Though dead these 11 years (as of Feb. 20, 2009), the Nashville Banner, Music City’s conservative afternoon daily, enjoys a resurrection of sorts at the “Nashville Banner RIP” Facebook page. With 56 members as of this posting, the site helps staffers keep up with colleagues and also to meet Bannerites from other eras.
Though deeply conservative in outlook, the Banner made history among major unsegregated Southern newspapers when, in 1950, it hired Robert Churchwell to cover the African-American community. I never knew him, but had heard of him and was sad to see he recently passed away.
Most of us have discovered life after the Banner, which served as a training ground for many aspiring, ambitious and scrappy young journalists, and as a career for quite a few who stayed on. You don’t have to look far around Nashville and Middle Tennessee to find Banner alumni in prestigious positions. Some still work at the Banner‘s erstwhile liberal, Democratic competitor, The Tennessean, though as newspapers writhe in the new communications era, more of them are moving on to other places.
I was at the Banner from July 1982 until late August 1987, moving from a night beat (which included covering Metro Council meetings sometimes and newly discovered corpses a lot more of the time), to the federal courthouse beat to a slot as an assistant editor on the city desk. We had three deadlines a day and most of us (except the night beat) rose in the dark and were on the phone to groggy public officials long before decent folk should be awake.
For a time I shared a desk with a chain-smoking writer who could have been in the Spanish Inquisition — he never let someone go without a comment. I met celebrities, though the person who most impressed me was Dr. Albert Sabin, inventor of the oral polio vaccine, who in his 70s came to a Rotary International convention here to kick off a world-wide effort against the paralyzing disease. Stars and politicians were easy to come by, but a man who had saved millions of lives?
I also wrote an article about the arrival in Nashville of the first Macintosh computers, whose descendants have served me well for more than 20 years. This was shortly after their introduction in 1984, and I thought at the time, “that’s cool, but who needs a home computer?”
Today, the question is, “who doesn’t?” and my Macs make possible the pleasure of communing with my old Banner buddies via Facebook (and playing the occasional game of Wordscraper or Lexulous with them).
I left the Banner a few years before its last edition, with its classic “End of Story” screamer headline.
I don’t know who owns the rights to the Nashville Banner name and eagle logo, but it might be fun to put the Banner back together again, online. But dear God, not to get up at 4 a.m. every day.