Opinion: Chattanooga Times Free Press adds staff to meet reader interests and community need

Staff photo by Robin Rudd / The Chattanooga Times Free Press building is seen as the sun rises on March 21, 2023.
Staff photo by Robin Rudd / The Chattanooga Times Free Press building is seen as the sun rises on March 21, 2023.

At two different meetings in recent months at the Times Free Press, Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said people often tell him Chattanooga reminds them of "Austin 30 years ago."

If that's true, it means the decisions community leaders make now will determine how the city grows — and whether future Chattanooga will be another city with endless sprawl, marathon commutes, unaffordable housing and inadequate infrastructure. Or whether future Chattanooga will be somewhere people actually want to live.

We're at a crucial moment. That's why the Times Free Press has created a new beat, centered on growth. Reporter Ben Sessoms will focus on the impact of growth in the region, on our quality of life, environment and transportation.

Ben is among eight journalists joining the Times Free Press team this summer.

Among those is food writer Andre James, who is part of an effort to broaden — and deepen — the newspaper's food coverage.

This summer, we'll launch a new food newsletter, "What to Eat Next."

Since February, we've been working with the American Press Institute (API) on this new product. We've surveyed well over 100 community members and interviewed a subset of them to see what they want in food coverage.

Product experts at API and the News Product Alliance have guided us in this process, and API also provided us with a grant to market and promote the new newsletter.

Andre fell into writing after two decades cooking in restaurants, and earlier this year served as a judge for the 2023 James Beard Awards.

Chattanooga's food scene is growing and vibrant, and we hope serious foodies and casual diners alike will appreciate Andre's take and try out our newsletter.

We're also welcoming Kathy Bradshaw, who is the new editor of Chatter magazine; Shannon Coan, who will cover education; Sarah Dolgin, who reports and works on our digital team; Sam Still, who reports community news stories; and Chaz Johnston, who writes for our magazines.

Perhaps most importantly, we have identified a replacement for longtime journalist Pam Sohn, who retired in January as editor of the Chattanooga Times opinion page. It's taken many months to find the right person for that role, but good news for the regular readers of page B6: LeBron Hill assumes that role in early August.

LeBron, a native of Tullahoma and graduate of Lipscomb University, comes to the Times Free Press from the Tennessean in Nashville, where he is an opinion columnist.

Here on East 11th we're very proud of the fact that the Chattanooga Times Free Press is unique in that it has two editorial pages: the liberal Times page and the conservative Free Press page, honoring the legacies of the two papers that merged 24 years ago to form the current newspaper and providing readers with viewpoints from different political perspectives.

Whether it's a variety of opinions or the buzzing food scene, or rapid growth and development, we're committed to covering the Chattanooga region.

In an era when an estimated 70 million Americans live in so-called "news deserts," according to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, the Times Free Press newsroom still hums with journalists working to provide reliable daily news for our community.

Thank you for reading the Times Free Press and for trusting us to tell the community's story.

Contact Editor Alison Gerber at agerber@timesfreepress.com.

  photo  Staff photo by Robin Rudd Alison Gerber, Editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, was photographed in the newspaper's newsroom on August 30, 2018.

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