“I think the newspaper has a special place in democracy,” said Davis, editor and associate publisher of The Anniston Star. “We’re asked to be a watchdog of large things — of governments and corporations — and to advocate on behalf of the little guy.”
Davis is in Orlando this week at the national convention of the Association of Opinion Journalists, where on Monday he’ll become the organization’s president.
He’s also picking up the organization’s 2012 Opinion Journalist of the Year Award for publications with circulations under 100,000. It’s the second award for Davis, who also won the honor in 2011.
“I was just absolutely thrilled to receive this award,” he said. “And to receive it two years in a row is beyond my comprehension.”
Harper’s Magazine columnist Thomas Frank, author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” won this year in the above-100,000 category.
Formed in 1947 as the National Conference of Editorial Writers, the Association of Opinion Journalists is the nation’s oldest and largest association for professional editorial writers. Not limited to newspapers, the organization has members in the broadcast media, magazine publishing and Internet journalism.
But all past presidents of the organization have been from newspapers — from some of the nation’s largest papers to mid-sized publications, as well as a few small-town papers like The Star.
“It is quite a distinction for the editor of a regional daily to head a national association, roles usually reserved for editors of large metropolitan or nationally circulating papers such as The New York Times or Wall Street Journal,” said H. Brandt Ayers, publisher of The Star. “I’m very proud of Bob.”
Davis said he loves working with the organization partly because it keeps him in touch with opinion pages from across the country. He said it gives him a fresh glimpse of what’s going on in the country — and an encouraging look at the good work being done.
“Editorial pages are in the business of democracy enhancement,” he said.
Judges in the AOJ contest seemed to like the local flavor Davis brought to his own editorials.
“Bob Davis’ columns have the best anchor any local newspaper could have — a sense of place,” the judges wrote. Judges also wrote that Davis’ voice “is always that of a thoughtful Alabama Southern gentleman who’s considered all arguments.”
Over the past year, Davis editorialized about the implementation of Alabama’s controversial immigration laws and about other tasks he felt were more worthy of legislators’ time — such as improving the state’s literacy rate. He also wrote commentaries that strove to help local residents find meaning in the devastation left behind by the tornado outbreak of 2011. All those topics were cited in the judges’ remarks.
While The Star is a small-town paper, its editorial page has long had a major-league reputation. Ayers recalled how his father, Col. Harry M. Ayers, saw his own work honored by the association.
“I remember how pleased Dad was when he returned from what was then called the National Association of Editorial Writers convention and The Star had one of its editorials posted,” he said.
Assistant Metro Editor Tim Lockette: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.