Paul Rilling: Examining Sunday alcohol sales in Anniston
Jan 31, 2013 | 3754 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Star’s two-story package about possible legislation to allow the Anniston City Council to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday did a good job of explaining the proposed local law.

One story, by Tim Lockette, reviewed the history of liquor legislation in Alabama and reported on the experience with Sunday sales in other Alabama cities. The views of Calhoun County legislators were reported. The other story, by Brian Anderson, considered the possible impact on other cities in the county.

Several points about the proposed bill were not addressed in the stories: Would the legislation apply only to restaurants as it does in most Alabama cities that have Sunday sales or would it cover other venues, as well? In Montgomery, it permits sales at the stadium for the city’s minor league baseball club, as the story noted. Could the Alabama Legislature give the Anniston City Council the power to allow Sunday sales by legislation or would it require a constitutional amendment? (Jan. 27, Page 1A.)

News or non-news?

Sometimes a good story idea just doesn’t work out. You do the interviews and write the story, but there’s no real news there.

At the beginning of the year, the looming “fiscal cliff” was the big national story. One of the useful things that newspapers do is to “localize” a national story. What would it mean to people here? The Star decided to interview local business people to ask their views on how that cliff would affect them. The first paragraph told it all: “Business owner Danny Shears was unsure Monday afternoon what kind of impact the so-called fiscal cliff would have on his company.” Another businessman said he was still in a “wait and see pattern …” A third said he was “still uncertain about what would happen.”

It was not surprising or newsworthy that business people were concerned or that they didn’t know what the impact would be. The story, by Patrick McCreless, was well reported, but it was non-news (Jan. 1, 1A).

More details needed

The “fiscal cliff” cuts in federal military and domestic programs were postponed in January, but they threaten again in March. The Star again decided to localize the story, this time in terms of possible cutbacks at Anniston Army Depot. Again, there were statements from those involved about what “could” or “might” happen and that “no details” were available. But there was real news in this story, by McCreless.

It was based on “guidelines” to military bases and depots should the cuts be necessary. According to the story, the guidelines were issued Jan. 16 by the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff. The article did not quote from the memo. Did the Star have a copy? If not, who provided the content of the memo to The Star? (Jan. 18, 1A).

Movies in Alabama

The story, “State as a stage,” was really two stories. The first half of the article dealt with the Alabama Film Office. The newsworthy part of the story was the second half, which reported on Jacksonville State student filmmaker Steven Satterwhite’s efforts to produce a feature-length film. The two stories, by Eddie Burkhalter (Jan. 26, 3A), didn’t fit together well because Satterwhite’s film doesn’t qualify for the tax breaks the state office can provide to the makers of films spending at least $500,000.

The story about Satterwhite’s plans for a film set in the 1940s was interesting. There should have been some estimate of the planned cost of the film; “shoestring budget” is vague. The story said in the 17th paragraph that people who would like to be extras should show up at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden the next day, Sunday, Jan. 27. But it is not until paragraph 21 that readers leaned when they needed to come.

The part about the Alabama Film Office was confusing. The legislation setting up the tax incentives to lure film makers to Alabama is referred to as being approved by the Alabama Senate in 2012. Presumably, it was also passed by the House. According to the article, “the amendment didn’t take effect until this month.” What amendment? What took effect in January? The figures about how much movie producers spent in the state in 2012 are not yet available, according to the story. But there must be a record of how many TV-movie productions there were last year.

Odd obituary

Why would The Star publish an extended obituary of a prominent businessman five months after his death? And with a photo of someone else? The photo mixup was immediately corrected (Jan. 2, 1A).

Paul Rilling is a retired former editor at The Star.
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