Buzz Trexler

The Buzz in the Newsroom and Beyond …

New word for a divided nation

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Sometimes one indication of a longstanding national problem is that a journalist has written so many stories on a subject that he or she has grown tired of using the same old words and reaches for a new one.

I noticed a new word for me in this sentence today, where the journalists (it was a dual byline) substituted it for the words “torn apart,” or “split,” in a story on President Obama’s speech Tuesday in Kansas: “He did so knowing the nation is riven over the question of whether economic opportunity for all is evaporating.”

Personally, I think “torn apart” or “split” are more commonly recognized by readers and say it very well; however, I thank Ken Thomas and Ben Feller of The Associated Press for sending me to “Webster’s New World.”

Written by buzztrexler

December 7th, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Politics, media

‘Pay-per-view’ public records bill trimmed

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thebuzz150

There’s at least a little bit of good news for taxpayers who have been watching HB1875, a bill sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville). As it was originally written, you would be charged for the labor incurred in viewing public records you’ve already paid for with your taxes. The new language now reads something along the lines of ‘the right to inspect records does not include electronic equipment.’

The rewritten bill is now in Finance, Ways and Means because of a fiscal note.


Written by buzztrexler

April 27th, 2011 at 11:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Bankers’ bill cuts down chance of knowing your house is going to be foreclosed upon

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There’s a bill in the General Assembly, HB1920, that would allow banks to foreclose on your property by running only one public notice.

Currently, the law mandates that they have to give you three chances to see it published in a newspaper before they can sell your house on the courthouse steps. Even at three, Tennessee ranks in the lowest third of states and this bill would put us at dead last in terms of consumer protection.

The bill as it is currently crafted does not even require a full legal description of the property; in fact, a street address is not even required. You would have to go to a government office to see the legal description — particularly since the amended bill now prohibits the publication of any legal description. If you’re fortunate, by the time lawmakers get through trimming, cutting and crafting, you might get at least the name, deed book and page number where the foreclosure sale is listed.

Not surprisingly, our state is already among the nation’s bottom five in terms of judicial oversight of bank activities in foreclosure. And it’s beginning to look like property owners who are facing foreclosure will have only one option left: bankruptcy.

Oh, and by the way: The bill would shield the bank or lender from any responsibility if there is an error in the foreclosure notice, little as it would be under this legislation.

Now, the cynic would say we newspapers are only watching our own bank account. Certainly there is no doubt that this is a revenue issue for newspapers, but as we’ve noted before: Community newspapers are more than just a business. We’re the only ones who alert you when someone else is trying to keep you in the dark.

But at least we’re up front about the fact that we do get revenue off of foreclosure notices. It’s what helps finance the gathering of information to keep you informed.

Guess who’s sponsoring the House bill? State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir), who is on the board of BB&T Bank.

The Senate version, SB1299 is sponsored by Jack Johnson (R-Franklin).

Our very own Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) is vice chairman of that committee and would likely enjoy hearing your viewpoint. You can call him at (615) 741-0981, or email him at sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov.

Likewise with state Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville). His number is (615) 741-3560; email, rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov.

Written by buzztrexler

April 26th, 2011 at 11:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Some lawmakers playing darkball in General Assembly

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thebuzz150

It’s baseball season and since May 24, 1935, when the Cincinnati Reds took on the Philadelphia Phillies at night, light has penetrated the darkness. But in Nashville, it seems some lawmakers would still prefer to keep the public in the darkball land.

Here’s just a taste of such attempts still alive in the Tennessee General Assembly today:

‘DOUBLE TAXATION’

You’re already funding state government through your tax bill this year, but that’s not enough for some Republican lawmakers who have sponsored HB1875. They want to charge you for labor if you want view the public records you’ve already paid for with your taxes. That’s right: Just to look at the record. It’s being called the “$2 million of double-taxation bill.”

Most reasonable taxpayers understand the need to fund government services, but no one likes to pay for the same service twice. Imagine going to your local restaurant and ordering a sweet tea and then having them bill you to pour it into your glass.The bill is sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd, (R-Collierville), with a companion bill in the Senate being carried by Ken Yager (R-Harriman).

The citation of a Senate sponsor to Todd’s bill SB1951put the blame on our very own Sen. Doug Overbey, but a check with his office in Nashville determined that was not the case and was probably due to a clerical error. (The error was corrected after we called Overbey’s office.)

Time’s running out: This bill is being heard in the House State and Local Government Committee at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

IGNORING ‘THE DIGITAL DIVIDE’

HB1309/SB1263: This legislation would allow all Sunshine and other government public notices to be posted only on local government websites in Hamilton County, even though 32,000 households in Hamilton County do not own a computer. This is one of those slippery-slope bills. Can you imagine if the same thing happened statewide? True, Internet usage is continuing to grow, but if you can not afford a computer or high-speed Internet, you’ll be cut out of the information loop. The Senator bill, which ignores the so-called “digital divide,” is sponsored by Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and the House version by Vince Dean (R-East Ridge). The message: If you can’t afford the Internet, you don’t have the right to know.

BREAKING NEWS: SCANNERS DON’T KILL PEOPLE

HB1539: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna), would close 9-1-1 call and dispatch records. There’s an amendment that would open the records, but prohibit “broadcast or republication,” but it was tabled by none other than Sen. Curry Todd, who is a retired Memphis policeman. Incidentally, it’s our understanding that Todd drilled one open government proponent saying that citizens and the media should not be allowed to have police scanners. Presumably, they are dangerous weapons in the hands of untrained personnel.

Friends, there’s more action going on in darkball land, but that’s enough for now.

Still looking for a little light to shine in Nashville.

Written by buzztrexler

April 18th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

-30-, old friend. You’ve served Democracy well …

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The front page from The Last Run.

As I type this, my fingers still carry the ink from having pulled five copies from the last run of the Goss Urbanite press that has served Democracy at The Daily Times since 1982. I can’t bear to wash my hands just yet, so this iMac keyboard will just have to suffer a little.

It wasn’t until we started researching “The Last Run” that I realized the cylinders had only run at this location for seven years when I arrived in December 1989. A lot of ink has flowed throw its veins since then, marking history for then and future generations.  Front pages carrying headlines of events such as:

  • Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, which if memory serves correct took place the week The Daily Times became a morning newspaper. The front page was done and the press had to roll, so we stuck a paragraph in the left ear at the top of the flag. It wasn’t much, but it was all the story we had at press time.
  • The Blizzard of 1993, which took place this very weekend and was sometimes referred to locally as the storm of the century. A certain metropolitan newspaper missed an edition, but not The Daily Times. At least one person slept in the newsroom and the Goss kept rolling, giving our readers important information for days as they waiting on the streets to clear.
  • The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which left 168 people dead. I can still see the iconic photo that came off of our press: firefighter Chris Fields holding the dying infant Baylee Almon. I played it big; three or four columns, if I recall. Sometimes you just know: Photographer Charles Porter won a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for that historic shot.
  • Space Shuttle Columbia’s ill-fated re-entry on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003. I was helping a band set up for Sunday worship at Green Meadow UMC when I got a call on my cell phone. I left and spent the afternoon gathering wire copy, photos and designing Page 1A.
  • And then there was the 2000 presidential election that rolled off of our press. Well, the press got it right, even if I didn’t.

But the runs I’ll really remember began the night of Sept. 11 … followed by Sept. 12 … and then Sept. 13. The newsroom rocked for what became 15- to 17-hour days. The Goss cranked out what became award-winning front pages.

There were many others, to be sure. But it’s 12:30 a.m. Sunday. I have to get up in a few hours and preach. I couldn’t sleep; I had to be here. My flock already knows.

Within 12 hours I’ll be back at this keyboard, helping to put  together the pages that will become our first edition to be printed on the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s press later tonight.

In the coming years, I’m sure there will historic Daily Times editions printed across the river as well.

But as for our own press room … it’s -30-, old friend. You’ve served Democracy well.

Written by buzztrexler

March 13th, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Views from the Capitol hilltop

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thebuzz150When the Tennessee Press Association gathers for its winter convention, those who inhabit the Capitol Hilltop are kind enough to stop by and share a few words. Here are glimpses and snippets from today’s legislative planning sessions with the Tennessee press:

Pass me that lug wrench, please

State Commissioner of Finance and Administration Mark Emkes is former CEO of Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. In introducing Emkes, TPA President Art Powers noted the commissioner’s  resume cites his first Bridgestone job as a trainee changing tires. Emkes told journalists and others gathered at The Associated Press-Tennessee Press Association Legislative Planning session this morning the state’s current budget woes makes that job somewhat attractive right now.

Among the possible budget cuts cited by Emkes:

  • reducing TennCare payments;
  • placing further limits on TennCare pharmacy benefits;
  • closing the state’s only forensic mental health facility;
  • reducing payments to local jails;
  • and elimination of the state hemophilia program.

Even while standing in that budget pit, the finance commissioner said things are looking up. “I think there’s a lot of positive trends,” he said, pointing to an uptick in sales tax revenue. Emkes said the  past Christmas season was the best since 2007 and car sales have experienced double-digit growth in the past four months.

“When car sales are up, they drive so many other things,” Emkes said.

Emkes’ office later issued a press release saying overall January revenues were $997.3 million, which is $38.2 million more than the state budgeted. The release noted it’s the sixth month of positive growth this fiscal year, with sales and corporate tax collections once again contributing heavily to the growth.

Still, Emkes said, the economic recovery will continue to be slow going and may not reach fruition until 2013 or 2014.

In the meantime, the belt-tightening will go on, particularly as those non-recurring federal recovery dollars disappear.

“So, these cuts will have to be made,” Emkes said. “It’s a matter of prioritizing which cuts will be made.”

Walking into Memphis

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) was supposed to join Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) in talking to members of the Tennessee press. As it turned out, Harwell was caught up in the General Assembly debate over the Memphis City Schools’ merger legislation, which eventually passed 64-31 along party lines. Ramsey stood alone at the podium as questions were presented concerning the issue and the appropriateness of the General Assembly getting involved in what seemed to be a local situation.

Ramsey explained to the group that he walked into the Memphis schools issue recently in the halls of the General Assembly when Rick Locker of The Commercial Appeal asked what he thought about the city school board’s move to bow out of the education business. According to Ramsey, he simply replied that such a huge endeavor needed a strategic plan to ensure a successful transition.

“The Memphis City Schools is by far the largest in the state of Tennessee,” Ramsey told press members today. With the city system having about 103,000 students and county system around 47,000, Ramsey pointed out that Memphis has more students than some counties have residents. The former gubernatorial candidate admitted that it was a “volatile issue,” but said it came down to what is best for the students, not the teachers and administrators.

On another note, Ramsey said the key issue for him was jobs and getting government out of businesses’ business.

“My No. 1 goal is to make Tennessee the best place in the nation to operate business,” said Ramsey, who said government should get out of the way.

“You know what I want out of state government? Absolutely nothing. Leave me alone and I’ll create jobs.”

In case you didn’t hear me the first time …

Sen. Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) was a stand-in for House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), who was to join Sen. Beverly Marrero during the TPA session. Fitzhugh was apparently tied up in the Memphis schools debate.

Kyle minced no words when it came to expressing his feelings about the “large-and-in-charge” Republican majority.

“You’re going to see a smarter, more centralized government making decisions for you,” Kyle said in a chiding manner, explaining that the lesson of Memphis City Schools is that the  representatives in the legislature “saw a problem and they fixed it … and they really didn’t care what local folks thought about it.”

Written by buzztrexler

February 10th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Public notices on government websites? Who would notice?

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The undercurrent in Nashville continues to be a move by some to eliminate statutory publication of legal notices in general circulation newspapers in favor of publishing such notices on government websites.

Who favors such a move?

Public officials who have a beef with their local newspaper, financial and other institutions who would rather pocket an otherwise additional expense, and lawmakers who favor opaqueness rather than transparency in government.

What rationale is being used?

One young lawmaker we’re told is fond of saying, “No one reads newspapers anymore.” Maybe no one in his circle of influence reads newspapers, but then perhaps his constituents should question whether he is casting informed votes. Chances are, more than 80 percent of his constituents are better informed than the man they elected to represent their district.

To expound upon the words of Roman statesman and philosopher Marcus Cicero, there is no lie so unbelievable that if you repeat it often enough, people will come to believe the lie: The truth is,  community newspapers easily make up the largest number of newspapers in Tennessee. They are still being read and they are still being counted upon as the No. 1 place to obtain information, according to a recent study.

In a four-year study, the National Newspaper Association and University of Missouri concluded, “The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 60 percent of respondents: that’s four times greater than the second and third most popular sources of local news (TV/14 percent and friends and relatives/13.4 percent).”

Among other findings cited by the University of Missouri study:

  • 81 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week and shared their paper with 2.36 additional readers.
  • They spent about 40 minutes with their newspaper, and 73 percent read most or all of their newspaper.
  • They like to keep it around: Nearly 40 percent hang on to their papers for more than a week.
  • Three-quarters of readers read local news often to very often in their community newspaper, but 53 percent say they never read local news online; 12 percent say they read local news often to very often online.
  • Of those who do go online for local news, where do they go? Sixty-three percent go to the local newspaper’s website. (Only 12 percent go to a local TV station’s website.)
  • Lawmakers and other public officials take note: Sixty-eight percent have never visited the website of local government. Part of the reason could be because 30 percent do not even have Internet access in the home.

In short, the system we have for bringing public notices before taxpayers is not broken and changing statutory requirements to allow for merely posting them on government websites locks out a significant number of people.

Moving public notices to government websites? Who would notice?

Maybe that’s the real motivation.

It will be interesting to see the nature of such legislation and who is pushing the change.

Written by buzztrexler

February 10th, 2011 at 9:34 am

Posted in Legislature, Politics

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Fred ‘got it’ through Christ

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Fred got the last word, and it was a good one.

When hundreds of people gathered for his funeral service Sunday at St. John’s Cathedral, an Episcopal church in Knoxville, much was said about the life of Maj. Gen. Frederick Harwood Forster, affectionately known as “Fred,” “Colonel Fred,” or “General Fred.” (My wife, Donna, long admired him, but never called him anything except “Colonel Fred,” even after his advancement in rank. “He’ll always be Colonel Fred to me,” she said, because that was how she was introduced to him some 15 years or so ago.)

During the service, the liturgy for which was drawn from the Book of Common Prayer, Chris Soro gave a moving reading of Isaiah 61:1-3, interspersed with various reflections about Fred and the virtues he shared with the community. Soro pointed out the Germanic origin of the name “Frederick” is that of “peaceful ruler.”

Soro, whom I was told was part of Fred’s prayer group, said that just as Isaiah held together the Southern Kingdom of Judah, “Fred’s leadership held us all together.” The Alcoa engineer pointed out the text from Isaiah was quoted by Jesus as he announced the arrival of his ministry while speaking at a synagogue in Nazareth.

Soro drew an analogy to Fred’s acceptance of his military and community mission, saying, “Fred recognized and embraced the mission that was given to him by God.”
“Isaiah accepted the challenge. Jesus accepted the challenge. Fred accepted the challenge,” Soro said. “Fred knew he had the opportunity, knew he had the mission, and he accepted that challenge.”

Ken Foster read from Psalm 91, and then offered a salute to his close friend.

Sue Dawson closed that portion of the service with a reading from Philippians 4:4-9, said to be Fred’s favorite passage. “Fred was very clear about from where his own source of inspiration came,” Dawson said, adding that the retired pilot claimed “God’s words for his own personal flight plan.”

The Rev. Martha Sterne, formerly of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Maryville, gave the homily, during which she said, “We have never seen an outpouring of love and gratitude like this.” Sterne said that despite his military and community standing, Fred “never big-shotted it, ever,” but embraced people from all walks of life.

“He got it: In Christ there is no east, or west, or black or white, or general or private,” Sterne said. She went on to speak of his leadership and “optimistic insight into God’s world,” as well as his contributions to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the “Beloved Community,” whereby one serves to, as the prophet Micah said, “act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.”

Fred was the medium

In the early 1960s, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message,” meaning that the medium influences how the message is perceived. If one were able to poll the hundreds of people who attended Fred’s funeral, it’s likely a number of them did not know the depth of Fred’s relationship to his faith in Jesus Christ until they heard it expressed through the readings and homily. Still, they would know the medium that presented that message in the form of Fred Forster, and it was one they apparently accepted.
And what was Fred’s last message? It was in the offering of what is sometimes called the Eucharist, Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, where those of the Christian faith celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Much of what has been said in Fred’s passing has pointed to Fred, and the Blount County and community leader likely knew that would be the case. In the offering of Holy Communion, Fred was saying, “Want to know why I lived my life in love and service to others? Look to Christ. Don’t imitate me; imitate Christ. That’s all I have done.”

That’s Fred’s legacy, and it is a legacy that flowed organically from his Christian faith.

In “The Wisdom of Tenderness,” Brennan Manning writes, “Wisdom teaches that the goal of our lives is to live with God forever. We’re pilgrims passing through, and Jesus counsels us to count how few days we have and thus gain wisdom of the heart. When I accept in the depth of my being that the ultimate accomplishment of my life is me — the person I’ve become and who other persons are because of me — then living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness is not a technique, not a craft, not a Carnegian ploy of how to win friends and influence people, but a way of life, a distinctive and engaged presence.”

It’s been said that if one strives to leave a legacy, the legacy they leave is one of striving. That was not the case with Fred. The legacy he left is one of living … in Christ.

Written by buzztrexler

November 24th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Community, faith

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First Amendment freedoms were not always this free

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We take a lthebuzz150ot of things for granted, particularly when it comes to the concept of a free press as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment — a concept that is only about 75 years old. True, the 1st Amendment is well over 200 years old, but the legal precedent for the freedom we know today has its roots in a 1931 case that protected — of all things — bigoted speech.

The story goes something like this:

Minnesota passed a “gag law’ in 1925 that was ostensibly aimed at “yellow journalism,” the practice of printing exaggerated or false stories to drive up a newspaper’s circulation. Through the use of such a law, a judge could shut down a newspaper that was proven to be a scandal sheet or had defamed someone.

The Saturday Press, which was published in Minneapolis by J.M. Near, printed many credible stories about corruption in city politics, but Near was also a known bigot who cared not for Catholics, Jews and African Americans, and the ink on The Saturday Press’ pages revealed that prejudice.

Near published a series of stories claiming Minneapolis was being controlled by a Jewish gangster, whom the paper also alleged was paying off the mayor, county attorney and police chief. The county attorney took exception to the stories and sued Near and the paper, charging that they violated the Minnesota Gag Law by publishing scandalous, false and defamatory material about public officials.

Near claimed the Gag Law violated the 1st Amendment, but a trial judge disagreed. The publisher carried his appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, which agreed by the slimmest of margins (5-4) that the Minnesota Gag Law was unconstitutional as it violated the 14th Amendment — to wit, the state passed a law that violated the constitutional guarantee of a free press.

This was a landmark case during a time when states would pass a law to shut down a critical press. You see, our free press was not always this free.

In his book, “Losing the News,” Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Jones, of Greeneville, recounts the long, hard road to what we now experience as freedom of the press. From John Peter Zenger, the New York printer who was charged with seditious libel for printing stories that assailed New York Gov. William Cosby, to criminal laws forbidding the publishing of abolitionist newspapers, press freedom came at a sometimes destructive and violent price at the hands of mobs and even those acting on behalf of governmental entities.

Even today, we stand somewhat alone in our view of a free press and understanding of free speech. Jones points to our closest ally, Great Britain, where criminal penalties are still assessed for violating the Official Secrets Act, “which allows the government to put severe limits on what British subjects may be told by the media.” In Great Britain, there could be no disclosure of presidential malfeasance in the form of investigative stories concerning Watergate, nor could the Pentagon Papers have been published. But as Jones points out, America was no different in its attempts to restrain such freedom throughout much of our history.

“The story of free speech and free press in American has inspiring moments,” Jones writes, “but much of the saga is riddled with political expediency, judicial double-talk, and bald repression.”

We should not take the 1st Amendment guarantee of “freedom of speech, or a free press” for granted. A free and vibrant press is essential to a healthy democracy, while actions of prior restraint and the passage of suffocating legislation would eventually put a democratic nation in hospice.

Hold us accountable; challenge us when necessary; laud us, applaud us, chastise according to your own values and opinions. But jealously guard the freedom to do so.

Thanks to Encyclopedia.com for the background on Near vs. Minnesota.

Written by buzztrexler

November 3rd, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Issues, media

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A cup of coffee in a well enlightened place …

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thebuzz150

As part of my other vocation — that of a United Methodist pastor — I occasionally meet with a group of Blount County clergy folk at a local cafe. There, we drink coffee, eat a bagel or two, and talk about ministry, family and life in general.

Over time, I began to notice a group of gentlemen who seem to have an ongoing, fairly animated coffee klatch. It didn’t take me long to decide these were the sort of men who were willing to engage community and world problems head-on.

Alas, when our regularly scheduled meeting days rolled around, I stayed with the clergy folk and did not enter their world. However, the day did come earlier this week when I found myself without conversation partners and I thought, “Here’s my chance. I’m going to stop by their table and see what this group is all about.”

It was made easier by a familiar face or two, one of whom introduced me as the local newspaper editor and also noted my pastoral position.

Not sure whether to sit down or run, I made mention of the election and then pontificated about my concern over not only the lack of electoral participation, but of a general sense that so many people see no need to be informed. I also noted that it was disturbing that some six-figure earners glean their news for free, while not supporting their local newspaper — despite the fact that a year’s subscription costs less than what some would drop on dinner for two at Regas.

One fellow suggested that the reason newspapers are dying is that journalists are, by and large, liberal and slant the news. “People are tired of not getting the truth.”

I think it was then that I decided this was my kind of crowd and asked if could sit down.

Are newsrooms more liberal than America at large?

A 2004 study by the Pew Center for the Public and Press revealed that a majority of journalists self-identified as being liberals. Elsewhere, a 2008 Pew Center study using self-identification notes that only about one-in-five Americans currently call themselves liberal (21 percent), while 38 percent say they are conservative and 36 percent describe themselves as moderate. Writing for Pew, Juliana Horowitz notes, “This is virtually unchanged from recent years …”

It’s no surprise.

I would venture that ideological bias has been the case since the days of H.L. Mencken, the early 20th century journalist who was once quoted as saying, “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”

Answering the unasked question …

Given that the charge of liberalism in the newsroom was leveled with such fervor, and assuming that my own political persuasion was a matter of curiosity among at least some in the group, I decided to give a brief ideological biography.

When I was a college student, I was undoubtedly Left of center politically. Anyone who knew me was well aware that I was fond of Yippies, Hippies and all other things counterculture. Additionally, I carried a dual major of mass communications and sociology, the latter of which is widely regarded as a liberal discipline. As for the journalism department at East Tennessee State University, I have no recollection of a liberal bent on the part of the professors; in fact, at least one was quite the opposite, having served in military intelligence.

My political-ideological bent remained Left of Center when I entered the profession in 1980; however, in 1985, my politics and worldview were transformed by a conversion experience. It was at this point in my story that the protagonist in coffee klatch said something to the effect of, “What did you convert to, Republican?” To which I replied, “No, I became a Christian.”

After my conversion experience, my writings took on an obvious social conservative flavor, addressing such topics as humanism, the legalization of drugs, sex education and the like. My conservatism ran so deep that, while working at The Knoxville Journal in 1988, I may have been the only Knoxville print journalist who was able to secure an interview with then presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

Still, over the years, my views have mellowed a bit. Today, my political ideology is more emergent in that some who like to categorize people would find certain of my views as liberal, others as conservative, and still others “middle of the road.” In my own mind, I am middle of the road; but then, that’s where most people see themselves.

When it comes to ideology, most of us are quite self-delusional.

So, what is the real concern?

I told my new-found coffee mates that the issue with me is not someone’s bias, political or otherwise. The truth is, we are all biased — butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and, yes, even journalists. The enemy is not bias, it’s biased reporting. My friends may find this difficult to believe, but having served at four newspapers in 30 years I can unequivocally say that, like the Apostle Paul, most editors and reporters run the good race against bias.

How do we do that?

Well, for my part, it’s by knowing our writers and editors and seeking to discern their bias and where it may slip into their reporting. There are journalists who fear disclosing their political bent for fear that someone will accuse them of being biased in their coverage. As an editor, I’d rather know a colleague’s bent; for since biased reporting is the enemy, I want to know what to know the particulars of someone’s bias. It is the hidden enemy that I fear, when it comes to bias.

Join me in another cup?

Sitting at the roundtable — well, it was actually rectangular, I think — was a lively beginning to my week. They gave me a few news tips before I left, some of which I passed along. Who knows? They may see some ink in the future. It may take some time, but we’ll see how they pan out.

In the meantime, if my clergy friends fail to show up again, I may wander over and see if this liberal-middle-of-the-road-conservative editor is still welcome.

As for any other groups, if you’d like to join me for coffee, send me an e-mail.

-30-

Written by buzztrexler

November 2nd, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Posted in coffee klatch

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