Getting the Scoop: An Interview with NOOGAtoday’s Chloe Morrison

By Amanda Ellis

Chloe Morrison, Business Editor and Multimedia Journalist at online local news source NOOGAtoday, has been spotlighting business and cool happenings in our area for eight years. A UTC journalism alum, she teaches a media writing course and has served as an advisor for The Echo, The UTC student newspaper. In her spare time, she plays the ukulele.

Trend: What did you learn in your time with the Chattanooga Times Free Press and how did you end up with Nooga?

Morrison: In four years there, I covered everything from education to lifestyle to this North Georgia murder trial that got national attention. I went on CNN and talked with Nancy Grace about it. I had many good experiences at the paper. I did a brief stint with a newspaper outside of Knoxville and Nooga.com was launching as a startup when I was looking to come back to Chattanooga in 2011.

Trend: 6AM City recently bought Nooga.com. How’s the transition? Do you still have a lot of control over your content?

Morrison: Yes. People who are local in each city pitch the ideas. The only difference is now, I pitch to an editor, more like the process at a newspaper. Before the transition, our team was so small that any conversation was short and very, ‘I'm going to go do this.’ Now, it's more ‘Does anyone have anything to add? Has any other market done something similar?’ More feedback from more people.

The main difference with NOOGAtoday, which I think people are still learning, is that the main product is a newsletter as opposed to the website. All the content still goes on the website but our daily task is to build out this newsletter and populate social media. As opposed to posting a breaking news story on Nooga.com, we break news on social instead.

The newsletter is designed to curate cool, expert information on Chattanooga every day, and send it to your mailbox. If you don't want it in your mailbox, you can look at it online. If you don't want to look online, you can just follow us on social. That's been the main change, along with a focus on engagement. As a journalist, you're trained to push out information. But the idea here is to engage through our social media platforms and in person, and to use that feedback to inform our content.

Trend: Nooga content has always seemed positive. Can you speak to that? Is that the intention?

Morrison: Well, we don’t have the staff to cover every fire or car wreck. The directive was never all positive news, but we’ve tried to do things that weren't being done everywhere else. That just happened to be positive stuff. With NOOGAtoday, it’s a little different in that our mission is to support and promote and be proud of the city. Everybody who works at a 6AM City outlet loves the city that they live in and wants to highlight and celebrate how it's thriving.

Trend: What do you think the future of journalism looks like?

Morrison: It's more important now than ever for people to have traditional, basic journalistic skills. Many of the other skills − a lot of young people have already. They intuitively know how to use all social media, but when it’s news related you have to apply the same standards of accuracy to anything you post. With all the political discourse and fake news hype, now more than ever, we need people who are dedicated to pointing out the truth.

I hope that the future is that young people see what's going on in a weird time and think ‘This is a chance for me to contribute to society and the world and make it a little better.’ Even if you're a local reporter in the smallest town ever writing lifestyle stories, you're contributing to a dialogue and putting information out that’s valuable. I think that we need more people to do that.

I don’t think newspapers will go away. I think obviously the trend, because of costs, will be toward online. It’ll be interesting to see how the industry is monetized. I see advertising continuing with online platforms and more paid content. I think the general population needs more media literacy to understand the difference between news and paid content that may not look like a traditional ad.

Trend: What has been encouraging and discouraging in your time teaching and mentoring college students?

Morrison: One student seemed like he hated my class. A year later, he did a job shadow with us. He was totally different, knew what he wanted to do and was totally passionate. Then he wrote me the nicest thank you card that I have ever gotten in my life. That moment was totally worth any frustrations.

But sometimes it does feel like you're talking in class and nobody is listening. Then I think back to myself in college and even though I was a fine student, I probably wasn't listening half the time. Because I like what I do so much and because I did it all through UTC, I want to help all my students have a good experience.

Trend: What is the hardest piece you've written or story that you've covered?

Morrison: Covering the fallen five shooting a few years ago, I had nightmares and I didn't even see anything − it was a matter of the subject and having to talk and think about it so much. Reporting on horrible things is the worst. Your job is to get information and you feel a duty to do that while at the same time realizing that people have died. Plus you're trying to deal with what's happening at the same time.

Trend: What about most impactful, something that changed your opinion on a topic?

Morrison: I have enjoyed covering Volkswagen. I never thought I would understand the auto industry. I did a lot of coverage of unions, which I also didn't think I’d find interesting. Learning about the auto industry and covering Volkswagen and its impact on the region has been interesting and fun. It was not only impactful for the community but I learned and grew from it too.

Trend: What are some of the positive ways that you've seen Chattanooga change? What do you think still needs to happen?

Morrison: My gosh, well, I came here to Chattanooga in 2001, for college. There was a vibe. It was the city I wanted to be in. I have no idea how I knew that but I'm glad that I did.

When I left to go to Knoxville, EPB was not downtown. I came back and there was the Gig. I think people at the Chamber and our mayors and CVB and leaders have honed how to tell the Chattanooga story in a way that’s appealing and true. And I’ve watched it unfold. From growth on MLK to the Southside to downtown in general, new businesses, people moving here − I cannot count the number of times that I've talked to people who say ‘I could live anywhere. I choose to live in Chattanooga, because I drove through it,’ or, ‘My family lived here,’ or, ‘We were looking around and I read about it and it seemed cool.’

I think there's much to be done as far as including everybody and not becoming too gentrified, which is a challenge everywhere. I don't know the answer to that. Infrastructure will be a challenge as for all cities. Remaining intentional, clear-minded and clear-hearted about what Chattanooga is will make it continue to thrive. Maintaining the charm while growing will be the biggest challenge.

Trend: What should people know about pitching you for coverage?

Morrison: Businesses should know that the best way is to reach out directly (hello@noogatoday.com) and have a conversation about what makes the most sense for coverage. Especially with our new format, there are different and new ways that we feature people. Tell me what you think your news is and ask if I think it can be covered and how. Shoot me an email or text. If you start a conversation with us and build a relationship, that's important to me. I enjoy building these relationships and knowing business owners. Then when I’m working on a story and I remember you're an expert on the topic, I can call you.

I think sometimes people forget to consider how their news is relevant to more than a small audience. Very niche items don't always connect with our broad audience. One annoying thing that happens less and less is − somebody sends me a press release and then immediately calls me to ask if I got it. Unless it's crucial I see it immediately, give us some time. And what they're not communicating is, ‘Do you think you can use it?’ which is what they want to know. So ask that.

Trend: Is there anything else you'd like people to know about you or NOOGAtoday?

Morrison: I think people should check out the NOOGAtoday product. Sign up for the newsletter. If you had been used to Nooga.com before, give a look at what it is now. I love Chattanooga and I love my work. I’m humbled all the time to participate in the community in the way that I do. I feel really thankful and lucky to have been in this field for so long, because I enjoy it.

Trend: What do you do for fun?

Morrison: I play the ukulele. I love to walk around downtown. I walk the bridge and I just never get tired of it. I crochet. I take voice lessons. That was on a list of growth goals I made. One of my goals was to sing in public. My teacher got me to sing at Embargo62 one night. He sprang it on me. He didn't plan it, because he knew I'd be too nervous otherwise. I also have a one-year-old nephew I’m obsessed with.