Desperately Seeking the News: Post-Holiday Roundup

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​Three media leftovers from last week:

[1] Burying the Lede. Every political operative knows the best way to bury bad news that you can't literally bury is to make it public right before a weekend or, better yet, a holiday weekend. By that standard the afternoon before Thanksgiving is about as good as it gets (or as bad, if transparency in government happens to be your thing). So it comes as no surprise that the mayor's office chose last Wednesday afternoon to release an audit indicating that MDHA's pre-development work on a proposed convention center was riddled with serious flaws in contracting practices. What is a surprise, of the unfortunate journalism kind, is that neither The Tennessean nor The City Paper, in reporting the story, even mentioned the suspicious timing of the release--a transparent effort by city leaders to ensure that as few people as possible notice this latest embarrassing aspect of the Music City Center story.

[2] Publisher Changes; City Yawns. It was once the case that a change of publisher at a metropolitan daily was a major civic development. So perhaps it's a sign of the times, or at least a sign of the disconnect between our metropolitan daily and serious journalism, that last week's announcement that Carol Hudler would replace Ellen Leifeld as Tennessean publisher was such a minor story. Hudler, who has been based in Florida as group president of the South Newspaper Group within Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing division, retains that position while taking on the publisher role at The Tennessean. Hudler said of her new role, "The Tennessean Media Group is well-positioned for success. We have large and engaged audiences and are taking a multi-platform approach to publishing and marketing." Upshot: Our city's daily paper has a new publisher from out of town who makes no mention of "journalism" in canned comments for the Tennessean story on the change--a story that sheds little light on why Leifeld, a 30-year Gannett veteran, is suddenly and instantly retired.

[3] Credit Where Credit is Due. When the essence of a story arises from the investigative work of a particular news outlet, media ethics as well as common decency oblige other news outlets to acknowledge the story's origins. This simple principle has long posed a challenge for writers and editors at The Tennessean, who neglected to follow it in reporting last week on Nashville judge Gloria Dumas's response to misconduct charges. Rather than identify the origin of the allegations--investigative work by NewsChannel 5 reporter Phil Williams--the Tennessean piece masked it with a passive-voice statement that the charges "were leveled against Dumas in September." It isn't that difficult to credit a story to a competitor's news operation; real newspapers do it all the time.

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