The Sentinel's other agenda?Although I have admitted here that I strongly believe the Knoxville News-Sentinel's suit against the Knox County Commission for violating the Open Meetings Act has merit because, regardless of the outcome of the court case, it could force county government to clean up its act. The KNS has all but admitted in its editorial this past Friday that it has another agenda:
While unification of Knoxville and Knox County is a worthy goal, the county has too much else to deal with right now.
The issue has arisen with the results of a University of Tennessee poll that shows a majority of Knox County residents living outside the city limits favors consolidating city and county governments.
Some observers consider that a stunning development, since residents who live outside the city defeated similar proposals in 1959, 1978, 1983 and 1996.
The poll was commissioned by the News Sentinel and WBIR-TV to gauge public opinion on county government in general. The results show that 58.6 percent of residents outside the city limits support or strongly support metro government.
I have always felt that the News-Sentinel has an editorial bent that tends to be left-of-center (something that is in keeping with other Scripps newspapers), and that if the Democratic Party were more viable in East Tennessee, that the KNS would likely support the Democrats in a much more open fashion. Since I strongly believe in a newspaper's right to take whatever editorial line it chooses, I can't disparage the News-Sentinel editorial board for doing just that (no matter how out-of-step with East Tennessee that position happens to be). The problem arises when those editorial views seep in to how the paper reports the news and the manner in which the paper chooses to serve the public.
In launching the suit over the sunshine law against Knox County, few would argue that the News-Sentinel is fulfilling one of the primary duties of a community newspaper in acting in the service of the voters. After Friday's editorial, however, one has to ask whether the News-Sentinel is doing this solely in the public interest. Does the News-Sentinel have a larger agenda than merely cleaning up county government in Knox County? Are the lawsuit and the Friday editorial really opening shots in a campaign for consolidated metropolitan government with the paper as the primary print voice for the Yes campaign?
Unfortunately, Knoxville and large portions of East Tennessee are now a one newspaper region. Since I now live in Jefferson County, I read the Standard Banner-but it is only published twice a week. The Morristown Citizen-Tribune is not only editorially suspect, it simply lacks quality news gathering. The Kingsport Times-News is quite good as far as local newspapers go, but there is little coverage of Knoxville news for those of us who live close enough to Tennessee's first capital. The Knoxville Journal is the obvious choice to fulfill the role of balancer to the News-Sentinel, but the former Whig is now a non-viable weekly.
The News-Sentinel ought to know that Knox Countians are undergoing a period of rightful anger and are prone to knee-jerk reactions when dealing with a crisis in government such as they now face. It is not in the public service at all to begin yet another campaign for metro government during a period when voter anger can be so manipulated.
Labels: Local politics