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Chuck Holliday

Interview by Maddie Jones.

Audio Transcription

Maddie Jones  0:00  
This is Maddie Jones interviewing Chuck Holliday on March 24, 2023. Chuck, I'd like to ask your permission to potentially use this recording for a podcast?

Chuck Holliday  0:10  
Yes, that's fine.

Maddie Jones  0:12  
Okay, perfect. So, what we're doing here is an oral history account of your time with the Teen Appeal, and your involvement with the paper. So, before we get into that, could you tell me a little bit more about your life now and you know, where you were up until that point that you became the coordinator?

Chuck Holliday  0:28  
Sure. I'm currently a lawyer in Jackson, Tennessee, work at the firm of the Law Offices of Jeffrey A Garrity. It'll be 17 years, I think, in August that I've been practicing law and about 12 that I've been at this office, and they do personal injury workers compensation and social security disability from the plaintiff side, married to my wife, Ashley, and we have two children who are nine and 12.

Maddie Jones  1:06  
Awesome. So, law seems a little bit different than journalism. So how did you, I guess, make that switch over from writing into law? 

Chuck Holliday  1:16  
Sure. So, I actually came to Memphis in 1999 to pursue a master's degree in journalism and was working for the Daily Helmsman as the managing editor was a great fit. So in in return for being the managing editor, the Helmsman, I was given free tuition, basically, to, to pursue my master's degree. And so, I finished my master's degree and I had applied for law school. And Dr. Grusin approached me about taking over for the Teen Appeal for a year. So, I decided to defer law school for a year to do that. And after doing it for one year, decided to do it one more year and reapplied to law school. And so, I was at the Teen Appeal for two years and then started law school in the fall of 2003.

Maddie Jones  2:19  
Awesome. So, when you first got to the Teen Appeal, what was it like? What was the culture like? Kind of what did you find when you first got there?

Chuck Holliday  2:29  
Yeah, I think I was the third coordinator. I think Amy Edmondson, had been the first coordinator. And then Tara Milligan was the second coordinator. And I believe I was the third coordinator. And so, the program was pretty well established. And they had a general way that they did things, there were a lot of good processes in place. And it was this point of pride in the Journalism Department, that there was this city-wide newspaper that close to 30 high schools participated in we usually had students from at least one student from almost every school. And we would, you know, have our annual summer camp in the in the summer to kick things off, and then start a school year long program where we put out, I think, maybe nine to 12 issues over the course of the year and just kind of went from there.

Maddie Jones  3:38  
That's great. What would be your typical week as coordinator? So, we talked to some students who were a part of the staff, but what would your week look like as a coordinator? And how would that differ, obviously, from the student writers?

Chuck Holliday  3:53  
Sure. So, one of the changes actually, that came about when I was coordinator and I don't know if it was continued after that or not, was that traditionally, the coordinator as a as a university employee would work kind of normal business hours. And so, I talked to Dr. Grusin about, you know, since a lot of these kids couldn't make it, we would have afternoon hours where when the kids got out of school, they could come to the to Teen Appeal building and work on their stories. But we were sometimes limited in time because I think most folks would generally quit around 430 or so. So, I had talked to Dr. Grusin. about starting my day later, I think I think we agreed on like 10 o'clock, and basically working until six o'clock. And so that expanded the hours that kids could come and work on their stories after school and not have to worry, you know, I'm only going to have a half hour there. But a normal day for me was coming in and working on a lot of times we'd be getting ready for the next issue. So, we'd be planning out what kind of stories we were going to have, who they were assigned to, and what our deadlines were and, and so during the morning, we'd be working on things like that. Or when we were getting ready to produce a paper, at least when I was there, we would do the layout. So, we'd be working on scanning photos and actually laying out the paper. But and then in the afternoons we'd get some of the kids would come in to work on their stories, and we would spend time with them advising them editing them getting them into shape for publication. Then there were, you know, that's a normal day, you also had several big events, that would take a lot of planning. So, the camp itself was a pretty big endeavor, we would have, I want to say over 100 students who would come to the University for a full week from nine in the morning till three or four in the afternoon. And so, we would have to line up journalism professionals in the area to come in and speak and talk, we'd have a complete program that would have to be designed and printed all of the materials, name tags. And so, the spring, a lot of time in the spring would be spent in the summer getting ready toward that summer program in preparing for the summer camp.

Maddie Jones  6:34  
That's awesome. What was probably the most memorable thing that happened during your time there, whether it be a story, or you know, an impact you had on a student?

Chuck Holliday  6:46  
Yeah, so I was thinking about that when we talked the other day. And I can't think of many there may have been some stories that were controversial a little bit with the schools, but it never got back to us that I can recall. At least not not one that stands out. But what really does stand out to me is is seeing some of the former staff members succeed. And the one that really comes to mind was I distinctly remember when Kenneth Cummings came to the summer camp, and my understanding was he basically I could be wrong on this, but I don't think he'd ever uh, basically, he never held a camera before. And that, you know, he'd never taken pictures. And back then we still had these point and shoot click box cameras, which are foreign to most people today. But they have film inside of them, and they have a little battery that will do a flash. And you'd usually get 24 to 36 shots. And so, we would hand those out to the students that wanted to do photography and send them out to take pictures around the campus and of the, of the camp itself. And I remember him taking some really great photos, and then ended up shooting photos for us through the year. And so, it was it was pretty awesome. Several years later, when I'm living in Jackson, and I pick up the Jackson Sun, the local newspaper here, and I see a photo and underneath it says Kenneth Cummings. And later we'll find out that it was the same guy who had been got his start taking pictures at the Teen Appeal.

Maddie Jones  8:30  
That's so cool. That like full circle moment.

Chuck Holliday  8:33  
It is very full circle. And and it's very satisfying to see. Folks, you know, who were succeeding in, in journalism. You know, the other one that I saw recently was, and she's branched out beyond journalism was Tara Stringfellow. She was there during the same time that I was there. And she has gone on, I think she went to Northwestern, written a book and has a publishing career now. And even the folks you know, one of the great things about Teen Appeal was, you know, social media was just coming about at that time. And so, some of them friended me on Facebook, and I've seen them as their lives have gone on. Andrew Davenport was a staff member from White Station, I think. And, you know, he, he went and served in the National Guard for a few years, and I believe he now owns his own home inspection business in Georgia. And so, you know, just seeing folks as they've, as they've gone on and built their lives is kind of fun to see.

Maddie Jones  9:45  
Yeah, I love that. So, did you have any challenges that you faced as coordinator? I know you've obviously had some success stories, but was there anything you know, any pushback or any challenges that you saw that maybe you weren't prepared for?

Chuck Holliday  10:05  
If I'm being honest, I don't recall many chall- I mean, there are challenges in any type of, of, you know, program. And we had one of the one of the fun things about it was being able to go as the coordinator each spring, I had to go to every city high school, and do a little presentation and talk to usually it was like an English class, or they'd get a few English classes together. And we would talk, and I do a little, quote, dog and pony show. And I'd come in and say, “Hey, why don't you come write for us and be a part of the Teen Appeal?” And so, I think one of the challenges was, we had some great schools like, Central and White Station, were two of the ones that stand out where we would get lots of students and we'd get lots of applications. And and want to say, sometimes, if I'm recalling correctly, we couldn't even pick everybody from that school. And then you'd have some of the outlying schools where Whitehaven was another one where we got a lot of good applicants. But some of these other schools, we would struggle to get folks. And so that was one of the challenges was always trying, we wanted each school to be represented. And so, trying to, you know, get one or two folks and then have them stay involved. So that the they would be representing their school and their school would be represented in the paper, we always knew that Central and White Station and Whitehaven, we're always going to have a good representation in the paper. But some of those other schools, I'm trying to think, Hillcrest, we had somebody one or two years. But, you know, not not the schools that were most often represented, we really wanted to try and reach out. And that was a challenge too. Because, you know, for some of these folks, I mean, Memphis serves on the city school system serves a large population. And in some schools, you know, getting transportation to the university, after school was a challenge. I mean, parents don't, you know, they're working, and they don't, it's not the situation where you have one parent at home, who doesn't work and can drive their kid wherever they need to go. And so, you know, we had a bus pass system, we could give kids bus passes, which as a father now, is kind of kind of foreign to me, the idea that I would tell my, you know, 14- or 15-year-old, here's a bus pass, after school, I'm gonna take a bus up to the University of Memphis. But, but that was, I'd say, one of the challenges that sticks out.

Maddie Jones  12:50  
That's funny. Times are so different now.

Chuck Holliday  12:53  

Maddie Jones  12:54  
So, as you know,

Chuck Holliday  12:55  
It's really different. These days, I, I saw you said something about the, you know, my understanding is that the Teen Appeal’s not currently being produced, you know, with with COVID, and zoom and all these technologies. I think there would be something lost by not having the folks come in to work side by side with you and sit at a computer together. But then as I say that I'm thinking about how we can share screens, and you could literally be on zoom with someone and be helping edit their copy. And so, I think that's, that's something that, you know, technology has gotten to the point to where that makes it a lot easier for somebody who goes to, you know, Raleigh, Egypt, or Craigmont or some school that's, that's further away from the university, to be able to, to participate.

Maddie Jones  13:52  
Yeah, so as you may know, the Teen Appeal hasn't been around for a few years now. Essentially, they lost their funding, and they didn't have the resources to keep the paper going. So, what do you think students are missing out now? Missing out on now by not having, you know, the Teen Appeal or any sort of outlet for journalism, especially in high school when a lot of public high schools don't offer any journalism curriculum?

Chuck Holliday  14:20  
The Teen Appeal was always to my understanding a very unique publication. There are very few you know, I did newspaper in high school, and I did newspaper in college, and many high schools have newspapers. And I don't think that's an uncommon, but to have a publication that kind of unified and gave students information about all of the different schools in the city. At that time was unheard of and, you know, social media may have I change that a little bit, there's more flow of information I would imagine between schools. But having a publication that serves all of the Memphis City Schools is, is something that's very unique, and so not having that it's something that it's hard to put, it's hard to put into words what, what you lose there. But there's definitely a, a hole. And more than anything, you know, having a publication that is staffed by professional journalists and journalism professors, and people who have contacts with the journalism community is really important to developing the next generation of journalists.

Maddie Jones  15:54  
I agree it is hard when they don't have that resource, easily available to them anymore. So, what do you think the Teen Appeals impact and like legacy was in the city of Memphis for the students? And kind of what what part did you play in that?

Chuck Holliday  16:11  
Well, I don't know that I played much of a part. But I feel like I kind of kept a good thing going, you know, you, you. And sometimes when you come into an organization, you know, your goal isn't to shake things up and change everything. It's just to, if they've got a good system, going to keep it going while you're there. Do no harm, so to speak. And I hope I did that. I believe the, I can't remember who the coordinator was after I left if it was Marcus, or if it was somebody if there was somebody in between us. But you know, I know that there was a full circle moment, years later, when Marcus Matthews took over as the coordinator, he and I had worked together at the Helmsman. And so, I had seen his work in journalism, and then what he's gone on to do. And I think that he was the one that coined the, the phrase that was kind of the motto of the Teen Appeal was, it was something along the lines of giving truth to Memphis youth. And so having that paper where teens could express themselves and talk about issues that were important to them is a great, a great resource. And it's a great opportunity to give Memphis youth, the platform to talk about what's important to them. And it had a broader base than a school newspaper, you know, your average school newspaper is gonna go out to, if they even print them anymore, you'll have print copies around the school and maybe an online version that the parents and a few folks in that local community, but having a citywide paper, you have that reach to where issues that are brought up and discussed have a broader reach and reach more people. So, I think that's, that's certainly something that's missing is having a platform that is, is not just stream of consciousness thought, you know, social media type posting, but is is actually curated, edited, and well thought out and planned content that's relevant to Memphis teens.

Maddie Jones  18:35  
I agree. Do you think there's a possibility that this could ever be, you know, recreated? Like, could the Teen Appeal come back? Or do you maybe align more with the thought that social media has kind of replaced, you know, newspaper and just print journalism in general? Like, I feel like so much of the news we consume, we get it online. Just wondering if there's, you know, if you're holding on any inkling of hope that the Teen Appeal could come back?

Chuck Holliday  19:05  
Yeah, I mean, I will tell you that, that, you know, that was one reason that I got out of journalism, because I had had the plan of I will, I had a professor in college. And, and he had worked at the Nashville Banner, I think it was called, was a newspaper in Nashville to time and got his master's degree, worked there for about 10 years, and then went into academia and became a professor. And I thought, you know, that seems like a nice gig. I'll get my master's degree, and then I'll go work in journalism for a decade or so and then I'll go become a professor, not a bad career path. And then when I got into graduate school, I remember there was a conference that was held the founder of USA Today came and I got to interview him for a story for the Associated Press managing editors conference and, in talking with him and the the folks at that conference, they were talking about, I think the term had been integrated journalism or something. And they had this animated woman who had like a video camera and a steno notebook. And, and it was a convergence may have been the word they were the convergence of, you know, instead of someone, they used to send out a photographer to a story, and they'd send out a writer to a story, and they would send out multiple people. And now there was this idea well, with, with technology evolving, you don't need to do that, you can just send out one person and have them take some video on their phone and take some photographs and write the story. And and so I saw journalism was, was, you know, had had a rocky road ahead of it, it seemed like it was not the career path when I had been in college, even just six years before that, when I entered college, and so so that was one reason that I decided to go into law was that, you know, I saw things starting to happen at the Commercial Appeal, which it's so sad to hear that that you know, is completely closed down in that building is empty. I remember touring that, though, to see that that change in journalism take place. And then like you're saying, you know, one thing that Facebook used to be a really good place to get news, like I remember scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I could get some really good daily news. Now, most of those were still coming from traditional sources, like the TV station, the newspaper, CNN, CBS, you know, a lot of the the news stories were simply being put into my newsfeed, and then I would click on them and read them. But I would say that the Facebook algorithm has changed in the last few years. And I don't get nearly the amount of news anymore in my newsfeed that I used to get. And so, I think that as these algorithms and AI and things start to, you know, one of the big problems with social media and, and things of that nature, is that if you click on something and want to read about it, you know, cooking a certain dish, you start getting bombarded with all of that same type of information. And there's this big discussion of echo chambers and, and, you know, only seeing one side of the story. So having a publication, like the Teen Appeal, if it were able to be resurrected into a digital type format, and like we talked about, you know, allowing the kids to participate over over platforms like Teams or Zoom, and not have to travel to the school, having that type of of, I don't know why I don't like the word “curated.” But but but something along those lines that, you know, having having journalism being done online, I think could provide a useful service and, you know, help with with helping teens prepare for what media is going to be like in the future, because, unfortunately, I don't think we're going back to a paper on every doorstep. There's, there's a local paper around here that's tried to start up. And their goal is to provide local news, they're only going to focus on on local news here and in Jackson. And it's a paper, of course, they have an online version. But the main thing is for those folks that still want to get a paper on their doorstep with local news, they're going to do that. And it'll be interesting to see if, if they're able to get enough circulation to prosper. But having a program online where teens could join and write stories and post, you know, if you're old school, you think of stories and photos, but I'm sure even as you're doing in your classes, and we were talking about back then, is podcasts and video clips, interviews that are that are, you know, video interviews that are posted, there seems to be a really good opportunity there to bring back something the Teen Appeal in a new form. You know, the old days of the of the paper getting distributed to every school are probably over. But if, if they're, you know, obviously the biggest challenge appears to be getting funding. I know Scripps Howard provided a ton of funding and was the main benefactor and university provided a lot of funding in terms of staff and location and I mean, they paid my salary for two years while I was there with benefits and everything. You know that that that part of it is probably there, the university could probably go back to that, I would think. And it would seem as though that some of the other costs could be winnowed down and, and shrunk with an online presence to try and get something started again, if there's an interest, you know, that's the other thing, I guess that I don't know about, you know, I'm unplugged from, from that space now. But is there even an interest by folks at different high schools to be a part of an online Teen Appeal? I don't know.

Maddie Jones  25:42  
Yeah, I don't know, either. I know, my, I went to a high school out here, outside of Memphis, and we, we had a newspaper and kind of towards my senior year, this is what they started doing was making it more digital and, you know, catering to the platforms that the students were already using when I was in high school. So social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, especially, that's kind of what they transitioned to. But, I mean, it's definitely not the same as you know, printing a paper, you know, editing everything digitally, writing the copy, you know, everything like that is so different when you're doing it online. Because, like you said, it's so much more streamlined, and it can be done so much more efficiently. But if the interest isn't there, it's not there. And so, you do miss out on that, too.

Chuck Holliday  26:28  
I mean, there's definitely a different skill set, it's involved to, you know, mixing the sound like you're talking about and dealing with. And that's really an area where, you know, there is a lot of job growth, if you can mix videos, and you can go in and cut videos and edit them and add effects and, and more than just, you know, the the default program in Mac we use called mouse paint or, you know, Windows default program, learning to use some of those digital editing programs, and create multimedia projects would be a great funnel toward toward work that is out there and being able to be involved not just in, in journalism, but also in strategic media, and film. And, you know, I think there is an opportunity there for that. But I'm not sure that the the print paper, as it was known, would work in its form anymore. I hate to say that it's depressing. But hopefully, there's something that can be done to, to bring back something similar to, you know, a new a new and improved version of the Teen Appeal.

Maddie Jones  27:44  
Yeah, that would be great. Well, listen, I really appreciate your time. If you have any final thoughts, you're more than welcome to share. But yeah, this was great, I learned a lot. You've been great.

Chuck Holliday  27:58  
I felt bad. When I was thinking back, I didn't look through my memorabilia box or whatever, I guess you would say, I didn't, I didn't have a lot from the Teen Appeal. Because, you know, wasn't my my clip file. You know, back in the old days, we would create a clip file where we would be put together all of your pictures you took and your stories you wrote, so that you could you could present those to someone, after I moved on to law became less important over the years, my wife would stay on me and we'd get rid of some newspapers and some more newspapers. And so, I may have had some old Teen Appeals at one point. But I was sad when I went back to look because I thought it'd be great to be able to provide those to you and say, Hey, here's some old print copies. I don't know if there's a bound. You know, I know that Helmsman used to have books of all the old papers. I don't know if those still exist, or the Teen Appeal. Did they get bound? Do you know that? 

Maddie Jones  28:52  
So, we're actually in the process of locating all of them as many as we can find. And we're scanning all of them. So, there'll be housed digitally in our university library, which I can definitely give you access to, if you would love to go back and look at some of them. But we've we've scanned a lot of them so far.

Chuck Holliday  29:12  
That's cool. Yeah, it'd be neat to see some of the old  you know, because I think there were one or two topics that may have been a little bit controversial, but they just, they didn't stand out to me at that time. I don't you know, if you asked me about my time at the Helmsman. I mean, I can tell you about two or three really controversial stories that we wrote. One of which that we had to I don't know if we did a complete retraction or partial retraction. The university put out a press release in response to it. I mean, almost got arrested. My father was so upset with me almost got arrested for refusing to leave a meeting. And there's a picture of photographer took of this professor shoving his face in the camera and the campus police showed up and this this council for the university basically said leave now or get arrested and we decided that we're going to go ahead and leave instead of get arrested at that point. But, but, those types of controversies at the Teen Appeal I don't recall. Thankfully, at least, during my time there, being those types of things, but yeah it was it was a great experience. I mean personally for me it was it was a great transition between leaving journalism and starting law school because I was still practicing journalism, but I wasn’t a student anymore. I was actually being paid as a, I guess, I don't know what you would call a professional journalism educator or something and so so was it was a good time for me to be able to enjoy. You know when you go to school you know you're a poor, poor student for years and you think about when you get out and you're finally going to have a job and be able to go out and enjoy time and and you know go to a restaurant have a nice meal with your friends. And so, the Teen Appeal for a while provided that personally as an opportunity for me to go out. And and you know there was great Midtown places in in Memphis where I lived to go and be with friends and have this job that I enjoyed doing and you know I felt like I was helping produce hopefully future journalists. And so, to see folks succeed in journalism and to see folks succeed just in other ways in life is is really cool and I'm I'm fortunate to have been a part of that. It is too bad that it hasn't continued and that it died out and I hope some folks can get together and bring back some form of it at some point.

Maddie Jones  32:03
Yeah, it's definitely a a big wish that many of us around here have.

Chuck Holliday  32:10
So, what is your focus in?

Maddie Jones  32:14
So, my master’s will be in journalism and strategic media, so it sounds like the same program that you did. But my undergraduate degree was in public relations and political science because at one point I also wanted to go to law school. But we'll see but let me just get through this first master’s degree first and we'll see if I want to go back to school.

Chuck Holliday  32:35
So where where did you get your undergrad from?

Maddie Jones  32:39

Chuck Holliday  32: 40
From Memphis. OK. And then you yeah and then you work on gosh I think a lot of the professor I know Dr. Grusin has retired. Dr. Utt, is she's still there?

Maddie Jones  32:51
She's not. She, so, she was here my first year. She was my first advisor in the program, but I didn't know her much outside of that.

Chuck Holliday  33:01
OK I'm trying to think you know we probably still there, she, Candy Justice is she still working for the Helmsman? Right? Helping with that?

Maddie Jones  33:10 

Chuck Holliday  33:12
Well, if you see her in the hall tell her I said hi. I haven’t had the chance to see her. We, I took my kids one day we came to the campus, and we were going to try and stop by the Helmsman room but apparently it was during like a spring break a few years ago or something and the classrooms were locked, and no one was around. Yeah, if y'all ever do an oral history on the Helmsman definitely give me a call on that too because that for me was a you know obviously edit this part out of the conversation, but but that was a a much bigger influence on me. And you know I have lots of um. I don't want to say that I didn't enjoy my time at the Teen Appeal, but it wasn't for for me personally you know the the journalism that we did in the Helmsman was some some really good stuff. And we had one of the presidents left and went to the Washington and we wrote this story and and I remember there was a bunch of. The student paper up there was like taking us on, saying you're getting stuff wrong and the university like put out a press release one time because they said that we got the story wrong and we're like “Well, we called you for comment and you wouldn't comment to us so we went with the sources we had.” And then before Calipari came, there was this basketball coach who had a big scandal and we filed a big FO, FOIA request and we were getting copies of all of his text messages and hotel room receipts and going through looking at when he was making calls to his his, you know ,mistress I think or whatever, what kind of movies he was renting. I mean even it was a good time and Marcus was there I don't know if anybody else from the teen, that got involved with the Teen Appeal, but Marcus was an undergraduate student studying journalism then. You know there's a Joanna Edwards. I don't know if you've heard of her. She was there when I was there. She's written a bunch of books and they're translated into like 30 languages or something.

Maddie Jones  35: 14
Oh, wow.

Chuck Holliday  35:16
It's like a fiction book on like going on a game show or something you know like one of those one of those reality TV shows. 

Maddie Jones  35:23

Chuck Holliday  35:24
And kind of wrote a book about that. And so, there are some really really interesting folks that you know I worked with over the years there, the two years that I was. I was managing editor and then editor in chief and if you're looking for another project. I have clip files from there. I still have some of my photos and things I wrote about.

Maddie Jones  35:47

Chuck Holliday  35:48
But anyway. Yeah, so good luck with this and I hope I've provided a few clips you can slip in there.

Maddie Jones  35:53

Chuck Holliday  35:54
Feel free to cut most of it out, that'd be great.

Maddie Jones  35:57
Don't say that! Well, this was great. Again, thank you so much for your time. I will for sure send you over those digital copies once we've kind of compiled them all. Could be fun to look back on, but again this was great.

Chuck Holliday  36:13
Well, good luck on your studies.


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