2 years ago

An inside look at Yellowhammer four years after its founding

Yellowhammer News

Early Days

Yellowhammer was founded four years ago this week by Cliff Sims, then a University of Alabama student who had returned to school after several years of touring around the country as the lead singer of a band whose songs were featured on MTV and in major motion pictures.

Sims says he decided to launch the site as his personal blog after getting politically involved for the first time during the 2010 election cycle.

“After leaving the music industry to work on a State House campaign during the 2010 election cycle,” he explained, “I felt like there was a void in the marketplace that could be filled by a conservative voice telling people what was really going on in Montgomery. My plan was to leverage the relationships I had built during the Republican takeover of the legislature to keep people informed.”

The site’s early days focused almost exclusively on state politics, particularly the behind-the-scenes machinations of the State House. “Rumors and Rumblings,” a weekly State House gossip column, quickly made the blog one of the go-to sources of information for elected officials, staffers and lobbyists on Goat Hill.

“Rumors and Rumblings was proof that Yellowhammer had the connections and sources inside state government to deliver what was really going on,” recalls State Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia), who has served in the legislature since 2004. “We all read it every week.”

Sims said he could tell early on that he had attracted a small but loyal readership in Montgomery, but did not realize it had grown much further than that until he found out one of his professors was using it to prepare for classroom discussions.

“One of my political science professors was discussing an issue being debated in the legislature and using it to help students better understand the legislative process,” Sims recalls. “At one point he stopped and encouraged the class to read Yellowhammer to get more details.

“I’m not sure he ever found out he was citing one of his students,” he laughed.

In February of 2012, Yellowhammer published its first Power and Influence 40, which it described as “a list of the 40 most powerful and influential players in state politics.” The list gave readers a “peek behind the curtain,” an opportunity to see who, in addition to the elected officials, was really running the state.

The site’s popularity boomed with the release of the list, and further growth came when Sims’ coverage expanded to include Alabama’s congressional delegation.

Transition and Growth

Yellowhammer had grown to the point that Sims began viewing it as a viable longterm business with significant expansion potential. In 2013, the site was renamed “Yellowhammer News” and Sims began hiring staff to bolster both the content and business sides of the company. In January of 2014, the site garnered 1 million monthly unique visitors for the first time.

Yellowhammer News’ coverage continued to broaden to include, in Sims’ words, “all things Alabama,” from faith and culture stories, to business, and even some sports. But politics remains the site’s bread and butter.

“Many of our most viral posts have come from our faith and culture section,” said Sims. “These stories often have an uplifting message or present what we call the ‘real’ Alabama — the Alabama the mainstream media often ignore. But our political coverage is what made us the state’s most trusted news source, and that will always be a big part of what sets us apart.”

Today, Yellowhammer employs nine full-time and contract staffers, along with a contributor network that includes economists, professors, policy experts and analysts.

Radio Expansion

Yellowhammer News Radio Network

In March of 2015, Yellowhammer expanded its footprint into terrestrial radio by launching a syndicated radio show that airs across central and north Alabama. Sims co-hosts the show with longtime conservative senator Scott Beason, who left office in 2014 and is now senior policy advisor for the Alabama Free Market Alliance, in addition to his work for Yellowhammer.

“Radio is a powerful medium because of the relationship that develops between the hosts and the listeners,” said Beason. “People are overwhelmed with so much information these days; they’re looking for people they trust to help them make sense of it all. Yellowhammer News does that online, and now we’re able to do that on Yellowhammer Radio.”

In June of 2015, Yellowhammer News eclipsed three million unique visitors in a single month for the first time.

In September, the company expanded its radio presence by launching the Yellowhammer News Radio Network, which provides top and bottom of the hour news updates on stations all over the state.

Yellowhammer hired Alabama Broadcaster of the Year Andrea Tice and longtime Alabama news stalwart Jay Holland to lead the effort.

“Radio news is my first love,” said Holland. “The Yellowhammer News Radio Network is, like its web-based counterpart, fresh, bold, unafraid and proud of Alabama. I am very excited about the network’s future and contributing to what I believe is a very credible, reliable news source for Alabamians, about Alabamians, by Alabamians.”

Leland Whaley, station manager for WYDE, which carries both radio products, said the station’s partnership with Yellowhammer is a perfect example of how terrestrial radio stations can provide additional value for their listeners.

“Live and local is the future of talk radio and Yellowhammer gives us both national and state news from reporters based in Alabama,” he said. “The breaking news gathering capability of Yellowhammer combined with our 100,000 watt FM signal is very powerful for our listeners. This is new, digital media meets the traditional power of radio.”

Advertisers have responded as well. Yellowhammer Radio with Cliff Sims and Scott Beason and the Yellowhammer News Radio Network have already attracted advertisers from a wide variety of industries, from financial institutions and universities to hunting lodges and gun stores.

The show offers 30-second and 60-second ads, as well as host endorsement opportunities. The statewide news network includes 2 minutes of news at the top and bottom of each hour, followed by one minute of advertising.

“These two radio products have given us the ability to serve local advertisers, national brands and everything in between,” said Ryan Boggus, Yellowhammer’s chief operating officer. “With the Yellowhammer News Radio Network, companies looking to reach a statewide audience can do that — from Mobile to Huntsville — at a fraction of the cost, on a hard news product that consumers trust.

“With Yellowhammer Radio with Cliff Sims and Scott Beason,” Boggus continued, “local companies in central and north Alabama can also reach a passionate audience who wants to support the companies that make their favorite radio show possible. It’s proven to be a great platform.”


The crowd mingles at the 2015 Yellowhammer Power of Service event (Photo: Grady Thornton)
The crowd mingles at the 2015 Yellowhammer Power of Service event (Photo: Grady Thornton)

In addition to the online news site and the radio platforms, Yellowhammer has also begun hosting events.

2015’s inaugural “Power of Service” reception honored state leaders who have leveraged their influence to have a positive impact on Alabama. Several hundred elected officials, business leaders, media personalities and activists came together for the event at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort in suburban Birmingham.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was honored for his contribution to the school choice movement and Protective Life CEO Johnny Johns was honored for leading his company’s significant charitable efforts.

In February of next year, Yellowhammer will return to Ross Bridge to host the Alabama Economic Growth Summit. The two-day event will celebrate Alabama’s recent economic development successes and spur the state toward being the country’s most attractive state for business.

“We want to use the Yellowhammer platforms to push the state forward,” said Boggus. “We see these events as an opportunity to bring together our audience, which includes many of the state’s most influential leaders, to help make the state we love become an even better place to live and raise our families.”

The Future

With millions of readers and listeners, Yellowhammer has managed to develop a growing business in an industry in which more established companies have faltered in recent years.

“It comes down to trust,” said Boggus. “We have been fortunate to grow a large and loyal audience because maintaining their trust is our top priority. Other sites have chased clicks; we have taken a more longterm approach.”

Boggus believes that strategy will pay off when Yellowhammer rolls out the products it is currently developing.

“Our growth has caught a lot of people by surprise. Even Cliff will say he never expected Yellowhammer to become what it is today when he was typing out articles between classes,” he joked. “The Internet has revolutionized the way people consume information, but the need for reliable news will always exist. We plan to be on the cutting edge of how news is consumed in Alabama for years to come.”

(Video below: “This is Yellowhammer”)

For more information contact Ryan Boggus at rboggus(at)yellowhammernews(dot)com.

50 mins ago

More than 100 conservatives call for Jordan to run for Speaker

A coalition of more than 100 conservatives sent a letter to House Freedom Caucus (HFC) co-founder Jim Jordan Monday urging him to throw his name in to replace outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

“There must be a real race for Speaker of the House. Now. No backroom deals. A real race, starting this spring, to make every incumbent and candidate commit on the record, as a campaign issue, whether they’ll vote to save the Swamp or drain it,” the letter reads. “America needs you to declare yourself as a candidate for Speaker at once. We write to you on behalf of millions of Americans who want Congress to Drain the Swamp.”

Ryan rattled Capitol Hill in April when he announced he will retire from the House after nearly 20 years in Congress, telling reporters he wanted to spend more time with his family and pursue other opportunities.


Two of the top House Republicans — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana — are angling for the position, but neither thought to have a guaranteed lock on the speakership.

McCarthy failed to garner the 218 required votes to become speaker in 2015, but his particularly close relationship with the president has some expecting that, along with Ryan’s full fledged endorsement, it will give him an upper hand over Scalise in the coming months.

Scalise wouldn’t rule out a potential bid for Ryan’s job but is also adamant he would not run against McCarthy, who he considers a “good friend,” he said in March.

Yet, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who is best friends with Jordan, might have the closest relationship with the president over any other member of Congress. During a speech Thursday in which Jordan appeared to preview a bid for the speakership, Jordan joked that Meadows was in the back, taking a phone call from the president, which Meadows is known to do on a regular basis.

The letter Jordan received Monday from conservatives echoes a great deal of what the congressman has said himself since Ryan announced his retirement. Namely, Jordan is adamant that Republicans need to get back to accomplishing what they promised voters during the 2016 election cycle, like dealing with immigration, border security, repealing and replacing Obamacare and stopping out-of-control spending.

Jordan’s response to questions about the speaker’s race have been the same since the day TheDCNF first reported the growing wave of support for his candidacy: there is no speaker’s race, and we need to focus on the issues.

Conservatives are pushing back against Jordan’s assertion that there isn’t an ongoing race to replace Ryan.

“To those who say there is no Speaker’s race at the moment, we say that it’s already underway – in back rooms, behind closed doors, and aimed at preserving the Swamp and making it bigger. The Speaker’s race must be public.  There will be no Republican Speaker in 2019 unless the GOP can appeal to those Americans in its own ranks, among independents and even many Democrats who voted for Donald Trump to drain the Swamp and for the current Republican-led House to help him do that,” the letter reads.

“The present House Republican leadership has failed. It is part of the problem. You are the solution. This is your moment.  We pray you will seize it, knowing that if you do, we will do everything we can to help you succeed.”

The HFC is no stranger to putting leadership on notice.

Jordan, Meadows and HFC members shot down a farm bill in order to secure a vote on an immigration proposal they were promised months ago.

Ryan and McCarthy huddled with Meadows and Jordan in the back of the House chamber before the final gavel Friday, but their 11th-hour attempts were unable to sway the conservative members.

The bill failed with members voting 198-213, dealing a decisive blow to leadership.

Friday’s vote is evidence the HFC has the leverage to sway major policy issues, given the power of the caucus’ 36 members’ votes. If the caucus votes as a coalition, they can kill a bill or get concessions from leadership.

Many believe Jordan’s bid would be to get concessions from either McCarthy or Scalise, but Ryan still has the rest of the year as speaker. That is, if he isn’t pressured to step down earlier.

McCarthy’s folks are reportedly nervous about the potential heat he will take in a drawn out speaker’s race if Ryan decides to stay through the November midterm elections, which he has promised he intends to do.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

2 hours ago

Hightower runs for Alabama governor on flat tax, term limits

State Sen. Bill Hightower is stressing his background as a businessman as he runs for governor on a sweeping platform of government overhauls that includes term limits for legislators and replacing the state income tax code with a flat tax.

The Mobile Republican says he believes long-serving politicians have become the “enemy of improvement” in Montgomery.

Hightower’s platform includes limiting legislators to three consecutive terms, establishing a flat tax income tax and ending budgetary earmarks. Legislators would have to approve the measures.


Hightower is challenging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in the June 5 Republican primary along with evangelist Scott Dawson and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

A relative newcomer in state politics, Hightower was first elected to the Alabama Senate in a 2013 special election.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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

2 hours ago

Canary responds to YH News

In recent months, there have been ongoing and coordinated efforts to paint the Business Council of Alabama as an ineffective and financially troubled organization. These attacks are maliciously false.

Those attacking our organization for their own political purposes are resorting to extreme lengths to undermine our organization. They continue to sling one baseless attack after another and hope something sticks.

This tactic was seen in Thursday’s Yellowhammer News editorial that looked at the BCA’s 2016 IRS Form 990 and made the determination that the BCA’s financial health “could be in jeopardy.” Once again, this is a claim that is simply not true.


In describing themselves the Yellowhammer News asserts in its Declaration: Our Philosophy. Our Principles. Our Promises…states: “We will abide by the letter and spirit of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, developing content with both integrity and perspective.” Somehow this article fell short of that pledge by distorting the facts and knowingly asserting a premise that is false.

Information on a Form 990 does not show an organization’s ongoing financial health. The BCA finished 2016 with a balanced operating budget and a surplus. The BCA has zero debt and more than one-year’s operating budget in reserves. Hardly the picture of a crumbling organization.

One must ask the question – is this election year politics at its worst? Over the last several years, the BCA has built one of the largest political war chests in the state. Legislative success happens when the right people are elected, and that’s what our political action is all about – electing pro-job candidates who understand the issues and are not afraid to step up and lead Alabama in the right direction.

As a business advocacy organization, we continue to look to the future to create a climate in Alabama for new and existing businesses to locate or expand. Past success is no guarantee, but it does demonstrate how a united business community can accomplish worthwhile goals.

As BCA Chairman Perry Hand has said, “We will not be intimidated into bad decision making.” We know all too well that when you are relevant, you put yourself in the crosshairs, and that’s exactly where we are today.

From a national platform, the BCA is Alabama’s exclusive representative to the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here in Alabama, the BCA represents the interests and concerns of nearly 1 million working Alabamians through its member companies that include businesses of all sizes and virtually every segment of Alabama’s business community-from manufacturing to retail, agriculture to financial services and many, more. Our organization is a deliberative body guided by our by-laws and our legislative agenda that is developed by our active members of all sizes.

The BCA’s legislative agenda is adopted by our board of directors annually in advance of every legislative session and focuses on improving major areas that impact every single business in Alabama: Education/Workforce, Healthcare, Infrastructure and Regulations. Fortunately, we have a governor and legislative leaders who are focused on improving Alabama’s standing in all these areas. Just as in year’s past, we will not be deterred by election year smear tactics.

The BCA’s guiding force is as important today as when first envisioned in 1985 when the BCA was created: We work together to create a vibrant economic climate and an educated workforce. These are the keys to creating and sustaining jobs for employees and their families.

William J. Canary is the president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.

3 hours ago

Dawson: Statements about Gov Ivey ‘dangerous move’ that could ‘tank the election’

Scott Dawson, a Republican candidate for the governor of Alabama, criticized Gov. Kay Ivey and a state agency last week, for funding that went to an Alabama based LGBTQ non-profit organization. Since then, it seems as if the gubernatorial race in Alabama has been turned upside down.

In his statement Tuesday, Dawson said, “Let me be clear. The Ivey administration has betrayed Alabama values by giving nearly one million dollars of taxpayer dollars to Free2Be, an activist organization which promotes transgenderism and alternate lifestyles to Alabama’s children.”

ADECA, which administers the state’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was responsible for the allocation of funds to Free2Be.


According to ADECA, Free2Be has received nearly $1.7 million in grants from ADECA since September 2014.

Ivey responded to Dawson’s statements while at a luncheon in Tuscaloosa saying, “That’s nonsense.”

“I certainly don’t agree with the agenda or the values of that organization. The funding is federal funding. It’s been going on since 2014. There are no Alabama tax dollars involved,” Ivey told reporters.

When a reporter questioned Ivey on whether or not she was upset, Ivey responded, “Do I look upset?”

“Lookie here, he’s all over the board,” Ivey said. “He’s not getting any traction. He’s low in the polls. He’s three weeks away from the election. He’s getting desperate.”

Ivey is correct. When personal attacks are being hurled toward a rival, it signals desperation. And desperation this is. I was honestly shocked that Dawson would come forward with such bold accusations towards Ivey.

When a candidate is this close to the election, statements like these, that aren’t backed with sufficient and thorough investigation, should not be made.

During an appearance on Yellowhammer Radio’s “The Wake Up Call with Baylor and Hannah”, Dawson was questioned on his statements regarding the funding that is awarded to Free2Be.

“When we found it, we were like this just doesn’t look right, doesn’t look like it needs to be there,” Dawson said. “That’s when we started investigating the organization.”

Dawson reminded the audience that his intent in bringing up the funds was to warrant transparency for the state of Alabama.

He said, “This is just a statement about transparency. We need to make sure we know where our money is going, that we know why we are taking money, and how in the world these folks get $800,000 from ADECA.”

While I echo the statements Dawson makes here about transparency and ensuring that Alabamians know where their tax dollars are being spent, I must say that only a miniscule amount of research would have shown that ADECA grants are federally funded and in no way utilize tax payer dollars.

In closing the interview, Dawson said, “Quite honestly, you know, it was a dangerous move because it could just tank the election. I am just being forthright with you, but Alabama needs to know what’s going on in Alabama government.”

I think his comments did cost him the election. While I have great respect for Scott Dawson, I believe his coming forward with these statements was foolish. A lack of knowledge and research can really hurt you on the campaign trail and we are witnessing this right now.

It’s difficult for a GOP gubernatorial candidate to unseat a GOP incumbent who has, for the most part, had a good track record.

I understand the motive behind Dawson’s statements. That organization does not represent what most Alabamians see fit for a way of life. I just wish Dawson had gone about things differently and spent more time looking into the matter.

Dawson, along with everyone else running for office in America, should learn that research and getting the facts straight goes a long way. While it may be too late for Dawson, others should learn of the danger of proposing baseless investigations.

Ivey, who has received endorsement from the NRA, has shied from the public eye over the past few months. When you have a good track record as the head of Alabama, you can do these types of things. Since taking office, Gov. Ivey has not had a largely negative conflict.

Ivey’s objective in this election is to ride out her past successes in hopes of another four years as Alabama’s CEO and it might just work, so long as the unsubstantiated claims continue to be tossed her way.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and host of The Weekend Briefing that airs noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 101.1 WDYE

3 hours ago

Any politician not calling for a special session on school security is committing political malpractice

The most predictable thing in America is that we will have another school shooting soon. We don’t know where it will be, but it is coming.

Every delay in addressing these issues is another day closer to more dead kids, and an eventual mass casualty event in Alabama. We can talk about hardening targets via new construction, and limiting access to guns until we are blue in the face, but these things are either expensive or not happening.

Every politician in a heated race in Alabama should be calling for a special session on school safety. State Representative and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth is right on track with a real solution:


“Every school shooting that takes place in another state around the country brings us one step closer to an active shooter attacking classrooms here, in Alabama, so the governor would be wise to call a special session this summer,” Ainsworth said.  “Signs reading ‘Gun Free Zone’ are a magnet for those who wish to do harm, so we must provide teachers with the training, knowledge, and ability to defend their students with something more lethal than a ruler and a No. 2 pencil.”

Of course there is an ad as well:

Why this matters: This is good politics and good policy. The people have decided on this. The media can pretend all they want that people are torn on this, but they are not. Americans, and Alabamians especially, understand that there is nothing stopping shooters from walking into their kids’ school today and shooting it up. The idea that allowing teachers to carry makes a child less safe is laughable, the teacher willing to do harm is not stopped by a gun-free zone. Good teachers with guns, however, are following the law and the law is protecting school shooters.

The details:

— 69 percent of Republicans are in favor of allowing teachers to carry.

— 78 percent of parents would feel more safe, or just as safe, with their child’s teacher being armed.

— The media is lying and saying there have been 22 school shootings in 2018. They include accidental discharge of a firearm in their count.

— As of May 8th, Gov. Kay Ivey had not ruled out a special session, but she has not responded to Ainsworth’s call.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN