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Love/Hate Mail

Phil Williams responds


While I certainly appreciate the compliments woven into Matt Pulle’s cover story (“One Big Turnoff,” Nov. 30), allow me to be a media critic for a moment.

You use my recent series on the Midstate’s “Dirty Dozen” restaurants as an example of the proposition that “no story is too sleazy, shallow, or silly” for TV sweeps. However, you would have given your readers a more complete picture if you had noted that I exposed alleged corruption within the Metro Police Department during sweeps. I uncovered problems with ineligible voters during this sweeps period. I also investigated the case of death row inmate Philip Workman and problems with Tennessee’s electric chair in stories that aired during sweeps.

You also state that I did not confront restaurateur Jody Faison “presumably because Faison would have had something to say.” What’s the foundation for ascribing such a motive? That goes beyond the issue of anonymous sources, which you have questioned, into mind reading.

In addition, you allowed a consultant from Magid Associates to criticize the quality of our work, but you did not tell your readers that Magid is on the payroll of Channel 2. It’s not surprising that Magid would trash a competitor. It is surprising that he would be given the aura of legitimacy to do so.

You quote the consultant as saying there is “no journalism involved” when a station “runs down to the health department, pulls the inspection report, and puts it on the air.” To do our story, I used a computer to analyze 16,000 restaurant inspections to give my viewers some perspective on which restaurants have the longest history of health problems.

Sometimes we expose huge wrongs; sometimes we provide our viewers with basic information they need. Both are journalism.

Phil Williams (Nashville)

On the dole

Matt Pulle’s take on TV newsrooms during sweeps is right on (“One Big Turnoff,” Nov. 30). There is just one problem. He holds out a TV news consultant as some sort of expert on enterprise journalism.

I agree with the consultant’s assertion [that] “there’s no journalism involved” in these sleazy stories, but doesn’t Pulle know that TV consultants, who make millions telling local stations what to do, are to blame for these stories? Consultants create the silly sweeps pieces and pass them around, telling stations, “It worked in Peoria, so it will work here.” It doesn’t surprise me. Consultants are so trained at telling clients what they want to hear, Pulle got the quote he needed.

Mike Sanders,

assistant communications professor

Central Missouri State University (Warrensburg, Mo.)

Must-flee TV

One thing [news director J.T.] Thompson at Channel 4 might consider is another revamping of the morning giggle-fest that purports to be a news and information program (“Desperately Seeking the News,” Nov. 30). If that was its aim, it is far wide of the mark. It really needs to calm the cutes.

Jon Johnson (Nashville)

Who's the sore loser?

Liz Garrigan puts up a weak argument that Gore is a sore loser like his father and should concede (Political Notes, Nov. 30). Which candidate is really behaving like the spoiled child? We watch as Bush whines that he won the election, and now Gore is trying to take it away from him. We shudder as Bush, in cahoots with his brother Jeb, now plots to “rig” the election by having the Republican legislature name the electors. This move would be a travesty on the election process and would most certainly weaken the presidency beyond repair for years to come. Bush would be well-served to let the process play out. Meanwhile, Al Gore is simply exercising his right under Florida law to contest the certification of an election in which thousands of votes are still uncounted. He is giving us all a lesson in democracy. Let’s wait and see who will emerge as the “gracious” loser.

Herb Nachman (Nashville)

Advice for the symphony

Concerning Marcel Smith’s article about the Nashville Symphony and its struggle to attract an audience (“Art Vs. Commerce,” Nov. 23), the symphony needs to continue to expand its performances of music outside of the formal “concert hall” approach. Most listeners tend to associate music with something other than “intrinsic value” or “great masterworks.” History shows that the idea of a sit-down-and-be-quiet concert is a relatively new one. Music has usually been associated with some additional form of activity such as a celebration, an athletic event, a religious ritual, etc. In today’s culture, most people listen to music while doing something else, either individually or collectively.

The symphony would also benefit from making most, if not all, of its concerts interactive. Well-conceived and informally delivered explanations about classical music would establish a human touch to abstract sounds. Program notes, although well-intended, do not make the same connection as a “live” presentation. The symphony did this with its Casual Classics series a few years back, and I hope something like that returns to their season schedule.

Much “new tonal” music is being composed that is fresh, challenging, and accessible for listeners. Just like a new rock band hoping to gain recognition often opens a concert for a well-known group, the symphony should continue to expand its inclusion of new music in its series. If the future looks uncertain for a large, 19th-century-model, acoustic ensemble such as a symphony orchestra, then the Nashville Symphony and its patrons have everything to gain by changing formats and taking risks.

David M. Bridges (Nashville)

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