Investigative Reporting In Cleveland

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Is it surprising that Bradley County wants to play games with their "Open Records" policy?   It wasn't that long ago that Cleveland was known as the "Odometer Rollback Capital of the World." This new "Open Records" policy is a similar attempt to roll back transparency and make it difficult to see what government is doing.


You might ask where the local newspaper of record, the Cleveland Daily Banner, stands in this decision to hide and/or make it difficult to see public records.

Are newspapers supposed to investigate or reprint press releases? Are newspapers to search for truth or sprinkle fairy-dust?


In 1990 as a new arrival to Cleveland, I was given a free three-month subscription to the Cleveland Daily Banner. The front page was replete with high school sports, winning lottery numbers, hand-shaking politicians with giant checks. You could also find on the front page such important life-changing news of who in Cleveland was wearing a new pair of flip-flops, who ate a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles, and which couple had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land Buffet and Bouffant Hair Salon with unlimited trips to the manna, locust, fried-chicken, and hairspray bar.


The only investigative reporting I recall in the past 27 years was their three-day, hard-hitting investigative search for whose horse or horses had dropped a flop on the Greenway. Yes, all of Cleveland held its breath as victims told their harrowing stories about almost stepping in horse manure.  The Cleveland Daily Banner pondered a "Reign of Terror" descending on the Greenway and the mayor was on the verge of calling for the National Guard to protect Cleveland from the scourge of scat.


Like you, no one ever thinks this will happen close to home, that your neighbor's horse will become radicalized, that Trigger, Fury, or Buttermilk will become a jihadist steed, sworn to explosively poop on paths, trails, and pastures without regard for bare feet and sandals. To this day I'm unable to watch old westerns or reruns of Mr. Ed as I relieve those days of terror. Along with many others in Bradley CountyI still suffer from  PTHDS (Post-Traumatic Horse-Dropping Silliness).


Forget government embezzlement, past District Attorney shenanigans, church scandals of fiscal malfeasance and sexual abuse, and elected officials' crimes and cover-ups. No, it's horse-crap that gets the Cleveland Daily Banner into Woodward/Bernstein action.


Who says that the glory days of uncompromising newspaper journalism are long dead? Not in Cleveland, Tennessee, where lollipops and cotton-candy are news du jour. Just watch your step.


Stephen Greenfield

Cleveland, Tn.

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