I really don't like explaining myself, but I don't like to be rude, either. I got an email this morning about I story I wrote today. I'll share it here, although I won't include the MPC commissioner's name. I will, however, say this person did in fact post a similar note on the KNS message board, so I feel that it's note unfair to republish the email here. On a side not, the county commission will hold a workshop tomorrow at 4 p.m. At the City County Building to further discuss the plan designed to protect the area's hillsides and ridgetops.
Here is the email (my response follows):
As an MPC Commissioner and a supporter of the Hillside/Ridgetop Plan, I have been following the KNS coverage of this closely. And I’ve been VERY disappointed. There have been story after story about the opposition (including the new story in today’s edition), but still no story explaining just what the plan IS. How do you expect your readers to evaluate the positions of either the opponents or the supporters if you don’t explain what the plan is and is not, and identify which objections are completely bogus (as in, not in the plan) versus those that have merit?
I talked to (editorial writer) Scott Barker about this six weeks ago and he talked to (Metro Editor) John North about it, but nothing ever happened. Two weeks ago I called John North myself and left a voice mail.He never called me back, but after the 2/10 MPC meeting (KNS business writer) Ed Marcum came up to me and told me he would be working on a story about plan content. However, as of Friday 2/18 neither Joe Hultquist nor Tony Norman had been interviewed by Mr. Marcum, so I’m assuming that story isn’t happening.
I’ve lost count of how many stories on the opposition to this plan you guys have published, yet you failed to even print a story about the MPC passage of the plan by a vote of 11-2 in Dec. But another story focusing on opposition the day before the Commission workshop - THAT you’ll print.
I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but I’m beginning to think the KNS wants the plan to fail and that’s bleeding over into the news coverage. At the very least, reporters are letting the opponents shape the coverage.
I’m not asking for a story focusing on all the people and organizations that support the plan, although that would be nice.All I want is a story simply explaining what the plan does and does not, is and is not. It might not be as easy as getting developers to whine to you, but it would do your readers a big service.
Here is my response:
I can speak only on the story I wrote today, but I hope we can agree to disagree.
I'll try to address each of your points as best I can.
I feel we explained what the plan is. In addition to running a box with the story in today's paper that had some “details,” we also ran a resignation letter AND we linked to the MPC plan. Further, I included the following graphs in the story:
“The proposed guidelines are designed to protect the aesthetics and deal with water quality, erosion and flooding. A joint 23-member city-county task force began developing them in March 2008 after the Knoxville Utilities Board built a water tower across Fort Loudoun Lake from downtown.
The plan, which could have an impact on a third of the county, restricts development on slopes beginning at 15 degrees and gets more restrictive as slopes get steeper.”
I feel by including the information (the plan, the box, the resignation letter and touching on the plan and why it exists) we have done a good job at explaining the plan.
Regarding Mr. Barker and Mr. North. I would try calling them again. Both take a ton of calls every day, so it's possible you were overlooked. Also, two weeks ago John was out of town.
Regarding Ed Marcum. I can't speak to that. I don't know what Ed is working on.
On a side note, it has bean reported that the MPC passed the plan. Regardless, it's not an issue because I was reporting that it's now headed to the commission and the council, which therefore means the plan was passed.
As far as focusing on the opposition. My first phone call was to Tony Norman (a plan supporter). He started focusing on the opposition. Not me. With that said, I quoted three supporters – Tony, Lisa and Carberrry. I quoted two opponents. I also quoted Mike Hammond and Dean Rice, but neither had an opinion.
Additionally, the focus of this story is not to explain the plan detail by detail, but rather to let people know that there is a commission workshop to discuss it, and to let the residents get engaged in these discussion. Also, a big part of this – whether you agree or not – it the request by some to have letters mailed to the property owners. That is an issue that will be debated in the upcoming weeks, possibly months. The commissioners are weighing in on this proposal as is the mayor's office.
Again, I hope this helps and we can agree to disagree. There's no conspiracy in the news coverage. I do not own property that would be affected under the plan. I don't have a dog in this fight.
Please feel free to call me.
I am not sure what more the letter writer wanted. I hope I answered the person's questions. If not, perhaps the county commission will. This is a hot issue right now, so public discussion is always encouraged.