5 years ago

Joey Kennedy & the Death Spiral of American Journalism

A Gallup survey last week stated the obvious: Americans no longer trust the media. As a matter of fact, distrust in the media is soaring to new heights. “Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” Gallup’s Lymari Morales said. “Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004.” Morales continues further, “Independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008, suggesting the group that is most closely divided between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is quite dissatisfied with its ability to get fair and accurate news coverage of this election.”

In spite of the public outcry, most media operations don’t seem to see the value in making sure both sides of the political spectrum get equal billing. Every other industry responds to market forces — however reluctant they may be to do so (e.g. the music industry). But for whatever reason, the traditional news media would rather die than acknowledge their shrinking audience is tuning them out.

Enter Joey Kennedy, the Birmingham News’ Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer who later this month will become their Community Engagement Specialist (huh?):

Digital media is obviously playing a huge role in the decline of tradition media, and many news organizations are playing catch-up. But Kennedy’s really excited about the News’ new digital effort…

“Make journalism new…” What exactly does he mean by that? I’m fairly certain he means they’re trying new ways to deliver their content. Great — that’s a step in the right direction. But what if that’s not the only issue? Better yet, what if that’s not even the primary issue to consider when addressing a collapse in readership? Has it not occurred to anyone that the problem may be the actual content, not just the method of delivery?

Let’s start with immigration. Roughly 3/4 of Alabamians are in favor of Alabama’s immigration law. Mr. Kennedy certainly does not count himself among the ignorant, racist 75%. “It’s all the worst of Alabama stereotypes. It’s a cruel law… It’s impossible to comprehend… It’s like dropping an atomic bomb on a quonset hut.” Kennedy explains in the video below. And if you’ve read any of Kennedy’s pieces in the News, you know that’s the position he takes over and over and over and over and over… I could go on and on, the links are endless.

If you ran a sandwich shop, how long could you stay open if you called 3 out of every 4 people who walked in the door a cruel, ignorant bigot?

But immigration is far from the only issue Kennedy splits with the vast majority of Alabamians on. He breaks with 60+% of Alabamians and makes it well known that he’s in the tank for President Obama as well…

…and throws in a quick shot at Romney’s religion while he’s at it. It’s not bigoted though, of course.

Then he flips into full MSNBC-mode and takes on voter ID laws that are — again — supported by the vast majority of his readers. He also couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Republican Party while he’s at it…

Then he pulls a Craig Ford and calls out southern white males — who also incidentally happen to make up a good chunk of his readership…

He even somehow manages to find a way to fit global warming junk science into his Twitter conversation…

And to close it all out — as if on cue — Kennedy showcases the type of arrogant confusion that has come to define the newspaper industry’s denial over their loss of readership:

With all of this on display, it’s no wonder Gallup’s Morales concludes “Republicans…express the least trust in the media, while Democrats express the most.” And at the News, there is not a single voice on the right to temper Kennedy’s far left-wing rants. Not one. Until the Birmingham News and other outlets suck it up and give conservatives a seat at the Editorial Board table, they will continue being active participants in the death spiral of American journalism.

Bottom line:

Birmingham News: give us a CONSERVATIVE voice who’s just as opinionated and obnoxious as Joey Kennedy. All we want is ONE.


2 hours ago

LISTEN: Yellowhammer’s Jeff Poor discusses Trump firing Mueller possibilities, Early stages of gubernatorial race

Wednesday on Birmingham’s Superstation 101 WYDE’s “The Line,” Breitbart.tv editor and Yellowhammer News contributing writer Jeff Poor discussed the day’s news with host Andrew McLain.

During the segment, Poor talked about reports President Donald Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller and how those could have been trial balloons meant to gauge public opinion and to get a reaction from members of Congress.

He also discussed the gubernatorial election and how we are seeing the initial stages of the campaign.

(Sign-up for our daily newsletter here and never miss another article from Yellowhammer News.)

15 hours ago

Alabama House rejects bill to track race in traffic stops

Alabama lawmakers on Thursday refused to debate legislation that would have required police officers to collect data about race and traffic stops.

The bill sought to require police agencies to record data about the race and ethnicity of stopped motorists. The Alabama Senate had unanimously approved the measure, but it hit a roadblock in the Alabama House of Representatives.


Representatives in the GOP-controlled House overwhelmingly voted down a procedural measure needed to bring the bill up for debate. The House vote was largely split along racial and party lines. Only five Republicans voted for the measure.

“After the vote, Democratic Rep. Merika Coleman from Pleasant Grove said lawmakers were sending a message that, “Bama is still backwards.”

Coleman said the bill collects data to determine if there are problems.

“When you vote against a bill that simply collects data, just data on who is being stopped, why they are being stopped and who is stopping them, there is something wrong with that,” Coleman said.

African-American lawmakers had shared stories of being stopped by police during debate on the bill as it moved through the Alabama Legislature.

The bill’s defeat sparked a filibuster by African-American legislators and threatened to cloud the remainder of the session. It eroded warm feelings that had filled the chamber moments earlier when lawmakers broke out in applause after voting to create a state holiday honoring civil rights icon honoring Rosa Parks.

The bill drew opposition from some law enforcement representatives who said departments already have policies against racial profiling and the bill would require additional paperwork.

Rep. Connie Rowe, a former police chief, said she was concerned that officers, assigned to work in mostly minority neighborhoods, could wrongly appear to be targeting minorities if the data was collected.

Rep. Allen Farley, a former assistant Jefferson County sheriff, was one of the Republicans who voted for the bill.

“This to me protects the good guys,” Farley, a Republican from McCalla, said. Farley said bad officers need to be identified.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, who voted against the bill, said he wanted to meet with lawmakers to see if they could work out a compromise plan.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

15 hours ago

Jeana Ross is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

An Alabama program called First Class Pre-K is seeing such extraordinary results that Harvard University is producing a documentary about the effort and more than 30,000 four-year-olds were pre-registered last year in hopes of snagging one of the less than 17,000 available spots state-wide.

The program is overseen by Alabama Secretary of Early Education Jeana Ross, a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, who has seen First Class Pre-K’s attendance increase by 374 percent under her leadership, while maintaining the highest possible ranking for quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

Alabama hosts the program in more than 950 classrooms statewide and is one of only two states to meet all 10 of the institute’s quality benchmarks.


Ross told Yellowhammer News that the most rewarding part of her work is seeing firsthand the impact that skilled teachers can make, inspiring “a sense of wonder, joy, creativity, achievement and success” in a student’s learning.

“I care about children and their right to reach their greatest potential,” Ross said. “Education can and should provide children a powerful opportunity to find purpose and success for their future lives.”

Studies measuring results from tests such as the Alabama Reading and Math Test and the ACT found that First Class Pre-K alumni outperformed their peers who did not attend the program, according to the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.

Ross helped secure a $77.5 million preschool development grant to help fund the state-funded program, which also requires local communities to provide at least 25 percent of the funding to participate.

Also under her leadership, the Office of Early Learning and Family Support division of her department has expanded to serve 4,289 vulnerable families and children through more than $12 million in federal awards.

In all, Ross has led her department in writing and receiving federal grant awards totaling more than $100 million.

She attributes much of her success to the partnerships she has built with other groups serving children and families in Alabama to build a cohesive support system.

“My success has been achieved in a collective effort of devoted educators who, regardless of pay or recognition, work to create experiences where children enjoy through natural curiosity and joyful exploration a love of learning that lasts a lifetime,” Ross said.

Ross is a member of Governor Kay Ivey’s cabinet and was appointed by Governor Bentley in 2012. She advises the governor and state legislature in matters relating to the coordination of services for children under the age of 19 and, among her divisions, also oversees the Children’s Policy Councils, the Children First Trust Fund and the Head Start Collaboration office.

Ross previously served in a variety of education roles in Alabama, including as a central office administrator, assistant principal and classroom teacher. She holds a master’s degree in education leadership from the University of Alabama and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from UAB.

“My hope for education in Alabama is for every child to have a competent, sensitive and responsive teacher every day, every year,” Ross said.

As other states look to Ross’s success in Alabama’s early education, she offered three recommendations in a 2017 U.S. Department of Education interview:

“Set high-quality standards, communicate what those are, and demonstrate what they look like; involve parents, businesses and industry leaders in the initiative; and provide supports such as coaching and monitoring to maintain quality,” she said.

Ross and her husband live in Guntersville and Montgomery and have two adult sons and two grandchildren.

Join Ross and special guests from across the state for a Birmingham awards event March 29 honoring the 20 Yellowhammer Women of Impact whose powerful contributions advance Alabama. Details and registration may be found here.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.

16 hours ago

Reward offered in 6-year-old case of Baby Jane Doe

Police found the bones of a little girl six years ago in an Alabama trailer park right next to a long-sleeve pink shirt with heart buttons and a ruffled neckline.

The unidentified girl in the unsolved homicide case has been dubbed Baby Jane Doe. The Lee County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to an involved person’s conviction.


Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes says authorities can begin holding perpetrators accountable once the child is identified.

Opelika Detective Sgt. Alfred White says they have the child’s DNA, but nothing to compare it to. The Opelika-Auburn News reports that police suspect the girl suffered abuse and malnutrition. Police Chief John McEachern says the girl could have easily spent her entire life in captivity.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

16 hours ago

Alabama Secretary of State to Facebook: ‘Don’t say you helped us with something if you didn’t help’

Secretary of State John Merrill challenged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s revelation that his company helped disrupt the spreading of false information during Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election last December, telling Yellowhammer News that he has been shown no evidence to support Zuckerberg’s claim.

In an interview published Thursday, Zuckerberg revealed to the New York Times that his company targeted and eliminated a “significant number of fake Macedonian accounts that were trying to spread false news” about Alabama’s election.

Merrill’s office spoke with Facebook’s Government and Politics Team on Thursday to follow up about Zuckerberg’s claims.


“We said, ‘we don’t know what you’re talking about.’ We wanted one specific example,” Merrill said.

Just a week before the election in December, a deceptive campaign ad implying that voters’ ballot selections would be made public was spread on Google and Facebook. Merrill’s office contacted both Google and Facebook and asked for the ad to be removed. Google removed it, but Facebook did not.

Merrill said Facebook never responded about the ad.

“We believe that people in each state need to have accurate information that’s truthful,” Merrill said. “If [Facebook] can’t use their platform for that, they shouldn’t allow that kind of content be published.”

He continued, “For future races, I think it’s important that Facebook be available to address serious issues, for candidates, for officials, and be responsive in that they hear what the accusations are and evaluate merits of the claim.”

Facebook is receiving pressure from all sides after recent reports revealed that it allowed Cambridge Analytica, a private data firm associated with President Donald Trump’s campaign, to mine data of more than 50 million of the platform’s users without their permission.

Merrill said that he hopes the pressure will lead to some change.

“I think they’ll be more responsive,” he said. “The people will hold them more accountable. I hope people will hold them more accountable.”

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News