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WHITTLE: What qualifies a judge to judge newspapering?

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There I was minding my own business, the Whittle way, when I was asked by a newspaper reader to expound about lawful public notices in The Murfreesboro Post.

I've mostly kept my dog at home regarding this monumentally important constitutional question about the newspaper and whether mosques can exist in my community.

I've not centered my news media career on constitutional law questions, but I have gleaned some common sense experience in American journalistic circles over the past 45 years.

But, as the old TV humorist show once declared: "Here comes the judge."

So, what constitutes a newspaper of legal circulation?

I have an opinion.

While recently enjoying fellowship and food at Joe's Place and Demos' Steak restaurants in Woodbury and Murfreesboro, I've been repeatedly asked about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and whether The Post is a newspaper, the key word being a "news" carrier throughout our great compassionate communities.

As part of that constitutional equation, I've come to wonder where Chancellor Robert Corlew III had his head when he questioned whether a newspaper I contract with as an independent columnist is a publication with circulation that permeates and covers a community's heart and pulse.

Let me answer succinctly about my columns: When I make an error in my columns, my butt is kicked throughout the community.

As a simple country boy writer, lets cipher it down to where a highly educated judge may grasp while seated in the rarified air of his high bench: At newspapers where I've been blessed to write for during the past four deacdes, any time I've made a mistake in print, folks from throughout respective communities have always let me know.

That includes poor folks, rich folks, politicians of all persuasions, and even preachers from various creeds and colors who I've bent out of shape.

I've worked for metropolitan papers and small country newspapers.

It's no different at The Post.

Let me make a mistake or write a column that touches the community's main stream of sentiment, I hear about it from people throughout the community.

So, having been blessed to be a journalist based in a nation of freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, including freedoms of the press, religion and speech, I may know about whether a newspaper is being read throughout a community.

Just one opinion, none of the above would be in question, if not launched during a mean-spirited election year.

As a free American, do I oppose a mosque?

No. As a Baptist, I've been fascinated that no one has opposed our new church building currently under construction in Smyrna.

"But Baptists ain't terrorists," you might be voicing.

There was a time when Southern Baptists were. Check out slavery and other issues that the Southern Baptist founding doctrine was based on in the 1800s.

As recent as the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan raised its ugly head in Murfreesboro, and opposed construction of the city's first Catholic church.

Does history repeat itself? Maybe.

Someone asked if I've ever lived near a mosque. I do presently, and within a few blocks. I have for several years. They've been perfectly good neighbors in the true sense of good godly, old South neighborliness.

For those who oppose the Islamic Center on religious grounds, why is the mosque not acceptable, while no one opposes my new Baptist church building?

Last, but not least, how about this explosion of media bashing that's blistered America's political scene starting about 30 years ago.

It's fascinating to me that political proponents, who have never worked in media, seem to howl the loudest in media bashing.

We media-types are not perfect, that I confirm.

But in 45 years of radio, TV and newspaper journalism, not one time have I been ordered to slant a story based on religious or political grounds by media management.

Not one time. 

But I stand by any American's constitutional right to bash on.

But, respectfully, don't tread on others' freedom, rights of religion and speech, and don't judge a free press too harshly that helps preserve those rights.

Amen, and thank you for reading.

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Tags: 
Islam, Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Journalism, Legal Notices, Media History, Murfreesboro, Newspapers, Public Notices, Robert Corlew, Sunshine Law, Tennessee
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Members Opinions:
August 13, 2012 at 10:39am
And, thank you, Dan! Well said!
August 13, 2012 at 3:16pm
Good column. To the rest of America...those who think we've lost our tiny, little, redneck minds down here...we have not. At least, most of us haven't. The mosque IS opposed by a very small group of folks, some of whom will always dislike anyone different from themselves and that is their right. Some have too much money for their own good and do foolish, hateful things with it...and that is their right. And there are some so-called men of God who appear to have lost their way....perhaps God will correct their path. Since mosque opposition has suddenly become popular nation wide during this election year, it reeks of political base manipulation....wonder who's. Most of us would fight to preserve the rights of ALL citizens of our community....a select and elite few fight to destroy those rights.
August 13, 2012 at 6:10pm
The POST is the only Murfreesboro "Newspaper" I read. I read it online and I enjoy getting pertinent community information. IMHO - it is the heart and pulse of Murfreesboro.
August 13, 2012 at 9:49pm
In a historical reversal of roles, reknowned MP columnist donned his robe, dropped his gavel, and handed down a just "sentence" on Rutherford County Judge/Chancellor Robert Corlew III.

Whittle aptly asks, Where did Corlew have his head?, regarding Corlew's perpetually hard-headed, no supportive data whatsover stance that the MP does not meet the criteria necessary to be defined as a "newspaper of general circulation" in Tennessee . . . though sources such as the state AG and a state ombudsman - both attorneys - stated publicly the MP, indeed, meets the criteria necessary!

Though it would take an M.D. - licensed to practice medicine in TN - to render a final opinion, a quick layman's answer to Whittle's brainy question is, Corlew had his head buried in a dark concavity located on the anatomical process.

Though "Judge" Whittle will have to render final approval, part of Corlew's fines & sentencing could be: Three times per week, at High Noon, Corlew must go to the City Cafe, stand in the middle of the dining area, and repeat the following ditty 3 times to a captive audience:

Please, forgive me
For I have sinned
I must atone
And make amends
Dan Whittle
You are my judge
Mercy, mercy
Bear no grudge
August 15, 2012 at 10:14am
gruntessa, you insinuate that Rutherford County is nothing but "tiny, little redneck minds," and, too, that you're above such. Be that the truth, why do you live here? Since you seemingly sit atop such a lofty perch, one would surmise you would've chosen a more "Cosmopolitan" environment in which to dwell, work, and socialize. Of course, it could be that you couldn't do any better . . . life is a struggle!
August 18, 2012 at 8:26am
I have to agree with (momx5) about the Post being my favorite online newspaper. The postings provide a fairly accurate range of opinions that exist in Rutherford County. I like what Whittle had to say even though his overly "bucolic style" sets off my (BS) alarm. Whittle errs however, when he suggests that because he was never ordered to slant a story that he never commited that "sin". In the media your offerings are (blessed) by an editor, or editorial staff, so "slanting" is achieved through offerings that are only " pleasing to ***."
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