Auburn’s winning of the national title came in a game as close and exciting as any football game in this or any season. Fine Star photos included one by Stephen Gross that captured the winning kick. Charles Bennett’s solid game story was backed by analysis and comment from Joe Medley and Mark Edwards.
Edwards is the sports editor of The Decatur Daily, which cooperates with The Star to cover University of Alabama and Auburn University sports. His commentaries have appeared several times, but The Star needs to be more consistent in identifying Edwards to Calhoun County readers.
Basketball vs. football
As the sports pages shifted from football to basketball, the quality of coverage shifted as well. The Star covered Jacksonville State, Alabama and Auburn football teams with reporters and photographers on the scene. A huge number of high school football games were covered directly by Star sports writers and correspondents.
Basketball games received much less direct coverage in January. The Calhoun County high school tournament, Jan. 17-23, was well reported, but regular-season games were rarely covered directly. They were reported in short items in the “prep roundup,” provided by “staff reports,” which often means telephone reports from coaches and scorekeepers. At the university level in January, 11 basketball games were covered by Star writers. The Star used Associated Press stories or “staff reports” in 13 games.
There are some obvious reasons for the differences between football and basketball coverage. Alabama is not Indiana. We are football crazy, not basketball nuts. Teams play more basketball games a month than football games, and basketball has both boys/men and girls/women teams to cover.
At the high school level, couldn’t The Star make more use of stories from The Daily Home in Talladega and the weekly newspapers in the Consolidated Publishing Co. chain? Some Daily Home stories were used during the football season and Daily Home coverage of the Talladega County basketball tournament was carried in The Star in January.
How government really works
The news media tend to provide considerable coverage of campaigns and elections, but much less on the operation of government. There is a need for the media to cover how government works, or fails to work efficiently. The Star has published a number of stories about government in action during recent months. There were several in January.
“Changes coming,” about the turnover of three judicial positions in district and circuit courts in Calhoun County, provided much information about how the system operates and the roles of different judges. The story, by Cameron Steele, considered the impact of changing faces on the bench. One defense attorney is quoted, “For 20 years or longer you knew what to expect when you walked into a courtroom, and now you don’t” (Jan. 3, Page 1A).
A story about fire departments in Anniston and Oxford, by Patrick McCreless, provided interesting information about the different ways these departments work and what they cost (Jan. 30, 1A).
One of the “Off to Work” weekly features told about the work of Anniston’s three crime-scene investigators. By Steele, the well-written story covered the various techniques involved in CSI work. The article could have been better with a little more detail. Do other law enforcement agencies in Calhoun County have CSI units? How long does it take for Anniston to receive results of state-related investigations, such as autopsies and drug tests? The story said CSI training costs the city “a lot of money.” How much does it cost? And where is the training done? (Jan. 24, 1A).
Beware of boosterism
The story about the renovation of the Watermark Tower reflected the pleasure and optimism of people who work and shop downtown Anniston. The scorched building has been an eyesore since the 2003 fire. Now the building again is becoming a positive landmark. The writer, Laura Camper, said that “(T)he tower may be just one building, but it’s large enough to inspire others, and some believe that can change the whole downtown.”
A local newspaper must be aware always of the line between news and boosterism. There is news in this story, the news of positive change. But the story emphasizes only the hope. It needs some balance of realism.
The building was not a motor of downtown development before the 2003 fire. Why would it become so now? What was the occupancy rate of the building prior to the fire compared to the potential occupancy when the renovation is complete? (Jan. 2, 1A).
Paul Rilling is a retired former editor at The Star.