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Year in Review
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

Year in Review

馃棑 Biggest stories of the year 路聽Hidden gems 路聽Weekly film rundown 路聽Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

This is the last you'll read from us in 2023. We sent out 233 newsletters this year, published a number of stories ranging from film reviews to investigative reports to cultural commentary, and re-introduced our podcast as a series of weekly livestream shows.

Below, we'll recap the key moments from the year, reveal our most-read stories, and sprinkle in some of the other hits we鈥檝e published since January. Additionally, Jerod furnishes his film rundown that should get you through the New Year if you want to get out and see a flick.

We hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay warm heading into 2024, and we'll be back on Wednesday, January 3rd.

Onward.

鉂 BIGGEST STORIES OF THE YEAR

A look back at the stories and headlines that dominated the news over the past year in Middle Tennessee.

COVENANT TRAGEDY

March 27th started like any other Monday, until news began to circulate about an active shooter at Covenant School in Green Hills. As the dust settled, it was revealed that 28-year-old Audrey Hale had broken into the school and killed three 9-year-olds and three adults: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, William Kinney, Mike Hill, Katherine Koonce, and Cynthia Peak. MNPD officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo delivered the heroic fatal shots to Hale on the second floor of the church. 

In the aftermath of the massacre, political activists from around the country descended on the state legislature demanding gun reform, which culminated in the expulsion of Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson from the Tennessee House after they occupied the floor during session holding signs and yelling into a megaphone in protest.

The brouhaha launched the three members into the national spotlight, overshadowing the very real tragedy that hung over Nashville. In response, Governor Bill Lee called for a public safety special session. Since then, there have been mounting calls for the release of Hale鈥檚 manifesto, part of which was released to conservative commentator Stephen Crowder.

It was an admittedly difficult time for us at The Pamphleteer. Liberal media, both local and national, made the tragedy about guns. Meanwhile, conservative outlets crowed about the manifesto, as though its release would bring down the whole gender-ideology house of cards  Hale was caught up in.

We were uniquely positioned to speak directly to the Covenant community and published a number of pieces that sought to recenter the tragedy and bring people peace as the media machine capitalized on the event. We鈥檝e kept the families of the victims in our prayers since, and hope you will too.

ALL THINGS TRANS AND DRAG

During this year鈥檚 General Assembly, GOP lawmakers made national headlines for 鈥渂anning鈥 drag shows and gender-affirming treatments in Tennessee.

鈥淲hy would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences and celebrate fat black women?鈥 Lizzo asked a crowd of screaming fans during her April concert in Knoxville.

鈥淲hat kind of soulless freak is John Ray Clemmons who can sit there, hearing all this stuff, and take the side of the castrators of children? 鈥 asked Tucker Carlson while chatting with Matt Walsh about the latter鈥檚 testimony in front of lawmakers this January.

The backlash wasn鈥檛 all rallies, testimonies, headlines, and meme wars: even though the drag bill did not ban anything except sexually explicit performances for minors, a lawsuit was filed in Memphis. On March 31st, the judge presiding over the case deemed the law unconstitutional. The state has since appealed the decision. This case, along with a lawsuit filed by the DOJ against the state鈥檚 transgender law are still languishing in the court system.

TITANS STADIUM DEAL

This April, after two months of debate and nine months of public, private, and expert input, Metro Council voted 26-12 to approve the development of a new, enclosed stadium on the East Bank. The $2.1 billion tab is set to be split three ways: the Titans will put forward $840 million, some of which will come from personal seat license sales; the state will fork over $500 million, as determined during 2022鈥檚 General Assembly; and Metro will pony up $760 million, much of which will be anchored to revenue generated by the sales tax capture zones located within the development. 

On May 19th, Metro Sports Authority chose the Atlanta-based architecture firm, TVS, to serve as the new stadium鈥檚 Architect of Record. A few months later, Vice Mayor Henderson established a new ad hoc East Bank Committee meant to keep an eye on the area鈥檚 forthcoming development. Former at-large councilman Bob Mendes, who stood in opposition to the deal as chair of the previous East Bank committee, is now Mayor O鈥機onnell鈥檚 Chief Development Officer and in charge of seeing the project through. The stadium is projected to be finished by 2027.

NASHVILLE GETS A NEW MAYOR

Then-council member Freddie O鈥機onnell was the first to open his campaign for mayor. He was also, to many observers, the least likely to win. As the roster of candidates filled out and John Cooper declared he would not be running for reelection, it looked like a toss up leading into the general, which was characterized by anxiety about the city鈥檚 overemphasis on tourism and attracting outside business.

As the numbers came in on election night, Freddie O鈥機onnell and Alice Rolli bested the rest of the field, which included State Sens. Heidi Campbell and Jeff Yarbro, former MDHA CSO Matt Wiltshire, and at-large Councilmember Sharon Hurt among others to make it to the runoff.

Ultimately, O鈥機onnell would come out on top, garnering 64 percent of the vote in the runoff against Rolli. Running on a wonky platform that appealed to residents with a slogan of 鈥渨e want you to stay,鈥 O鈥機onnell was rewarded for running a smart, savvy, and energetic campaign. On September 25th, O鈥機onnell was sworn into office as Metro Nashville鈥檚 tenth mayor.

TORNADO HITS NASHVILLE

鈥淚t sounded like being inside the fuselage of an airplane,鈥 said Natalie Qayed of the tornado that ripped through Madison on December 9th. Of the eight funnels that touched down in Middle Tennessee two weeks ago, the most powerful were an EF3 that hit Clarksville and four EF2s that cut a path from Dickson to Trousdale County.

Gusts of 150 mph were measured by the National Weather Service and the storms ultimately claimed 7 lives, including a 2-year-old child. Tens of thousands of people in Tennessee were left without power, with over 45,000 customer outages in Nashville alone. In the wake of the devastation, Metro Council passed a resolution waiving all permit fees for those with damaged property.

MOST READ STORIES OF THE YEAR

  1. 鉀笍 Davis Hunt's response to the Covenant massacre came three days after the tragedy. Released into a media environment that had quickly moved past the genuine spiritual wound the event caused, he sought to remind readers about where they should seek peace and comfort. (Read)
  2. 馃憱 Jerod Hollyfield's profile of controversial Williamson County political activist, Gary Humble, examined why Humble has been effective. Despite the efforts of his detractors, Humble has emerged as a formidable political force in Middle Tennessee who is worth understanding if one wants to understand what politics in the state may look like going forward. (Read)
  3. 馃 We released Jerod Hollyfield's review of Jeff Fynn-Paul鈥檚 book Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World around Thanksgiving. The review lays out Fynn-Paul's general argument which dispels many myths about America's relationship with Native Americans. (Read)
  4. 馃挦 Geneva DeCobert's reporting on water service issues affecting English Mountain in East Tennessee applied pressure to the Tennessee Comptroller's Office to address the neglected infrastructure that left hundreds of residents without clean running water for nearly a decade. (Read)
  5. 馃拤 Megan Podsiedlik's story about thirty United Airlines pilots who were let go for not adhering to the airline's onerous vaccine mandate and sought justice (Read)

OTHER HIDDEN GEMS

馃 Jano Tantongco's in-depth analysis of the rise of mental illness as a trendy identity marker in America's social media era (Read)

鉁 Jerod Hollyfield's assessment of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson in the aftermath of their ouster from the state house (Read)

馃嵅 H.D. Miller's sage-like review of the city's most trendy restaurant, Locust in 12th South (Read)

馃摉 Davis Hunt's review of Richard Reeves' book Of Boys and Men that finds ground in the middle (Read)