Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Double Standard at The Birmingham News?

Does Alabama's largest newspaper have a double standard when it comes to reporting on corruption by public officials? Does The Birmingham News react one way when it gets a tip about wrongdoing by a Democrat and react another way when it gets a tip about wrongdoing by a Republican?

Let's take a look.

Consider my earlier post, where I outlined my efforts to interest the News in a story about my experiences with corrupt Republican judges in Alabama. Over a four- or five-year period, I contacted at least a half dozen different reporters and editors at the News. Not one of them even looked at the story.

Now let's look at how the News reacted when it received tips about wrongdoing in Alabama's two-year-colleges system. This story involved mostly wrongdoing by Democrats, and reporter Brett Blackledge jumped on the story and eventually earned a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. According to the News' own accounts of its coverage, Blackledge spent five months researching the problem before ever writing a story. The story was driven by tips from citizens with information about wrongdoing in the two-year-college system. One man brought Blackledge a box full of documents and records.

Evidently Blackledge actually looked at the records. Evidently he actually talked to the tipsters and asked them relevant questions. Those are the things a good reporter does.

But why is the News not interested in a corruption story that has far more impact on Alabamians than its series about the two-year-college system? I have information about corruption by state judges from the lowest level (district court) to the highest level (Supreme Court) in the system. We're talking about one-third of Alabama's government. And we are talking about federal crimes, particularly honest services mail fraud (one of the charges for which Don Siegelman was prosecuted). Is that a bigger story than the one about the two-year-college system? I think most people would say yes.

So why is Alabama's award-winning newspaper not interested in even looking at the story? I can come to only one conclusion: One story involves wrongdoing by Democrats and the other involves wrongdoing by Republicans. And the News is an avowedly conservative paper. Also, it appears to be particularly protective of certain constituencies, such as Briarwood Presbyterian Church, which as I noted in a previous post, has some curious connections to the bogus lawsuit that was filed against me.

It's one thing to be conservative on the editorial page. But to allow your particular brand of conservatism to so color your news coverage that you ignore wrongdoing in your own backyard . . . well, no wonder newspapers are consistently losing readers.

From where I sit, Alabama's news coverage is as politicized as the Bush Justice Department appears to be. (By the way, the News is not alone in ignoring this story; the Montgomery Advertiser, the Mobile Register, and others also seem to be lacking spine. The story originated in the News' backyard. But it has grown to involve wrongdoing in Alabama's appellate courts, making it a statewide story.)

Is news coverage in Alabama politicized? If anyone cares to offer another explanation, I'm all ears.

Either way, followers of Legal Schnauzer will be able to follow the story that The Birmingham News chooses to ignore.

No comments: