Monday, March 29, 2010

Dear candidates, aim higher. Pease

The Anniston Star
21 Mar 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Anniston Star, 28 Mar 2010. Page 33

The Anniston Star
28 Mar 2010

The Anniston Star, 28 Mar 2010. Page 34

The Anniston Star
28 Mar 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Let's go to the archives

What can Alabama’s local libraries, museums and other collectors of archives and history do with $50,000? The answer came during a meeting this morning at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

At a meeting of the Alabama Historical Records Advisory Board in Montgomery, board members discovered how grant recipients from around the state used small amounts of money to spruce up or develop better methods of storing and preserving historical data. (Full disclosure: I sit on the advisory board as a representative of the Alabama Press Association.) The $50,000 was spread among 22 local governments, museums and libraries in Alabama.

The money is a pass-through from a federal grant program aimed at preserving historical documents.

Tom Mullins and Teresa Kiser, both of the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County, reported on how $1,960 helped the library digitize more than 1,200 photo prints known as the Banks Collection. It’s named after ex-Anniston Mayor E.D. Banks, who served from 1946 until 1950. During his term, hizzoner hired a city photographer to record life in Anniston. The images can be seen here or in the Life section of Sunday’s Star.

Mullins and Kiser praised the Star’s Sunday Life feature that prints an image from the collection and asks readers to ID it. Kiser said every photo published has yielded at least one person who can identify some or all of the people pictured.

Also on hand, was Terri Daulton, city clerk of Heflin, who reported on how a $2,000 grant helped the city better catalog and store archives that had been locked away in a shed.

I have to mention my hometown of Aliceville. City government there used $1,000 to better organize its records while the Aliceville Museum dedicated to its World War II POW camp spent $1,509 to better arrange its documents and artifacts.

What can $50K do to preserve history. Quite a lot.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Star discounting publishing weekly stocks/mutual funds reports

In an effort to save on the cost of newsprint, The Anniston Star newspaper will no longer publish the weekly reports on stocks and mutual funds. The information, however, will continue to be made available through The Star’s Web site at

Complaints about 'Jump Start' comic

UPDATE II BELOW: Follow-up cartoons online

UPDATE BELOW: Response from cartoonist

Today's installment of the Jump Start cartoon has at least two e-mailers upset. It shows a police officer apparently being shot by a shadowy figure.
One e-mailer, a former Anniston police officer, writes:
As a former officer in your fair city, I find the printing of this comic inexcusable. ... Rest assured that this will not be accepted by the law enforcement community. I feel the Star is treading on dangerous ground by allowing such images and messages to be printed. The comic section is intended to make us forget about the tragedies we face every day thru the avenue of humor. I challenge you, Mr. Davis, to find the humor in today’s "Jump Start." I even dare you to justify it.
[name and city withheld]

Another e-mailer writes:
How in the world could anyone find this cartoon humorous in any way? How in the world could you allow such a tasteless comic to be run in your paper?
If you ran this cartoon expecting a public reaction I certainly hope you get it. I think most law abiding citizens that see this will also be appalled and hopefully let you know. I think an apology to the Law Enforcement community and our citizens is in order. Please don't hide behind it being a syndicated cartoon you have to publish. As editor you are totally responsible for the content of your paper.
[name withheld]

My response:
Regular Jump Start readers will recognize that the strip is in the tradition of others that deal with all of the complexity of life, the funny and the serious. For Better or Worse is another example of a strip that can be serious or humorous.
Today's Jump Start strip is one in a series that reminds readers of many things, not to take the work done by policemen for granted and how those helped by officers reach out to return the favor with gratitude. Hence, the mention of the officer's medallion, a gift from a homeless family whom he helped over Thanksgiving.
Tomorrow's - meaning Saturday's - strip will show that the large medallion actually protected the officer.
I will grant that today's strip out of context is in fact jarring. Even in context it's jarring to many, I would say. One regular reader told me it was a shocking reminder of the dangers police officers face daily.
Further, I would add that if I, as editor, believed that the strip was glorifying violence, I would have not run it.
Yet, in context, this series offers an uplifting view of the work done by police officers, as well as the dangers they face.

I didn't, but could have mentioned Batman, Dick Tracy and other comics where bad guys have attempted any number of violent acts against law-enforcers since the the 1930s.

The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle has a response from Jump Start cartoonist Robb Armstrong. He writes:
I am saddened and horrified whenever I learn of an officer or anyone else being shot at or murdered.
Sometimes I wonder if our society is becoming numb to news of a shooting or some other anti-social atrocity. I wonder if being in a seemingly endless war overseas has caused us to accept inexplicable violence as a normal part of life. ...
The point of this series is to implore officers to wear their vests every day. "Joe," the character in JumpStart who gets shot, happens to be wearing a steel medallion given to him by a homeless man. Joe and his family fed the homeless man’s family on Thanksgiving, and he is given the "Hero Medallion" as a display of gratitude. Joe is reluctant to wear the strange gift, but wearing it ends up stopping an assailant’s bullet. A later strip points out that all officers have a life-saving "Hero Medallion," it is their bullet-proof vest, and they should wear it proudly and fearlessly.

UPDATE II: Next two JumpStarts are online. Here and here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kids Count in Alabama

Voices for Alabama's Children release details today on well-being of children of all 67 Alabama counties. Details here.
The above graphic comes from the national Kids Count data center.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Things to do in Atlanta during a football game

Jacksonville State and the University of Alabama both kick off the 2009 football season in Atlanta this Saturday.
JSU plays Georgia Tech in the afternoon. Alabama plays Virginia Tech in the evening.

The Star's John Fleming is working on a story for fans looking to make the trip to Atlanta for one or both of the games. He'll offer tips on driving to the stadiums, taking public transit, where to eat, where to park, where to drink, etc.

Got any tips on driving, tailgating or anything else Atlanta-related? Share them with John at

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Coming soon: Kickoff '09

The Star is preparing its preseason prep football magazine. It will soon be for sale at retail outlets throughout the area. Prep teams from Calhoun, Cleburne, Etowah, St. Clair, Talladega, Clay, Cherokee and Randolph counties are profiled.

We thought we'd offer a sneak peek of the cover.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Joe, return to base

For a brief time - near the end of elementary school - my bedroom had a G.I. Joe action figure and a Kiss album.

The music was ascending and my devotion to Joe was in the decline.

Yet, in its prime a G.I. Joe was an it toy for most boys in the 1970s. I'd have to check with my parents to see if old Joe is stashed away in the attic; I'm pretty sure the Kiss albums are long-gone.

With a new G.I. Joe movie opening this weekend, The Star's Escapes section is looking for people willing to share their memories of G.I. Joe.

Got some memories to share? Contact Entertainment Editor Deirdre Long by e-mail here:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A eulogy

I'm taking the editor's privilege of posting my eulogy to my great-uncle who died over the weekend.

Robert Hugh Kirksey was known by many names.
To those who knew saw him at the Pickens County courthouse from 1962 until 1981, he was "Judge Kirksey."
To those serving with him in World War II, during which he was decorated for his bravery, he was "Lt. Kirksey."
To those who knew him more casually around his native Pickens County, he was "Mr. Robert Hugh."
At his church, he was known as devoted servant of Christ and congregational leader.
To his wife of more than 60 years, he was known simply as "Bob."
To his four daughters, he was "Daddy."
To his other relatives, he was "Boss," a nickname bestowed upon him by the household cook when he turned 12 and asked her to begin addressing him as "Mister Robert Hugh." She opted to call him "Boss" instead.
That young man shouldn’t have worried. Respect and accolades followed Robert Hugh Kirksey for eight decades.
Though never an official designation, "storyteller" may have best fit him. Robert Hugh Kirksey always had a story to tell. Usually humorous. Never hurtful. The family favorite involved a talking parrot that belonged to his mother, and that tormented young Robert Hugh.
He collected his life's worth of stories in two books, "With Me: Growing up in the Faith" and "People and Places." They are a lasting legacy to his family and friends.
He never stopped sharing his stories. Late last month, he commenced an e-mail exchange with his great-great-nephew and namesake, Hugh Kirksey Davis, age 8.
"Your invitation to me to be your pen pal is very encouraging to me. I like the idea of being your friend," Robert Hugh Kirksey wrote to the young boy. In the space of a few days, Kirksey filled an e-mail inbox with stories -- stories about two dogs he had as a youngster (Skeeter and Bob). Stories about taking a picture of a tornado when he was 16, and seeing it published in a newspaper. Stories of playing in his school playground. Stories of getting caught with candy in his mouth during elementary school.
We can take many lessons from the life of Robert Hugh Kirksey – his undying faith in his Creator, his family, his community and his country.
I plan to tell some stories today in his honor.
-- Bob Davis

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bobcast: Torture's burning issue: What did Nancy know and when did she know it?

Latest Bobcast is up. Listen here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Power failure in north Anniston

UPDATE: Anniston Star story is here.

Star reporters, photographers and editors are out covering a power failure in the Lenlock area. As I typed this the lights just came back on at The Star's offices.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Star's jumpStart front page on Newseum's Top 10 Front Pages

The Newseum writes:

Today’s Top Ten are a tribute to front-page designers. As more and more readers go online for their news, a designer’s challenge is to make the cover more enticing, surprising, innovative and different from the rest. There’s no rhyme to these front pages, but there’s plenty of reason to take a second look — and plunk down a few quarters for the whole package. Note to The Anniston Star: You dress up well. (Emphasis mine.)

Link is here.

Bobcast: Unraveling hits home

Latest Bobcast is up. Listen here or read below.

In 2003, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman published a book criticizing the Bush administration called "The Great Unraveling."

Six years later and with the affects of those policies playing out in rising jobless claims, failing industries and declining home values, Americans are left wondering when the great and terrible unraveling ends.

The butterfly effect is usually summed up by saying, "A butterfly’s flapping wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas." The economic butterfly effect is in play all around us.

Sunday’s Anniston Star article by Dan Whisenhunt provides a local example. As part of its restructuring General Motors and Chrysler are shuttering dealerships, here and across the country. In the abstract, it’s a perfectly sensible idea aimed at coping with new economic realities.

In its real-life application, closed dealerships can mean pain for more than the employees at a local dealership.

Many car dealers, like many other responsible local enterprises, are pillars of a local community, sponsoring youth sports teams and contributing thousands of dollars to charity.

Body blows are landing on local communities, many of which have already endured the rise of mega-marts and subsequent decline of mom-and-pop shops. From retail to banking to media, local authority if not local ownership has given way to large corporate control based in a far away headquarters.

It’s unfair to count this rise of the corporations and decline of locally owned businesses as all bad. The advantages of centralized power – big retail, if you will – can mean lower prices and greater continuity in doing business.

Yet, like that Brazilian butterfly flapping its wings and damaging Texas villages, trouble at the top of these corporations is a pain that won’t be isolated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A new start

By Ben Cunningham
Metro Editor

The Star's Monday edition will feature a new look starting this week, with changes to both the format and content.

The new Monday paper, re-branded "jumpStart," will be printed in single-fold, tabloid form, 11 inches by 17 inches. Editors say it's an effort to freshen the paper's approach to news on Mondays.

Editor Bob Davis said the redesign is the result of a months-long process taking into account editors' and readers' thoughts on what a new version of the paper should look like. He said the goal was a product that could be useful throughout the week.

What readers see Monday morning will be the paper's attempt "to try to keep up with the changing readership habits and appeal to new readers while staying true to our core mission, which is community journalism," Davis said.

The most obvious physical change is the tabloid format, which Managing Editor Anthony Cook likened to a magazine in the way it feels and handles.

A color photograph from a single story dominates the covers of a template and the first edition, with colors and graphics directing readers to other content inside.

Editors plan each week to feature a single story, typically a profile of someone in The Star's coverage area, and not necessarily a newsmaker.

"What we want to do is highlight the people of our community," Cook said. "These are your neighbors who you might know, but this will help you to really know them."

The story planned for this Monday's edition is about Blake Waddell of Hokes Bluff, who runs a faith-based boxing program in Gadsden for local youth.

Another key feature in the new jumpStart is a look at the week ahead, with details on what's expected in local government, entertainment and cultural events.

"These things will help you plan out your week," Cook said.

Davis noted that other newspapers throughout the country are experimenting with new formats, including switching to tabloid editions. He cited the Chicago Tribune, which in January switched to a tab size for newsstand sales five days per week while keeping home delivery copies in the familiar broadsheet format. In March The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News ended home delivery four days per week, instead making tab-size editions available at newsstands.

The Star will retain its traditional format the other six days of the week, and jumpStart will be delivered to subscribers just as the other days' issues are.

Cook and Davis said jumpStart also will contain regular coverage of any important news happening on Sunday.

Realizing the departure from tradition may elicit some comments from readers, the paper's staff has set up several ways to invite feedback.

Continuing The Star's recent "Grill the Editor" sessions, Davis will be at Jack's restaurant in Anniston (1900 Quintard Ave.) on Monday morning from 6:30 to 7:30 to discuss the new Monday paper.

The Star's marketing department will have free copies of jumpStart for the first 100 customers at Jack's locations in Heflin, Munford, Coldwater, Oxford, Anniston and Lenlock.

Also Monday, Davis will be hosting a digital "Grill the Editor" at noon on Readers who want a sneak peak at the format with a prototype edition can visit and leave comments.

The Star also has set up a phone line at 235-3552, at which readers can leave messages with their thoughts on the new format. Readers also can e-mail comments to Davis at

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Noble Street Festival video

Sights and scenes from last weekend's fun on Noble Street.