The Responsibility Of Nashville Political Reporters

There is a lot of online banter this week about Clint Brewer becoming the new political editor of the Tennessean. After leaving The City Paper, Brewer spent more than a year at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research before taking this latest gig. There has been a lot of pontificating regarding his joining the paper, but I’m spotlighting online scribe Joe Lance of Chattanooga’s thoughts on the issue.

Congratulations, Mr. Brewer. Though some feel that this move signals a “shift to the right” in the newspaper’s editorial stance, I don’t see how hiring a government “watchdog” to oversee political reporting can be anything but good. Regardless of the personal views of a given reporter, the best political journalism is that which is unafraid to call out cronyism, waste, fraud, and incompetence, no matter with which party label the perpetrator is plastered.

Lance lives on the east side, and those of us here live on the west side of the state of Tennessee watch the Nashville political scribes and journalists carefully.  As those of us not living in that three-block bubble of the capital, it’s important for us to have fair and accurate reporting coming out of Nashville. Brewer, of course, will be scrutinized heavily but I tend to believe that he will do fine.  I lean left, others lean right, but the news is the news. Most street reporters know that. But as Pith and Joe Lance noted from a column by Jay Rosen, it’s complicated. We know that, but it doesn’t always have to be.

I’ve written about this before and this isn’t about Brewer in the least, let me adamant about that, but the biggest problem right now to me is that when reporters think they are bigger than their stories it becomes a problem. An example nationally is Bob Woodward. Breaks one of the greatest political stories in the last 50 years but when celebrity hit him, he became more of a talking head hack in the same vein of author Kitty Kelley. A reporter that I read religiously in this state working the Nashville beat is Tom Humphrey. He reports the news, I get to read it hundreds of miles away and I feel like I have a better idea of what’s going on.

Nashville political reporters have a responsibility to the entire state. I believe that Clint Brewer knows this. As I said, news is news. News is about communication and it’s important that the eyewitnesses on the ground in that three-block area are communicating the actual news, not ongoing political soap opera/gotcha moments, to the entire state. Especially in this day and age of shared news from Bristol to Memphis to Dyersburg. They are the eyes and the ears on the frontlines.

We wish Brewer well on his new journey. He’s a seasoned journalist and once you get out of news you want to get back into it. Believe me, I know this first-hand. He knows what’s ahead of him and we will be watching eagerly to read his input.

And I guess if we don’t feel like we are getting it, we will blog about it (I say tongue-in-cheek.)

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