'Out & About Today' staff reflects on their beginnings

Not only did Publisher Jerry Jones have a vision for reporting GLBT news across Tennessee in Out & About Newspaper, but NewsChannel 5 developed a vision for it on TV.

"Out & About Today" launched in June 2005 and was one of several shows that were developed by NewsChannel 5 to target niche communities in Middle Tennessee. “When I took over NewsChannel 5+ in early 2005, my mission was to find a way to serve as many of Nashville’s diverse communities as possible,” said Michelle Bonnett, assistant news director for NewsChannel 5. “We knew there were several minority communities in Nashville that weren’t getting the media attention they deserved. So we decided to launch several shows specifically targeting diverse audiences – including programs for African-Americans, Hispanics, senior citizens, even the religious community. It only made sense to include the GLBT community as well.”

At the time, they were the only network-affiliated station in the country to a show specifically for the GLBT community. “This was absolutely the right thing to do on the content side of the house. And, I am pleased to say that the GLBT community has been extremely loyal in its support of the NewsChannel 5 Network,” Bonnett said.

Since the show started, Brent Meredith has been one of the co-hosts. He started this while he was managing editor of O&AN. “I had studied broadcast journalism in college, so it was an exciting opportunity to work for both the newspaper and the TV show,” he said.

The other two co-hosts are Chuck Long and Pam Wheeler. Long started with the show five years ago. “I come from a TV entertainment and news background and wanted to use that to help provide a voice to a group that in the past has not been given one,” he said.

The show did faced negative comments when if first started. “We did get some push back from various portions of the community. Our team stood solid and we did what we felt was right for the community and our organization,” Bonnett said. “We knew the best way to grow our audience was to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. We were then and still are the market leader in viewership.”

Meredith believes they saw the vision as O&AN. “Very early on NewsChannel 5 saw the value in creating a show for our community as well as other, underserved communities in Middle Tennessee viewing area. The newspaper is equally of value but not everyone picks it up,” he said. “Having the show allows for a broader reach, demonstrating how much a part of the local culture our community really is.”

Long said one of his most memorable most so far was interviewing Anjela Johnson who played MAD TV’s Bon Qui Qui. “She allowed me to ask her questions while she stayed in character, something she said she had never done on TV before. I was laughing so hard it was almost impossible to talk,” he said.

One of the new segments "Out & About Today" has created is Buzz About where hosts and guests have a roundtable about hot topics of the day. “I think we all bring something different to the table and it's a good mix,” Long said.

“This show gave us the opportunity to educate everyone about the GLBT community. The best way to encourage inclusiveness and understanding is through education,” Bonnett said. “I hope in some small way this show was able to educate folks that what you traditionally have seen in the media is stereotypical – we wanted to give folks a more accurate portrayal of the GLBT community in Nashville.”

Long believes there is room for improvement, but is thankful for this role. “We've come along way but we've got a long way to go. I'm so thankful to Channel 5 and Debbie Turner for providing the GLBT community with this platform and this show. It was a pioneering move.”

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