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.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Star stands by reporting on Cleburne schools

David Easley, Cleburne County schools superintendent, takes issue with a story in Tuesday's Star, Cleburne County Board votes to not renew school employees due to poor job performance.

A fax sent by Easley on school district letterhead Tuesday to Cleburne district principals reads:

"In the Anniston Star today, the article regarding pink slips in our system was totally misquoted by the reporter. As we all know, this is not the first time misquotes have been made in this paper and probably will not be the last. I would like to reassure everyone the information that was printed is not at all true and that no reasons are ever to be given for pink slips."

The newsroom of The Anniston Star disagrees with the fax's assessment. We stand by our reporting and the accuracy of the quotes attributed to the superintendent.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

On the air

Had a fun time this morning visiting local radio station WDNG. (Background here.)

Thanks to WDNG's Chuck Stricklin and J.J. Dark for allowing me on to discuss our madeover Monday edition, jumpStart.

We also took several calls from readers, some with complaints and some with compliments. Thanks to all who listened and/or called in. It was fun.

One bit of housekeeping. One caller asked about restaurant health inspection notices. We no longer publish them in the print edition. They are available online at The most recent is available here.

Vern Gosdin, RIP

Over the weekend, a Roanoke subscriber complained that we had not written a story on the passing of country music singer and Woodland native Vern Gosdin. The e-mailer wrote:
I subscribe to your paper to keep up with things of regional interest. How could you not report on country music star Vern Gosdin passing away? He was born and raised in Randolph County (Woodland to be exact) and has many relatives and fans in your coverage area. If by some chance I missed your report on his passing I'm not the only one. Thank you for your time.

Ours was a sin of omission, not commission. Our editors had simply missed the news of Gosdin's death, even though it warranted obituaries in the Los Angeles Times and Billboard magazine.
To us, the complaint was more like a news tip. This morning's paper had our obituary, nicely penned by staffer Nick Cenegy:
"The Voice" sang country music with bare-boned honesty.
Randolph County residents and country music fans remember Woodland-native Vern Gosdin, 74, who died in Nashville early last week, as a singer and songwriter whose lyrics were at times aching with lonesome and other times soaring with love-struck.
Friends remember him as an ordinary country guy, a lover of fried okra mixed with cream corn, who was relatable and intelligent.
Gosdin's country music wasn't the slick-marketed alternative rock blend that has since blurred the lines between Nashville and Los Angeles.

I e-mailed our Roanoke reader to offer thanks for sending along the tip. The response from reader was, "Thank you, you have redeemed yourself."
That's good to know.