Monday, September 19, 2011

Has Mainstream Journalism Officially Died in Alabama?

Bob Lowry (left) with
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers

Bob Lowry, perhaps the last real mainstream journalist in Alabama, is out of a job. That should concern every citizen who thinks that reporting plays a critical role in our democracy.

Lowry, who started his journalism career in 1977, most recently was Montgomery bureau chief for The Huntsville Times. But the Times has closed its bureau, and Lowry came to an agreement to leave the paper. That means the fourth largest city in Alabama, and one of the nation's premier centers for high-tech and space-related industry, will have no one covering the state capital.

Even more alarming are signs that Lowry's ouster might have been part of a political hit. As regular Schnauzer readers know, I too am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience, and I was unlawfully fired from my job as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked for 19 years. Did something similar happen to Bob Lowry?

It's not just my opinion that I was fired for unlawful political reasons that violate the First Amendment and other federal/state laws. I have absolute proof, in the form of a tape-record conversation with a UAB human-resources official named Anita Bonasera. It's indisputable that I was targeted because of the content on this blog about the Don Siegelman case; Bonasera admits that. Here is how I've reported on the tape in a previous post:

So why was I really fired? The answer is obvious in a three-minute audiotape of a conversation I had with UAB human-resources official Anita Bonasera a few days after I had been placed on administrative leave. I had been told that I could file a written response to the charges against me, and I called Bonasera with several questions about that process. In the first part of the audio I try to explain the nature of my job description, addressing charges that I had engaged in excessive "non work-related activity." From about the 1:50 to 2:10 mark, Bonasera admits that I was targeted because of my blog, especially its content about the Don Siegelman case. You can listen to the tape here: 
Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case

That gives you some insight into Alabama's political environment over the past few years, and I have an ongoing federal lawsuit about my termination. How might this ugly environment apply to Bob Lowry's exit at The Huntsville Times? Lowry has signed a separation agreement with the newspaper and is not able to discuss what took place. But we see signs that he might have been targeted by Alabama's GOP thugs.

For one, Lowry was perhaps the only mainstream journalist in Alabama who reported seriously and wrote critically about the Bob Riley administration. It has been reported in several venues that Riley contacted higher ups at the Huntsville paper in an effort to get Lowry off his back.

For another, Lowry has written critically about state representative Mike Hubbard, a staunch Riley ally and now speaker of the Alabama House. In early August, Hubbard made a well-publicized trip to Huntsville for a speech and a tour of high-tech facilities. Not long after that, word leaked about the Times' plans to close the Montgomery bureau and send Bob Lowry packing.

Is that a coincidence? Given what I know about the habits of Republican thugs in Alabama, I would say it is not.

The whole story leaves me with two thoughts:

* I hope Bob Lowry finds a new outlet for his reporting and writing skills. Alabama desperately needs him;

* I hope someone eventually teaches the Riley/Hubbard crowd that it's a real bad idea to screw around with people's jobs. Victims don't take kindly to it--and some are liable to fight back in a ferocious fashion.

This reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. He just released a new CD, his sixth solo effort, and it's called Seeds we Sow. Political thugs in Alabama, and elsewhere, have been sowing some bad seeds in recent years. And we suspect the bad guys eventually are going to reap an unpleasant harvest. We would suggest that the thugs check out the lyrics to the title track from Buckingham's new album. They carry a lot of meaning. And here is a live performance of the song, from the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California:


Molli said...

This is a shame. I hope the best for Bob Lowry and hope like he$$ that he can continue with his journalistic skill to print the true Alabama stories. Very sad when politicians determine what is written and moreover who is allowed to work. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Lowry. As you know Roger, he probably got too close to the truth.

Max Shelby said...

That huge swooshing sound is the one being made by the cavernous hole left in the atmosphere of any semblance of investigative journalism existing in Alabama in mainstream outlets.
Mr. Lowry was top shelf.
Clearly not in step with the lower rungs of most of Alabama's mainstream media.
What a damn shame.

jeffrey spruill said...

Normal folk will never believe what lengths & hoops the corporate media & establishment political figures will go to keep the truth from raisng(to them)its ugly head.


The sale of the Weather Channel is part of a larger breakup of Landmark, a privately held company controlled by the Batten family of Norfolk, Va. Landmark is seeking to sell its other holdings, like its daily newspapers. Among those are The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C.

Mr. Schnauzer:

If Ms. Bonasera admits that you were targeted because of your blog,(it would seem) that's all the evidence you need.


James Greek said...

Maybe they are just trying to cut back to save money.

jeffrey spruill said...

Believe me. Frank Batten Jr. did not want to get rid of the "Weather Channel."

Buddy Walker- security for the Va. Pilot- asked me to meet him at Norfolk's Miltary Circle- Dec.28,2004- after David Bouchard Esq. told me I was "digging my own grave" Dec.22,2004.

jeffrey spruill said...

Virginian-Pilot's editor to retire

Published: January 7, 2005

NORFOLK - Kay Tucker Addis , who has led news coverage of The Virginian-Pilot for the past eight years , and her husband, local columnist Dave Addis , will retire on March 1, publisher D.R. Carpenter III announced Thursday.january6,2005

The pair combined for 57 years of service with Landmark Communications Inc. , The Virginian-Pilot's parent company. No successors have been named.

Kay Addis, The Virginian-Pilot's ...
The first e-mail, dated Jan. 6, 2005, is from a White House counsel's office assistant. It indicates that Rove had stopped by that office to ask lawyer David Leitch whether a decision had been made to keep the U.S. attorneys in their jobs. The e-mail does not suggest that Rove advocated one outcome over another.

jeffrey spruill said...

Now I understand what David Bouchard Esq. meant when he told me on -- May3,2001 -- that "I was getting FBI agents fired."

May 1, 2001: (At 4:15 a.m., a neighbor heard screams outside Levy's apartment building and called 911 at 4:37 a.m. Police responded but found nothing. There is no reason to believe this is related to the case since police seem pretty certain Chandra was in her apartment using her computer later that morning.)

Condit met with Vice President Cheney at 12:30 p.m. for a private meeting lasting about 20 minutes. The meeting was over by 1:00 PM.