No discussion of recent local media goings-on can take place without first addressing a recent changing of the guard here at Nooga.com.
In case you missed it, Nooga.com government reporter James Harrison left the site and Chattanooga for other opportunities in his (and his wife's) hometown of Asheville, N.C. James had been with this site since day one, breaking news and following leads for hundreds of stories. He is a great reporter, a great guy, and will be missed greatly by the Nooga.com family, our readers, the local media community, and the community as a whole.
I had a chance to chat with James briefly after he got settled.
So… The obvious question: Why did you leave?
Leaving Nooga.com was a tough decision. The company and community in Chattanooga have been incredibly generous to me, and I learned a ton during my time there. Our choice to move back to our hometown of Asheville was motivated by looking a few years down the road, and thinking about where we wanted to base our lives. A window for us to take the chance and move opened up, so we took it.
What will you be doing in Asheville?
While we get settled in the mountains, I'll be working construction. So far, I've been working on installing doors in a 100-year-old hotel which is being converted into affordable housing. It's totally different from reporting, but it's been fun. I'm also pursuing opportunities for freelance, and would love to return to writing full-time in Asheville someday.
Will we ever see you again?
Chattanooga is close, so we hope to make routine visits and stay in touch with the friends we made during our time there. Those relationships are dear, and it will be fun to watch you guys from afar as Chattanooga becomes an even more incredible place to live in the coming years.
Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Thanks to anyone who read and interacted with me during my time at Nooga.com. It meant a lot, and motivated me as a reporter.
THE (SORT OF, BUT NOT REALLY) NEW GUY
My feeling of panic at the news of the departure of James Harrison was almost immediately tempered by the announcement that David Morton would be replacing him. Morton was one of our most reliable writers during my time as editor of The Pulse, and his work at Chattarati helped the grassroots community journalism site garner national attention from the likes of Harvard's Nieman Lab and the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
It's tough to imagine a reporter who could out-detail or outwork David, and it will be fun to now bother him with all the silly questions I used to bother James with.
A very, very busy David politely declined to be interviewed for this piece, except to say that he was "pretty excited to get back into it."
I think I can safely speak for a bunch of folks in the city when I say that we're excited, too.
CATCHING UP WITH THE URBAN HIPSTER
The last time we checked in with Robert T. Nash, he was starting a new gig as an afternoon talk host at WPLZ. The gig didn't last long, however, as the station's owner, Jim Brewer, ultimately dropped the station's struggling talk format in favor of a country music station.
I'd chatted with him a few times in the months since, but hadn't been in touch with him for awhile when I received a request to 'LIKE' a new Facebook page he'd launched. The page is called 'Chattanooga City Center,' and after obliging his request and reading a couple of posts, I asked him what it was all about.
Nash says he and his wife, Kimberly J. Nash, sold their home in Brainerd and moved downtown in February. He says their "market-rate apartment is more or less exactly midway between the tourist attractions and the projects" in an area known as 'City Center'—thus, the name of the new Facebook page. (He says the announcement of "the latest RiverCity Company extravaganza"—the company's 20-year plan for the 'City Center' area—was a key factor in his decision to finally launch the page.)
Robert T. says that, while he is currently unemployed, Kimberly is a licensed massage therapist who just relocated her practice to Tivoli Center. He set up the Facebook page when they moved downtown, but didn't start publishing on it until last week. He and his wife consider themselves downtown "stakeholders in every respect," and his goal for the page is to "observe and reflect the reality of living in downtown Chattanooga."
And what is the reality of living in downtown Chattanooga, according to Nash?
"I live three blocks from the old BlueCross 'Gold Building,'" he says. "The current owners would likely be surprised at the level of homeless activity and low-grade malfeasance transpiring there nightly."
He observes that the "string of storefronts where RiverCity Company facilitated the 'pop up' business project with free and reduced rent is now mostly empty."
"The truth is, we are surrounded by empty office buildings and churches," he says. "I mention this because it is my goal to find work here, i.e. downtown. I mean, it's booming, right? With all this burgeoning creativity and opportunity, there should be plenty of room for a mature, seasoned professional such as myself. For all I know, I may end up slinging chicken salad."
Nash says he also has "been doing some digging on what's in play down here long-term," and that he has "a trove of 'off-the-record' and 'you-didn't-hear-it-from-me' info that will likely be in play soon."
As if the promise of insider information wasn't enough, Nash dropped another little bomb that'll likely do what Nash does best: get people talking. Nash says he also plans to use his new Facebook page to document his search for gainful employment, "which—at some point—will take the form of a run for elected municipal office, specifically the District 7 City Council seat currently held by Chris Anderson."
Yep, you heard it right.
Like him or not, Robert T. Nash always keeps things interesting.
Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) local news, culture, music and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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