Interview with William Williams of “The City Paper”

By Dave Carew

I first met William (whom I call “Willie”) Williams in the late 1990s, when he served as editor of the now-defunct InReview (which I wrote a regular column for, and whose other alumni include Matt Pulle, former staff writer for The Nashville Scene and Joan Brasher, current editor of the Vanderbilt View).  In the fall of 2000, Willie… I mean William…joined the staff of the then-new The City Paper, and he remains the only original member of the staff still with the publication, now serving as its web editor. Underground Nashville recently caught up with journalist and all-around-good-guy Williams Williams for this exclusive interview:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: What do you see as the distinct mission of The City Paper in 2011?  How has the mission changed since the newspaper was launched in late 2000?

WILLIAMS WILLIAMS: Our current mission is to take a Monday print edition that fuses elements of an alt-weekly and a conventional news magazine and meld it with our web site, which leans toward being very utilitarian and nuts-and-bolts. I like the combination, as it allows our staffers great creative flexibility and our readers a nice array of writing and reporting styles. As to the changes since we launched on Nov. 1, 2000, at that point we were a five-days-per-week (M-F) paper doing more community-related news. Our web site was a basic PDF and not interactive. Readers could view but not, for example, make comments. And with that static site, the TCP team had no option to report breaking news.

UN:  What core duties do you handle as web editor?  How does your specific role fit into the overall current mission of the paper?

WW:  My main duties are copyediting, headline writing, photo sizing, and overall website management. I handle some basic writing/reporting duties for the website and will do some more “big picture” writing for the Monday print edition. My role is that of “utility player.” I can do various tasks well enough, while not particularly shining in any one specific role. I am not a visionary for the paper and would never claim to be. Our editor, Stephen George, perfectly fills the role of visionary.

UN:  If you were to take a 30-second elevator ride with everyone in Nashville (which, granted, would be quite dangerous and uncomfortable), what would you tell them as to why they should read The City Paper?

WW: First, as a long-suffering claustrophobic, I try to avoid elevators. But were I to undertake such a 30-second ride, I would simply tell my fellow 630,000 Nashvillians that TCP is truly Nashville’s paper. When we hire somebody, that somebody lives in Nashville. When one of our staffers leaves, he or she likely will stay in Nashville. If you look at the more established and high-profile media in town, you will not find such a “local employee theme.” Our team and our news coverage are almost militantly local. We don’t cover much news outside Davidson County and we all live in Davidson County. (Unlike various members of other media, our folks can’t afford to live in, say, Williamson County.)

UN:  Is there anything else I should have asked?  Any other thing you feel important to say about the paper and/or your role in it?

WW: As the only original City Paper member still with the team, I feel humbled. I started with TCP in October 2000 and never would have imagined I would still be here. In fact, I doubted the paper would still be here. We are not a perfect paper. We have flaws and warts. We can’t cover everything we would like to, as there are personnel and resource limitations. But we do a very solid job overall, and our readers give us both encouragement and constructive criticism. On this theme, I’d like to say at this point that I’ve always appreciated the support Dave Carew has given TCP. You’re a good man making a positive contribution to this community. Thanks for the opportunity to do this Q&A. And please don’t make me ride that elevator.

To view The City Paper’s web edition, visit NashvilleCityPaper.com.


David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and copywriter.

 

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