The Star covered the story thoroughly and with sensitivity over six days. The next day, Aug. 25, there were three stories and an editorial written on deadline. Over the following five days there were seven other stories, two editorials and a page carrying some of the prayers that were sent to the Facebook page of the police department. Most of the articles were by Cameron Steele.
Her Aug. 29 story about the arrival of the casket at the church and her reporting on the funeral, Aug. 30, were particularly strong. There were outstanding photos, including a Stephen Gross picture of the cavalcade bringing the casket to the church, Aug. 27, and an effective high-angle photo of the arrival of the casket, by Bill Wilson, Aug. 29.
Covering the run
An upbeat story was the success of the Woodstock 5K. The Star provided complete coverage of the event. There were front-page stories Aug. 5-7, and a special section Aug. 7. There was excellent photography, particularly the well-designed section front with photos by Trent Penny. Men’s and women’s races were well reported by Al Muskewitz and Bran Strickland, Aug. 7.
An article about the growing involvement of Anniston High School students in the operation of the race, by Laura Camper, suggested that this cooperation might help bridge “… a sense of distance between the (school) system and the community that has been difficult to bridge,” presumably meaning the white community. In this and in the lead story the day after the race, The Star emphasized racial issues.
That story, 60-inches long, by Tim Lockette, “Divided we run?”, used Woodstock 5K data to show that most area entrants came from white and more affluent sections of Calhoun County.
In an Aug. 11 letter to Speak Out, reader Jim Lorenzo of Anniston objected to that story, writing that “the entire front page is taken up with a story about a local 5K run. The story wasn’t even about the race. Instead, it was about the number of whites and blacks who ran in the race.” I agree that the breakdown of runners by race and income was not the most newsworthy way to report on the Woodstock 5K the day after the event.
Comparing two cities
A major news project was a three-part series about Helena, Ark., and efforts to rejuvenate the city. The series, by Vaughn Stewart III, noted similarities between Helena and Anniston, suggesting that this city might benefit from the experience of the Arkansas city (Aug. 14, 15, 16, 1A).
It is always useful to study what other communities are doing. Each community is different, but they face similar problems. Helena has access to some special resources: a number of Teach for America alumni, the Southern Bankcorp Capital Partners, the Walton Family Foundation (Wal-Mart). Could Anniston find similar help? Some of the things Helena is developing we have already: an active Boys and Girls Club, a good, modern library, and a small-business incubator.
The articles quoted people leading the renewal effort. City officials were not quoted, nor were persons with less affirmative views. No black leaders were interviewed. What is the racial breakdown in the city, in the public schools? The development of a KIPP charter school appears to have been a success, although no data was cited to support the claim that it “consistently outscores state averages in test scores.” What is the racial makeup of the school?
The articles gave a picture of a community that has set goals, developed leadership and is committing human and financial resources to moving the city forward. It was less clear what has actually been achieved. It was said that the downtown stores were mostly boarded up “until recently.” How many stores have been opened downtown recently? Of course, it takes time for new plans to bring results.
Slips of the month:
• The Star continues to leave Atlanta Braves games out of its “On the tube” listings of sports TV shows on many days (Aug. 19-24, 30, 31).
• The locally written story about “Tide staffers named in Miami investigation” should have referred to the related longer wire story on the same subject in the same paper (Aug. 17, 1B, 5B).
• A nice story about the coming high school football season, by Blair Klayko, “The most wonderful time of the year,” failed to say when the season would start (Aug. 1, 1A).
Paul Rilling is a retired former editor at The Star.