Monday, March 13, 2006

Catching Up: John Branston

I'm going to be playing catch-up for a bit, as I get back up to speed.

One thing is Memphis Flyer writer John Branston. While I like him and think he could be much more useful to Memphis than he currently allows, I also have to admit that I haven't picked up a Flyer in several months now.


So I've missed some good Branston stuff like his look at the Commercial Appeal redesign. He deplores it, as I do, because instead of getting a daily paper with a compendium of news from around the area I get a fragmented thing with micro-news from my immediate neighborhood. Hey, CA, I already know what's up in Midtown, but I'd really like to know what's going on elsewhere in Memphis and Shelby County. I thought that's what a newspaper is for?

Apparently, the redesign is rooted in the old observation that when folks see their picture in the paper, they run out and buy extra copies. Soooooo... if they create whole sections of the paper that are nothing but pictures of people, then they'll sell lots of extra copies, right?

Riiiiiight. No thank you.

Branston also notes how the paper has multiple sections that are all somehow Memphis based, but focus on different parts of "Memphis." Their divisions are arbitrary and overlapping, leading to confusion. Heck, even the website redesign doesn't follow the division patterns of the new redesign, making finding something you read in one version an exercise in hunting in the other.

In another column, John looks at the different utility rates in Memphis and Nashville. Sadly, he doesn't do more than compare some surface figures. Hey, John, how 'bout some phone calls to the relevant parties? You're a big-city newspaper guy, doesn't that have some clout and advantage?

It's a good story as far as it goes; it just doesn't go nearly far enough. Especially since it leaves some disturbing questions about what's going on with MLG&W. Remember a couple of years ago how were were told that the billion dollar deal they made for gas was going to have enormous, long-term savings effects on our bills? That sure didn't pan out and MLG&W's explanations have either been non-responsive, or exposed the initial announcements and PR as a pack of deceptive lies.

And lastly, John casts an eye on the Bass Pro Shops / Pyramid deal. He, like me, thinks it an overal plus for the city. You can read the rebuttal point of view from the good, if misguided and self-interested, folks at the Smart City Memphis blog.

I guess it's fair to say that I like John's columns because our views of what's going on in the city and what's best for us align so closely. Fair enough! I just wish that he'd dig deeper and probe harder.

I know he can do it.

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