Knoxville Gets a CSPAN Close-Up

Just when we’re starting to feel suave and international, our Podunk years safely behind us, the Knoxville Journal runs a front-page headline, “CSPAN Interviews Journal Writer,” with a big color photograph, above the fold, to prove it. The Writer, in the leopard-print skirt, was Martha Rose Woodward, who was being interviewed concerning her Aracadia series photographic book about the 1982 World’s Fair. She was one of several subjects of interest to the CSPAN crew of three, who spent last week at the downtown Marriott, venturing into town by day to interview dozens of folks (they got at least one Metro Pulse writer, too), and see sites including the Haley monument, Old Gray Cemetery, Market Square, the Sunsphere, and the Body Farm. They were shooting short pieces on Knoxville’s literature for CSPAN 2’s “Book TV” weekend programing; and history, mostly political, for CSPAN 3’s “American History TV.” Rather than a single Knoxville show, they’ll show quite a few discreet little mini-travelogues on the two channels on the last weekend of October, as segues between the network’s regular programming, so you’ll need cable, two TVs, and some patience, to see them all.

Knoxville was the last of a half-dozen Southern cities in this series. Others included larger cities like Charlotte and Atlanta and smaller ones like Charleston and Savannah. Adrienne Hoar and Tiffany Rocque, the two young Washington-based reporter-camerawomen who did most of the footwork, politely said only that they enjoyed their stay. Hoar was impressed at how many downtown Knoxvillians seem to know each other; Rocque was surprised at how often we make sharp distinctions between East, Middle, and West Tennessee; previously, she admitted, she’d thought of it as just “Tennessee.” Their Southern journey complete, they flew back to Washington last Saturday. There was some talk of sticking around to see the spectacle of the Vol Navy.

No one in Knoxville knew about the expedition until a few days before it happened, but an impromptu wine and hors d’oeurves reception for them at the History Center last Tuesday brought out Knox cognoscenti, including an array of publishing, broadcasting, tourism, academic, and political honchos. County Mayor Tim Burchett told his joke about East Tennesseans not having an accent; professor/ author Bruce Wheeler gave a longer talk about the city’s peculiar history. You could call it a Mayberry moment, making such a big deal about a couple of young photojournalists for two of the more esoteric cable channels, but we can’t lie: We were there, too.

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