Reporter Hank Hayes Keeps Painting the Inroads Red

Remember how I said if Gray Sasser thought Democrats could make inroads in the 1st District, he must have a bad map? Well, I still believe that – but I also think it’s important for you to know who helps keep the roads in this portion of the state painted a bright shade of red.

The following is allegedly an email exchange between a local reader and Kingsport Times-News political reporter Hank Hayes. (You can read the original in comments.)

—- Original Message —–
From: _________
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2008 3:46 PM
Subject: Where is the Democratic point of view?

I have been reading quite a bit about the Republican candidates’ views and have read and re-read the articles in the Times-News, as I feel this election is very important. I am wondering, though, where is the Democratic perspective and why aren’t Democratic candidates being interviewed concerning these matters, or cited when they speak at events? WBIR-TV did a 30 minute show and 2 Democratic candidates, Rob Russell and Michael Donihe, and one Republican, Michael Saabri showed up, but Roe and Davis were no-shows. I found no mention of this in the paper.

Contrary to the rhetoric around these parts, there are quite a few Democrats, and we do deserve to hear points of view that are not necessarily Republican. One would almost say that the Democratic point of view is being ignored on purpose. It is kind of like 2006, when David Davis arrogantly refused to debate his Democratic opponent. What was he afraid of?

Mary _______

From: Hank Hayes
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2008 11:22 AM
Subject: Re: Where is the Democratic point of view?


Thank you for the feedback.

And thank you for reading the T-N.

I tell people, both Republicans and Democrats, that “For me to cover your campaign, there has to be one.” It makes people mad, but that’s the way I feel.

Neither of the Democratic candidates in this 1st Congressional District race have ever called me.

I don’t think either of them filed a financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission. That suggests they have raised no money to run a campaign. And I have seen nothing to suggest that the Tennessee Democratic Party is supporting them.

If a candidate is not going to actively raise money, put together an organization and be out there trying to attract attention, do you think they deserve coverage?

There were about 12 Republicans seeking the nomination in 2006, and I covered about 5-6 of them. I did cover Rick Trent because he worked.

My feeling is just because their name is on the ballot, that doesn’t entitle them to coverage.

I’m interested in contenders – serious candidates – and not pretenders.


First of all, I’d just like to say – I told you so! I told you so! Hank Hayes is so Republican he knows the secret handshake! Big David Davis support too, I’ll bet.

Next, I’d like to say – in Hank’s defense – at least he did respond. I recently emailed WJHL and to inquire if Democratic candidates would also receive three-minute segments as was recently offered to the three Republican candidates. I have received no reply as of yet.

But that’s about all I can say in Hank’s defense.

Here are the questions folks, particularly for those of you in the business: What entitles a candidate to press coverage? Should amount of coverage correlate to amount of money raised for the campaign? So, how much money do candidates need before they get a mention? Should there be a formula for this – like if you raise over $10,000, we’ll print your name twice?

Should politicians be required to call reporters and beg for coverage? I understand you can’t cover everyone who files to run, but Russell HAS been making the rounds, attending rallies and party meetings (in Sullivan County no less) and talking with people across the district. If Hank would read something other than his own Republobabble or the GOP press releases in his inbox, he might know this. And he can’t make the argument that he doesn’t cover political rallies or fundraising events because that wouldn’t be true.

I mean if we’re just talking about candidates taking the initiative here: what about the press releases Russell’s campaign sends out which are never acknowledged? Hayes certainly doesn’t waste any time publishing Davis or Roe’s communications with the press. Is that fair?

Are readers getting balanced coverage?

What else separates contenders from pretenders? Well, Hank also points out the Tennessee Democratic Party isn’t sounding the drum of support here? And when have they ever? The state party has never spent a great deal of time, energy, money or other resources trying to win over what they’ve long since considered a lost cause. Hank isn’t a ninny: he knows this.

So, what’s left? Hank’s feelings? Coverage depends on how Hank feels about your campaign.

As far as I’m concerned if Russell has been running hard enough to be considered a serious candidate by voters in this neck of the woods, this makes him newsworthy. And none of the reasons Hank listed justify his absolute willingness to hold the GOP paintbrush.

Therefore, I say – Bad Hank! Bad! Shame on you! Flackery will get you nowhere. (Unless you’re Bill Hobbs and have enough guts to make those very outrageous Hobbsian-type statement which I wouldn’t recommend because normal people get fired for those things… or you’re playin’ this like Thaddeus and your feelings can be bought.)

Of course, Hank has time to make journalistic amends. Russell is scheduled to speak at the Sullivan County Democrats summer fundraising picnic on July 12 at the boardwalk in Bluff City with real voters who are voting for the real serious candidate – none of those pretend voters who plan on voting for pretend candidates on pretend ballots.

What do you say, Hank? How about you cover the non-republican event and make one mention of of the non-Republican candidate before the election? I’m sure Ron and the other Republican boys will understand you’re just doing your job and they’ll still let you be in their club… providing you can remember the secret handshake.


11 thoughts on “Reporter Hank Hayes Keeps Painting the Inroads Red

  1. Sad to say, it continueth:

    After I had a nice interview with Tom Humphreys, the Nashville-based political reporter for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, this morning, I had to deal with the illustrious Hank Hayes and his “questions” — the transcript of this morning’s email exchange is below.


    Please forward these questions to Mr. Russell.

    What qualifies you to be a United States congressman?

    How much money have you raised for your campaign?

    How many volunteers does your campaign have?

    Do you have county chairs in all 12 district counties?


    Dear Mr. Hayes,

    I would be happy to complete a legitimate questionairre concerning my positions on relevant issues, such as the ones that I have completed for VoteSmart, Bristol Herald-Courier, and Knoxville News-Sentinel, and another recently submitted by the Greeneville Sun. The questions below seem to imply that I have to prove the financial worth of my candidacy to the Times-News before you will cover it — no other media outlet in the district, or beyond, has required such proof.


    Rob Russell


    Mr. Russell:

    Can you tell me how many yard signs you have distributed throughout the district?



    Mr. Hayes,

    Today I was interviewd by Tom Humphreys of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. This past Tuesday, I had an interview with the Editorial Board of the Bristol Herald-Courier. The amount of signage that I have distributed was not discussed, but campaign financing was, and I was more than happy to speak with them about that topic and answer their questions, since they were clearly interested in finding out my positions on the real issues that are important to voters in this region: the economy, energy, healthcare, and education.

    If any other reporter at the Times-News is interested in actually informing area readers about the substance of my campaign, I will be very happy to speak to him or her.


    Rob Russell


    Mr. Russell:

    How many doors have you knocked on in the district?



    Lulu (my 8 week old daughter/banshee) is engaged in a scream-fest, and I really can find better uses of my time than continuing to respond to Hayes’ non-questions, so we’ll just let it go at that.

    = Rob

  2. Demarcationville!
    Hi, I’m the lady that wrote the original letter to Hank Hayes. I’m real, though sometimes I wish I were merely alleged when I see the sorry state of what’s going on around this country and how head-in-the-sand folks are around these parts.

    The story doesn’t stop there. Although I didn’t reply to Hanks first e-mail, he sent me another, so apparently his face is turning beet-red. The second one is below;

    Hello again:

    Ask Nathan Vaughn if I cover him regularly.

    Ask Nathan Vaughn if I’m fair with him.

    I think I know what the answers will be.

    But you’ve already connected the dots the way you wanted them to be connected.

    There’s a difference between a working candidate and a name on the ballot.


    Of course I sent that on to Rob and here’s his reply;

    Susan —


    Actually, if you look at his recent coverage of Vaughn, he spends more
    time talking about Shipley (even in the article that is supposed to be
    covering Nathan’s kick-off event) than he does Nathan. But maybe
    that’s just my “spin.”…..

    So, Demarcationville, we have a lot of bias to overcome. My letters-to-the-editor sometimes get censored or re-worded to make me sound irrational, though most go through as originally worded. I just can’t help but notice, though. It’s only right-wing letters that are awarded stars. HHHMMMMM!!!

    Why don’t they just call it the Kingsport Republican Rag?

  3. Greetings everyone,

    First I have to say that I agree, Kingsport times news and Johnson city press have been very neglectful to both me and Rob concerning the issues our campaign. I like Rob have received invitations from the Bristol Harold Courier, Knoxville Sentinel news, The Greenville Sun, and the Morristown citizen tribune etc.

    I was astounded at Hank Hayes bias remarks, “Neither of the Democratic candidates in this 1st Congressional District race have ever called me.” Why should we contact him? He is the reporter who is responsible in covering political events! In addition,
    He says, “I don’t think either of them filed a financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission. That suggests they have raised no money to run a campaign. And I have seen nothing to suggest that the Tennessee Democratic Party is supporting them. If a candidate is not going to actively raise money, put together an organization and be out there trying to attract attention, do you think they deserve coverage?” He’s the reporter that is to give fair and balance reporting, regardless of campaign contributions! I’ve had a few serious contributors who had looked into my campaign and back out. I guess they felt it was lost cause. After 130 years of Republican tradition I am sure it is hard to break away.

    However, there is one comment he did make that is true, “And I have seen nothing to suggest that the Tennessee Democratic Party is supporting them.” I have been in the race now for over three months, and personally, I’ve received no support or backing from the party. No calls for speaking engagements or any other support for my candidacy. It has all been a one-horse show. I’ve spent countless hours answering e-mails, handling all the mail responses, handling all the media coverage events for the campaign, and at the same time trying to muster funding for campaign to no avail. In addition, working 40 plus hours a week in a blue-collar job, and trying to find time for the family has been very stressing to say the least. So, if anyone is wondering why I’ve not attended many of the Democratic Party events in the area, it due largely for lack of time and resources to do so.

    Personally, I think that the candidate who receives the big PAC and special interests monies it should be alarming to the people of our district. When David Davis started his re-election bid he had one million dollars cash on hand, in addition he raised another roughly half million dollars, for a job that will only pay him $310,200.00 in his two year term in office! I believe it should take no more funding to run for an office, than to what that office will pay. Otherwise it is just plain immoral and corrupt. In addition, that politician will always act in the behest of the special interests, and NOT to the people he or she is supposed to represent. Believe me, I have seen David Davis’s voting record, and it has not always been to our best interests!

    If any one is interested you can visit my website There you will find where I stand on the issues, my concerns for our district and the nation as a whole. You can also Google me as well by simply typing in my name in parentheses, “Michael Donihe” by doing so you can read articles I’ve written and interviews during the campaign.

  4. I’m glad this is being brought up. The Kingsport Times is entitled to only cover candidates for a single party if they like, but they need to stop pretending to call themselves a newspaper, and acknowledge that they are a partisan promotional arm of the side they do represent, and conform with all campaign financing requirements. They should be limited to spending no more than $3000 in a year total running their newspaper, or whatever the limit is for businesses to contribute to candidates.

  5. Pingback: Hey Hank, Here’s Your Sign « DeMarCaTionVille

  6. I worked with Hank about 10 years ago, and I can tell you he is not a one-sided kind of guy. I learned a tremendous amount from Hank, and I think he is a skilled journalist. One of the things he taught me was that you can’t cover everything. There isn’t enough time, and in the case of publications, enough space, to make it happen.

    Go back through some archives of the race between Nathan Vaughn and Bob Miller. I think it was in 2002 or 2003. Those guys both got good coverage from Hank. They were both contenders.

    As for the Times-News being a one-sided publication, I haven’t studied it enough to agree or disagree with that. But it isn’t uncommon for publications or even television news programs to be one-sided. Look at the New York Times. They wouldn’t run McCain’s op-ed without revisions. I wholly support their right to make that decision. They aren’t a public entity. Taxpayers don’t support them. It’s their right to do as they wish, just as it is the right of the Times-News. If people don’t like it, they can choose not to support the paper through subscriptions or advertising.

  7. Brian, although I think some of Hank’s comments to the candidate in question were “unbecoming of a journalist,” I do agree with you to a certain extent.

    The fact is I’m guilty of doing the same thing in print – and even here. I have fewer constraints than Hayes has, and still you will find only a passing mention of Sabri and many of the other candidates.

    Furthermore, just as candidates can comment here, they can create profiles and “report” their own stories at the Times-News. While these stories are reviewed by the editorial staff, I cannot imagine the Times-News would refuse to publish online unless the “report” contained something highly inappropriate.

    However – I do think after Russell started making the rounds, speaking to various county organizations and readers asked for more information, an effort should have been made. For whatever reason, it wasn’t. So, area bloggers (and the Bristol Herald Courier along with WJHL) stepped in to fill the information gap – and that’s all there is to it.

    See, I happen to agree Hank can paint the roads whatever color he would like and given the demographics of the area: giving Republicans more ink probably makes good sense because it appeals to a larger group of people.

    And I am in no implying that he should be pummeled with a copy of the fairness doctrine. What I am saying is at the same time I support his right to lean, I’m exercising my right to point out in which direction he seems to be leaning and offering space to those he deems unworthy.

    And somehow, I think it’ll all balance out in the end.

  8. Pingback: Headline Switcheroos and Rethinking Hank « DeMarCaTionVille

  9. Why is Hank causing so many waves in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional district? He writes for both the Kingsport Times-News and the Johnson City Press.

    When you think that the Erwin Record and the Jonesborough paper are also partners with the Sandusky owned Times-News, Hank has a huge hunk of the districts readers on his pen. (He seems to be writing all red to me.)

  10. Pingback: Yard signs are needed to get political coverage by East Tennessee newspaper | Kingsport TN Government

  11. Pingback: East TN newspaper under attack by blogs and newspapers | No WhiteWash!

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