Category: BirminghamWatch

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No Haven on Campus: Sad to See College Newspapers Disappearing

I no longer ask my classes “When was the last time you read a newspaper?” It’s roughly equivalent to asking “How many of you came to class today in a stagecoach?”

Generation Z gets its news online. That’s one big reason that a growing number of college campus news outlets have reduced the frequency of their print editions, or have abandoned them.

The Auburn Plainsman announced Thursday that its weekly print publications are done. Editor Jack West correctly noted the irony: Most of his readers will read the announcement online.

What’s happening among campus newspapers reflects what’s happening among professional newspapers. Except college publications can’t try to save themselves with paid subscriptions because they place their editions around campus for free reading. The pandemic has severely limited the number of students walking on campus, not to mention the ability to sell advertising, but the larger forces working against print products have been conspiring since before COVID-19.
Read more.

Lady Justice Is Not Wearing a Blindfold

In 1996, Jerald Sanders, a Black man and resident of Alabama, used his pocket knife to tear a hole in a front porch screen so he could steal a bicycle stored inside.

When apprehended a few weeks later, Sanders was charged with burglary in the first degree, a Class C felony.

Because Sanders had multiple prior offenses on his record, his sentence was pushed to life in prison without parole. A Class C felony often results in a fine or minimal jail time.

Sanders’ story is not rare. Black men are sentenced to prison time that reflects not only the crime for which they are being sentenced, but for their entire criminal history. According to statistics from the Sentencing Project, Blacks are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. Read more.

Remembering Sheila Washington, Who Brought Honor To The Scottsboro Boys

Alabamians are mourning the death of Sheila Washington, the founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. Washington fought to bring honor and dignity to the nine young Black males falsely accused of rape during the Jim Crow era.

As a child, Washington was fascinated with the story of the Scottsboro boys who ranged in age from 12-19. They were traveling by train through Jackson County when they were accused of raping two women. The 1931 trial drew national attention. An all-white jury in Scottsboro sentenced eight of the nine to death. 

Later, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case leading to two landmark civil rights precedents regarding the right to counsel and non-discrimination in jury selection. 
Read more.

Warning: If You Get Chills Reading This, Keep It to Yourself

Got a great job for you. It’s in journalism. Never mind that if you take it you can’t publicly support a political candidate, donate to a political campaign, make money on the side without your boss’ approval, date someone you met on the job or accept a small token of thanks from a subject grateful for your hard work.

Here’s something else that many news organizations say you can’t do in your personal life: express a political opinion on social media. Read more.

Devastated Fultondale Residents Hope to Bounce Back

Gina Moran, a school bus driver and business owner, was set to hold the grand opening for her restaurant, Tamale Queen, on Wednesday. But instead it became more like an early food giveaway for residents impacted by Monday night’s tornado.

“I love my community,” she said. “I’m very heavily involved with Church of the Highlands and they’re involved with us giving out food. And we believe that in times like these, people need help. They need love and they need whatever we can give them.”

Clean up continued Tuesday after a strong tornado devastated parts of Fultondale Monday night. The city has been here before. Residents are, once again, coming together to pick up the pieces Read more.

Alabama Black Mayors Say It’s Time for a New Reconstruction, Lament Capitol Insurrection

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin described the Jan. 6 Capitol insurgency as a time when people “identified themselves as white supremacists,” which he said the country must acknowledge.

“To move the country forward, we have to acknowledge the pain it caused, have accountability and move forward,” he said during a livestreamed interview with Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for the Washington Post.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed described the insurrectionists as people who felt they could get close enough to use deadly force. The terrorists exhibited “a level of privilege, entitlement and outright brazenness,” he added.

The two black mayors, whose cities represent the cradle and battlegrounds of the Civil Rights movement from the 1950s to the present day, were interviewed during a Facebook Live event by Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor of the Washington Post, on Friday, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Read more.

No Easy Way to Make Fox News Change Its Bad Behavior

No one is more responsible for the devastation to life and property at the U.S. Capitol than the criminals themselves, but retributions are under way against parts of the media environment that allowed it and even encouraged it.

Under public pressure, and perhaps stunned by events, major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have temporarily or permanently suspended selected accounts, including the president’s, deemed to potentially incite violence. Amazon, Apple and Google essentially shut down Parler, a social media platform popular with conspiracy theorists.

It’s not as clear what to do about traditional news media, such as Fox News, that also stirred unfounded anger with repeated lies by opinion hosts, commentators and guests about the validity of the presidential election. Read more.

Better Basics Is Working to Erase Education Gaps Resulting from Racial, Ethnic and Socioeconomic Lines

In this digital age, reading, comprehending text, performing basic math and problem-solving are just some of the skills students have to master to be college and career ready. 

But a 2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that black, Hispanic and American Indian youngsters are falling behind in some of those critical skills.

Take reading, for example. NCES reported that among American fourth graders, the average 2019 reading scores were 237 for Asian and Pacific Islander students and 230 for whites. But the scores averaged 204 for blacks and American Indian students, and 209 for Hispanics.

And studies show that if a child cannot read at a proficient level by the end of third grade, he or she is more likely to struggle and even drop out of school before earning a high school diploma.

While the NCES report paints a dim picture of the academic achievement gap in America, an Alabama nonprofit called Better Basics Inc. is working to shrink the gap for underserved students in the Birmingham metro area and beyond.
Read more.