Jul 3 2012
08:32 am

The front page, above-the-fold big news headline in today's KNS says "Burchett Subpoenas Sentinel." This is big news, and editor Jack McElroy vents his outrage, saying "This is a heavy-handed attempt by the mayor to identify the source of a story he didn't like."

Burchett doesn't need to make an "onerous" (according to the KNS) demand to identify the source of the leak. The source's identity seems to be common knowledge. And the subpoena doesn't ask the KNS to identify the source, which is further proof of a conspiracy to "harass or intimidate" them according to the KNS.

Further, the subpoena is related to a matter entitled "Allison Burchett v. Tim Burchett," not "Tim Burchett v. KNS." Of course, to the KNS it's all about the KNS. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with a messy divorce, or discovery to establish means, motive and/or opportunity involving a related matter or anything like that. Because the KNS has quotes from random "experts" in Nashville and Virginia who know nothing about Burchett or the controversy or his divorce yet know exactly why Burchett subpoenaed the records, i.e. to intimidate the KNS and pierce the reporter's shield.

Regardless, the subpoena might not have been Burchett's smartest PR move considering the blowback in KNS comments, but then again we don't know its purpose. And he needs to clear up the discrepancies (which he has apparently been working on, having filed several amendments which today's big news story doesn't mention).

In the mean time, the latest milking of this possibly non-story by the KNS creates even more questions. For example, they published screen prints of online banking records. Was access to these records authorized by the account holder? Did it occur on KNS property using KNS facilities? The controversy is based on publicly available campaign finance reports plus check listings and images from the online banking service. Do they have the corresponding records such as invoice, receipts, etc. needed to develop a clear and complete picture? Who does? Also, did McElroy confront the process server who was just doing his job? Did he make a video recording of the confrontation?

At any rate, the KNS should not reveal their source, and if Burchett and his lawyers have a legitimate reason to obtain information unrelated to KNS reporting they should consider a different approach that does not involve innocent bystanders or a challenge to the newspaper's right to protect their sources.

[Edited for clarity]

R. Neal's picture

P.S. I will concede the KNS's

P.S. I will concede the KNS's point that the records request is overly broad and involves innocent bystanders.

Treehouse's picture

All the news that's fit to blog

Thanks, hardened journalist Randy. Somebody has to report the news.

Mike Cohen's picture


I'm not weighing in on the details, but when I was a journalist there were a few items that were sacred, among them the open meeting law, the open records law and the right to protect sources.

The Sentinel will fight this and if needed a ton of other media and journalism organizations will join in as friends.

It's all but sacred-who and why doesn't matter.

Anonymous3's picture

Dangerous territory.

Dangerous territory. Regardless of how big or small you think the story is, KNS needs to be protected from giving out confidential sources. Whistle-blowers need protection, and typically newspapers are the places where these people go. And as a blogger, you or Horback are going to have some "confidential informant" give you information, and you're going to be hit with a subpoena. Many news outlets would go to bat for you, but it seems everyone is burning KNS because of politics and not looking at the ideologies of a career politician on a witch hunt.

Average Guy's picture

The KNS should protect their sources

They should also vet them.

R. Neal's picture

Yes, they should have gotten

They should also vet them.

Yes, they should have gotten more backup documentation. It would have added a lot to the credibility.

Average Guy's picture

Allison Burchett, who filed

Allison Burchett, who filed for divorce in late April, said her husband directed her at the time to make the changes and to not record some of the expenditures.

It's ludacris to believe she didn't ask "why"? Same for the KNS.

I get the impression this town's "big boys" are all in a circle holding each others "little boys" and follow the mutually self destructive mantra of "you squeeze - I squeeze".

Anyone following this knows there is likely "more". It would have been prudent for the KNS to wait for it, and if they know it, they should print it. Even if they got it anonymously, assuming they truly trust their source.

EricLykins's picture

It's ludacris Sorry to go

It's ludacris

Sorry to go off-topic for a sec, but this misspelling is ludicrous. This is Ludacris- "Easy; I feel greasy when you squeeze me."

Average Guy's picture

All time weirdest spell correct

Still, it's ludicrous the paper got that statement from her with no follow up of "why"?

Or maybe they did and McElroy is simply waiting to go all "Jerry Springer" on us at a later date.

R. Neal's picture

Just for the record, I agree

Just for the record, I agree that the KNS should not reveal their source.

It's also not clear how the overly broad demand for records will reveal the source, though. It could be anyone who walked in the door. Or maybe they weren't even there and sent the KNS emails. Or the person Burchett assumes is the source was there on an unrelated matter. We don't know. I imagine the court would throw it out on that basis alone if it isn't withdrawn first.

Without knowing the real purpose of the subpoena, though, it's a bit of a stretch to cry tyranny and whatnot. There could be a legitimate purpose unrelated to KNS reporting, and a better way to accomplish whatever it is.

On the other hand, it would have been helpful for Burchett's lawyers to explain why they are demanding the info. They way it was handled left them open to the reaction they are getting.

Pam Strickland's picture

Or Donila met the source

Or Donila met the source elsewhere. That's just as likely to have happened as not. It's a fishing expedition. And there's a strong shield law in Tennessee. Using your divorce lawyer as a bait and switch doesn't make it what it isn't. The judge can see through this nonsense.

R. Neal's picture

Post edited for clarity.

Post edited for clarity.

Michael's picture

Yes, they should have gotten

Yes, they should have gotten more backup documentation. It would have added a lot to the credibility.

Like that assertion from your confidential source that McElroy "confronted" the process server and videotaped the incident? The one that's been discredited by Jamie Satterfield?

Average Guy's picture

It's video "record"

and anybody with a half way decent phone can do it.

R. Neal's picture

Like that assertion from your

Like that assertion from your confidential source that McElroy "confronted" the process server and videotaped the incident? The one that's been discredited by Jamie Satterfield?

I will stand by the info I received, which has been confirmed by two other reliable sources.

Average Guy's picture

The problem in a nutshell

Defense over accuracy.

Bbeanster's picture


Like that assertion from your confidential source that McElroy "confronted" the process server and videotaped the incident? The one that's been discredited by Jamie Satterfield?

It's more objective to say it's been denied by Jamie Satterfield, who hasn't yet answered Randy's question re whether she witnessed the event.

Michael's picture


I can't think of any objective reason whatsoever to videotape or confront a process server serving a subpoena.

Bbeanster's picture

Hell, people do things for

Hell, people do things for subjective reasons most of the time. I've probably committed a dozen such acts today and it's not even noon -- including this post.

Hildegard's picture

People will do anything to

People will do anything to get on Tosh.0. I see a Web Redemption here, with McElroy and Harb's process server having to bob for goldfish.

Hildegard's picture

45.04 governs subpoenas for

45.04 governs subpoenas for taking depositions, so apparently there is a deposition scheduled at the lawyer's office on July 11th. Also cited is rule 45.02, which talks about the kind of subpoena being issued, but it contains language that an order for compliance with the subpoena must protect a person who is "neither a party nor a party's officer from undue burden or expense resulting from compliance." Of course Rick Hollow and the KNS are going to stage the Constitutional Philharmonic First Amendment Orchestra as grounds for quashing the subpoena like they always do, but there is also the practical reason that it's a pointless, irrelevant, and unduly burdensome on a non-party.

Michael's picture

I just find it a little

I just find it a little ironic that someone citing information from an unnamed source would criticize someone else for failing to better vet information from an unnamed source.

Bbeanster's picture

But words, unlike actions,

But words, unlike actions, have definitions, and discrediting requires a higher standard of proof than denying.

50 cents wasted's picture

It's a non-story hatchet job by the KNS on Burchette

for his objections to a tax increase for the school system all in the name of "for the children". A bunch of publicly paid people were clammoring for more money for more publicly paid people and Burchette simply said No.

We have the most expensive school system in East Tennessee and if you can't run a school system on $400 million, let's see what the problem is before soaking the taxpayers again and again.

The big sphicters didn't like being told no, so the KNS didn't like being told no and the KNS has realized how irrelevant its editorial policy is in the community, particularly under a prevailing Burchette budget, so they put a hatchet job togather.

In my opinion, the KNS is a pitiful and deplorable newspaper from an editorial, journalistic itegrity, and financial standpoint and I'm glad to see somebody else take them on and let them practice their selective journalistic ethics and standards in front of a judge from time to time.

alan swartz's picture

This entire thing goes away

This entire thing goes away if Allison Burchett provides the receipts and invoices for the six unreported "reimbursement" checks she wrote to herself.

Why doesn't Jack McElroy ask his co-conspirator to do just that?

Any of you Sentinel people can take that question. Even you Pam. It is pathetic that the Sentinel plays this game that it is Tim Burchett's fault his wife won't or can't provide the missing receipts and invoices.

The only thing that would make this stranger is if Tim sued Allison for those missing receipts and invoices and she had to visit the campus Kinko's for a little receipt recreation. Like that hasn't happened before.

Pam Strickland's picture

Y'all know this doesn't have

Y'all know this doesn't have a thing to do w/ the school budget. Get over your obsession w/ conspiracy theories.

And, I have nothing to do w/ news stories. Y'all know that too. Get over that.

The paper raised legitimate questions, and rather than deal w/ the answers like a responsible grown man, Timmy is trying to create a diversion. Not very responsible, but that's politics.

R. Neal's picture

KNS: Subpoena on hold

KNS: Subpoena on hold

Not sure I understand all that, but there you go.

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