media

Billboards used to push Memphis funding for schools

A week after Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland largely dismissed a new coalition’s call for $10 million in city spending on schools, the group is taking its message to billboards, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Fund Students First — comprised of elected officials, education advocates and public school leaders — posted two billboards Friday in high-trafficked streets in downtown and midtown Memphis. The campaign is being underwritten by Stand for Children, a national education advocacy group with offices in Memphis and Nashville.

One billboard says:

standforchildren

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UT student newspaper cuts print edition to twice weekly

The University of Tennessee’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Beacon, is cutting its print frequency to twice weekly after 50 years of printing five days per week, reports the News Sentinel.

The change, which will start in the fall of 2017, was announced Tuesday in an editorial by the paper’s current and incoming chief editors. (Note: It’s HERE.)

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Chattanooga publisher, civic leader Ruth Holmberg dies, age 96

Ruth Holmberg, Chattanooga civic leader and former publisher of The Chattanooga Times, died Wednesday at her home. She was 96.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

Holmberg was the granddaughter of Adolph Ochs, the 19th-century patriarch of The Chattanooga Times who rose to world prominence as publisher of The New York Times in the early decades of the 20th century.

Over time, Holmberg was deeply involved in Chattanooga civic life, serving in leadership roles in the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Urban League and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She was named Tennessee Woman of the Year in 2003.

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Emails show UT officials fired reporter in fear of funding loss in firing reporter

Email correspondence between University of Tennessee at Chattanooga top officials, obtained by the Times-Free Press, show that lawmaker pressure and a fear of losing state funding were indeed involved in the firing of WUTC reporter Jacqui Helbert.

Comments in emails appear in some respects appear to contradict earlier statements of UTC officials on the firing of Helbert, who has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the university.

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Fired public radio reporter sues UT-Chattanooga

Fired reporter Jacqui Helbert is suing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga over her termination from the campus’s public radio station, WUTC-FM, reports the Nashville Scene.

In a lawsuit filed (Thursday) in Hamilton County Circuit Court, Helbert asks for “reinstatement, apology, education and training about the laws violated, lost wages, harm for the emotional distress from the retaliatory firing, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and any further relief appropriate to the circumstances,” up to $1 million in damages.

The university and and two employees, senior associate vice chancellor of marketing and communications George Heddleston and associate vice chancellor of marketing and communications Chuck Cantrell, are named as defendants.

“Clearly I believe I was fired for reporting a story of important public interest that did not sit well with lawmakers,” Helbert says in a prepared statement.

See also the Times-Free Press report. An excerpt:

Helbert was fired “because she accurately reported the inflammatory and embarrassing words of one legislator and the truthful but unpopular words of another,” the lawsuit states. “Sadly, UTC chose self-preservation through retaliation over honesty.”

And the AP did a brief story on the lawsuit that was distributed nationally.

 

NPR says TN affiliate shouldn’t have fired reporter after legislator complaints

National Public Radio officials released a statement Monday saying Jacqui Helbert, former WUTC reporter, should not have been fired by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga last week after complaints from state legislators, reports the Times-Free Press.

The lawmakers say Helbert didn’t identify herself as a reporter while taping remarks of Sen. Mike Bell and Rep. Kevin Brooks to high school students opposing the “transgender bathroom bill.” (Previous post HERE.)

WUTC is an NPR affiliate, receiving more than $500,000 per year in state funding with a base of operations at UT-Chattanooga. The NPR statement urged the university and WUTC to reach an agreement that ensures the station’s editorial independence. Besides firing Helbert, the station yanked her report off the station’s website.

NPR’s statement said WUTC’s editors would not have removed the story from the station’s website if not told to do so by the university, and did not view the story as “fatally flawed,” as Helbert did not hide her equipment or mislead anyone, according to a statement released online by Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director, and Mark Memmott, supervising senior editor for standards and practices.

“Taking the decisions about enforcing ethics out of [WUTC’s] hands did more to undermine the station’s credibility than the original infraction,” the NPR statement reads. “This chain of events underscores why it is critical that newsrooms such as that at WUTC not be subject to pressure from the institutions that hold their licenses, the sponsors who give them financial support or the politicians who sometimes don’t like the stories they hear or read.”

Note: See also WPLN (Nashville’s NPR affiliate), which has comments from Bell and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, two of the legislators involved. The headline: “Republican Lawmakers Say They Didn’t Push For Chattanooga Reporter To Be Fired”

Gardenhire clash with talk show host depicted as ‘melt down’

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire “had a live on-air melt down” – as Tennessee Star describes it — during an interview with Nashville conservative talk show host Ralph Bristol when questioned about his bill to let the children of illegal immigrants living in Tennessee get in-state college tuition.

The bill (SB1014) is similar to one approved last year by the Senate, only to fall a couple of votes short on the House floor. This year, it cleared  the Senate Education Committee on a 7-2 vote last week and this week is scheduled for a vote in the House Education and Administration Subcommittee.

Tennessee Star, a recently-launched website with a right-wing orientation, has a fairly lengthy excerpt of the Bristol-Gardenhire exchange – and a link to the audio.

Is it fair, Bristol asked, to allow illegal immigrant students who are not American citizens to pay the much lower in-state tuition to attend Tennessee’s public colleges and universities when American citizens who reside in other states are required to pay the much higher out-of-state tuition.

…(A brief excerpt from the excerpt follows)

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Chattanooga NPR reporter fired after legislator complaints

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has fired a reporter at WUTC, a National Public Radio affiliate, after state legislators complained about her reporting on the so-called transgender bathroom bill, reports the Times-Free Press.

Jacqui Helbert, 32, followed a group of Cleveland High School students as they traveled to the state capital March 7 to meet with Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, about the legislation. They were advocating against the measure, which subsequently failed in a Senate committee.

(Note: The text of the offending story HERE. Much of it concerns a confrontation with Bell.)

The legislators say Helbert failed to properly identify herself as a reporter during meetings with the students. Helbert says it was “glaringly obvious” that she was, though she did not specifically say so, since she was wearing headphones, carried a 22-inch microphone and had an NPR press pass hung around her neck.

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Duncan: Trump’s wrong in calling media enemy of the people

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who endorsed Donald Trump before almost all other Republicans in Congress and agrees with him on most issues, says the new is dead wrong on one issue, reports Michael Collins.

“I disagree with him completely on saying the press is the enemy of the people,” Duncan said. “I think it’s very important to the future of our country to have a free press and freedom of the press and to have a strong, active media. I think just about everybody in the United States – or most people in the United States – believes in freedom of the press.”

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TN Student Freedom of Expression Act is no longer ‘informally, the Milo bill’

State Rep. Martin Daniel has dropped use of Milo Yiannopoulos’ name in promoting passage of a college campus “free speech” bill since the Breitbart News columnist  condoned sex between grown men and underage boys, according to The Nashville Scene and The Tennessean.

After a video of Yiannopoulos’ remarks became public, the Conservative Political Action Conference canceled his scheduled speech before the group and his publisher canceled plans to print a book he has written.

When contacted initially on Monday about the controversy Scene reporter Cari Wade Gervin says Daniel, R-Knoxville, told her had “seen some headlines” but hadn’t “really read anything” about the controversy and generally downplayed the past prominent references to Yiannopoulos.

During a press conference (Feb. 9) that featured a number of random speakers, including Fox talking head Scottie Nell Hughes, Daniel proclaimed his legislation is needed in Tennessee after protests over a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California in Berkeley turned partially violent.

“This bill, entitled the ‘Tennessee Student Freedom of Expression Act,’ or, informally, the Milo Bill, will, one, create an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression as a fundamental right,” Daniel said at the press conference, shortly before a statement from Yiannopoulos himself was read by another woman in attendance.

From The Tennessean:

On Monday, the East Tennessee lawmaker backtracked on his endorsement of Milo, sending out a series of tweets saying his bill would be known as “the Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, & the MLK JR. bill.”

In an interview, he said he was not familiar with the full extent of the video controversy.

“It seemed appropriate at that time to name it after someone who has been persecuted for freedom of speech,” Daniel said.

As for the apparent name change, Daniel said the bill is bigger than just one person or incident.

“What we want to do is make it clear that this bill is about freedom of speech, not just one person,” he said. “We are going to reference people who have been free speech advocates in the past.”

The bill (HB739) is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald.”

Note: Gervin’s report includes a partial transcript of Yiannopoulos’ comments, commentary and a recounting of abusive and obscene tweets sent to her after an earlier posting on the Feb. 9 news conference. A previous post is HERE and a copy of the news release announcing the press conference is below.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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