Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monday's best online reads

5 new principals prepare for school by Steve Ivey

Hart's Ferry steeped in memories for residents by Matt Kasper

Storm knocks out service for 2,400 Alabama Power customers in Calhoun and Cleburne by Andy Johns

Two editorial pages items attracted readers
Monday's letters to the editor and The Star's editorial decrying the conduct of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- Growing tired of obfuscation.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Coming Tuesday

Here's what the Star's metro staff is working on for tomorrow's paper.
  • Intern Christina Smith and photographer Stephen Gross team up again to profile a long-time Cleburne County resident. Clyde Johnson, at age 84 sews nearly everything in her home, as she has for most of her life. Most notable among her work is her quilts, which she makes entirely by hand.
  • A longtime Anniston resident known for his skill in the kitchen, and his warm personality, has died. Alfred Caro oversaw operations at the Annistonian restaurant downtown for decades. Staff writer Bill Edwards is working on a profile, and has located an archive photo of Mr. Caro at work.
There's more where that came from, so check us out in the morning.

Best-read weekend stories

Motorcycle repair shop upsets Saks neighbors by Dan Whisenhunt

Laser shop brings in business from around the world by Cynthia Dizikes

Father-daughter links: Daughters team with their dads for golf tourney by Anne W. Anderson and Al Muskewitz

A close second on Friday was an editorial - Creating distrust in Oxford

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dueling 7 Wonders

The Star publishes its list of how readers voted on the Seven Wonders of Alabama.

Meanwhile on the other end of the state, The Tuscaloosa New publishes the Seven Wonders of West Alabama.

The two lists share one location - Moundville. Compare and contrast for yourself here and here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bobcast, kicking it weekend style

The weekend's edition of the Bobcast is up at The Star's homepage. (Look on the right-hand side of the site under the LATEST FROM THE AP.)
In it Dan Whisenhunt discusses a Sunday story on a neighorhood spat in Saks. Bill Edwards drops by to offer his own brand of humor.

Alabama's Seven Wonders/Harry Potter

The Insight section of Sunday's Star will offer a double dose of can't-miss packages.

The Star's Insight cover story is the result of our "Seven Wonders of Alabama" reader poll. For two weeks we asked readers to vote for our state's seven wonders -- in essence, a local version of the famed Seven Wonders of the World. A crazy idea, but it worked wonderfully.

We were pleased, and shocked, with the results. The Star had more than 400 readers participate by giving their votes on the wonderous parts of Alabama. Look at Sunday's Insight section for the results.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? If so, then don't miss Sunday's Bookshelf page, which carries a marvelous review by Star Entertainment Editor Shawn Ryan of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" and a compilation of reader comments on the new J.K. Rowling book. If you go wild over Harry, turn to page 4E on Sunday. You'll surely love it.

JSU football moving up?

Twice this week The Star has published stories about Jacksonville State University having preliminary discussions about elevating its football team to the Football Bowl Series, formerly Division I-A.

It's very early in the process -- but not too early to have Gamecock fans divided over the issue of taking the JSU team to the top level of NCAA play.

Saturday's editorial page will carry an editorial that examines the need for patience in JSU's discussions. It's a complex situation that involves much more than athletics. Hopefully our editorial will help explain why JSU needs to carefully deliberate its options before charging ahead.

Coming Saturday

The news staff got enough sleep last night after their late-night Simpsons-movie viewing to get good work done today. Among the stories they chased for you today:
  • After Thursday's bombshell in the Anniston City Board of Education meeting, education writer Steve Ivey examines whether this is likely the beginning of the end of Superintendent Sammy Lee Felton's tenure with the system.
  • One of the biggest events on Anniston's community calendar, the Sunny King Charity Golf Classic, is under way at three courses throughout town. Intern Anne W. Anderson spent time with volunteers on the course at Anniston Country Club today to find what they do to make it all happen, and what their organizations get for their efforts.
  • Maybe "high tech" isn't the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Munford, but the small Talladega County town is home to a cutting-edge business. Well, there's cutting at Metal Samples, but no edges. They use lasers. Intern Cynthia Dizikes spent time with the experts there, and shot some video while she was at it. Look for that tomorrow on annistonstar.com

The Star sees "The Simpsons"

Last night, six Star staffers went to a midnight showing of "The Simpsons Movie" at (the county's only) movie theater in Oxford. We also bought an assorted dozen of Lamar's donuts for the occasion...mmmm.....donuts.

The good: The movie was short. In an era of two-and-a-half hour snoozers, it was a nice change of pace. It also harkens back to the show's roots as a family comedy, exploring the relationships between the Simpsons clan. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Homer's love affair with "Spider Pig."

The Bad: This is just me being a picky fanboy, but I wish they'd beefed up Mr. Burns' role a bit. For those of you not familiar with the show, Burns is Homer's boss at the nuclear power plant and an all-around evil guy. It doesn't kill the movie for me but if I definitely thought they could've made better use of a great character.

A good time was had by all. And I got the feeling the creators could do this again with minimal effort. We'll see.

Two meetings, one topic: Felton's future

Covering one meeting on deadline can be hectic enough. Keeping tabs on a simultaneous meeting 75 miles away complicates things.

The Midfield Board of Education, southwest of Birmingham, convened at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss five finalists for their superintendent post, including Anniston Superintendent Sammy Lee Felton.

An hour later, Felton was center stage here in Anniston for the latest in a series of tense, at times combative, meetings about an assistant principal at the high school and, by the end of the night, his future with this school system.

Since learning of Felton's candidacy in Midfield, I've been in close contact with their school board president Nathaniel Hutton by cell phone. By about 5:45, it was time to leave for Anniston's meeting, and no word on the Midfield vote had come.

The Anniston board met for about 90 minutes, beginning with the back-and-forth over whether to reinstate former AHS assistant principal Charles Gregory and ending with board member Nathaniel Davis asking to begin the process of terminating Felton's contract. The move failed by a 2-2 vote, but it was the first public call for his ouster by any elected official.

Earlier in the day, we had planned for two stories: One about the board meeting, where we expected Gregory's post to come up but had not planned for Davis' call to remove Felton, and another about the Midfield job. I reached Midfield board member Shirley Troulias, whom I had met when I sat in on Felton's interview there, by just after 8 p.m. She told me they had chosen another candidate.

Hearing that, we decided to weave it all together into one comprehensive accounting of one night for the embattled Felton. Check it out in today's edition of The Star.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Coming Friday

I managed to stay awake after downing two brats at lunch. Long enough at least to check in with our reporters who are working on a slew of good stories:
  • Before the night is out we'll know if Midfield City Schools wants to hire Superintendent Sammy Lee Felton away from Anniston. As soon as we know the result of the vote by Midfield's board of education, we'll post it here, with more details coming in tomorrow's paper. Meanwhile, the Anniston BOE is meeting tonight, and Felton is expected to recommend an assistant principal for Anniston High School. Education beat writer Steve Ivey will be following both those stories tonight.
  • We checked in today with law enforcement experts in the area on Oxford Mayor Leon Smith's plan for a public safety director to oversee the police and fire departments in his city. The City of Huntsville recently added a similar position, and they told Oxford beat writer Todd South a bit about how and why they did it.
  • Then there's Heflin resident Annie B. Phillips, who walks everywhere she goes and makes sure any litter along her path is picked up. The City Council there recognized her this week for her lifelong efforts at beautifying the city as a model of good citizenship. Intern Christina Smith has a great profile of Mrs. Phillips, along with stellar images from staff photographer Steven Gross.
That's just a bit of the big local news offering we've got coming. Check it out online or pick up a paper tomorrow.

The lunch update

As mentioned earlier, the newsroom has had its lunchtime feast.
The question before us: Which tastes better - bratwursts boiled in beer and then grilled or bratwursts grilled then boiled in beer?
Metro editor (and grillmaster) Ben Cunningham's assessmment:
It's like trying to choose between supermodels.

My question: Can newsroom staffers stay awake through the afternoon having just snacked on beer-soaked brats?

Superfund sightings

Star reporter Dan Whisenhunt passes along this tip:
The Center for Public Integrity did an investigative piece on Superfund sites with a special focus on Anniston - it includes a map with blue dots- each one of these dots contains a link to a video explaining different aspects of PCBs contamination in the city.

The link is here.

Hey, Grandpa, what's for dinner?

Laura Tutor has the answer. (At least the answer as far as the Star newsroom is concerned):
We're getting fired up for football season by finding the perfect bratwurst recipe. Peppers, onions and sausage hit the grill at high noon.

Something tells me we'll be seeing the results of this lunch in the food section soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Faces of the governor

According to a site dedicated to newspaper front pages, two state newspapers have Gov. Bob Riley on Page 1 today. The contexts, though, are very different.

News from the Star alumni front

Tom Lasseter, an intern at The Star in the late 1990s, is on the cover of Editor & Publisher, a journalism trade magazine.

The article, which is behind the magazine's subscription wall, puts it this way: "McClatchy's Tom Lasseter and the Los Angeles Times' Megan Stack survived war in Iraq and Lebanon. Now they face a different kind of challenge in Moscow."