Trayvon Martin, Henry Granju & My Response

Teenage murder victim Trayvon Martin holds a young family member

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In a comment posted today on my most recent blog post – the one right below this one – a reader named Adi respectfully asked me why I’ve yet to publish anything about the Trayvon Martin murder case.

This is a good question, and I’m guessing that there are others of you who may be wondering the same thing.

Here’s how I responded to Adi’s comment, in the same discussion thread:

I’ve been working on a post about the murder of Trayvon Martin for over a week. Every time I sit down to write, I begin to sob, and I become overcome with grief and anger for Trayvon, and his mama and dad and younger siblings, and their community. And then, of course, I’m also crying for my own teenage son, inarguably murdered by well-identified people, but still being treated as a worthless nobody who got what he deserved by my own local law enforcement. Yet nobody much seems to care.

And at that point, I have to step away from the keyboard and go hug my other children, or yell into a pillow where nobody hears me.

I have had nightmares about Trayvon Martin and my Henry almost every night recently. I am almost finished with my blog post, and when I am, I will publish it. But it’s been ***immensely*** painful to write, and to think about, and thus, it’s come slowly for me.

Writing silly fluff about being a cheerleader is a hell of a lot less draining, painful and difficult for me, and as a writer and a person, sometimes I find that it helps to turn off the tough stuff temporarily and just be silly.

Hope that makes sense, and I really appreciate you reading my blog. Please know that it’s my pain and anger over the Trayvon Martin case that has slowed my public response, not a lack of awareness or interest.

Respectfully,

Katie

Teenage homicide victim Henry Granju holds his little sister.

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Are You Listening, Lifetime TV Network?

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Can you guess where I am tonight from the photo above, which I snapped just before devouring the subject matter?

Anyone?…Anyone?…

Bueller?

Okay, I’ll tell you. I’m attending my very first (ever!) professional sporting event: an NBA game between the Atlanta Hawks and some team from New Jersey. The weekend outing to ATL was E’s idea, and halfway into the game, I have to tell you that this is WAY more fun than I thought it might be.

E, his younger cousin M and best buddy L have just made a halftime snack run, so I’m acting as seat warmer ’til they return (Yep, that means iPhone bloggin’). The halftime show just concluded, and after watching it, I came to a sudden yet sure realization; I think I may have totally missed my calling. I think that what I was truly meant to be is a key member of an NBA team’s cheerleading & dance squad.

But I wonder, is it too late for me to live my dream? To reach for the brassy ring? I mean, I do know that people change careers later in life – you hear about mechanics going to medical school, Wall Street bond traders transitioning to careers as master cheese makers, and prostitutes becoming best selling authors – but what about me? If I started my dance and gymnastics training now – like, as soon as I get back to Knoxville – could this “mature” blogger ever possibly work hard enough – and dream hard enough – to make the leap to full time NBA booty shaker?

I like to think the answer to that question is a resounding, HECK YEAH!

And once I make it, I can totally envision a Lifetime TV network biopic about my journey. Think plucky, middle-aged mom of 5 ignores the nattering nabobs of negativity, her therapist, and her teenage children’s plaintive cries of, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MOM, STOP WITH THE JAZZ HANDS ALREADY, eventually making it all the way to the free throw line, right down there front and center with her squad-mates and biggest fans, Tiffany R., Brittany, Coco, Tiffany M. and Tiffany G..

Along the way, our heroine faces obstacles, including, but not limited to run-ins with lecherous team owners, bunions, and a muffin top that simply doesn’t want to get with the program. But through it all, she keeps her eyes on the prize, even when her optometrist at LensCrafters insists that it really is time for bifocals. And eventually, she’s living her dream!

As for casting of the “me” character, I’m thinking Sandy Duncan, Valerie Bertinelli, Kathy Bates or Lisa Whelchel. Any of them could work. Oh! Or maybe Candace Cameron Bure, Janeane Garofolo or Tina Yothers. But what do you guys think? I’m open to other suggestions.

Oh, well, looks like the boys are headed back this way, and halftime’s almost over. But my journey of personal transformation? A small, still voice inside is telling me that it’s only just begun…

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UPDATED: Bill Shory: Journalist, Mentor and Friend

Over the past week or so, I’ve spoken with quite a number of people who, like me, have had the good fortune to have worked under the newsroom leadership of former WBIR News Director, Bill Shory. We felt like now was the right time to publicly express our appreciation both for WBIR-TV – which has been one of America’s most iconic local news operations for more than five decades, and which remains a great place to work, as well as a truly wonderful part of this community – and also for Bill himself, the guy who led WBIR to some of its greatest successes during his eight year run as News Director there.

Bill Shory News Director Fired

Bill helps other WBIR volunteers distribute food and toys in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina

WBIR’s storied reputation is well-deserved. From the people who work there and have worked there, to the “Straight From the Heart” newsroom culture that each employee truly strives to embody in his or her work, to the station’s high level of community involvement, WBIR is a resource that we who live and raise our families in East Tennessee are very lucky to have.

In his eight years as News Director, Bill led the newsroom through great ratings successes, sweeping industry changes, heartfelt community tributes and tough investigative projects. Through it all, he was a wonderful boss, always advocating for journalistic ethics, accuracy, fairness and compassion. He was an invaluable mentor and guide from whom many journalists learned a great deal, even as he was always willing to learn from others to become better at his own job.

Bill Shory Fired

Bill with his wife Michelle, daughter Isabella and their two dogs, Angel and Daisy

No one doubts that WBIR will continue to shine as a beacon of excellence, both in the news industry and in this community, and anyone who has ever had the chance to be part of the WBIR family in any way treasures that relationship. And for those of us whose time at WBIR came during Bill Shory’s newsroom leadership, we also feel extremely lucky to have had the chance to work for and learn from a guy who made coming to work each day something energizing and challenging for his team, and who made us proud to be part of something great.

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UPDATE: Since publishing this blog post, I’ve had multiple folks who have also worked with Bill Shory during their time at WBIR ask me to add something from them to what I’ve written. I am adding these quotes as I receive them. – Katie

“Bill is hard charger and a hell of a newsman.” – John Becker, WBIR TV

I’ve never had a conversation with Bill Shory that didn’t evolve into his pride in his newsroom and his dedication to his staff.   Bill has served as both boss and mentor to scores of young journalists.  I’ve spoken to many of them and have yet to encounter one who wasn’t left a better person and journalist because of his influence. – Boyd Huppert, 7-time National Murrow Award-Winning Reporter, KARE-TV, Minneapolis

“In every journalist’s life, there are a select few people who shape the course of that journalist’s career. In my life, one of those people has been Bill Shory. More than five years ago, he gave me the best job I’ve ever had – working in the newsroom at WBIR, and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity. Under his leadership, I was challenged, encouraged, educated and trained. Bill showed me what it meant to stay true to our industry’s ethical standards, even in the face of adversity. He pushed me to always dig deeper, work harder, and get better, all while guiding me as a mentor and a friend. He taught all of us in the newsroom how to be the best we can be at our craft, and those lessons will live on in his absence and in his honor.” – Brittany Bailey, weekend morning anchor, WBIR

“So many people have made — and continue to make — WBIR-TV special: talented individuals behind the cameras and in front of them as well as loyal viewers who continue to demand accuracy, the truth, and straight-forward yet compassionate stories about their community. Bill Shory valued that legacy — and added to it in significant ways — as News Director. He pushed for what was right, asked tough questions when nobody wanted to face them, and challenged the status quo without fear. Bill encouraged reporters to dig for the real story but let the public judge the facts. And thankfully, Bill and WBIR’s support remained steadfast as the stories and responses developed. It was an honor to be a part of the team, and I am thankful for the incredible friendships that began at WBIR.  I consider Bill one of those friends who I treasure even more-so today.” – Kay Watson, former WBIR Reporter/Anchor

“Summing up Bill Shory’s impact on the news business and on me personally is hard to put into one paragraph. He is a man who mentors young talent, who nurtures seasoned talent, who fights for ethics in journalism even if it goes against the mainstream opinion. He is a man who is smart, strong, passionate and kind. He truly cared about his employees in a way that went beyond news headlines. I have him to thank for my job, yes, but even more I have him to thank for laughing with us, crying with us and fighting for us. WBIR is the best place I’ve ever worked and I am proud to have learned what ‘straight from the heart’ means from one of the best in the business.” – Abby Ham, morning anchor, WBIR

“Having worked with Bill for several years, I have a great deal of respect for him.  He had a true feel for what was important news to East Tennessee and WBIR. The community and station hold a very special place in my heart.” – Former WBIR anchor Ted Hall

“I had the pleasure of working for Bill Shory at WBIR for six years…I  love that Bill  has such a zeal for local TV news; he’s truly passionate about putting the best product on the air. However he isn’t willing to compromise when it comes to ethics and journalism. He stands for what’s right, and will fight for it, even if it means standing alone. I respect his ability to stand up for pure journalism, and I believe he was a great newsroom leader.” – LaSaundra Brown Gibson, former WBIR Anchor/Reporter

“Bill Shory is one of the most ethical people I know, always standing up for the rights of the public and the media, no matter the venue. He is what every journalist should strive to be. I trusted his judgment both in and out of the newsroom, and I still go to him for advice three years after leaving WBIR. Bill Shory was more than a boss; he’s a friend.” – Robin Murdoch, former WBIR Reporter

“In a world where TV news does a lot wrong, Bill Shory did a lot right.” – Jacob Nagel, former WBIR photojournalist, and national Edward R. Murrow award winner

“I had the chance to work with Bill for three years. As a journalist, he was passionate, responsible, and committed to quality. He was open to questions and comments, living the brand that makes WBIR so special. As a person, he truly cared about the happenings in my life, and offered great perspective during challenging times.”Dan Farkas, former WBIR Reporter and 10Sports Anchor

“Bill Shory was one of the most amazing news directors I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  His passion and intensity for thejob were unsurpassed, and he was always willing to help me out when I needed it. Most importantly, he understood the value of team work; a true credential for any newsroom.  I wish him nothing but happiness & success … “Straight from MY Heart!” – Cheryl Scott, former WBIR meteorologist

“If I’d been working for any other news director—any—I think I’d have gotten out of the news business after two years. I’ve not met or worked with any manager who ‘gets’ investigative work like Bill does, and why it’s one of the most important functions a news organization can possibly fulfill in the community. I couldn’t count on all my digits the number of employees I saw working harder and going that extra mile because Bill was their boss—because they knew how hard he was working at it, and saw that it must be pretty damned important. Knoxville news took a big hit with his departure. ” – Jacob Jost, former WBIR Executive Producer for Online Media, and current Editor in Chief (elect) of University of Illinois College of Law Review