 14, by the Center City Development Corp. to move its offices from 1750 Madison Ave., suite 500, to Downtown’s Brinkley Plaza, 80 Monroe Ave., suite G-1.

17. 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.

18. J.D. Byrider Brings First Franchise To Memphis -

The nation’s largest used car franchise company has entered the Memphis market. Carmel, Ind.-based J.D. Byrider has inked 30,900 square feet at 2580 Mount Moriah Road, marking the company’s second Tennessee dealership.

19. Lease Brings New Breed Footprint to 3 Million Feet -

New Breed Inc. is enhancing its Memphis operations with a new distribution warehouse lease in the Southeast industrial submarket.

20. Red Deluxe Subleases Sullivan Space -

Two well-known Memphis advertising agencies have inked a unique Downtown office deal.

Red Deluxe Brand Development has subleased 10,400 square feet of office space from Sullivan Branding in the old Smooth Moves building at 85 Union Ave.

21. Red Deluxe Subleases Sullivan Space -

Two well-known Memphis advertising agencies have inked a unique Downtown office deal.

Red Deluxe Brand Development has subleased 10,400 square feet of office space from Sullivan Branding in the old Smooth Moves building at 85 Union Ave.

22. Making Way -

The $191 million transformation of The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops superstore by August 2013 will have an effect not only on local tourism but also on surrounding commercial real estate.

The 21,000-square-foot office building at 400 N. Front St. is a prime example. The 100-year-old space has been owned and occupied by Greg Ericson of Ericson Group Inc. for the last 14 years.

23. Additional Board Members Named at LaunchYourCity -

LaunchYourCity Inc. has announced new board members.

They are Kevin Adams, CEO, CB Richard Ellis Memphis; Darrell Cobbins, CEO, Universal Commercial; and social entrepreneur Chris Williams.

24. CK’s Moves Into Jackson as Part of Expansion -

A longtime Memphis diner chain is expanding its presence into the Jackson, Tenn., market.

CK’s Coffee Shop has signed a five-year lease for 1,390 square feet of the existing 4,900-square-foot Old Medina Market Gas Station at 2800 Old Medina Road.

25. Sullivan Inks Lease For Toyota Ctr. -

Sullivan Branding has finalized its lease in the Toyota Center, where it will move about two-thirds of its workforce by the end of the week.

About 40 of Sullivan Branding’s 65 Memphis employees will relocate from 400 Union Ave. to occupy approximately half of the sixth floor of the 175,000-square-foot, eight-story Downtown office building at 175 Toyota Center, near the intersection of Third and Union.

26. Sullivan Branding Inks Toyota Center Deal -

Sullivan Branding has finalized its lease in the Toyota Center, where it will move about two-thirds of its workforce by the end of the week.

About 40 of Sullivan Branding’s 65 Memphis employees will relocate from 400 Union Ave. to occupy approximately half of the sixth floor of the 175,000-square-foot, eight-story Downtown office building at 175 Toyota Center, near the intersection of Third and Union.

27. CBRE Memphis Brokers Florida Investment Sale -

CB Richard Ellis Memphis has brokered the sale of the Grand Panama Office Building in Panama City Beach, Fla., from Grand Panama Office LLC to Corr Properties I LLC for $3.7 million, or $137.80 per square foot.

28. Drexel Buys Presidents Is. Warehouse -

A longtime Memphis-based agricultural chemical provider has snatched up a warehouse on Presidents Island, where it already has a strong presence.

Drexel Chemical Co. purchased the 137,526-square-foot former manufacturing and distribution facility on 12 acres at 2070 and 2071 Channel Ave. on Presidents Island from HPD Properties LLC for $810,000, or $5.89 per square foot.

29. Back to Black -

The Friday after Thanksgiving, often dubbed, “Black Friday,” is considered by many to be the traditional start of the holiday season shopping in the U.S.

The origin of the term varies. Some sources attribute the Philadelphia Police Department’s coinage of the phrase in 1966 to describe the hectic traffic and chaotic crowds on the busy shopping day. Others deem the expression to reflect a retailer’s shift to profitability during the holiday season, when a boost in sales moves a business out of the “red” and into the “black.”

30. Jackson’s Suspension, Lawsuit Point Out State Law Paradox -

After he was indicted last month by the Shelby County grand jury on four counts of official misconduct, General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson said voters put him in office and only they could take him out of office.

31. Tiger Gift Shop Moves To Larger Space -

Tiger Gift Shop is relocating a few doors down from its current location on the Highland Strip near the University of Memphis.

The university retailer, now at 549 S. Highland St., has signed a new 5,000-square-foot lease at 531 S. Highland, in the space formerly occupied by From One Greek to Another.

32. LensRentals.com Moves Into Trinity Ridge -

A local camera- and lens-rental company is expanding into a significant amount of space in the already tight Northeast submarket.

LensRentals.com has signed a 16,800-square-foot lease in Cordova’s Trinity Ridge Business Center, 7730 A Trinity Road, suite 110.

33. Cable Service Provider Signs New Lease -

A Madison, Tenn.-based cable service provider is taking advantage of lower rates in a competitive leasing environment.

FTS USA has signed a 4,002-square-foot lease in East Pointe Business Center, 3915 S. Mendenhall Road.

34. Grubb & Ellis Survives, Prospers in Economy -

Like everybody else in the real estate business, the last 36 months or so have been trying times for Grubb & Ellis Co. Memphis, a commercial realty firm that splits its business between leasing/management and sales.

35. Paradise Found -

A bright blue night. Just about any weekend anybody in the Gant button-down crowd could catch a concert at the Coliseum or Ellis Auditorium, crash a party at Clearpool, or hear a great band in a gym somewhere in Weejun town. This was Memphis in the early ‘60s. You could see Elvis at a stoplight, Jerry Lee in a restaurant, and listen to Wooly Bully on the radio waiting in line for auto inspection right in front of Sam the Sham’s club.

36. WPG Americas Signs Lease in Southaven -

A San Jose, Calif.-based worldwide electronics distributor is entering the Memphis area with full force.

WPG Americas Inc. has signed a 54,000-square-foot lease at Airways Distribution Center, 481 Industrial Drive, in Southaven. The project – a relocation of the WPG America’s New York facility – represents a $1.5 million investment by the company and will create 60 jobs over the next three years.

37. Family Dollar Signs 2 Leases for Stores -

Family Dollar has signed a 12,000-square-foot lease at 2754 Lamar Ave. Shawn Massey, partner with The Shopping Center Group LLC, represented the tenant. Harold Blockman with Keller Williams Realty Inc. represented the landlord, Chong K and Dul S. Pae.

38. Yogurt Craze Continues with TCBY Store -

A TCBY franchise has signed a 1,225-square-foot lease in University Center, 3445 Poplar Ave., at the southwest corner of Poplar and Highland Street.

39. Menlo Deal Tops Noteworthy Leases -

The Daily News in September launched a new weekly column called “Inked” to spotlight Memphis’ commercial leasing landscape.

Despite tough times, local commercial real estate firms were able to ink plenty of deals in the past four months. Here’s a rundown of some of the most noteworthy commercial leases since Inked’s debut:

40. Retail Rebound? -

Retail sales are looking bright this year, a sign that the pendulum of consumer confidence is swinging back in the right direction.

Holiday sales are anticipated to increase a modest 3.3 percent this year – adjusted from 2.3 percent in November – according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). This year’s uptick follows 2008’s 3.9 percent decline and also tops the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.5 percent.

41. Stratos Move Another Example Of Downtown Trend -

While the future of the Downtown office market is hard to predict, there’s no doubt the persona of the submarket is changing.

On the heels of the Great Recession, some companies are rebranding for better visibility. Others are moving closer to their clients. And then there are companies like ServiceMaster by Stratos Inc., which did both.

42. Menlo Bolsters Local Presence With New Lease -

Menlo Worldwide Logistics LLC is expanding its Memphis-area operations with a new 181,000-square-foot lease in ProLogis Park DeSoto in Olive Branch.

43. Evolve Systems Grows Memphis Location -

Evolve Digital Media has more than doubled its Memphis location at Apple Tree Center in Hickory Hill.

The Memphis-based company expanded its lease from 2,520 to 6,327 square feet at 6073 Mount Moriah Road Extended. Tyler Tapley, associate with CB Richard Ellis Memphis, represented the landlord, Apple Tree Center Partnership.

44. 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.

45. Colliers Sells Property to Union Forklift -

Colliers International recently sold an 18,750-square-foot building in the Perimeter Point Business Park, 2188 Spicer Cove.

46. CBRE Lands Leasing Contract With Parkway -

The Memphis office of CB Richard Ellis Inc. will handle marketing and leasing services for Parkway Realty Service’s Memphis office building portfolio, the company announced this week.

47. ‘KNO Tonite To Feature News, Local Programming -

Now that WKNO has settled into its new 39,000-square-foot digital media center, the public broadcasting station is moving to the next item it’s long had on its to-do list.

The station whose call letters are an abbreviation of the phrase “Window of Knowledge” has been itching to produce and broadcast more local programming. And the production and broadcast capabilities of its new digital media center will allow WKNO to take a big step in that direction next month with the launch of a new week-long series of evening shows.

48. 'KNO Tonite to Feature News, Local Programming -

Now that WKNO has settled into its new 39,000-square-foot digital media center, the public broadcasting station is moving to the next item it's long had on its to-do list.

The station whose call letters are an abbreviation of the phrase "Window of Knowledge" has been itching to produce and broadcast more local programming. And the production and broadcast capabilities of its new digital media center will allow WKNO to take a big step in that direction next month with the launch of a new week-long series of evening shows.

49. Metro Charter Group To Complete Work Monday -

The Metro Charter Commission will complete its work Monday on a proposed consolidation charter.

The 9 a.m. meeting at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building is the last one for the group with began its work last December.

50. Great Oaks Church of Christ Begins Work on New Wing -

3355 Brunswick Road
Bartlett, TN 38133
Loan Amount: $1 million
Loan Date: June 16, 2010
Maturity Date: June 10, 2011
Borrower: Great Oaks Church of Christ
Lender: BancorpBank South

51. How to Build a Government in 71 days -

The idea of consolidation is a political perennial in Memphis, but the details of merging Memphis and Shelby County governments are much more elusive.

The Metro Charter Commission’s formation last year represented the most meaningful move toward consolidation in almost 40 years.

52. Charter Commission to Examine Metro Mayoral Powers -

The Metro Charter Commission will take a second look at a civil service system for a proposed consolidated government Thursday.

The group drafting a proposed consolidation charter for the November ballot will also discuss what powers a metro mayor should have.

53. Charter Commission Examines Personnel System -

The framework of a new civil service system in a consolidated local government has the preliminary approval of the Metro Charter Commission.

But it is not likely to be the last word on the complex and politically volatile topic.

54. 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.

...

55. Charter Commission Tackles Tricky Political Rules -  

Members of the Metro Charter Commission are getting into some of the thorniest political issues involved in writing the blueprint for a consolidated city and county government.

At least for now, term limits, runoff elections, being current on metro taxes to qualify to run for office and a referendum for any metro council pay raise are in.

Out, at this tentative stage, is the idea of a vice mayor, staggered terms for council members, a city pension for council members and partisan primaries.

All of the proposals approved last week go to a drafting committee. The committee will write charter language and then come back to the full commission with the wording. The charter group will then take a final vote on the general proposal and the charter wording.

Still to be discussed is how big the metro council would be and what the districts would look like.

The charter commission also delayed votes on proposals to:

  • Fill vacancies on the metro council with a majority vote of the council unless it is a vacancy of more than two years. In that case, the vacant council seat would go on the next available election ballot.
  • Making the council chairman the “mayor pro tempore” if the mayor resigns or otherwise leaves office. The mayor pro tempore would serve for up to 180 days if there is a general or municipal election scheduled during that period. If no election is scheduled, a special election for mayor would be held within 90 days of the vacancy.

The delay came after lots of debate, with more debate certain.

“Is there any other way?” Charter Commission Chairwoman Julie Ellis asked at one point. “It just hasn’t looked like a very good system. … The public has had a lot to say about this, and it’s not been kind.”

Commissioner J.W. Gibson termed it a system of “hard knocks,” pointing out that part of the Shelby County Commission’s dilemma in picking an interim mayor last year was that it required seven votes – a majority of the 13 members – which proved difficult to collect with three commissioners not voting, because they had been nominated for interim mayor.

Gibson, who is a county commissioner, was one of the contenders. He lost to fellow commissioner Joe Ford.

Charter commissioner Randolph Meade Walker proposed not allowing the mayor pro tempore to run in a special election.

“An interim who is an insider is appointed by fellow insiders,” Walker said. “I think a major drawback to this whole area has been an exclusivity in government that we have people who are the same folks that keep playing musical chairs. We need some new ideas – some new people.”

Gibson, however, said it might mean a council member who wants to be chairman as a later stepping stone to serving as mayor might have to give up being chairman.

Meanwhile, commissioner Chris Patterson expanded on Walker’s idea by adding that those appointed to fill vacant council seats could not seek the seat in the next election for that seat.

Charter commissioner and Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland headed the task force that presented the recommendations. He wasn’t surprised by the debate on the 25 items.

“There are legitimate differences of opinion,” he told The Daily News at the end of the three-hour session. “The county’s been through three mayors in the last year. The city’s been through three mayors also. … The average person has been very aware of the process.”

Ellis questioned whether the metro council should have staggered terms with half of the members elected every two years.

Eight new county commissioners were elected to that 13-member body in the 2006 elections.

Before those political precedents, most council and commission seats changed hands because an incumbent decided not to seek re-election. That was also the case in the 2006 and 2007 election cycles.

The proposed charter is due by mid-August.

Voters decide whether to accept or reject the charter in a pair of referenda on the November ballot. It must win in the referendum within the city of Memphis as well as the referendum in Shelby County outside the Memphis city limits.

...

56. Visible School Names Ellis To Modern Music Ministry Faculty -

Bill Ellis has been hired to the Visible School faculty in the Modern Music Ministry program.

Ellis will teach guitar, the history of pop music and hands-on courses in world music and ethnomusicology.

57. Fire Protection Latest Issue For Charter Commission -

The Metro Charter Commission has a “project manager” to help meet its tight deadline for a consolidation charter proposal.

The concept is a new one to government undertakings. But at its Thursday meeting, the group agreed to make Lou Etta Burkins, a project manager at FedEx Express, its project manager. The move was suggested by commission Chair Julie Ellis and adopted by the group with no objections.

58. Metro Charter Commission to Choose Chair -

The first order of business today will be selecting a leader. It’s become a familiar note in political daily planners these days.

The Metro Charter Commission holds its first meeting today on the third floor of the Shelby County Courthouse.

59. Commission to Revisit Charter Appointments Today -

Approving mayoral appointments to boards and commissions is usually the quickest part of the Shelby County Commission’s agenda. It’s normally a routine vote.

That won’t be the case today.

The commission will meet this afternoon starting at 1:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building Downtown. A full agenda for the meeting is available at The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

60. Metro Charter Appointments Win Recommendation -

Shelby County Commissioners Wednesday recommended all 10 of County Mayor A C Wharton’s appointees to a metro charter commission.

The commission, which will include five people appointed by the Memphis mayor and confirmed by the City Council, will draft a charter proposal to consolidate Memphis and Shelby County governments.

61. Wharton Turns in 10 Names for Consolidation Commission -

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has come up with 10 appointees to a metro charter commission and has sent the names to the Shelby County Commission for approval.

The commission will consider the appointments Wednesday in committee sessions. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the names later this month.

62. Wharton Turns in 10 Names for Consolidation Commission -  

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has come up with 10 appointees to a metro charter commission and has sent the names to the Shelby County Commission for approval.

The commission will consider the appointments Wednesday in committee sessions. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the names later this month.

The nominees are:

•Millington Mayor Richard L. Hodges

•Former Collierville Mayor Linda Kerley

•County Commissioner J.W. Gibson of Memphis

Julie Ellis, an attorney at Butler Snow PLLC

•Lou Etta Burkins, FedEx Express project engineer of unincorporated Shelby County

Andre Fowlkes, Memphis Small Business Chamber executive director

•Billy Orgel, Tower Ventures developer, of Memphis.

Chris Patterson, an attorney at Wiseman Bray PLLC of Germantown

•The?Rev??Randolph Meade Walker, pastor of Castalia Baptist Church

Rufus Washington, retired U.S. Marine and president of Southeast Shelby County Coalition

The charter commission is to draft the proposed structure of a consolidated city and county government. The draft will then be taken to voters in Memphis and Shelby County outside of Memphis in a pair of referenda set for Nov. 2010.

The proposed charter must pass in each referendum to become the new structure of local government.

The consolidation charter would not have the effect of consolidating the six suburban municipalities outside Memphis into the proposed new consolidated government. But it would probably affect the delivery of services to Arlington, Bartlett, Collerville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington and from what is now Shelby County government.

The Memphis mayor has five appointments to the metro charter commission. But in approving the creation of the commission last month, the City Council also said it would not vote on appointees by the Memphis mayor until its Oct. 20 meeting. That means whoever wins the Oct. 15 election will make the appointments.

If Wharton wins the special election, he could make those five appointments as well as the 10 he’s forwarded to the County Commission. But Wharton has said he would not make all 15 appointments in that scenario.

...

63. 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.

...

64. The Flintco Cos. Names Musson Business Development Director -

Troy Musson has been hired by The Flintco Cos. Inc. as its director of business development for Flintco’s Memphis and Springdale, Ark., offices.

65. Founders of Grand Events Sell Company’s Warehouse -

3347 Pearson Road
Memphis, TN 38118
Sale Amount: $2.5 Million

Sale Date: June 13, 2008
Buyer: Schwarz Properties LLC
Seller: Hoyt Mark White and John Stanley White
Loan Amount: $2.1 million
Loan Date: June 12, 2008
Maturity Date: N/A
Lender: BankTennessee
Details: Asheboro, N.C.-based Schwarz Properties LLC has bought the 130,925-square-foot warehouse that houses Grand Events and Party Rentals, which now will lease the space.

66. Oak Hall Renovation Begins Monday - After lengthy financing delays from a shaky real estate market, the group planning to renovate the old Oak Hall building at 555 S. Perkins Road Extended is finally ready to move forward.

Glen Bascom Jr., Glen Bascom Sr. and Chris Montesi – the trio who comprise the entity 555 Perkins LLC – have secured a $5.2 million construction loan with U.S. Bank NA to overhaul the 54,265-square-foot office building just south of the intersection at Poplar Avenue and Perkins Road Extended.

The renovation financing was orchestrated by Rick Wood, senior vice president for Financial Federal Savings Bank.

Construction on the 1966 property begins Monday, more than four months after the initial building permit was filed, although the partners’ interest in the property goes back much further. The group bought the ground lease of the building for $1.2 million from LaSalle Bank NA in December 2006, and Bascom Sr. had owned the land since the late 1980s.

Bascom Jr. has been champing at the bit to get the project under way, but he understood the hesitance of lenders, in these tight credit times, to front money for a building that’s only 15 percent preleased.

“I think a lot of big players are like that,” Bascom Jr. said. “Nobody wants to finance a spec building – either an apartment building, condo building or office building. They want to have tenants in place, and that was the hard part with us – we want to build it first and then get tenants.”

Looking for warm bodies

Getting tenants is the company’s goal over the next six months during redevelopment of the building, which will be renamed First Capital Center after the anchor tenant.

Germantown-based First Capital Bank will occupy 6,000 square feet on the ground floor with a branch that includes a drive-thru. The bank joins two existing tenants that are remaining in the four-story building, leaving about 45,000 square feet available for lease.

That task is being handled by Joe Steffner, president of the Memphis office of Grubb & Ellis Co. Steffner said he believes the renovated space of a well-known building along Poplar will make it a desirable locale for office users.

“When you compare the price with the amenities and the brand-new space in the building, it will be a relatively easy sell,” he said. “The Poplar corridor is where everyone has wanted to be. Over the past 15 years the market has grown and people have gone to the 385 corridor as kind of the second choice. Over the past several years, the tenants that either couldn’t find space on Poplar or didn’t want to be on Poplar for whatever reason have tended to come back to Poplar.”

Bascom Jr. agreed that the location along the high-density Poplar Avenue corridor should keep the First Capital Center insulated from what has been a generally soft market.

“Of all the deals that we have out there now, it’s a no-brainer,” Bascom Jr. said. “This one’s going to be successful. It’s a lot of money and time involved over the year or two, but it’s the one I feel most comfortable with of all the projects we’ve got going on.”

New and improved

Renaissance Group is architect and Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC is contractor for the project. Chris Ybos of Montgomery Martin said the expected completion date is about six months away.

Once the building is finished by the end of the year, it won’t look anything like the structure that formerly housed an Oak Hall clothing store. Upgrades include new HVAC, new roof, new shell, new windows, plus plenty of parking for tenants.

Steffner said pricing will be lower than other office space nearby because it’s an older building, but it will recapture the feel of a new product.

“It’s hard to take an older building and make it Class A, and yet they’re doing everything possible to make it A,” Steffner said. “It’s hard to argue with the amenities in the building, plus the bank on site. We think it will be an A-minus building with B prices. That will make it competitive.

“It’s exciting because it’s like having a brand-new building to lease on a speculative basis at below-market rates. We’ve never had an opportunity like this before. It will have a new name, but it’s a location everyone knows.”

...

67. Crye-Leike’s Meyer Hits 20 Years With Company -

Chris Meyer has reached his 20th anniversary at Crye-Leike Realtors as a licensed sales associate. Meyer is a Life Member of both the Memphis Area Association of Realtors and the Crye-Leike Multi-Million Dollar Clubs. He is a licensed affiliate broker in Tennessee and Mississippi, specializing in residential real estate with a focus on new home construction and relocation.

68. Marketing Push Shows Businesses That Downtown Works -

The announcement in February that SunTrust Banks Inc. is clearing out of its 170,000-square-foot space in Downtown's One Commerce Square building - the second-tallest in the city - could be regarded as a setback for Downtown stakeholders.

69. Archived Article -

9 acres in Cordova
On Walnut Grove Road
Loan Amount: $6.2 million

Loan Date: April 2, 2007

Maturity Date: n/a

70. Archived Article -

Gallina Centro Retail Center
On Houston Levee Road
Sale Amount: $17.8 million

Sale Date: March 26, 2007

71. Archived Article: Newsmakers - YOUTH VILLAGES NAMES NEW BOARD MEMBER

UT Bowld Hires Transplant Services Director

Barry Marshall joined UT Bowld Hospital as administrative director of transplant services. Marshall previously worked with Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati ...

72. Archived Article: Newsmakers - Crye-Leike Adds Associates to Circle of Excellence

Crye-Leike Adds Associates to Circle of Excellence Crye-Leike, Realtors inducted the following sales associates into its Circle of Excellence as vice presidents within the West Tennessee region: ...

73. Archived Article: Zoe's (lead) - Lead

Downtown site kicks off chains Memphis presence

By LANCE ALLAN

The Daily News

A Birmingham, Ala.-based restaurant chain is expanding to the Memphis market, with the areas first Zoes Kitchen restaurant set to open Downtown this fall....

74. Archived Article: Real Briefs - The Memphis Certified Commercial Investment Member

The Memphis Certified Commercial Investment Member monthly luncheon is 11:45 a.m. today at the former Disney Store in Hickory Ridge Mall, 6075 Winchester Road. The luncheon focus is Retail Market...

75. Archived Article: Law Focus - Mid South industrial growth continues despite slowing economy Mid-South industrial market reflects national slowdown By MARY DANDO The Daily News Although Memphis still holds the top spot as the premier distribution center of the United States, the ...

76. Archived Article: Memos - Blake Pera, with CB Richard Ellis Memphis, has been awarded the Certified Commercial Investment Member designation by the Comm Blake Pera, with CB Richard Ellis Memphis, has been awarded the Certified Commercial Investment Member designation by the ...

77. Archived Article: Real Review - Ridgewyck Apartments, a 120-unit property at 6114 Ridgewyck Drive in Southeast Memphis, has changed hands for $6 SE Memphis apartments sell for $6.5 million Ridgewyck Apartments, a 120-unit property at 6114 Ridgewyck Drive in Southeast Memphis, has ...

78. Archived Article: Memos - Laura T Laura T. Todd has joined the Bank of Collierville as mortgage loan officer. Formerly with First Tennessee Mortgage in Collierville, she has been in mortgage banking for more than 14 years. Todd is a graduate of the University of Mississippi ...