Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kleinheider Out at Volunteer Voters

At the end of the day yesterday, A.C. Kleinheider announced that he was signing off as the blogger at Volunteer Voters for the final time due to budget cuts at WKRN television. His dismissal brings to an end that station's experiment with combining new and old media. It is rather odd that they have gotten almost completely out (they still maintain Nashville Is Talking as nothing more than a shadow of its former self) of blogging at a time when it is finally becoming accepted at numerous other media outlets, particularly newspapers.

Mr. Kleinheider was a controversial choice at the time he was first hired at WKRN. Because Nashville Is Talking was run by the left wing Britney Gilbert, the station had sought to hire a conservative writer for Volunteer Voters. However, in choosing Mr. Kleinheider, they added a self-described paleo-conservative who had become popular with local liberal bloggers in part based on his harsh denunciations of the war in Iraq. In addition, Mr. Kleinheider was known for a bomabastic, "South Park Conservative," style that seemed unprofessional to bloggers who envisioned a more seamless approach to the new and old media offerings of the station.

In that regard, The Oracle was for a time an occasionally harsh critic of Mr. Kleinheider, accusing him of crossing the line into incivility at times and labelling as "intellectual laziness" his proclivity for judging motives and painting with a broad brush rather than digging into the specifics of a story. I should mention that Mr. Kleinheider responded to those posts graciously, usually defending himself but occasionally giving ground. He also continued linking to this blog on a regular basis. His work also improved with time, and he occasionally dug into issues and broke local stories before other Nashville media outlets had them.

After the resignation last summer of Ms. Gilbert for all practical purposes ended Nashville Is Talking, Mr. Kleinheider reportedly was asked to tone down Volunteer Voters, and for a time it took on a rather vanilla quality. However, over time he adapted to the new expectations, and the blog became a quality local media offering, as Volunteer Voters combined a focus on what Tennessee political bloggers were talking about with news commentary and occasional scoops of the local media. Comments indicate that it had become widely read by both political and media leaders in Middle Tennessee and across the state.

Mr. Kleinheider never quite lost his longstanding Captain Ahab-like obsession with going after local blogger Bill Hobbs, an obsession he shares with his former colleague Ms. Gilbert, who continues to seem to need to frequently comment on Mr. Hobbs, though she has moved to San Francisco.

Mr. Kleinheider has not indicated his future professional plans, though he did state that he would resume writing at his personal blog, Hard Right.


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