Mr. Hussman, Bring Back A Quality Newspaper - And Response (5)

Monday, February 04, 2013

Dear Mr. Walter Hussman,

In the early 1980s I was a staff photographer for the Chattanooga News Free Press and found it to be a very educational and rewarding job. The owner and editor of the Times proudly displayed the header "To Give The News Impartially, Without Fear or Favor" as you still do on Chattanooga's only daily paper. Over the last year, I feel that your newspaper has drifted away from that longtime bold statement.

I subscribed to your paper for over 25 years but cancelled my subscription this past summer.

As you know, Mr. Drew Johnson, a self-reported "flame thrower," was hired by your company to increase sales of your newspaper. Your company's decision to place him in Chattanooga is one of the many reasons your newspaper has hemorraged subscribers and advertisers.

Drew Johnson has not been in town long enough to write indepth about the subject matter that he ruthlessly expounds. Apparently someone is feeding Mr. Johnson misinformation and that has caused a growing cancer eating away at good and honest journalism. I can name over 50 residents and buisnesses that have held subscriptions for over 30 years or more. One family subscribed and advertised for over 50 years. They recently cancelled because of the quality of writing and tone of the newspaper since Mr. Johnson's arrival. We need true and investigative reporters and insightful, mature, thoughtful editors. Drew has none of these qualities. He has helped destroy the reputations of countless well-meaning business people, politicians, and non-profit organizations with his malignant words.

We as a community are sickened by it. When I use the term community, I mean Republicans, Democrats, Liberals and Tea Partiers. I can think of nothing that will increase sales of your paper if Mr. Johnson continues to be employed in Chattanooga as your TFP editor. No one is going to pay more for something that they do not even want now. I suggest that you have a couple of your best investigative reporters come to Chattanooga and talk to your past customers and advertisers to find out about your failing newspaper. No one wants to see the TFP go away, but we do want to see a quality of journalism return to our doorstep.

I arrived home Sunday morning to find a paper lying in my driveway. My wife discovered a business card inside from your district sales manager that stated "let me restart your subscription at a Half Price rate of $100.00 for 1 year, 7days a week." I imagine that this half price announcement will not go over well with those that will soon be finding an increase in their subscription.

Please keep up with the recently posted article where Mr. Johnson has attacked the East Ridge City Manager Mr. Tim Gobble who has been "recklessly accused of wrong doing" by your TFP editor. This article can be found at www.chattanoogan.com in the breaking news section. Sir, I sincerly hope that you can get this dilemma straightened out for the sake of all of the quality employees who work so hard every day to share the news of Chattanooga and the surrounding areas. I hope that you can increase you subscribers and advertisers to bring back a quality newspaper again.

John Shackleford 

* * *

Mr. John Shackleford has written my letter for me. Thank you, Mr. Shackleford.

I have subscribed to the Times Free Press for over 50 years, beginning with separate subscriptions to each paper for many years before consolidation. Upon renewal the past three years, I have attached a cautionary remark to the effect that if the content of the paper did not improve I would be cancelling. No one at the paper ever addressed my concern but my comments on particular published content did generate rebuke from the editor for my criticism. I am afraid the time has come to make good on my remark.

I have many friends at the TFP that I rely on to exchange views, exercise good judgment and provide honest feedback. They always are professional and never fail to thank me for reading and contributing to the paper. It pains me to think that my cancellation may affect their employment. That is the primary reason why I am still a subscriber.

Having sprung from the same root as Mr. McDonald, I shall say categorically that that gentleman would not have tolerated the path the present management and editor have taken. I am surprised that the paper has not been forced out of business because of what I see as serious breaches by certain editors and writers.

So, Mr. Hussman, if you are not aware of what we want to see in our newspaper, many of us are still around who can tell you. And make no mistake, we do need newsprint delivered to our door each morning. If The Wall Street Journal can do it for a reasonable price, why can't you? After all, you are located here. But going beyond that $180/year, seven days a week delivered, for what I am receiving now is out of the question.

Charlotte Parton

Chattanooga

* * *

For more than 20 years, I was a reporter for both the Chattanooga Free Press and the combined papers, the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

I feel compelled to respond to John Shackleford's opinion regarding the quality of the current Times Free Press, and in particular his disdain for editorial writer Drew Johnson.

His assertions concerning Mr. Johnson are disturbing, especially coming from a former member of the "Fourth Estate."

My political leanings are far from Mr. Johnson's. However, I look forward to reading his editorials each and every day in the Times Free Press. I find his opinions well researched and reasoned, even if I don't necessarily agree with them.

Mr. Johnson's views regarding East Ridge, a city, in my opinion, long neglected by the Times Free Press, are on the mark. It's my understanding that Mr. Johnson lives in East Ridge and has taken a personal interest in how his tax dollars are spent, or in his view, squandered.

Times Free Press journalists are not directed by Drew Johnson to cover the issues that they write about daily. Mr. Shackleford describes Mr. Johnson as a "cancer" and makes the statement that "(Mr. Johnson) has helped destroy the reputations of countless well-meaning business people, politicians, and non-profit organizations with his malignant words." What a ridiculously hyperbolic statement.

I'm not happy about the fact that it appears subscribers to the TFP will have to pay more money to continue to receive what I consider a quality product. But, don't put the blame for a business plan that is no longer viable at the feet of an editorial writer.

I might add that The Chattanoogan has hastened the necessity for 20th century technology like newspapers to resort to new business plans as online content has siphoned off advertisers. Kudos to John Wilson for providing a quality, cutting edge product that competes with other news sources in our area. In my opinion, having more diverse sources for credible information will advance true journalism in the long run and provide much-needed perspective to citizens who truly want to keep themselves informed.

Dick Cook
Marlboro Avenue

East Ridge

***

I was a copyboy at the News-Free Press for two summers during college in the late 1970's. I will always remember John Wilson and Tom Griscom as being especially "nice" to the copyboys (we were the lowest rung on the newsroom ladder). 
 
My late father was an attorney for both the old Chattanooga Times and the News-Free Press for a number of years. My mother and former Times publisher Ruth Holmberg have known each other for years.   
 
In short, I have had ties to both papers for many years and probably started reading both every day without fail when I was 12 or 13 years old. 
 
I truly wish we could have the old Times and the old Free Press back. But we can't. Chattanooga was one of the very last cities in the U.S. that had two competitive newspapers. We were lucky to have both papers as long as we did.
 
Not to mention that even John Wilson is slowly getting older....we probably won't have the Chattanoogan.com forever.     
 
Walter Hussman is a good and innovative businessman who has figured out how to keep his newspapers running 7 days a week when many other papers around the country have closed outright or cut back to 3 days a week.
 
Blaming new editorial page editor Drew Johnson for the paper's decline is simply ridiculous. I now look forward to reading both sides of the editorial section every day. Both are well-written (although with different styles) and extremely thought-provoking.  
 
Both the liberal and the conservative sides are sure to make some people mad.    
 
But isn't that what they are supposed to do?
 
John M. Davies
Signal Mountain

* * *

Mr. Shackleford,

I, too, am a native Chattanoogan, one who has been blessed to live in a few other cities that had the benefit of some pretty good newspapers. With that experience, I must say that I have found myself better informed, edified, and more than pleased with the addition of Drew Johnson to the Times Free Press staff.

The seven most famous words in the history of American journalism might be..."All the News That's Fit to Print"...appropriated by Chattanoogan Adolph Ochs, to occupy the masthead of both his Chattanooga Times and the great New York Times. These words set a high bar indeed for the quality of journalism one expects to be treated to inside.

But what is meant by the "All" and "Fit" contained in this time-honored pledge?

To me, that means all the news - the good, the bad, and things we might otherwise wish we didn't know, but need to know if we intend to exercise our duty as citizens and possess an earnest desire to work for the betterment of our communities. Likewise, with the term fit. Fit certainly doesn't mean turning a blind eye to legitimate causes of concern for the health, safety, and welfare of our towns and cities, whether those concerns lie with individuals or institutions. To adopt such a standard would suggest all news conform to a blithe spirit of denial, because we might not enjoy news perceived by some as negative, or that an investigative expose might hurt someone's feelings, or even hold specific persons accountable for their acts . Frankly, that would be is no standard at all.

In my lifetime, we've had more than our share of collective denial in Chattanooga, and with regard to the city of East Ridge, in my three score years, you'd have to be totally blind and deaf not to score both its politics and governance as anything other than dysfunctional, if not serially corrupt.

I find it both ironic and amusing that Mr Gobble, in print here, launches into a tirade against Mr. Johnson, accusing him of yellow journalism, and offers as proof that he's lived up to the letter of his employment contract with regard to its residency requirement. Then, in the very next sentence, flaunts the fact that he's clearly given no consideration to living up to that contract's spirit and the expectations of a committed resident city manager - especially if those expectations should mean any sacrifice of his own personal convenience.With such a public display of outright hubris, who wouldn't want Mr. Johnson to take a peak under the covers of the doings and goings on over at the town hall?

As for Ms. Parton's admonition that we should strive to regain the mantle of the MacDonalds, at the old, stand alone, Chattanooga News Free Press, I offer a polite "No, thank you" to that too. In my college and graduate school days,we didn't refer to it as being "news free" for no reason; since it's entire circulation strategy seemed to rest with publishing a story about every litter of puppies whelped in Hamilton County, and every tee ball trophy awarded. That, and its editorial reaction to every rational piece of proposed legislation, be it federal, state, or local, that warned me to be on alert for Communists under my bed, before going to sleep each night. Today, I've got plenty of Tea Party acquaintances to warn me of the continuing threat of the Red Menace, as well as the fascist designs of President Obama.

I say...Bully for you, Mr. Johnson. You must be doing something right to provoke all this moral outrage and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Keep up the good work.

Lonnie Hatmaker 

* * *

Mr. Hussman, Please leave Drew Johnson just where he is.

Best thing that has happened to the newspaper in a long time. Just what was needed.

I feel he speaks the truth, no matter what side of the political party he is writing about.

Emilia Genter
East Ridge

 


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