Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Commercial Appeal" Metro Columnist Wendi Thomas Has Been Reassigned

Posted By on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Wendi Thomas
  • Wendi Thomas
The Commercial Appeal's Metro columnist Wendi Thomas pens her final entry in that capacity this Sunday. In what appears to be an abrupt change of direction for the paper, Thomas has been tapped to lead what an online editor's note described as, "expanded coverage of crime and justice in the Memphis area."

The changes were officially identified as being, "part of The CA’s ongoing reorganization focused on its digital platforms."

An internal memo circulated at the CA provided a little more information:

"Wendi Thomas writes her final column Sunday, then assumes a new role, Team Leader of our ‘Safe in Memphis’ digital team. Wendi’s charge is to develop the content plan and get our crime and justice franchise team up and running as quickly as possible, working with a newsroom committee and the Knight Center. In the interim, she’ll add badly needed editing strength to Metro."

Since the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism closed in 2009 it seems likely that the memo refers to its funding organization, the Knight Foundation, which provides venture capital for innovations in journalism with a stated goal to, "preserve the best aspects of journalism and use innovation to expand the impact of information in the digital age."

A year ago, when Thomas was temporarily reassigned to an editor's desk without any official notice from the paper to its readers, many commenters assumed that the CA's first female African-American columnist was being punished somehow for her often contentious positions on events of the day, especially those relating to race.

“Rumors of the death of my column have been greatly exaggerated,” Thomas told the Flyer at the time. “I’ll be back at my column and some online only commentary in mid-July, when a temporary editing assignment ends,” she said.

This time it's dead for real.

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