Meet your new CA team


In mid-June The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal news­room had a half dozen va­can­cies on key beats, driven mostly by de­par­tures to the Daily Mem­phian, an on­line startup.

Some read­ers wrote to me, ques­tion­ing our com­mit­ment to cov­er­ing lo­cal news and to Mem­phis, where we've op­er­ated for 177 years.

That's when I com­mit­ted to the staff, those read­ers, and the larger Mem­phis com­mu­nity that we would re­build our staff and ded­i­cate our team to cov­er­ing Mem­phis even more vig­or­ously.

Five months later, we have re­built the news­room staff and read­ers are notic­ing our rein­vig­o­rated lo­cal cov­er­age. I call this a good start.

The pho­tos that ac­com­pany this story show you our en­tire lo­cal team, in­clud­ing the new staffers. It's your team of re­porters, pho­tog­ra­phers and ed­i­tors ded­i­cated to in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ism about Mem­phis, its peo­ple and in­sti­tu­tions.

First, some num­bers. Since June 1, we have hired 15 jour­nal­ists to fill open­ings, in­clud­ing the key beats I men­tioned. Since Jan. 1, we have hired 20 jour­nal­ists, rang­ing from gov­ern­ment and sub­ur­ban re­porters, to re­porters over­see­ing growth and de­vel­op­ment and FedEx.

Our news­room is more di­verse than it was a year ago. It is a mix of vet­er­ans and some folks just start­ing their ca­reers. We have sev­eral na­tives of the Mem­phis area who wanted to re­turn to do jour­nal­ism here.

One such na­tive is David Cobb, who grew up in Bartlett and had been cov­er­ing the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee-Knoxville sports for the past two years. He started Mon­day as the Griz­zlies re­porter, ful­fill­ing a ca­reer dream to re­turn to his home­town to cover the NBA fran­chise he grew up watch­ing. We have hired two other sports re­porters since Aug. 1: Tigers bas­ket­ball re­porter Drew Hill and high school sports re­porter Khari Thomp­son. They joined sports colum­nist Mark Gian­notto, Tigers foot­ball writer Evan Barnes, and re­porter Ja­son Munz, who cov­ers trending sto­ries and the startup foot­ball and soc­cer teams.

As we re­built the staff, we dou­bled down on our com­mit­ment to in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing. A year ago we fielded one in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter. Now we have two, giv­ing us more fire­power in this im­por­tant area.

In late Au­gust, we pro­moted long­time re­porter Daniel Con­nolly to in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter. And in Septem­ber we hired Sarah Macaraeg, a vet­eran in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist who has worked in Chicago and most re­cently did a re­port­ing stint in New Mex­ico. Her re­cent re­port on the ex­or­bi­tant phone rates in the Shelby County jails and pri­son is an ex­am­ple of the re­port­ing we will show­case on our in­ves­tiga­tive team.

An­other ma­jor change was on our sub­ur­ban re­port­ing team. We've hired two re­porters — Abi­gail War­ren (cov­er­ing Germantown) and Kather­ine Burgess (Shelby County gov­ern­ment, Bartlett, Lake­land and Ar­ling­ton) — to join vet­eran Katie Fret­land, who cov­ers Col­lierville. (We are hir­ing a fourth re­porter to cover DeSoto County.)

We re­vived our break­ing news team, adding lo­cal jour­nal­ist Mi­caela Watts and Phillip Jack­son, who last worked for the Philadel­phia Bul­letin and is a na­tive of the Washington, D.C., area. They joined vet­eran courts and jus­tice re­porter Linda Moore and trending re­porter Ron Maxey.

In busi­ness, we hired De­siree Sten­nett and Max Gar­land to join vet­eran busi­ness re­porter/colum­nist Ted Evanoff.

Sten­nett, who has worked in Or­lando and St. Peters­burg, Florida, is cov­er­ing growth and de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing tourism, down­town de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial real es­tate.

Gar­land, who came from the Charleston, West Vir­ginia, news­pa­per, is cov­er­ing FedEx, the lo­gis­tics in­dus­try and health care.

Our first hire was Jen­nifer Chan­dler, a lo­cal food writer who be­came the food and din­ing re­porter in July. She re­cently started the monthly Lunch Break fea­ture that show­cases three places in Mem­phis where you can get a meal for less than $10. Chan­dler joins vet­eran en­ter­tain­ment re­porters John Bei­fuss and Bob Mehr.

In June we tapped then-Mem­phis city gov­ern­ment re­porter Ryan Poe to write The 9:01, a Mon­day-throughFri­day news and notes col­umn that is a must-read if you want to know what's hap­pen­ing in Mem­phis.

To re­place Poe we hired Jamie Munks, who was cov­er­ing city gov­ern­ment in Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal. She started in Septem­ber.

Hir­ing staffers and get­ting them im­mersed in Mem­phis has been in­vig­o­rat­ing and fun. This is, af­ter all, a spe­cial place wor­thy of strong lo­cal cov­er­age.

I have been im­pressed by the en­ergy and tal­ent of our re­cent ad­di­tions. The new team mem­bers join an al­ready strong group, in­clud­ing schools and chil­dren re­porter Jen­nifer Pig­no­let, opin­ion and en­gage­ment ed­i­tor David Waters and lo­cal colum­nist Tonyaa Weathers­bee. All will un­doubt­edly be an as­set to the com­mu­nity.

Fi­nally, the team that cre­ates the mem­o­rable images you see and the videos you watch con­tin­ues to be an­chored by vet­er­ans Mark We­ber and Brad Vest, who have been joined by Joe Rondone and Ariel Cobbert.

The staff re­build­ing was the early, nec­es­sary part of the on­go­ing work to bet­ter cover the rel­e­vant news, trends and peo­ple that mat­ter to Mem­phi­ans. You have my com­mit­ment that we are go­ing to con­tinue to get bet­ter.

Mark Rus­sell is the ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal. You can reach him at mark.rus­sell@com­mer­cialap­ or 901-529-2302. You can fol­low him on Twit­ter: @MarkRus­sell44



Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal


Dann Miller



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