Main Street Journal

When Alt Weeklies Attack


Memphis FlyerPundits in Tennessee and elsewhere are abuzz with reactions to the resignation of high-profile conservative blogger Bill Hobbs from his media relations gig at Belmont University, following a column in the Nashville Scene objecting to a political cartoon Hobbs posted to an obscure website forgotten even by its creator. See Michael Silence, Blake Wylie, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds and Six Meat Buffet for more. (Also Mike Hollihan, Terry Frank and Nathan Moore.)

Meanwhile, the alternative weekly rag in Memphis has saved its ire for a conservative voice in West Tennessee you might know as the Main Street Journal. The Memphis Flyer’s Chris Davis writes in the current issue:

Main Skreet
The locally produced Main Street Journal, a magazine devoted to all things conservative, appears to be reaching out to African Americans — a demo the GOP has traditionally failed to attract. Although the most recent issue has little in the way of Afro-centric content, the cover does feature the image of a black man… and a truckload of watermelons.

The Flyer is about half right. While the MSJ is a magazine devoted to conservative values, we aren’t an arm of the GOP. Our cover images aren’t intended to target any one voting demographic; they are intended to evoke mainstreet America.

The April issue doesn’t just “feature the image of a black man.” It does, however, feature a photograph taken by award-winning master photographer Alex Ginsburg. The photo is a shot of Joseph Johnson, a retired resident of Collierville, Tenn., who has lived there for 30 years selling produce from the back of his truck.

When Johnson was asked about the photo, he actually was a little upset. No, not because we had used his image or because of the Flyer article — he hadn’t read it. Johnson said he wished we would have included his name so that people would know who he was.

The photo of Johnson is one of seven images we’ve used as cover shots since the launch of this magazine last Fall. We’ve also had photos of a train, an old man sitting on a porch, a doorway, a tree, a dining room and a rocking chair. All of these are available in our archives, and all offer a glimpse of mainstreet America.

Memphis Flyer coverIs the Flyer trying to “reach out” to white women by putting one on it’s cover this week? Or perhaps it’s trying to target religious Americans by featuring a preacher’s wife (and alleged killer)? No, the idea is ridiculous, and it’s a shame that Davis resorted to such a juvenile attack. On the other hand, we’re happy to have yet another opportunity to contrast the two publications.

We’re proud of the look of the magazine and what we’ve produced, and the April issue is no exception to that. As with each issue, the April edition of the Main Street Journal includes articles by local political leaders and a serious discussion of the issues that matter to the citizens of West Tennessee. The Flyer suggests these things aren’t important to African Americans, but it is mistaken. Our diverse community deserves more than what the Flyer offers: a steady diet of liberal commentary and local insult gossip seasoned with ads for gentlemen’s clubs, phone sex hotlines and casinos. If Davis thinks that is what appeals to black Americans, perhaps he should examine his own racial stereotypes.

Of the handful of people who actually read the Flyer’s article this week, one found his way to our website. Nick Davis offered this comment:

Great cover - just what I expected from some bigots!! Keep up the killer-ass job you guys are doing. What’s next a burning cross on the front cover? A KKK photo spread? An interview with Neo-Nazis? NICE!!!

Mr. Davis, you happen to be woefully misinformed, though if your source is the Flyer we can hardly blame you. To write such a comment about “Nazis” concerning our April issue is quite possibly the most ironic statement I’ve read in a long while. If you had taken even a moment to actually familiarize yourself with our magazine, which probably requires getting past the cover photo, you would see that the April issue features articles by Holocaust survivor Nina Katz and Israeli Consulate General Shmuel Ben-Shmeul.

12 comments so far

LOL! Good one.

I can’t speak for Chris, but I took it as a light-hearted jab. A conservative magazine inadvertently puts a racial stereotype on its front page, and the “Fly on the Wall” column is intended to capture precisely that kind of irony.

Laugh, see?

You’re kidding, right?

Of all the photos of black people you could have found, sitting in board rooms, operating heavy machinery, teaching a class, giving a political speech, that’s the photo you picked?

I call B.S. on your defense. I guess it’s poor, downtrodden conservative-as-victim week again in Tennessee.

R., you’re assuming MSJ set out to depict “black people” and searched for a photo to represent that, which shows you didn’t actually read my post.

No, I read your post. It is a great photo. I’m not buying that it was just a “coincidence”, which is what you seem to be saying.

I believe you guys, lets just hope Morris Dees doesn’t add you to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate watch” list.

Politics aside, Fly on the Wall makes fun of everyone— always has, always will. It was a joke, kids. A 60-word notice that your zipper was undone, hardly worthy of a 711-word defense of all you hold dear. But thanks. Overreactions are always appreciated.

That’s great, Chris. You imply we’re racists and have your readers calling us Nazis, and yet we’re the ones blowing it out of proportion. I understand that you have to resort to a complaint about word count and the “I keed, I keed” defense when you have nothing of substance to add.

Apples & Oranges Mick. The “Nazi” comment, near as I can tell, has nothing to do with my original blurb or the cover. I may have sent you a reader who read your copy and drew his own conclusions, which in no way represents my opinion, nor can it be read as a reflection of the original comment. The word-count analysis merely suggests that a nerve has been struck– which it clearly has.

FOTW has, for nearly 10-years now–been the go-to place for ironic takes on news, media, and politics. It has mocked everyone from the undeniably liberal Steve Cohen, to the alleged Republican and known racist James Hart and everything in between. When a Conservative rag (and I use the pejorative to express solidarity) puts a widely accepted racial stereotype on the cover it’s going to be mocked in Fly.

Now, I’ve been known to write a serious media column from time to time, and if you’d like I can do that for you. If you’ll give me a demo breakdown of your paid readership I’ll get right to work on a serious semiological and historical examination of racial imagery and Conservatism in the specific context of your April magazine.

Love that 202-word response, Chris. I must have struck a nerve. ;)

No. I’m a grizzled old mudslinger who stands behind his work. Thin-skinned critics have chosen the wrong occupation.

Hey, Mick, on matters unrelated to this, call me, #426, Flyer. Or email me,