Tuesday, 9 December 2014

When a Reporter Ain't a Reporter, in Bama

I don't read the Montgomery Advertiser much....I will admit that in public.  It might come up once or twice a year in my readings....mostly over a murder, robbery, and some state capital scandal of sorts.

This week, the Advertiser put up an editorial by Del Mash, State Senator, Republican, from Bama. For some reason, I saw just cause to read over it and sit a while to ponder over what was inferred.

Del writes up a 60-line piece where he notes that he's disturbed over fake journalists getting press credentials....sit in the press gallery area and watch fierce and tough debate among Alabama state senators (35 total).

He believes that bloggers have now infiltrated the press....getting access into state capital press rooms....discussing tactics, strategy, and upcoming events among the state capital elite. He lets you know right away....he doesn't want to change the vast amount of transparency that exists in Montgomery or with the state senators (all 35).

So, Del wants to push for a solution and has asked the Bama Press Association (APA) to write down the proper authority and description of a real reporter.....then get the House and Senate to agree to this.....then ensure no one but real press folks cover real important work going on.....especially with the state senators (all 35).

Del indicates that he's been told to by former and present Bama reporters that they aren't fearful of Del's intentions here, and they would like to clean out this mess as well.  In their mind, it just ain't right for folks like bloggers to write slanted pieces and go against the common good work of fine Alabama reporters.

On average....how many fine good newspapers send reporters down to cover the work going on in Montgomery?  Well...there are roughly seventy-odd newspapers in Alabama today, with eight college newspapers.

To be honest....the bulk of them probably have never sent a guy to Montgomery to cover events, and rely up on the top three papers in the state to inform them of events (Birmingham News, Montgomery Advertiser, and the Tuscaloosa News).  Some papers.....like the Times-Daily out of Florence....might send a guy down to cover a big key event that will be front-page news for two or three days, but ordinarily.....they just don't pick up on news.

The blogger crowd?  Fifteen years ago.....there just weren't any such people.  The amount of coverage that your paper might put out in one average year would have amounted to twenty articles....rarely did any go longer than 500 words.  The Birmingham News might have done six to eight major pieces taking a half-page.....mostly describing an epic moment where bingo was fiercely debated, or some Democrat was caught in a terrible scandal involving the health industry, or road funds were being hotly contested.

Over the past five years, some bloggers have arrived....spend an entire day walking around....asking stupid questions of reporters, state senators, lobbyists.....then go home to write a fifty-line expose (blog as Del describes it).....over some stupidity shown by Republicans.....or Democrats.  The thing is, it's not not forty people reading these blogs anymore.  Some of these political bloggers now have ten-thousand hits a month.

Some of these bloggers are laying out vast strategies that used to be kept within a ten-man group within the state senate and a few reporters.  Someone will sit on the park bench out back of the building and just note who has a new Lincoln Towncar, or $60,000 SUV from such-and-such Ford dealer in Arab.  They might note that such-and-such state senator just returned from a vacation resort deal in Miami....and he didn't have to pay for anything (God bless).

Bloggers are even writing up a who-is-who listing on lobbyists.  They know these guys only deal with gambling, and those guys who only deal with road construction.  They know that such-and-such character who appears only once or twice a year....is there to talk up Mobile's port and getting more money for infrastructure gimmicks that companies ought to pay for but they'd like for the state to pay at least half.  Then you have those guys who occasionally show up to talk airport expansion in Huntsville, more state park money for Gulf Shores, or the pressing issue of enticement funds to get more Mercedes built in Bama.

The university crowd?  Well....yeah.....the bloggers have even taken to noticing how they operate and what funding vehicles are created quietly to bring new infrastructure to various colleges in the state.

Not that I doubt Del's sincere ways and talented ability to write up a fine editorial.....but it's just awful hard for me to find some vast difference between reporters and bloggers.  To be honest....I could probably go through a couple of beauty shops and barber operations in Bama....find six rather talented folks, and hire them as actual newspaper journalists tomorrow.  Without a four-year degree or fake education.....these folks would probably write the same type columns and articles, and I'd just have a grammar queen hired up to clean up their English-language issues.

The plan to write a standard and then deny the bloggers entry into press areas?  It might occur.  The bloggers might start to observe the reporters more....what fine cars they've acquired....and start to wonder if the reporters might just be extended arms of the lobbyists (not to say such is happening).  If you ask me.....it'd just open up a big can of worms.

All of this....over the comings and going of the Alabama legislature.  Thirty-five senators and one-hundred-and-five legislators.  Roughly seventy-odd papers in the state.

And truth be known.....a murder or bank robbery....usually outranks political doings in the state on the front-page.  As for political scandals?  Well....unless the governor gets caught in something....it's usually page two, with coaching notes on NCAA football, snake stories, and meth-house busts.  Bama, at it's best.

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