The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Friday, November 20, 2009

Newspapers...who needs 'em?

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Alabama Stonewall Democrats and heard Kyle Whitmire speak. Kyle writes for Birmingham Weekly but is a former reporter for The Western Star, and said his first interview there was with the mayor of Fairfield about a proposed theme park. Larry Langford.

He has covered Langford ever since, even providing moment to moment updates during the trial.

Kyle covered many subjects last night; Artur Davis and his dance around health care, Larry Langford,the Birmingham mayor's race, Larry Langford, the ever shrinking Birmingham News, Larry Langford...

No he really didn't spend that much time on Langford, but after years of focusing on the former mayor of two cities he couldn't stray too far.

The Birmingham News was discussed and the changes occuring there in the next few months were considered. The consensus was that all newspapers are suffering and that most people get their news from other sources. So who needs newspapers? Some of us still like to hold the paper in the morning and read it, but really most of my news still comes from internet sources.

But another interesting issue was brought up. The Birmingham News has never adequately acknowledged the role they played during the Civil Rights movement during the 1960's and the type of reporting they did. In that conversation ( the event was a discussion more than a lecture) he said he wondered why the Birmingham News (and I guess other newspapers as well) allow gays to be spoken of as less than human and in such derogatory terms (mainly in letters and opinions) when of course they would never allow race to be used in that way with the opinions that promoted slavery or such.

And it's true. It is a fact that one's sexuality is inherent, yet people are still allowed to proclaim that it is a choice. It is fact that everyone in our country is guaranteed equal rights by our Constitution, yet letter after letter say that we are less than equal. There are people out there who believe blacks are less than equal, and of course they don't print those letters and opinions. Why do they allow gays to be tossed around like they do?

(Those who read this blog know that I do not allow senseless comments about sexuality or any other subject to be published.)

And let's bring it closer to home. I feel fortunate to write for a paper that allows me to voice my opinions, and there is an agreement that allows me to submit my column on a weekly basis. I have a place in that newspaper.

For the past two months a reader has been submitting letters, long letters, some of which attacked me personally, some of which attacked the LGBT community, and some of which attacked our president. Then a letter appeared that was different. It thanked the paper for allowing him to express his views. In the weeks following that, long letters have been printed describing the founding of our nation, and the writing of the Constitution. We know where this is heading. This writer has accused me and other democrats and the president of being communists, and has stated that we are working to destroy the constitution and the country, and has done so in an almost prophesy like manner.

His latest history lessons are just a prelude to how Obama is destroying the country and a rant about healthcare. We know what is coming. The letter writer's views are McCarthiest, and he is a radical. He is known in the community and is not respected.

Why would the newspaper allow itself to be used by such a person? Even though the issues are different, it is almost like allowing a known KKK leader to publish week after week his radical and hateful views. But the letters keep appearing.

The funny thing is that when a letter does appear in support of me, the letter has been edited, shortened, and the full message is not allowed in print. That letter was just one paragraph long, yet the McCarthiest's letters are 10 or so paragraphs every week. Plenty of room for McCarthyism, little room for me.

Each week when I see his letter opposite my column I wonder whether I want my work that close to such senseless and radical drivel. Seriously. The man used personal slurs against my name and character yet the paper just continues to support him and refuses to print the letters in my support in their entirety.

Well, keep reading, my latest column follows this post. Meanwhile, I have to come up with something to submit for next week.


Anonymous said...

The Birmingham News has never adequately acknowledged the role they played during the Civil Rights movement during the 1960's and the type of reporting they did.

Interesting topic coming from a reporter for the Birmingham Times. Some MIGHT call THAT a racist statement.

But let me ask you Joe, are you suggesting that an editor of a newspaper should NOT publish letters to the editor if they are considered radical?

Joe said...

Anonymous. Who is the reporter for the Birmingham Times you are referring to. Kyle writes for Bham Weekly, I do an opinion for Western Tribune.

No, a radical can submnit a letter and can have it published. But 9 weeks in a row is a bit much. And we know there are more to come. That is not expressing an opinion, which is what most letters do. That is laying down a platform.

Even the regulars whose letters are published weekly deal with a different and current subject each week. The ones I am speaking of are all about one long diatribe broken up so that it can be printed.

Richard Hanna said...

Joe, I wrote a letter to The Western Tribune in support of your column, your integrity and your desire to uphold the best of American constitutional values. Sadly, as you noted about those kinds of letters, it was edited and cut down to barely over a column. In that very same edition of the paper, however, there was a letter nearly 3 columns long of more of the same diatribe of what you described. That is puzzling. Attached is my full letter to the editor. Feel free to post it or use it in any way you choose.

To the Editor of “The Western Tribune”

I write to express my appreciation for Joe Openshaw’s weekly opinion column in “The Western Tribune.” His points of view are fresh, insightful and intelligent. He expresses an unwavering dedication to the principles of freedom and civil rights for all Americans which are bedrock principles of our great nation. He clearly has a deep commitment to the city of Bessemer in which he lives – and has worked hard to improve the quality of life in our community. Finally, he is a person of character who I have always observed to act with integrity, honesty and kindness in his dealings with others. I am grateful that “The Western Tribune” provides a public forum for Mr. Openshaw’s positive and progressive views to be expressed. Our community is enriched by it.

Richard B. Hanna
Bessemer, Alabama

Anonymous said...

...His points of view are fresh, insightful and intelligent.


I can't breathe I am laughing so hard. OMG...stop it puhLEEEEZE. LOL

randy said...

Good post anonymous.


Joe said...

Western Tribune: larger circulation than the Western Star, it seems.