Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuscaloosa News re-design, TuscTube go live

A big day for the online department of The Tuscaloosa News as its re-designed Website went live earlier today.

Business reporter Matt Hawk did a story about the launch.

It's the second big change this week for The Tuscaloosa News, which launched Tuscaloosa News JOBS TV on Monday. You can watch the video service with job announcements from 7:00 to 7:30 each morning on WVUA-TV or online anytime on the TNews site.

The re-design comes only few weeks after the TNews' North Alabama sister publication, TimesDaily did its own re-design.

More than the re-design, the new Website features-- RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and TuscTube are my favorites. Now if I shoot video of a West Alabama event, I'll be able to share some of it with friends video this local version of the infamous YouTube site.

I think West Alabama news gathering and citizen journalism took a major leap forward today. Earlier on my COMJEXCHANGE blog, I commented on the citizen blogging that one can do on the TNews site. That should only get bigger.

Congrats to the Dwayne Fatheree, Steve Mullen and all the online staffers for successful launch.

Looking for great things from them in the next few months.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Update on Seale Case

After taking such a prominent role in reporting the initial arrest of James Ford Seale last week on federal charges of kidnapping and conspiracy, looks like the Clarion-Ledger has buried the breaking developments on its Web site.

As of 8:30pm central time tonight, the Clarion-Ledger still had a story from Sunday's newspaper prominently displayed in its section of the site on "the Forgotten killings."

But, Jackson's historic NBC affiliate WLBT-TV, reports that Seale was denied bond Monday by a federal magistrate in Jackson as its lead story.

Granted, the hearing happened earlier this morning, but the issue of bond seems to be important enough play it ahead of the Miss Mississippi story that leads the Web site this evening.

Channel 3 actually included a video clip from its 6pm newscast with its story.

Prosecutors said Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, were seized and beaten by Klansmen, then thrown into the Mississippi River to drown.

Defense attorneys have filed a motion to get the case dismissed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Clarion-Ledger Journalist Makes a Difference

I'm still catching up on this case. But, the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi deserves a LOT OF PRAISE today for what happened in a Mississippi courtroom.

A reputed Ku Klux Klansman accused in the 1964 slayings of two black men pleaded not guilty today.

71-year-old James Ford Seale was arrested yesterday on federal charges of kidnapping and conspiracy.

Prosecutors said Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, were seized and beaten by Klansmen, then thrown into the Mississippi River to drown. Asked in 2000 if he had anything to do with the crime, Seale replied, "I ain't in jail, am I?"

Tonight he IS in jail. And, reporter Jerry Mitchell is being credited with helping the case through his work as a journalist.

Read more about the background on the case here.

Mitchell was interviewed in a story on tonight's CBS Evening News.

In his only known media interview, Seale in 2000 expressed confidence to The Clarion-Ledger that he would dodge

charges. Asked what he would tell authorities pursuing the case, Seale replied, "Have at me. They don't have any more than you have right now - which is nothing."

Seale blamed the newspaper for talk of reprosecution. "You don't have anything better to do but to stir this stuff up," he said. "You've got to write a story and put a bunch of garbage in it and write a catchy headline so it will sell."

In 2000, the FBI reopened the case after the newspaper reported federal charges were possible since Dee and Moore were beaten in a national forest.

Still following this story. But, it's exciting to see a journalist's work make a major difference in a long-standing civil rights case.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Anniston Star Editorializes on Super Bowl Coaches

ANNISTON-- Time to follow-up on my posting earlier this week about the black head coaches at the Super Bowl.

Even as I post this update from the other side of Alabama in the city named for "Annie's town," I am reading tonight that The Anniston Star on its editorial pages spotlighted the two black NFL coaches that will be on the sidelines next month in the Super Bowl.

In today's editorial, the Star writes "This year's Super Bowl won't stop discrimination. It is, after all, only a game. But maybe it will signify another rung on the ladder to equality, another illustration to those who have high-paid oaches that qualified black coaches shouldn't be considered simply because of their skin color."

Enough said.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Terry Moran is a Blogger: And??

It must be "in" to be a blogger these days. Tonight at the end of his Nightline broadcast, ABC Nightline anchor Terry Moran announced "on a personal note" that he had started a blog.

OK, I'll admit, I've been very skeptical of the trio anchoring Nightline strategy since it began just over a year ago.

More importantly, Nightline (and many of the other network programs)are notorious for feigning interest in viewer INPUT when in fact most of the communication is one-way.

They send e-mails "promoting" their newscasts and then make it clear "WE CANNOT RESPOND TO ALL E-MAILS"

Thus, the online interaction that's supposed to occur really is nothing more than another outlet for ONE-WAY communication (just like TV).

Like many discussion boards, the ABC Nightline discussion boards are notoriously uninspiring. And, most busy people don't have time to wade through all the chatter.

So, I REALLY wonder if Terry Moran intends to offer his comments ON VIEWER comments or if this is just cross-promotion using the Web.

One thing he can start with is a more down-to-earth vocabulary. "Uxorial?" What does that mean?

Pardon my limited vocabulary, but I had to pull out my Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary to figure out that "uxorial" means "of or relating to wife."

It works as his blog posting is about Hillary Clinton's candidacy and its connection to her spouse. But, do we really want to use words that alienate?

About the show, I was not WATCHING as much as I listening to tonight's show as it was going on in the other room-- but I heard the multiple pieces picking over Bush's State of the Union address.

I STILL WONDER if an interview segment would not have been a little more appropriate for tonight?

When Cynthia McFadden, Martin Bashir and Terry took over after Ted Koppel retired, I was not a fan of the EXTENDED ABC World News Tonight pieces. Lately, though, some of them have been quite good. I taped TWO broadcasts recently.

Still, I think even though the cable networks and the broadcast networks had interviews, ABC Nightline would have been well-served to do an extended interview with unlikely figure who could provide unusual insight on the State of the Union.

Much focus was given in the pieces tonight to the alternative fuels discussion and the available of the raw materials for alternative fuels in Alabama. IT might have been neat to have one of the scientists from Alabama do a talkback from Alabama about the reference to these fuels. I realize this was also talked about LAST YEAR in the 2006 address.

I'm not sure anyone will read these musings. But, the jury is still out on Terry Moran as a blogger. He's an experienced journalist. But can he REALLY blog?

As the cliche goes, "only time will tell."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Race Matters: Historic SuperBowl Matchup is BIG!

Much has been said these last couple of days about the historical significance of two black coaches meeting in the upcoming Super Bowl.

Not only did USA Today spotlight the possible match-up between the Indianapolis Colt’s Tony Dungy and the Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith, but now that the two teams are officially in, there was even talk about it on National Public Radio this morning and the Birmingham-based Paul Finebaum Radio Network.

I actually sat in my car when I got to the University of Alabama campus this afternoon long enough to hear some of the commentary from callers on the Finebaum Radio Network.

It seemed like Paul Finebaum was dismissing much of the hype about the historical significance – as something more important to older folks who lived in a time when such a match-up between two black male head NFL coaches would have been unheard of.

As a 36-year-old (soon to be 37) African-American male, I can certainly say there is a certain amount of pride that comes with seeing Dungy and Smith on the sidelines. They’ve both accomplished something no other “brothers” have done before.

I don’t have to know either of them to know that somewhere along the way they’ve experienced what I’ve experienced as an African-American male in an unusual or unconventional role for others with my skin color.

The pride in seeing Dungy and Smith is no less than my pride when two coaches at my alma mater, the University of Georgia are mentioned. Athletic Director Damon Evans and Basketball Head Coach Dennis Felton also broke the color barrier in their jobs.

Yes, we can be full of pride while appreciating the time that we’re slowly reaching when these differences won’t matter.

Today they STILL matter. Whether Dungy or Smith’s team wins the Super Bowl, the event in my book is ALREADY a WINNER!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tuscaloosa Kicks Off King Day 2007

Even though it meant starting out a little earlier than I would normally would on a Monday morning, I managed to get up and arrive nearly on time at a 7am breakfast in West Tuscaloosa in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coming from Richmond, Va., where Community Learning Week is one of the nation’s biggest celebrations of King’s birthday, second only to Atlanta, I find it hard to believe some people will in good conscious do nothing to mark the occasion.

Here in Tuscaloosa, the local chapter of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King founded, takes charge of a series of activities known as “Unity Day Celebrations” that in addition to the breakfast, include a unity march and mass meeting.

Before enjoying the breakfast of scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, sausage and biscuits, eleven community leaders and elected officials made quick two-minute greetings to the crowd of more than 300 in attendance.

They included representatives from Tuscaloosa’s three higher education institutions, both Tuscaloosa County and City Schools, the NAACP and the local and state chapters of the SCLC.

One of the speakers noted that today is the first celebration of King’s birthday without either the late civil rights leader and his wife, Coretta Scott King, who passed away last February.

“Mrs. King played a major role in why we’re here today,” said Cordell Wynn, special assistant to the president of Shelton State Community College. Wynn was a member of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (now Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church) when King was the pastor.

“It was always a pleasure to greet her as much as it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We honor her as we honor her husband”

It’s little tidbits like that from those who step out of history, who knew Dr. King that make attending events like those held today worthwhile for those of us who were not alive during the civil rights era.

As is the case with so many of these events, the majority of those attending were 50 and up. Granted they are in a much better position to recognize the significance of the stock markets, federal and state governments and schools all being closed to honor Dr. King. But, so many more people should acknowledge the only federal holiday named for an African-American.

It’s not only about what happened in the past, but also what’s to come in the future—some of those events here in Tuscaloosa certainly include an element of race—the line that divided so many in the lifetime of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Today locked arm-and-arm singing the familiar civil rights song, “We Shall Overcome,” Tuscaloosa’s black and white residents and dozens of their elected officials ( Police Chief Chuck Swindol and Mayor Walt Maddox, School Superintendents Frank Constanzo, Joyce Levey to name a few) showed how far we have come in crossing that racial divide in this city.

At the same time, many of those speaking reminded those in attendance of how far we have to go.

“I don’t care who disagrees with me. Times aren’t as bad as they used to be. But, we ain’t free,” said Willie C. Jones, pastor of Tuscaloosa’s Bailey Tabernacle CME Church. “We are in troubled times when youth don’t have hope.”

Jones gave the keynote address this morning, which he entitled “Hold On To Your Hope.” He touched on many issues still facing Tuscaloosa today: teen pregnancy, hunger, homeless, violent, lack of black-owned businesses.

This morning’s breakfast was to be followed by a noon-time march from Martin Luther King Elementary School to Tuscaloosa City Hall where Mayor Walt Maddox was scheduled to speak. Then, tonight Tyshawn Gardner, pastor of the city’s Plum Grove Baptist Church will deliver the main address at a 6 p.m. mass rally at First African Baptist Church.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ready for King Weekend?

Is it ok to be tired after just one-half week of classes? I wonder because that's about how I feel right now.

Maybe it's the travel back-and-forth to Anniston that's got me whipped. But, these first two days of spring semester have been two L---O----N----G days.

So, while I truly believe Martin Luther King's National Holiday observance is a day ON, not a day OFF, I am looking forward to having the day off from school.

Here in Tuscaloosa, there are several events planned that I hope to experience for myself. While I attend her former church and love her CD, Benita Jones Washington is one gospel artist I have yet to hear. I hope to get that opportunity Saturday at the Moody Music Concert Hall.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A New Year, A New Semester, New Wall St. Journal

It's January 7th and we're back in Tuscaloosa after a wonderful TWO WEEKS at home in Virginia.

What a whirlwind week it was last week in Washington. It was great to be a stone's throw from all the pomp and circumstance on Capitol Hill.

Now, it's down to business..and I have a lot of it to attend to as we begin a new semester with two courses on media management-- one of my favorite topics.

There's been so much happening on this front over the holidays-- I can hardly wait for classes to begin.

Not only was the AT&T merger with Bellsouth completed, by WHNT-TV in Huntsville and its sister stations from the New York Times Company have a new owner.

The Bowl Championship Series moved from ABC To FOX this year-- with the grand finale tomorrow night in Arizona.

And, then there's the new, smaller Wall Street Journal. I get it everyday here in Alabama, but picked up a copy last week in Richmond. It will take some getting used to.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Saban Note

RICHMOND-- It's not often that the University of Alabama makes the news here in Richmond. But tonight, UA was part of the 6pm sportscast as WWBT-TV NBC 12 reported on the apparent offer made to Nick Saban, current head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

That was old news to me as I've been glued to my parents' computer all afternoon listening to the Paul Finebaum Radio Network as bits and pieces leaked about the coaching search.

I'll admit it, I'm more of a sports fan now that I've been at Alabama-- and even in this land of the Redskins, Alabama football -- or the future of the program-- was high on my interest list.

From the reports in the Sun-Sentinel to a story on the (Louisville) Courier-Journal about Bobby Petrino, I've been monitoring this story very closely at a distance.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

On A Somber Note

We begin 2007 by marking the end of a life. For me, it's been an interesting last few days.

Today is the National Day of Mourning. But, we've been hearing a lot about Gerald Rudolph Ford since his passing on December 26, 2006.

I only remember Gerald Ford as the guy who was the president before Jimmy Carter. I remember when I was in first grade at Ginter Park School here in Richmond (my hometown) watching the Carter inauguration. (I was just learning what that big word meant)

The whole "Watergate" thing was foreign to me until recently when I really came to understand its significance to journalism.

The kind of journalism that I've seen practiced over the last week is a different kind of journalism-- one that is steeped in historical context.

Our students often ask why we require them to take that two-semester sequence of American history instead just ANY history. It's stories like the passing of Gerald Ford that require a solid foundation in the who's, whats and why's of the past.

As I've experienced this here in at my home in Richmond, I've had the opportunity to talk the things I've seen over with my parents. They've filled in some of the holes.

Much of what you can learn as you watch the televised coverage of the Ford Funerals-- both Saturday's State Funeral at the U.S. Capitol and the National Funeral today at the Washington National Cathedral is enhanced by resources available online.

I videotaped almost six hours of coverage today. Like the Ronald Reagan Funeral in 2005, the ceremony connected with saying goodbye to a U.S. is something we don't experience every day.

Even as I made the short drive up I-95 to Washington for Sunday services at my church there, Metropolitan Baptist Church, I couldn't help but notice all the flags at half-staff -- a site that can be found all over the country, but is much more obvious as you pass embassies, government buildings, and hotels.

Unlike thousands who did file past Ford's casket, which was available for public viewing Sunday, I chose to limit my rememberances to those that were mediated by the electronic and print media.

I'll admit I was not interested in standing in the cold Dec. 31st weather in order to pay my last respects. But, then I just didn't feel as connected to a man who is mostly a figure in history.

At the same time, I downloaded the funeral program today and electronically attended the service at the National Cathederal. It was a mediated experience, but a valuable one nonetheless.

Richmond Marks Emancipation Proclamation

RICHMOND, Va. --Rain, sometimes heavy at times on New Year’s Day is probably to blame for a lackluster turnout at what’s become a tradition for African-Americans in Virginia’s capital city—marking the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The document signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 set in motion freedom for enslaved Africans in many states.

More than 140 years later, the plight of the descendants of those enslaved was the focus of speeches at a worship service at Richmond’s Fifth Baptist Church, which was sponsored by the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity.

“So often we forget where we came from,” said Herbert Ponder, president of the ministers’ group that hosts the service each year. “Those of us here are charged with sharing this story with generations to come.”

The story of struggle for civil rights, human right and economic rights was recounted by those representing central Virginia’s NAACP chapters, ministerial leaders and elected officials.

“It was just yesterday that we could not eat anywhere our appetites called for,” said J. Rayfield Vines, president of the Henrico County Branch of the NAACP. The civil rights leader questioned whether African-Americans were better people when they were segregated than they are today and “live in the suburbs.”

His comments were echoed by the keynote speaker, Wallace Charles Smith, president of Palmer Baptist Seminary and senior minister Washington, DC’s Shiloh Baptist Church.

In his message “A World Beyond Babylon,” Smith likened the experience of the some Israelites in Babylon in 587 B.C. to African-Americans today, many of whom became too caught up in benefits of their freedom and may have forgotten the role that God played in that freedom.

“Somebody might give you a new name, but remember who you are,” Smith said.

The audience for Washington pastor’s rousing address was much smaller than that which typically fills the first floor of the Fifth Baptist sanctuary.

It was reported that Richmond received as much as three inches of rain on Monday (January 1). As the audience for this service steeped in its traditions of the black church with spirited traditional gospel music tends to include an older demographic, it’s likely the inclement weather forced many to pass on this annual event.