In Defense of Kleinheider

Dear Gwen Kinsey:

With all due respect, you are completely and utterly wrong. So wrong that reading your take on Kleinheider causes me to shudder in fear.  So wrong that it makes me fear that you don’t know how to recognize your assets nor how to correctly value them.

Let’s just start with this little tidbit, which has been floating around the internet ever since it appeared at the Scene

“My idea about blogging is less about people’s individual home lives and more about trying to give transparency to content…and to give people an opportunity to get involved with content in a way they can’t on the air,” Kinsey tells the Scene. “From a news organization’s standpoint, an appropriate use of new media as far as I’m concerned for blogging is to provide an extension and a forum for back-and-forth with viewers. I know that part of the blogosphere locally has been trying to assess whether there’s room for personal blogging with respect to some of what we did before…and, again, I just think that we can do something that has value and that’s additive to our mission as a broadcaster without necessarily getting into the personal and the opinion.” [emphasis mine, of course]

Yes, you can do something that has value and adds to your mission without letting Kleinheider share his opinions.  But it doesn’t have as much value as letting him share his opinions does.

Why is an unfettered Kleinheider more valuable?

1.  Your online audience has told you repeatedly in as many different forums as they can find that they liked Kleinheider’s old approach better.  Listen carefully to me, Kinsey; I’m going to say it again for your benefit: YOUR AUDIENCE HAS TOLD YOU THAT KLEINHEIDER’S OLD APPROACH HAS MORE VALUE TO THEM.

2.  Kleinheider with a platform was a man to be reckoned with.  People knew who he was and paid attention to him because they understood that he shaped discussions.  Lawmakers wanted to shake his hand; reporters and editors wanted to touch base with him.  People around the state read him and associated him with WKRN.  People cared about him–love him or hate him–and thus, by extention, made your station’s website a “must-stop” place.

3.  Kleinheider doesn’t shape discussions now.  He asks essay questions.  Big whoop.  Yes, people comment over at Volunteer Voters, but how many folks come back and write furious posts on their own website that link to him?  How many people are chomping at the bit to see what he has to say every day?  I mean, do you get that you’ve taken a man well-known for pissing everyone off–right and left–and somehow managed to make him mostly irrelevant?

Why would you do that?

If you have someone with power, who is well-read and well-regarded, why on earth would you make him irrelevant?

4.  The beat that Kleinheider covers–politics–is not the kind of information you can just present to people.  It’s complicated and often the ties between people aren’t completely obvious.  Analysis is necessary and, once you have analysis, you’re going to have a person’s opinions.  For you to suggest that you don’t need people’s opinions makes me think you are suggesting that the news doesn’t need analysis.

Do you realize that we just had a mayoral race in which the only place to get any idea, any real idea, of what the candidates stood for was on the internet?  The Tennessean seemed barely to cover it at all.  Your station and other news channels seemed content to just report whenever the candidates were doing something, but your viewers never could really discern from your “reporting” what the candidates issues were.

And you (I’m speaking in terms of the mainstream media, not you specifically) don’t even seem to have the good sense to be embarrassed about that.

And you (and now I mean you specifically) don’t seem to have the good sense to realize that one of the places people could actually go for information and discussion and analysis is sitting right in your building.  You especially don’t seem to realize what an asset that is.

Is a completely unfettered Kleinheider a good idea?  No, I think probably not.  Kleinheider is smart but he’s kind of undisciplined.  On the other hand, he seems to flourish when he has structure, especially when that structure gives him room to play.  So, sure, he could benefit from an editor; who wouldn’t?

But it seems to me that there’s got to be a medium ground that would suit everyone between “Kleinheider the Paleoconservative pundit scares the shit out of the locals” and “Mr. Kleinheider’s On-going Essay Questions from High School Civics.”  The fact that you can’t imagine some middle ground troubles me.

And I’m telling you this as someone Kleinheider irritates the shit out of.  If he worked for me, I’d spend ten minutes every day telling him to stand up straight, fake some confidence, and to eat some god-damn lunch.  Then I’d have to fight with him about how wrong he was about just about everything he writes.

But I’d be thrilled to have someone in my newsroom people were afraid to not take calls from.

Just saying.

Aunt B.

p.s.  Is it true that you’re not paying Steve Gill?!  Pardon my French, but what the fuck is wrong over there?  You’re a business.  If you want people to work for you, you pay them for the work they’re doing for you.  You’ve at least paid the last few bloggers you still owed money to, right?

11 thoughts on “In Defense of Kleinheider

  1. Pingback: SayUncle » Defending Kleinheider

  2. Great post, Aunt B. However, I’m not so certain they have made Kleinheider ‘irrelevant’ — or as uninteresting as their other various and sundry blogs. I mean who needs blogs for straight news pretending to be unbiased? Boring!

  3. Not so fast there Missy. I won’t pretend to understand what Ms.Kinsey is envisioning for NiT, or whatever WKRN’s blog will be called, but let’s table that for now.

    As for your point that kleinheider’s readers have professed their displeasure with the New Kleinheider, well, I think Bill O’Reilly’s viewers would state that he adds value to their viewing experience. (I’m not for a minute comparing the two of them, but kowtowing to “readers preferences” strikes me as a slippery slope)

    Anyway, you stated something I feel the need to address:

    People around the state read him and associated him with WKRN

    Bingo. In a sharply divided market like nashville, why alienate at least half of your viewers? His opinion will likely be seen as WKRN’s. From a business perspective, that makes little sense. Before, the Station manager could at least point to NiT and say that “both sides” are being given bandwidth. I have a fair idea of what WKRN pays Kleinheider, and he should be thankful as hell that they eat that cost to provide him his platform. I don’t know how much revenue V.V. or NiT brought into the Station, but if i had to guess I’d say it probably didn’t cover the cost of a decent laptop.

    I can tell you I stopped watching WKRN because of Steve Gill, paid or not. The decision to hire him or “feature” him tells me that someone in a position of power at that Station feels that Steve Gill adds value for the viewers. THATshould frighten you.

    I like A.C., I’ve talked with him, and he has been professional in his dealings with me. But why is it that people feel that he can’t dissect events without bias? He can give background, analysis, and expose bias by presenting what is being said or done, without letting his personal religious or political preferences color it for the reader. He’s way good enough to do that.

    Now, if WKRN wants to let it’s bloggers offer opinions on a wide variety of issues and topics, they need to give equal space to say…someone like you, who represents the other half of their viewership. Then, unleash you both. I’d pay to read it.

  4. Actually, my response to Ginger was cut in half, by me. I meant to say that disclaimers aren’t likely to help much, where would you put them? On the “about us” page? Before each and every post? Unless it (the disclaimer) was prominently displayed in the banner, I doubt it would alter the perception much…

    But, um, yea, good point, Ginger. ;)

  5. The editorial section of newspapers doesn’t carry disclaimers, and people get it just fine. The difference is newspapers have a long history of editorializing, whereas t.v. news does not.

    Hey, no time like the present, I say.

  6. LOL, why thankyouverymuch.

    Actually, if the disclaimer that is on ACK’s “About” page…

    (The views and opinions expressed on this site are those of ______ (A.C. Kleinheider in this case) and not necessarily those of WKRN-TV or its parent company, Young Broadcasting.)

    … were posted in the right sidebar at the top of ALL of their blogs, and was static, I think that would give WKRN an “out” with regards to liability across the board.

  7. Mack, why do you hate America?

    See, here in America, we know two things–1. Everyone gets where they are by perserverance and hard work. Everyone ends up with the lives they deserve. 2. Smart people suck.

    So, if Kleinheider has a great job, he must deserve it, and therefore should be allowed to do it. Your insistance that a steady diet of Kleinheider is no good for Nashvillians is just more of that liberal claptrap. Who are you to decide that folks don’t need to hear his opinion?

    And, because I’m a hippie liberal, I don’t believe there’s any such thing as “unbiased” reporting. We are subjective beings and the things we do, no matter how much objectivity we pretend to bring to them, are subjective. Better to have the bias out in the open than hidden, I say.

    And I’m right and you know it. I will gladly accept smooches of apology for disputing me. I would prefer you start by taking my right hand firmly in yours, kneel down, and begin landing a series of soft, slightly ticklish (from your facial hair) smooches across the back of my hand, on my wrist and up my airm.

    If you would occassionally exclaim “Querida!” or “Cara mia!” while doing so, I would find that even more pleasing, for I ask you, is there any more sexy a man of Spanish extraction than Gomez Addams?

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