Ear to the Ground: Familiar Faces

Familiar Faces

Local media scrambled on a normally quiet Sunday morning to cover the gruesome shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, but most reporters soon found some familiar faces to interview.

Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon is a member of the church and was in the sanctuary that morning. Amy Broyles, who is favored to join Harmon as the other commissioner for the Second District, was also there; her husband helped wrestle the suspect to the floor.

Steve Drevik, a candidate for commission in the Fourth District, is also a member of the congregation. He wasn’t at the service, but rushed to the scene when he heard about it. He gave extensive interviews to local media and to national cable channels for two days about an event he didn’t see. He did provide a photo of the taped-up door to local television stations.

If Broyles and Drevik are elected, it looks like a reporter will have to attend Sunday services to insure no Sunshine Law violations occur.

The News Sentinel mustered all hands on Sunday morning. The combined by-line on the initial stories included Frank Munger, a senior writer who covers DOE facilities in Oak Ridge, and Amy McRary, a feature writer for the Living section. McRary was not out of her element, however—she began her career as a wire service reporter before joining the News Sentinel. Munger hasn’t been on the police beat for 30 years.

On Second Thought…

Alison Wagley won’t be taking a job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory after all.

Officials at UT-Battelle, which operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are closed-mouth on the issue but do confirm the organization is going in a different direction in hiring a community outreach person.

Wagley, director of Neighborhood and Community Outreach for Knox County government, was the center of controversy when she was asked at a budget hearing if she planned to continue with Knox County government or whether she had another job. She said she had not turned in a notice with the county. When her leaving for the ORNL job was announced, she was accused by Commissioners Paul Pinkston and William Daniels of lying to the commission. Mayoral spokesman Dwight Van de Vate said Daniels should apologize for the remark and called on him to resign from his office for attacking Wagley.

Wagley is a member of Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale’s inner circle and has been caught up in audits and scandals associated with the office for some months.

Cut, But No Layoffs

State budget shortfalls have resulted in the University of Tennessee in Knoxville looking for places to cut the budget.

But cutting costs at the university is proving difficult. Since 1980, the trustees have had what’s known as an exigency policy. No faculty tenure can be vacated without permission of the trustees, who have to declare an emergency. If departments and programs are eliminated and the tenured faculty members have to be retained and relocated, the savings are minimal.

Meanwhile, the Faculty Senate has suggested that before programs are eliminated, there ought to be cuts in administration—especially system-wide administration. They also suggest a tuition increase at the Knoxville campus higher than the 6 percent planned for the entire system.

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Comments » 1

sdrevik writes:

I want to be very clear on this. I only spoke to people for the first hour or
two to quell inaccurate rumors about the number of deaths, and to let
people with friends/family inside know the situation was under control and
that the shooter had been apprehended. Once the police made their
statement, I was trying to follow our congregation's agreement to black out
the media. I knew about the second death well in advance, but tried to stop
the rumors until the official press release.

When the rumors came about the shooter's motive ("why this church?"), I
called WNOX only to suggest that the media not speculate until more facts
are known. I tried to say nothing more and get off the phone after making
that point. I recently thanked HHH for agreeing to focus on other topics.

Once the story of the shooter's letter came to light, I felt compelled to break
the embargo one more time with one MSNBC reporter to focus people away
from the hot-button issue, defuse a volatile situation, and try to better
represent what our church stands for.

Extensive interviews my hiney. And the photo I provided was of the suspect
in the cruiser.

But, in the rush of sensationalism, a lot of stories were wrong. Heck, I was
wrong about the suspect's hair length because the guy was slumped over.

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