The annual Anderson County Chamber of Commerce business luncheon saw a packed house last week, as dozens of members gathered to socialize, celebrate a successful year, and hear from WVLT-Channel 8 anchor Ted Hall.
Chamber members Gene Patterson (CNS Y-12) and Melissa Bingham (First Volunteer Bank) were honored with the R.C. Hoskins awards, while Rocky Top City Manager Michael Foster received the Young Professional of the Year award.
Debbie Sellers (Mary Kay cosmetics) received the Ambassador of the Year award while Bear Stephenson (Stephenson Realty and Auction) was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Stephenson held a short, loud, high-energy auction after he received his award, showing everyone just how charismatic he can be.
Although the man is good at his job, the award was given because of Stephenson’s dedication to the community and innumerable volunteer hours spent on charitable work over the years.
Hall, as keynote speaker, shared much about his life as a journalist throughout the years. But he also took a moment to talk about the current attitude towards the media these days. Many people have lost faith in journalists, according to Hall, when they were once respected.
He acknowledged media “spin.”
“The only way to have a truly free country is to have truly free, professional journalists,” he said. “But we have to quit doing our own thing and twisting the stories. Hopefully good comes out of this.”
He shared a story of when he met former actress Margot Kidder in 1996. Kidder was in the middle of a mental health crisis, and while Hall said he tried to help her, there was nothing he could do. Still, a newspaper accused him of not helping, which hurt him, since he did try to help. Although what the reporter wrote was technically true, the spin made him out to be the “bad guy.”
“Yes, I get it,” he said. “The fake news stuff can be frustrating. Not everybody who gets in this business gets into it for the right reasons. Not everyone who gets into this business is on the up-and-up.
Hall is anchor and managing editor for WVLT. He spent 18 years at WBIR and has been honored in journalism with several Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow and many other awards in his more than three decades in news.