Five questions with Peter

I was in Louisville, Ky., last month for my aunt’s funeral, and I meant to call my friend from college Peter Smith, who is the religion reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal. I never got to it — so I e-mailed that I was going to call him some time over a weekend. (I never know when to call people who work on morning newspapers.) I haven’t done that yet either.

Well, the terrific journalism blog GetReligion, which I’ve mentioned here many times before, spends much of its bandwidth citing what is wrong with mainstream media’s coverage of religion, but they have quite often held Peter out as an example of religion reporting done right. Now, they’ve made him the subject of their regular 5Q+1 feature.

I drove to Boston — the first and only time I’d ever been north of D.C. except when changing planes — for Peter and Holly’s wedding, but I’ve been lousy lately at staying in touch.

Whirlwind

I may not be blogging much for the next 36 hours or so.

I slept in this morning, because I have to put in a full afternoon of work, then cover a 5 p.m. meeting, then cover a 7 p.m. meeting (school board, which is usually a long one).

Tomorrow morning, we will rush to get the newspaper out earlier than normal so that several of us can go to Chattanooga for the Tennessee Press Association awards luncheon. I’ll be driving the Times-Gazette van.

As soon as I return from the TPA luncheon tomorrow afternoon, I will meet several of my fellow members of the Symphony in Shelbyville steering committee; we will carpool to Nashville for our annual wrap-up meeting, which will be held at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and we will stay for that night’s summer festival concert.

Fortunately, I have nothing on the agenda for Saturday — except finishing up my sermon for Sunday at Mt. Lebanon UMC.

A long day

My car has been idling strangely — I think it just needs a tuneup, which it hasn’t had in too long, but at my car’s age I tend to get nervous over anything.

My drive in to Nashville this morning for the Online News Association conference was right at rush hour, so the stop-and-start driving made me nervous.

Little did I know that it was nothing compared to the drive home.

The conference itself was great — I got a lot of good information — but I’m frustrated with my own performance on a panel this afternoon. I suspect the last thing that will stick in people’s minds is that I couldn’t really come up with a good answer to the last question — partly because I didn’t completely understand what the moderator was asking for, and partly because at that point we had already run past our allotted time and I was afraid of rambling too much on my way to an answer. So I ended the session looking like an idiot.

I enjoyed seeing and speaking with a wide variety of people — some of whom I knew, some of whom I didn’t. I even got to speak to the legendary journalist John Seigenthaler (for you out-of-towners, I am not speaking about the former NBC / MSNBC anchor, but his father), and tell him how much I treasure a printout of an e-mail he sent me in the early 1990s.

Anyway, by the time the conference let out, it was 5 p.m. — rush hour again — and so I nervously made my way through traffic from Vanderbilt to East Nashville. I’ve wanted to try Pied Piper Eatery ever since Andy Piper and his sister Becky opened it. Andy once paid one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received, telling me years later how much he appreciated a morning devotion I gave at Mountain T.O.P. My trip to Nashville for the conference seemed like the perfect time to check out the diner.

I was not disappointed. I had the Monte Cristo — a deep-fried ham and turkey sandwich. Heart attack on a plate, but what a way to go! Luckily, I arrived just as Andy was about to leave and turn things over to the late shift, so I got to say hello and tell him how pleased I was to finally be there. Ten or 15 minutes later, I’d have missed him.

By the time I left the restaurant, it was almost 7 p.m. and I thought traffic would have thinned out a bit. But there was a wreck on I-24 which had traffic oozing along at 10 miles per hour for an unbearably-long stretch, and I spent the entire time imagining that my car was going to overheat or explode or befall some other horrible fate.

I got home at 8:30, frazzled and exhausted.

My “thank you” gift for speaking on a panel was a Starbucks gift card. It’s a good thing I don’t drink coffee — if I’d have used that card in Nashville or Murfreesboro, while I was near a Starbucks, there’s no telling what kind of wreck I would be by now. :)

Online news

I got a call Wednesday from the managing editor (though I didn’t realize his title when I was on the phone with him) of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, asking me to serve on a panel later this month at an Online News Association workshop in Nashville. I will be one of the panelists for the 2:30 p.m. session entitled “The Evolving Newsroom.” I don’t know exactly whom the other panelists are going to be, but one will be from a larger metro paper and the other will be from a TV station. Hopefully, they’ll update the web page with all of our names once everyone is confirmed.

Anyway, Scott Sines from the Commercial Appeal was quite complimentary of our web site.

The Night Owl

Normally, the Sunday front page, and several other pages, of the Times-Gazette are put together between 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. I take turns with the editor coming in to be a part of this process.

This weekend, though, was championship Saturday at the Celebration, and for that we wait until the World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse is named. So I got here about 8 p.m. The winner was named about 11:35 or so, and then our reporter at the show worked diligently to finish her story and send us some photos.

Now, everything has been put to bed. It’s about 12:50 a.m. Even though we’ve already looked at computer printouts of every page, I have to hang around until the presses start rolling so that I can look at one of the first few copies, as a last safeguard against error. I hope to be home by 1:30 a.m. or so, possibly sooner.

Me, Doug and Kenny

There’s a lovely photo of Doug Dezotell and me accepting our TSBA awards on the front page of tonight’s Times-Gazette.

Of course, no one will notice me or Doug — because right next to our photo is a photo of Kenny Chesney, who shot a music video Thursday in Wartrace.

Seriously, kudos to my co-worker Brian Mosely for his great coverage of the shoot. He has a huge photo of Chesney on the back page of the paper today that looks like something you’d see in Country Weekly or what have you. Brian found out about the shoot ahead of time and was there on the scene before the crowd showed up, although he returned later in the day to get a great shot of Chesney signing autographs for the inevitable fans who showed up.

(Actually, Ardis Rittenberry noticed the photo of me and Doug, because she complimented me on it when I saw her just now at Kroger. She must not be a Kenny Chesney fan.)

Yet more self-congratulation

TSBA Award

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Originally uploaded by jicarney.

My colleague Doug Dezotell and I accompanied members of Bedford County Board of Education to the Tennessee School Boards Association regional meeting in Winchester tonight, where both Doug and I won awards for excellence in education reporting. Doug won in the Daily Newspaper, Feature, Series category for his work on our weekly education section. I won in the Daily Newspaper, News, Series category for a two-part series (Part 1 | Part 2 ) I did about the local school board’s site visit to the Chattanooga area to study standardized school attire.

There was a fascinating speaker at the TSBA meeting who talked about social networking and teenagers. I’ll write a story for Sunday’s paper about her presentation.

Doug has a photo on his camera of the two of us holding our awards, and I’ll put that on Flickr over the weekend. (I won’t be in the office tomorrow, so I’ll have to get to it Saturday.)