Many Alabamians probably do not realize it, but three of the state's four largest markets are served by newspapers owned by the same company, Newhouse.
The Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press-Register all come under the Newhouse flag. They all come under the Alabama Live Web site (Al.com). And they all come under blistering fire from Scott Horton of Harper's who says the papers' coverage shaped the Don Siegelman prosecution.
In fact, the recent press release from Louis Franklin, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, confirmed the importance of Newhouse papers in the Siegelman saga. Franklin said several times that it was investigative reporting by Eddie Curran, of the Mobile Press-Register, that sparked the Siegelman investigation, not any pushing from Karl Rove or the White House.
Now, I have no problem with aggressive reporting, of Republicans or Democrats. In fact, I welcome it. But Horton makes a good point when he states that Alabama newspapers are curiously timid now that the U.S. Attorneys scandal is focusing on Alabama, thanks largely to Dana Jill Simpson's affidavit related to the Siegelman case.
As Horton states, the U.S. Attorneys scandal is the biggest domestic story in the country at the moment. And it is focused right here in Alabama. But the state's three Newhouse papers have hardly distinguished themselves with aggressive reporting. Horton notes that he currently is in Great Britain, and the U.S. Attorneys story is receiving major play there.
I would add a couple of points about the Alabama press, based on my experience from contacting papers regarding the wrongdoing I've witnessed by multiple Republican judges:
* I would add the Montgomery Advertiser to Horton's list of dishonor. That paper is owned by Ganett, and it too seems to have no stomach for even looking into Republican wrongdoing that is right under its nose. About two years ago, I contacted veteran reporter Bob Lowry and executive editor Wanda Lloyd. Neither showed any interest in looking into the story, which by that point, included unlawful rulings by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, which is in Montgomery. Ms. Lloyd is an African-American woman with an impressive resume (stints at Washington Post, USA Today), and her hiring was hailed as a positive sign of change. But I see no evidence that she has put any bite into the Advertiser's news coverage. More recently, I contacted reporter Mike Linn at the Advertiser, and he seemed interested in the story. But he quickly quit returning my e-mails, making me think he was told to let it go.
* I've e-mailed Eddie Curran at least twice about my story. I'm still waiting for a response. I know at least one of the e-mails was after unlawful rulings in my case by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court, making it a statewide story. Perhaps Mr. Curran was tied up with other things at the time. I will give him another chance to sink his teeth into a meaty story, much like he did with the Siegelman story. By the way, here is an interesting story that gives an idea of the intensity with which Curran approached the Siegelman story.