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Kingsport mayor blasts WJHL as 'tabloid TV'

May 21st, 2014 12:30 am by Matthew Lane

Kingsport mayor blasts WJHL as 'tabloid TV'


KINGSPORT — Mayor Dennis Phillips blasted WJHL-TV on Tuesday over two recent stories involving him, calling the Johnson City station "tabloid TV" and urging all Kingsport employees to refuse interview requests until the station reports the facts.

Phillips made the public comments at the beginning of Tuesday's regular meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

"There are two instances that concern me greatly that I think the public deserves an explanation," Phillips said.

The first story done by WJHL-TV that drew the mayor's ire involved Kingsport having thousands of dollars worth of unpaid parking tickets, with the focus on Phillips' wife, Bobbie. According to the story, the mayor's wife received a parking ticket at Holston Valley Medical Center for parking in a handicapped space and had yet to pay it.

Phillips said on Tuesday his wife's mother and sister both died within six months and that she was at the hospital quite a bit during that time.

"She swears she didn't, but she may have received it," Phillips said. "When the story came out, I told the reporter I had no idea about this. I never talked to Nate (Morabito). He made the police look bad; he made me look bad. But I was going to let that one slide."

The second story by WJHL-TV involves a proposed dinner between the BMA and Johnson City's city commission, made by Phillips back in April. According to a letter sent to Johnson City, the dinner would have no formal agenda, the purpose being for the two boards to become more familiar with each other as individuals.

Kingsport officials said no public notice of the meeting would be offered and cited a Tennessee Attorney General's opinion allowing two such groups to meet in this manner.

Phillips said WJHL did not contact him about the proposed meeting.

"If Johnson City's commissioners were sitting here I doubt our board would know maybe a couple of them," Phillips said. "This was reported as a secret meeting. There's nothing secret about it. What's wrong with having dinner with your neighbors?"

Phillips said Kingsport employees should refuse any interview requests from WJHL-TV until they report the facts in a straight, honest manner.

"When ratings are down or sinking and I assume this is the case here ... why allow this when other stations do not feel like they have to slant the news or totally mislead the public," Phillips said. "If you want to promote tabloid TV, then watch and support WJHL."

Jennifer Dale, news director at WJHL-TV, said she had not seen Phillips' remarks and therefore could not comment on them. However, Dale said the stories about the parking ticket and proposed meeting were accurate, noting Phillips had not contacted the station with concerns about either story.

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