‘Social Justice Journalism’ Prompts The Tennessean’s Decline


The steep drop in The Tennessean’s circulation numbers and the uptick in interest in other media such as The Tennessee Star does not surprise Tennessee Tax Revolt President Ben Cunningham.

The Tennessean has had a steep drop in circulation the past two years, nearly 40 percent, according to The Nashville Business Journal.

Cunningham was blunt Friday while assessing the reasons why.

“The decline of The Tennessean is no surprise,” Cunningham told The Star.

“The news reporting is thinly veiled social justice journalism by reporters who are always skeptical of conservatives but have no self-awareness of their own liberal bias. The editorial page has devolved into tedious moralizing where every day it’s the same old self-righteous finger wagging directed toward what it regards as unwashed hillbillies.”

As The Nashville Business Journal reported Friday, of the 200 daily newspapers at the newly merged Gannett Co. that file print circulation numbers publicly, more than 80 percent have lost circulation at a faster rate than the national average. About 10 percent are declining at twice that rate or more.

The Tennessean has seen a 39.3 percent drop in its circulation between 2017 and 2019 — the second biggest drop among Gannett’s biggest papers (those with circulation of at least 25,000 in June 2019). In 2017, The Tennessean had a circulation of 58,611; its 2019 circulation is 35,560,” according to the website.

“Among its biggest papers, the only Gannett paper to see a steeper drop is The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where circulation dropped by 47.1 percent.”

The website went on to say Gannett “is now under intense pressure from shareholders to fulfill its vow to cut $300 million in expenses, and it’s likely that it’ll turn to its most underperforming newspapers to do so.”

As The Star reported in March, two Tennessean reporters interjected their own left-wing biases to scold Republicans and Williamson County parents who were upset about the county school system administrators training teachers about “white privilege.”

One of the two reporters, Elaina Sauber, tried to portray Williamson County as a hotbed of racism, but she did not seem to have enough evidence to back that claim up.

Both reporters bickered with Williamson County parents on social media.

As The Star reported in January, News Channel 5 investigative reporter publicly expressed displeasure with The Tennessean’s billing practices.

As The Star reported last year, staff writers at The Tennessean and the left-wing activists who protested CoreCivic seemed to collude with one another on a particular story.

The Newsbusters website, which analyzes the mainstream media, has already identified The Tennessean as a left-leaning newspaper and called it out for liberal bias on more than one occasion.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]



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15 Thoughts to “‘Social Justice Journalism’ Prompts The Tennessean’s Decline”

  1. dee

    “The news reporting is thinly veiled social justice journalism by reporters who are always skeptical of conservatives but have no self-awareness of their own liberal bias.”

    Best line in the article. I quit getting the paper after 30 years.

    If you are white and over 50….you are a racist.

    They brag about how great ‘Build Back Better’ is……just like they wanted the Megan Barry Subway System…..no mention of the cost. No mention of the crisis at the border.

  2. Keith T.

    The people who are being hurt by right-wing press priorities will regret left-leaning press going down, and plenty in Tennessee are being hurt.

  3. Stan

    I live in Atlanta and the same thing is happening with the AJC Atlanta Journal Constitution they have gone so far to the left no one wants to buy it.

  4. Tom Ballard

    Surprisingly, the Nashville Business Journal is at least as SJW-oriented as the Tennesseean. I finally dropped my NBJ subscription because I got tired of being lectured to when all I really wanted to do was read the business news.

  5. midnitelamp

    If the paper they sell at intersection, The Communicator I think, could get the obits the Tennessean would be through.
    Speaking of obits, they are the only part of the Tennessean that is reliably accurate, but then they are not written by the Tennessean’s staff.

  6. justhavinagoodday

    Hey Tennessean, want more readers, then report the ACTUAL news, not your version of it.

  7. Max King

    Thoughts from a reader desiring reported news. I am not interested in OPINIONS of the employees of the Tennessean. These comments should be kept on the Editoral section and not on every item that should be fact reporting only. Most of your readers have their mind made up on the political views and happenings in the state and US capital and DO NOT want to read the one sided writings of your leftist enthusiasts. If you’re interested in keeping your reading public informed and your subscription rate profitable then STOP reporting opinions and REPORT THE NEWS

  8. William R. Delzell

    If anything, the Tennessean has pulled its punches in recent years when trying to project itself as progressive and/or critical of the conservatives. During the previous decade, the supposedly leftist TENNESSEAN supported then-Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s re-election campaigns against Democrat challengers. Imagine that happening over forty or fifty years ago! The Tennessean back then would NEVER have supported the rabid racist Robin Beard when he served in the part of Tennessee where Blackburn would later serve. Are you sure that the Tennessean is genuinely leftist? I know many readers of the Tennessean who complain that the paper has drifted too far RIGHT, especially after Gannet took it over from a local family. Why would a leftist paper have supported Marsha Blackburn back then as the Tennessean once did?

  9. Dal

    The Knoxville News-Sentinel is not far behind.

  10. Steve Richards

    John Seigenthaler spoke at the downtown Rotary Club, if he several years ago and when asked, said he thought the Tennessean was too conservative. I asked if he would name the conservatives on the editorial board. He named four – all of which were so far left it shocked me. He too had no self-awareness of his own liberal bias. I always wondered … it is a bad business model to exclude 1/2 of your readership with your bias. Think, Dixie Chicks. Then think Dolly, who does not express her views. She still has all her fans. If the Tennessean were fair and balanced, they would be selling more papers. They took the Dixie Chick route to failure.

    1. Keith T.

      Don’t blame the Dixie Chicks for so many people liking dumb leaders of our country.

  11. John J.

    IF the Tennessean were to be introspective, their reason for the loss in readership would surely be that “Deplorables can’t read!” Go ahead, keep underestimating us “nincompoops”.

  12. Pissed Off Nashvillian

    It’s great for sopping up overflow in the bathroom.

  13. David

    Get woke, Go broke

  14. Nashville Expatriot

    The Tennessean has long been known by it’s other name: Pravda on the Cumberland