Twenty years ago today, the venerable Nashville Banner newspaper closed its doors. While I only worked in that newsroom from May 1997 until February 1998, when I moved upstairs to The Tennessean, I developed lifelong friends and mentors, including food writer Nicki Pendleton Wood, automotive writer Beth Stein, and penny-pinching columnist Mary Hance, better known as Ms. Cheap.
In my brief stint downstairs at 1100 Broadway, Nicki, Beth, Ms. Cheap, and the rest of the Banner business desk taught me to love my hometown by exploring it from every angle. I was assigned to drink beer in honky tonks at lunch. I spent a day on horseback with a Hickory Hollow mall cop. I got my first big scoop while riding a parking shuttle at Opryland theme park.
Working for the Banner might have been the best job ever. Because, along the way, I learned that, in this great country, a 26-year-old cub reporter can call up any person in authority–Mayor, CEO, NHL team owner, Fed Chairman, law enforcement, or country star—and simply ask them, in the politest possible way, “What the hell?”
It can be an uncomfortable question, but the freedom to ask it brings the greatest comfort in the world.