Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dear William Williams & Nashville City Paper:

Here is the text of an e-mail I sent to editor William Williams yesterday, who after so many mea culpas and offers to make amends last week seems to have failed to correct last Wednesday's City Paper front-pager on Salemtown:
It truly saddens me to see that after almost a week, the City Paper has made no effort whatsoever to correct or to retract its mistakes about the Salemtown neighborhood on Wednesday of last week. I got the impression from our phone conversation that you were going to make sincere efforts to be accountable in print, but since almost a week has gone by after your apology and there is no evidence that this issue is even on your radar screen, I now doubt your sincerity. I don't believe that you or anyone at the City Paper has the best interests of all urban neighborhoods, unless those neighborhoods fit a preconceived notion of chic. My sour perception of your publication is exactly the impression that I intend to pass on to other neighborhood leaders as a warning for future reference.
I have yet to get a reply from Mr. Williams, but I guess the lack of response reflects his willingness to stand pat on a truly bad story.

But this is not the first time William Williams' name has been connected to bad City Paper stories about a neighborhood he seems to know very little about. While looking back over my archives, I found this September Enclave post on a Williams' article that reflected grievous ignorance about developments in Salemtown beyond the plans for Garfield Place.

A related note: I was told by a reliable source yesterday that City Paper reporter Bill Harless, while collecting data for Wednesday's Salemtown front-pager, attempted to convince the Central Precinct officers to divulge the personal e-mail addresses of the North End neighborhood contacts that the February 17 e-mail warning of possible gang violence went out to, even after he was refused those addresses on grounds of confidentiality. What do you think: breach of journalistic ethics or just a fair attempt to dig up information vital to the story?


  1. Fair attempt. I try to persuade people to divulge confidential information all the time.

  2. I think it a fair attempt as well. I will also note that Harless called me yesterday after an email I sent to him. We talked a while, and said to me he intended to run something regarding the matter - whatever that "something" is. He also stated to me, right or wrong, that it is the editors that title the stories, and that he did not put that title to it. We'll see....

  3. It seems you were too quick to judge. I know William and find him to be a very knowledgeable professional. It seems you now owe William an apology.

  4. Aside from pointing to the irony of an anonymous commenter attempting to be persuasive by claiming to know somebody, I'll just have to say, "No, I was not" and "No, I will not."

    Professionals make mistakes like everyone else, and Mr. Williams is at fault for not correcting the City Paper's mistake sooner than one week later. And he is at fault for burying the retraction on pg. 15, and for tacking it on to a story about sky-scrapers. I told him on the phone last Wednesday that burying the correction would destroy its effectiveness. It was buried anyway. It did not seem important enough to the CP to rise to the level of pg. 6 editorials, which is the least I would have expected for such an error. Mr. Williams made no attempt after fielding my Wednesday call to follow up and to communicate CP intentions, including explanations; I would think that a professional is responsible for doing that, too.

    Nonetheless, as I point out today, Mr. Williams should not be commended for finally, but partially correcting the City Paper's falsehoods of the past; finally telling the truth is expected of professionals. I respect that his parents lived in this neighborhood, but anecdotes about their experiences do not amount to first-hand knowledge of the neighborhood now. If he doesn't have first-hand experience here, he should at least muster some hard data to show that he understands Salemtown objectively. That was lacking, too.