Eric Barnes

Eric Barnes is President & Executive Editor of The Daily Memphian.

Barnes: Phil Trenary worked to make Memphis better. His work must continue.

By Published: September 28, 2018 3:15 PM CT

Phil Trenary was a friend who I met through work. I think this was probably true of many of Phil’s friends. They met him through work. That’s because Phil’s work, his passion for so many years, was to make Memphis, this city he loved, a better place.

And so his death is particularly hard to process. Understand. Comprehend.

The night he was killed, friends kept texting me and calling me. “Tell me,” they all said in their various ways, “please tell me this isn’t true.”

It is.

Some people who didn’t know Phil might think that, as president of the local chamber of commerce, it was simply Phil’s job to love Memphis and work to make it a better place.

To me, the opposite was true. He loved the city so much that he became a chamber president. It struck me that it was his calling. Make this city better.

I attended public and private meetings with Phil and always, no matter the topic or discussion, his motivation was how can he – with the help of anyone and everyone – make this city better.

People can - and certainly did - question a whole host of initiatives the chamber pursued. But no one can or should ever question Phil's intention. Make this city better.

Phil was a transplant here. Memphis was his adopted home. And he adopted it with his whole heart, falling in love with a place complicated and fun and imperfect and filled with so much promise.

To sit through a meeting with Phil about even a trivial matter was to see a man who saw so much promise and opportunity and potential for change in Memphis.

That he was killed, walking in the downtown he loved to walk in, in the city he loved to live in, leaves me baffled. And sad.

I’m a transplant like Phil who has fallen in love with this city. I’m not that much younger than Phil. And I walk those streets of downtown every week. Sometimes every day.

There will be people who say that Phil's death is a reason to give up. On change. Progress on the city itself.


I still love this city. Maybe more so given the outpouring of appreciation now being directed at Phil and the work he did.

And I’ll still walk the streets downtown.

Over the coming weeks and months we’ll learn more about what happened. Rumors are flying now. They’ll get worse, then they’ll fade. There may be a trial, more rumors, who knows.

But what we know now and cannot forget is that so much promise, embodied in Phil’s work for Memphis, has been lost.

There were something like 10 homicides in the last 4 days in Memphis. To say the least, that’s 10 too many. When I’ve given talks to groups about The Daily Memphian – and I’ve done many in recent weeks – I often tell the groups that, “We’ll cover everything but last night’s crime.”

Almost always, people clap when I say this. It’s not that they don’t want to hear about bad things. But they hate the media’s obsession with shallow, hyperbolic coverage of last night’s crime.

Yet here we are covering last’s night’s murder, albeit not in a shallow or hyperbolic way.

Phil had an impact on the city and on so many people that I can fully justify this coverage. There’s no doubt we should do it.

But I do wonder also about the impact those other victims had on the city or on their families or simply on their friends. I wonder about their lives. And I wish we had enough reporters and editors to dig deep into each of their stories and share them with you.

We’re not there yet as The Daily Memphian. Maybe some day we will be.

Or maybe some day we won’t see so many murders every week, every day, every year. And, instead, maybe then we’ll have finally achieved the promise that Phil saw in Memphis.


Greater Memphis Chamber Phil Trenary

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