Tennessee Star Attacks Trio of Women Reporters

The Tennessee Star, the far-right, Koch Brothers-funded “news outlet” has a problem with women – particularly smart, young women – as evidenced by their recent spree of attacks on Tennessean reporters.

In the last week, the Star, which likes to refer to itself as the alternative to Nashville’s daily paper of record, accused the three reporters of bias in their reporting, posted photos of the women taken from personal social media pages, and used language from far-right movements to characterize them.

Amelia Knisely, Elaina Sauber, whose name the Star misspelled twice as ‘Stauber’, and Emily West all cover Williamson County for the Tennessean’s local Williamson section. Knisely covers education, Sauber covers municipal issues in Brentwood, and West covers Franklin city issues.

Staff at the Star, including writer Chris Butler, whom Knisely says called her and “aggressively” demanded her sources on a story, were apparently triggered by coverage of a recent flap over cultural competency training for teachers in the Williamson County School System. Knisely has been covering the story for the last few weeks.

But, it seems no coincidence all three reporters are women, and women who are 30 or under. Although the Tennessean has male reporters covering similar topics for other municipalities, the Star has remained mum on criticizing men.

Last week wasn’t the first time the Star aggressively trolled one of the Tennessean’s female journalists. In August 2018, writer Chris Butler, the same reporter who harassed Knisely last week, wrote a story accusing reporter Natalie Allison of being “chummy” with “left wing activists.”

Those accusations came following protests of private prison giant Core Civic. The Star’s report said “Allison signaled likely coordination with the protestors” citing her use of the protestors’ hashtag during her live tweets of the protests.

The Star posted a photo of an angry-looking woman, with veins standing out on her neck, at the head of the Knisely story, published March 19.  Although the photo is not Knisely, it is meant to imply to readers it is, and abuts a headline accusing Knisely of “rage tweeting.”

Photo intended to represent Tennessean reporter Amelia Knisely, taken from Tennessee Star, March 19.

On March 25th, the Star referred to Sauber and West as “social justice warriors” – a right wing term intended as a pejorative – in a headline and lambasted them for using Twitter to interact with readers about stories. The attack on Sauber resulted from the reporter providing a list of racial incidents that have occurred in Williamson County schools over the last several years as proof the cultural competency training is needed. 

Here’s Tennessean reporter Amelia Knisley describing her conversation with Tennessee Star reporter Chris Butler:

A source close to the group of reporters say at least one has received death threats since the Star’s harassment began.

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