Category: BirminghamWatch

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Despite Record Low Jobless Rate, Alabama Ranks 33rd on Economic Health Index (Birmingham Business Journal)
No Due Process for Alabama Students Facing Discipline, SPLC Says (AL.com)
Gears Start Turning for Hoover City Election: 2020 Candidates Begin Making Announcements, Discussing Issues (Hoover Sun)
Sessions Touts Experience, Trump Ties (Tuscaloosa News)
Paroles Bureau Director Graddick Has Contentious Exchange With Lawmakers (AL.com)
Doomsday Clock Moves to 100 Seconds to Midnight – Closest Point to Nuclear Annihilation Since Cold War (Fox News)

Some Hopefulness for Local News. No, Really.

Local journalism in America is in “crisis,” according to a report last month from the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy and research organization in Washington, D.C. Pen America, a nonprofit free-speech advocacy group in New York, followed a week later with its report that local news across the country faces “decimation.”

I’d like to offer some optimism, please. Read more.

Reading Birmingham: Peggy Kennedy Struggles With the Legacy of Her Father, George Wallace, in “The Broken Road”

George Wallace is one of the great enigmas of American history, an enigma that keeps pulling us back and begging us to render judgment. Wallace was the most successful racist demagogue of his time, but because of his late life mea culpa on all the terrible things he had done, we each get to decide whether Wallace deserves redemption. That is both maddening and satisfying. And it is a large part of what makes him so compelling.

This is not a biography of George Wallace. Those have been done and done well. “The Broken Road” is the story of a family struggling with an impossible legacy. Peggy Kennedy explores the impact of her father’s life and career on our nation and on the children and grandchildren he largely ignored. (On the day of Peggy’s birth, her father showed up late, kissed his new daughter on the forehead and left to go out politicking.)

White southerners who reject the racist teachings of their elders often feel a life-long need to understand and to explain. That need propels “The Broken Road.” Read more.

UNA Student Media Adviser Learns the Price of Standing up for Free Speech Can Be Exorbitant

The censorship of student newspapers has been a source of concern among journalists around the nation during 2019. One Alabama school, the University of North Alabama in Florence, became the focus of the issue of First Amendment rights of student journalists when it forced out its student media adviser following the campus newspaper’s publication of articles that drew the ire of some administrators. Here is the view of what happened at UNA from then-student media adviser Scott Morris, a former editor at the Decatur Daily and the TimesDaily in Florence.

Winning a national award and becoming a poster boy for a campaign against student-press censorship is small consolation for losing my job at the University of North Alabama.

The College Media Association recently presented me with its Noel Ross Strader Memorial Award, the Purple Heart of student media awards. The honor goes to a full-time teacher or student media adviser who upholds the principles of a free press at some risk to personal or professional life.

While I greatly appreciate the award, I would prefer to be using the last five years of my professional life by training students to become journalists and other types of media specialists. Instead, I am unemployed at age 60. I lost my job at UNA in May after I stood up for my students’ rights to report on sexual harassment, possible sexual abuse and other important issues that administrators preferred to keep behind closed doors. Read more.

Northwestern Students: Low Grade for Journalism but an A for Ethics

Journalism standards need defending in this climate of assault and deterioration, but I never imagined that would include hordes of professional journalists going on social media to meanly bash the daylights out of some college students who work for a campus newspaper.

Such was the reaction to an editorial published Sunday in The Daily Northwestern, the news outlet for Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, that apologized for its coverage of student protests at a campus speech by Jeff Sessions, the former US attorney general and US senator from Alabama.

The protesters accused Sessions and the Trump administration of racism and fascism, manifested primarily in their anti-immigration policies. The Daily published photos of protesters climbing through windows and engaging with police, then followed that up by texting to some protesters to ask if they would consent to interviews. You waiting for the controversial part? For the mistake that required the apology? That was it. Read more.

Local Charities: Soup Kitchens, Fine Arts and … Your Newspaper?

Everyone recognizes the financial distress of most news organizations today. But a speaker at an academic seminar I attended this summer – the founder of a nonprofit news website that covers Vermont – took it a dramatic step further: She believes it is no longer possible to make a profit from reporting news at the local and regional levels. Well, yikes.

That assessment drew disagreement from some other seminar speakers, but it’s nonetheless clear that journalism needs some new business models. One emerging model is the nonprofit news outlet, such as the one in Vermont and BirminghamWatch (which you are reading right now and to which I have donated). Read more.

Legendary Birmingham Sports Promoter Art Clarkson Dies

Art Clarkson, who ran two of Birmingham’s best-known minor league sports teams among many other ventures, has died at age 78, just months after retiring from his last sports management job.

Clarkson has had a hand in management of numerous sports operations across the country, but he is best known locally as the man who brought the Barons baseball team back to Rickwood Field and who ran the Birmingham Bulls hockey franchise in two different incarnations. Read more.

The New York Times Keeps Making People Mad

It must be frustrating for The New York Times to do such exceptional journalism (for instance, here and here) and then to get beaten up mercilessly on social media because of its handling of a routine story. It’s a reminder that, of course, there’s really no such thing as a routine story, especially if you live in the middle of a political maelstrom, as the Times does every day.

The Times is catching some heat for its headlining and framing of a Wednesday story about contact between the Ukraine whistleblower and Congressman Adam Schiff. Some supporters of President Trump, who likely would have done this no matter how the story was presented, are distorting the article as evidence of collusion between the whistleblower and Schiff.

This unfairness aside, there’s no question the Times is having a real bad run lately. It has gotten justified public criticism for several things.
Read more.

Bring It On: Journalists’ Tweets, Even Old Ones, Are Fair Game

The recent news that political supporters of President Trump have been searching social media channels for offensive posts by journalists who work for certain national media brought understandable alarm and companion rhetoric from the targeted organizations. Media objections that such dirt digging intends to punish and discourage aggressive reporting are correct, but the better response would have been: “Have at it, and let us know if you find anything.” Read more.