Navel gazing 101: The ‘how’ of news gathering

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk, Northeast Knox, West Hills

Readers may think reporters/columnists just pop off about people or issues without regard to fairness or consequences.

Let’s look behind the scenes at recent work in

Mike McMillan’s cattle: Larry Van Guilder followed this story after we got a tip that McMillan wasn’t taking good care of his cows. Larry tracked down three court citations. Then the tipster said the cows were rounded up and hauled off last Sunday.

Quick research of animal auction houses showed a sale of “thin-fleshed” cows at the Mascot auction on Wednesday. I pushed Larry to get confirmation that these were, in fact, McMillan’s cows. He did.

Meanwhile, Betty Bean called to say we should back off McMillan, who was hospitalized with flu and pneumonia. “Not fair to pick on Mike when he’s sick,” said Bean.

But McMillan is a well-known public figure who currently serves on the Knox County Board of Education and is seeking re-election in the March 3 Republican Primary. Sick or well, he should be organized enough to have somebody feed and water his livestock. We reported the story, pictured the herd at the stockyard and will follow up on future court appearances.

Claims of corruption in local rezonings: Tom King called to say Mayor Glenn Jacobs had talked about his elementary school reading initiative at Farragut Rotary on Wednesday. But during the Q&A, Tom said, Rotarian Bill Nichols challenged Jacobs on willy-nilly rezonings in Hardin Valley and suggested developers know to pay $10,000 to one of two lawyers in order to ease rezonings through the planning commission.

Jacobs said he disagreed with Nichols. “I do not believe (the planning commission) is corrupt.” And he noted that rezonings by planning commissioners (who serve without pay) must be ratified by Knox County Commission.

But then, attorney James Corcoran posted a comment on Tom’s story: “Did you reach out to members of the MPC for statements? Seems odd to not have a response to this level of allegation.”

So, Tom called to discuss follow-up. Tom has worked as executive editor of a daily newspaper. He knows the ropes. I opined: “What do we do? Call up and say, ‘Hi, are you taking bribes?’ And have them answer, ‘Hell no!’

“We should stay in touch with Nichols. See if he goes to law enforcement or the attorney general. See what they say.”

When I slowed down, Tom interjected slyly, “Well, then, so what do I do with this (great source) who called and wants to talk?”

Why, Tom. You buy them a cup of coffee and start writing.

Larry’s artwork: Next I heard from Marvin West, asking where Van Guilder is getting the cartoons that illustrate his columns. “I don’t know and haven’t asked,” I wrote back. “I’m afraid he might be stealing them, and I just don’t want to know.”

And now you know – the skill, the diligence with which we approach each story. Every one of us would say we’ve got the best job on earth.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of


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