Rural economic development on two wheels
by StarEditorBobDavis
 Behind the Star
Sep 01, 2011 | 8681 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

A friend recently shared this link with me. In it Jerry Norquist, the executive director of Cycle Oregon, discusses how cycling events can bring prosperity to small towns. He gave an example of how one coffee shop owner in the small community where he lives reaped large financial rewards when a bike tour came through town.

Norquist says, "Most rural communities already have the assets that they need to promote cycling tourism. They just don’t know how to harness those assets." 

He says one community on its own may have a difficult time reaching the wider cycling audience, but a statewide effort can spread the word. 

With events like this, this and this, a trail like this and a mountain biking venue in the near future, lots of bike riders are familar with our region. The question is: What are the next steps to spread that reputation as a must-ride place? Please share your ideas. 

 

As its closing nears, Partlow looks for families who donated Bibles to facility
by StarEditorBobDavis
 Behind the Star
Aug 19, 2011 | 3171 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Regina Poole, the director of Community Relations and Volunteers Services at Tuscaloosa’s W. D. Partlow Developmental Center, sends along an interesting request.

The facility, which describes itself as the “remaining state institution for people with intellectual disabilities,” is scheduled to close its doors at the end of September. Before it does, Partlow officials are looking for family members of people who long-ago donated items to the center.

 Poole writes that the center is: “[L]ooking for family members of Mrs. Lewis W. Jackson and Mrs. John R. Sickels. Each has a large, leather bound Bible donated to Partlow for use in the Lurleen Wallace Memorial Chapel in memory of their loved one. We would like to return these Bibles to the family. We are also looking for family members of Miss Minnie Lee Ford, Assistant Director of Nursing (1929-1968) to return a portrait of Miss Fields. Interested family members should call 205-554-4111.”

I asked Poole if she had reason to believe these families might be in The Star’s coverage area. No, she said, “I’m just trying to cover the state to make sure someone in the family (if any, or if any are still in Alabama) know about the Bibles and would like to have them back.” The Bibles were found in Partlow's chapel not long before it was knocked down.

If these family names sound familiar, give Partlow a call. And let the Star know, as well; this sounds like heck of a story.

A defense of Star's reporting on allegations made by councilman
by StarEditorBobDavis
 Behind the Star
Aug 08, 2011 | 2678 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Consider this a defense of Anniston Star reporter Laura Camper. In his most recent column, Anniston Star Media Critic Paul Rilling criticized Camper’s July 6 article, “Little: Plans for judicial complex are troubling.”

Rilling, a former editor with The Star, is an experienced journalist. His monthly column is a useful exercise; it allows an independent voice to weigh on the work of the newspaper.

That said, I must respectfully disagree with his findings regarding Camper’s July 6 article.

Rilling wrote:

l

A basic rule of news writing is that a news story should “show, not tell.” This means the reporter tells readers what has happened, not the reporter’s or editor’s opinions about it. You don’t write that it was hot yesterday; you write about the temperature, the humidity, comparisons with other years, how people are dealing with it. You show that it was hot.

A July story in The Star, headlined, “Little: Plans for judicial complex are troubling,” told the reader what The Star thinks about Councilman Ben Little’s opposition to the judicial complex (July 6, Page 1A)

In the lead paragraph, it said, “Councilman Ben Little has made a point of questioning the way the proposed judicial complex has moved forward at council meetings and ward meetings, but has made no specific allegations nor offered any proof to back up his claims.”

The article, by Laura Camper, told readers what to think, then went on to support that viewpoint. The story is presented as a front-page news story but no new developments were reported. It made a good case for its point of view, but it belonged in the commentary pages.

l

In light of this critique, I revisited the article in question. By my count, it contains 29 statements of fact; most of them center on Little’s frequent allegations of wrongdoing on the part of those working on the city’s proposed judicial complex. To date, none of the officials mentioned in the article have challenged any of its facts.

 

The purpose of the article was to examine Little’s accusations and his failure thus far to provide any evidence for them. Little, an elected official, has repeatedly alleged corruption on the part of the entity charged with overseeing the construction of the judicial center, the Public Building Authority. Little’s allegations have taken place and continue to take place during public sessions of the City Council.

 

While reporting the article, Camper offered Councilman Little an opportunity to spell out the details of his allegations and produce evidence of them. Little declined, saying, “The PBA board knows what has been done and how things have unfolded.”

 

Several items are important to keep in mind:

 

l Little is accusing members of a municipal authority of wrongdoing, the sort that could be a violation of criminal law.

 

Little’s allegations are made in a public forum, which is aired live on The Star’s website.

 

Journalists are not stenographers. In its code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists writes that reporters should, “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

 

That is what Camper and The Star did in the July 6 article. Quite simply, we asked a public official for evidence of frequently asserted claims. He declined, and we reported that he declined and put his opposition to the project in context. Reporters’ and editors’ personal opinions on Little and his opposition to the judicial complex project were (a.) not voiced and (b.) wholly irrelevant to the article in question.

 

Despite a diligent search of the story, I can find no support for the claim that The Star told “the reader what The Star thinks about Councilman Ben Little’s opposition to the judicial complex.”

 

Congressman attributes editorial board’s “world view” as reason for not visiting
by StarEditorBobDavis
 Behind the Star
Jul 31, 2011 | 2851 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

(Cross-posted from National Conference of Editorial Writers blog.)

The editorial board of The Anniston Star regularly meets with politicians from local, state and federal offices. During his two terms as Alabama governor, Bob Riley was a frequent visitor to the newspaper. We regularly sit down with Alabama’s two U.S. senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, as well as other politicians from across the state.

The walls of The Star’s offices are full of snapshots of governors, including George C. Wallace, who when in town would visit with the newspaper’s editorial board. (By the way, Wallace preferred to refer to the newspaper by the derisive nickname “Red Star.”)

During campaign season, the pace quickens as scores of hopefuls come through our doors seeking endorsement.

The meetings can be lively and enlightening, as politicians explain their positions, field tough questions and lay out their visions for the future.

However, one local politician, five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, has been an infrequent visitor to the newspaper. He’s not visited since fall 2008, though he makes regular visits to other newspaper boards in his district. Before that, his appearances before the Anniston Star board were spotty.

The reason, says his press secretary Shea Snider, is that The Anniston Star editorial board and the congressman have "different world views."

"Every time [Rogers] goes in, it’s a hostile environment," Snider said. "There’s no value to those meetings."

She emphasized that the congressman and his office are always happy to respond to The Star’s reporting staff, as well as to questions from this writer; it’s the editorial board the congressman has a problem with.

It is accurate that the Star's editorial board subjects politicians to tough questions. For its part, the newspaper believes holding the people's representatives to account is part of its First Amendment responsibilities. That standard is applied to politicians across the ideological spectrum.

An informal survey of National Conference of Editorial Writers members via listserve showed that Rogers’ refusal to meet with The Star is out of step with most Washington politicians. Most will meet with local editorial boards.

"Our senators drop in for a visit about once a year," wrote Jackman Wilson, editorial page editor of The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. "Our local congressman stops by more often for useful backgrounders on issues of interest to him and to us (and for gossip that is even more useful)."

Editors mentioned that there are exceptions, a few senators and congressmen who for one reason or another refused to darken their doors. It usually has something to do with something written by the newspaper that the officeholder didn't like.

At the NCEW’s 2010 convention in Dallas. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is now said to be considering a run for president, spoke to members of the NCEW, but refused to take part in the traditional Q&A session following his remarks. Perry’s reason for skipping out on question time was that he had a tight schedule. However, after leaving the stage the governor spent a lengthy session chatting with friends in the meeting room and then carrying on an extended TV interview just outside its doors.

Then-NCEW president Tom Waseleski wrote Perry afterwards, calling the snub "an affront to any notion of civil discourse, such as the kind you have called for on other occasions."

Tom Moran, editorial page editor of New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, described the refusal to meet with editorial boards as folly on the part of politicians. “When these guys choose not to defend their positions, it hardly advances their cause,” he wrote.

Mark C. Mahoney, editorial page editor at The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., boiled down the reasons a politician might or might not visit with an editorial board. "It all depends on the degree with which you have criticized the individual and that individual's personal degree of tolerance for criticism," Mahoney wrote. "Some can take a little criticism. Some can take a lot. Some can't take any. Those that can't take any criticism have tended not to meet with us."

Bob Davis, editor of The Anniston Star and a member of its editorial board, is secretary/treasurer of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.

Help us police online comments
by StarEditorBobDavis
 Behind the Star
Jul 06, 2011 | 3863 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

We continue to work out some kinks with our new Facebook commenting system at AnnistonStar.com.

One way readers can help is by reporting inappropriate language in our comments by selecting the “REPORT” button to the right of each comment.

Here's how: Move your mouse to the right-side of the comment  and an “X” appears. Clicking it gives a user the option to “Mark as Spam” or “Report as Abuse” comments that violate our terms of use – no name-calling, no abusive or profane language and no personal attacks.

Doing this will help us better police comments, and that is something that creates a more civil exchange.

 - Bob Davis, Editor 

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