The front page of the Knoxville News Sentinel website today features Victor Ashe's Halls Shopper gossip column under "top headlines." In a blurb about Mayor Rogero and her recent trip to Chicago, Ashe says: What is surprising is that she did not share this news with the city of Knoxville. It was all under the radar. Normally, she keeps the city well informed of her travels overseas and within the U.S. But not on this occasion.

Which is odd, because a contemporaneous media release from the mayor's office re. the mayor's weekly schedule said "Chicago, Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 4-5, 2017 North American Climate Summit: Mayor Rogero, a co-chair of the national Climate Mayors network, will participate in a panel discussion focusing on local and corporate actions to reduce emissions."

A week after the trip, the mayor's office posted an article on the city's website entitled "Mayor Rogero Signs Chicago Climate Charter" with details about the meeting.

Her Chicago schedule also mentioned that "Mayor Rogero will represent Knoxville, one of 11 U.S. and 25 worldwide award finalists, at the awards ceremony; the City and its partners have been nominated for the Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover (KEEM) program, an initiative that provided free energy-efficiency retrofits to almost 1,300 lower-income Knoxville households." Victor Ashe apparently missed this, too.

It seems the problem is not that Mayor Rogero doesn't keep the city informed, but rather that the local media can't be bothered.

Meanwhile, the KNS wants you to know all about the benefits of a digital only subscription, now only $9.99 per year.

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j.f.m.'s picture

Thanks, Randy. I actually

Thanks, Randy. I actually wrote Jack McElroy about that exact thing this morning. We publicized the Mayor's attendance at the North American Climate Summit, before, during and afterward. To Jack's credit, he responded promptly and removed that particular paragraph from the online column. He also promised a correction in next week's Shopper News.

To be honest, we had long since stopped asking for corrections to factual errors in Victor Ashe's columns. Nobody who published him seemed to care, and frankly it just took too much time and energy. We have learned from experience that it is easiest for all of us to ignore it. But we had a meeting with Jack about some other things a few weeks ago, and when we mentioned Victor's endless fabrications, Jack assured us that he did want to make sure what they reported was accurate. So I did take the trouble this morning.

This is at least the second time Victor has mentioned this trip to Chicago, but as you noted, neither time did he mention the actual reason the Mayor went to the summit: Because Knoxville was one of six finalists for an international energy conservation award from Bloomberg Philanthropies. KEEM was selected as a finalist, alongside projects in Austin, Chicago, Vancouver, Copenhagen and Qingdao. We didn't win, but it was still good company to be in, and it was good recognition for a great program that helped more than 1,200 local households. (More about KEEM here: (link...).)

Anyway, it's par for the course in that column.

R. Neal's picture

Thanks for the background.

Thanks for the background. Notice they removed the paragraph, but no mention of the "correction." Seems to happen a lot.

jbr's picture

In my opinion Rogero,

In my opinion Rogero, comprehensively, is the best Knoxville mayor I can recall. That starts with Leonard Rogers.

Whoever is elected next I hope is a continuance of the current vibe. There are unfinished things in the pipeline.

I liked particular things other mayors did, including Victor Ashe.

(Anonymous)'s picture

Definitely jealousy.

Victor Ashe accomplished virtually nothing during his overextended time as mayor. He built the convention center. Woo. Mayor Rogero has blown him away with all the additions to our city during her time as mayor.

Woodchuck's picture

Victor is looking for relevance, somebody to pay his airfare

In my opinion, Victor is looking for political relevance in a political environment where he has none.

He had ample opportunity to change the course of the city of Knoxville during his protracted tenure as mayor of Knoxville, however, every decision that could have been comparable to the tracks that Chattanooga, Nashville, Atlanta, and Charlotte took, Victor went the other direction, much to the detriment of the city and its citizens.

On Victor's watch, hundreds of good for profit entity jobs left Knoxville, the big catch being Phillips Consumer electronics that abandoned Knoxville for Atlanta and promptly spent $50 million on naming rights for the new basketball/concert/performance venue downtown. Victor did nothing to help the Levi's facilities while they were in Knoxville and completely forgot to go by their office when in San Francisco for a national mayors confab. You could always find Victor rummaging around Reagan airport in D.C. while he was mayor, but now days, the folks in Washington have no use for a worn out small town mayor with an over important opinion of himself replete with a tenure as ambassador to Poland, yes not a major U.S. trading parter nor critical U.S. military ally, he was the ambassador to Poland.

And now nobody really give two sheets about what Victor has had done, there's nothing to show for it in the city of Knoxville other than debt, while he struggles to find something to do or something to merit people paying attention to him.

Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

I keep a picture on my office

I keep a picture on my office wall of Ashe eating a sausage while sitting in a Polish train station.

Jonathan's picture

I have followed Ashe for a

I have followed Ashe for a long time. He did some good at times but he was done in by his Trump like need for enemies and personal ego problems. This latest is typical. In a recent piece he castigated Mayor Rogero for not attending the final council meeting and claimed Council members were upset without naming names.None were upset because Mayor Rogero explained why she would be gone and gave her final remarks at that meeting. Then Ashe falsely claims she did not make her reasons public. Count on one thing Any general reference to councilmembers is made up unless he provides names.

It is all of a long lingering piece. I have no idea why the Shopper and now the Sentinel carry this vehicle for his personal vendettas. Sandra got smart and dropped him. Maybe Jack will as well. But in any case he is not at all relevant and very tiresome.

Ron Emrich's picture

Victor

He was very good at strip annexing. Let the Smokies move to Sevier County.

j.f.m.'s picture

UPDATE In this week's column,

UPDATE

In this week's column, Victor has something of a correction:

"Mayor Madeline Rogero’s spokesman, Jesse Mayshark, complained last week that this column was inaccurate when it suggested the mayor did not publicize her trip to Chicago to discuss the Paris climate treaty. To set the record straight, the mayor did post items on Facebook and Twitter about her trip. She did not post a news release on the city website or hold a news conference on her return as she has on other issues.

Since Rogero two years ago instructed her staff not to send this writer any news releases or weekly calendars that go to other media, as well as not to respond to inquiries, it is more difficult to report on her activities."

Leaving aside the goalpost-shifting here -- from "she didn't tell anybody" to "she didn't hold a news conference" -- I thought it would be useful to post the actual "complaint" I sent to Jack McElroy. You can judge for yourself whether the correction is adequate.

The subject line was "Falsehoods in Victor Ashe's column." This was sent at 11:18 a.m. on Dec. 26:

Jack,

Hi! Hope you had a great Christmas. During our conversation the other week, you asked us to bring factual errors in Victor Ashe’s column to your attention. So, here are some:

In the column just posted today, he has a short item about the Mayor attending the North American Climate Summit in Chicago in early December. Victor writes this:

“The major topic there, which has received virtually no coverage in Knoxville, dealt with climate change. She signed a statement along with other mayors on behalf of the city of Knoxville for the Paris climate accords.

What is surprising here is not that she signed it. Many will agree or not agree with her. What is surprising is that she did not share this news with the city of Knoxville. It was all under the radar. Normally, she keeps the city well informed of her travels overseas and within the U.S. But not on this occasion."

I’m not really sure what he’s trying to suggest here, but whatever it is, it is outright false. We provided abundant information before, during and after the summit, both about the purpose of the summit broadly and the signing of the statement in particular:

 First, it was included on the Mayor’s public schedule for that week, which we send to all media. This is what it said:
Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 4-5

2017 North American Climate Summit
Mayor Rogero, a co-chair of the national Climate Mayors network, will participate in a panel discussion focusing on local and corporate actions to reduce emissions
Chicago

 Second, we posted of series of tweets and retweets on the Mayor’s account during the summit, which you can see here:
(link...)
(link...)
(link...)
(link...)
(link...)

One of those explicitly discusses signing the charter:

“Headed to sign the #ChicagoCharter to formally address #climateaction by committing to emissions reductions while expanding economic opportunity + quality of life in @CityKnoxvilleTN & beyond.”

 Third, we also posted about the summit and the charter on the Mayor’s Facebook page: (link...).

That post, as you’ll see, includes an actual photo of the Mayor signing the charter.

 And fourth, after the Mayor returned from the Summit, Paige Travis on our staff debriefed with her and wrote a lengthy blog post for the City website about the whole trip, including the charter signing. You can read it here:

(link...)

It may be true as Victor says that all of this “received virtually no coverage” in Knoxville media, but you can hardly blame us for that. As you can see, we used almost every avenue we have to provide information about the summit and its purpose. So basically the entire thrust of Victor’s item is flat-out factually wrong.

And just so know, this is not in any way an isolated example. This is the exact treatment we have received from him from the beginning of this administration. He decides what he wants the reality to be – that the Mayor is not doing enough of this, or too much of that, or whatever – and then he writes it, regardless of the facts. This is why we finally stopped responding to his endless needling questions after four years – because not only were we spending an unconscionable amount of time dealing with him, he always ignored anything we told him that contradicted his preferred version of events.

I can’t speak directly for any of the other institutions he regularly sets his petty sights on, but I have no reason to believe he treats them any differently. He is not, as you know, in any way a journalist. Whether you want to continue to serve as a platform for his personal vendettas and disregard for the truth is up to you. I look forward to what I expect will be a full correction and/or retraction of this item.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

All the best,

Jesse

Jesse Fox Mayshark
Sr. Director of Communications and Government Relations
City of Knoxville
Office: 865-215-3710
Cell: 865-226-9409
Email: jmayshark@knoxvilletn.gov

j.f.m.'s picture

Also, while it is true that

Also, while it is true that we dropped Victor from our media distribution list, almost all of the items referenced in that email are publicly available to anyone with a computer. (And lots of other people at the News Sentinel are on the distribution list, and are free to forward anything they want to Victor. I have a hard time believing he does not have access to anything we send out.)

I would also note that despite his protests to the contrary, he clearly was aware of this trip and its focus. On December 13, two days after we posted a comprehensive blog post on the City website about the trip, we received one of our periodic records requests from the lawyer whom Victor always uses to make his inquiries. It asked about the trip in detail, requesting emails, agendas, and "copies of any and all statements Mayor Rogero signed in conjunction with other mayors as a result of the climate change meeting." So, somehow, Victor knew enough details of the trip to make that request. Could it be because he read about it on the City website? Or any of the other places we publicized it? And yet, two weeks later, he writes an item essentially accusing us of hiding something.

Anyway, this is his standard operating procedure. It's the main reason we stopped responding to him directly, because providing actual facts and information never made a difference to what he wrote and getting corrections from him was just opening the door to more inaccuracies. (He once flatly refused to correct a fundamental and easily provable error that he had pegged a whole column to. In that case, I did get the publisher to run a separate correction, but he never acknowledged it.) We haven't made any public statements about anything he's written for the last two years, because it's not worth the effort, but please know that his column is not in any way a reliable source of information.

Mike Knapp's picture

JFM thanks for the backstory; narrative vs factual truth...

A coupla years ago we took our little cub scouts to the KNS for a badge completion trip. I hadn't been there since the late 90's, early 2000's back when we had held editorial board meetings with Mr.McElroy and others about organizing campaigns like crop-dusting, income taxes etc. In the newsroom one obvious difference I noticed was a wall-mounted TV screen (may have been more than one). It didn't have Fox or ESPN on. Rather it posted a list of KNS stories showing the number of views, hits, clicks (not sure which) each story had online at knoxnews.

I don't recall what was listed, whether sports stories were seperated from others, whether opinion pieces had their own color. What I recall was an up-in-the-air basketball goal-like mounted screen list. Toiling below it were hard-working, deadline conscious reporters who could be driven away from this incredibly vital profession, much like close friends of mine, by a callous reality - journalism morphed into what health and education had become - data driven, metrics, scores, numbers, deviations, graph lines, fitbitted fetishes, "unique visitors".

As you know this is the context, the box in which McElroy and others still trying to make it in the print world find themselves- with print advert down, clicks count. What gets clicks at the KNS? If we can take their online content layout as an indicator it's a former mayor frontpaging with what appears to be his attempt at establishing a narrative truth at the expense of the Mayor's and her staff's efforts on a very real issue with profound global and local consequences. (We note that Greg Johnson took another swing at Madeline in a recent 12/28 column on the same topic). The former mayor, as you clearly lay out for all of us to see, did not incorporate easily, readily available information which would settle his supposed misgivings about whether this trip was above-board. The KNS let a former mayor propagandize its readership. The former mayor "tugging at his audience’s sense of what is emotionally correct in their hearts, rather than what is empirically accurate." Was it for clicks?

Here's the Ethical Journalism Network's definition of fake news.

“Fake news is information deliberately fabricated and published with the intention to deceive and mislead others into believing falsehoods or doubting verifiable facts.”

Mr. McElroy could do better. I would hope that as he considers his legacy as a newsman he will take into account the role he played in an era during which fake news and propaganda infiltrated the public discourse at rates that would give Orwell chills. It's not only about journalism it's also about democracy. Clicks for propaganda shouldn't be the business model.

Metulj From the Lurkzone's picture

The only person in Knoxville

The only person in Knoxville whose peevishness is exceeded by Victor Ashe is Jack McElroy.

I've published elsewhere, in summation, that Knoxville's "rise" has been more logarithmic than straight line in vague terms of "renewal." The baseline for that assumption are a set of deliberate decisions made in the 1970s by mayors and town council rather than anything that machine politicians like Ashe ever did. There are Ashe apologists who point to this project or that project, but these arguments are akin to "the trains ran on time" and tended to lean heavily on Ashe's vanity and overarching motivations for anything he did as mayor none the least of which is retribution. To paraphrase one of the leaders of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation commissions, "The best way in the minds of some people to get attribution for doing something is to do it out of retribution." So while Ashe is on that logarithmic curve, his actions along that line are just to the right of the intersection of 0 and 1, and in terms of time, his mayorship even with its long tenure, moved the number just slightly. He doesn't even have a chance to claim to have been a catalyst. His successors, by being, frankly, his opposites in personality alone, caused that line of "growth" or "change" or "renewal" to become a steady march to the heights that Knoxville has achieved. There's plenty to criticize within Haslam's and Rogero's legacies, but its mostly criticism of execution rather than intent and where I would criticize either of them is in the failure to adequately deal with homelessness in the case of the former and with a bent toward neoliberal practices and outcomes with the latter. Admittedly, homelessness was a tough nut to crack, especially with an army of vested interests arrayed against Haslam mainly from out in the County. With Rogero, it's more of an academic argument, but large swathes of the City of Knoxville still have service deserts and systemic social problems rising out of prejudices about place that are, again admittedly, very difficult to tackle in many administrations through time let alone one.

That brings me back to KNS, it doesn't surprise me that's where it it is now. Twenty years ago, I was the "New Media Intern" at KNS working with Jack and Jonathan on the website. I went back to my advisor in the Journalism department at UT and said "I'd like to do a thesis project on the possibility that newspapers will be mainly online by the year 2010." It was rejected and before I could cook up another project, my father became very ill and eventually died and I left the communications school. That all worked out in the end, but I won't say I was "right;" however, I will say that the KNS is just doing what all newspapers are having to do. One could imagine that with the right ownership/editorship, it could do a great job just online given the permeation of our days with constant connectivity to the Web. But it has neither. If you want to see how a grassroots way of doing things can out perform a multinational corporation like Gannett, just look at KnoxTnToday. I do. I haven't lived there for going on 7 years now and I check it everyday. Sandra's work (and Betty and Marvin and and and) with KnoxTnToday is better journalism on one day than the KNS can do in a month of days. Hell, I don't agree with Sandra politically at all, but I know that she's doing it out of passion motivated by the true motivations of a journalist, rather than watching a click count and peevishness.

barker's picture

Conditions

The screen in the KNS newsroom you mention kept a live, running tally of stories being viewed at all the Scripps (or, later, Journal Media Group or USA Today Network - Tennessee) stories on the websites. I never paid much attention to it, though perhaps if I had I would still have a job there.

You’re right about metrics driving news coverage now. I am still dismayed at the number of editors’ meetings I attended that focused more on what I consider marketing than on journalism. That should not be construed as a gripe about the News Sentinel; it is an industry-wide phenomenon made possible by the ease of tracking clicks on websites and made more alluring by the diminishing revenue streams at news organizations (Craigslist killed newspaper classifieds, while Google and Facebook are gobbling up all the new online ad revenue).

My understanding is that since my departure last April, Gannett has increased the emphasis on metrics as a driver of news coverage. That would be a corporate decision, not a local one, so blaming McElroy or anybody else in Knoxville for chasing clicks isn’t quite fair. I’m not that interested in critiquing specific editorial decisions, but I do think it’s important that people understand the conditions in which those decisions are made.

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