Writing about John Archibald might be the riskiest and dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but this piece is not really about Archibald.
I’m also going to write about UAB football, but this piece is not about UAB either.
As the title indicates, it’s about a double standard.
On September 30, 2012, Birmingham became the second largest city in America without a daily newspaper. The decision to cut back daily delivery of The Birmingham News was made by Advance Communications–its parent company, headquartered in New York.
Many of you will agree that Advance’s decision to strip Birmingham of a daily newspaper has been pretty traumatic.
Losing our daily newspaper and eliminating scores of professional journalists robbed Birmingham of traditional high quality journalistic coverage.
When Dr. Watts announced the controversial decision to terminate football at UAB, we never saw the fair and balanced reporting in The Birmingham News or in al.com we would have expected prior to September, 2012.
The Birmingham News and al.com repeatedly published one-sided inflammatory videos and articles stroking the flames of discontent by UAB football supporters :
No wonder the public turned with a vengeance against Dr. Watts. Dr. Watts didn’t have a chance.
When Advance cut production and staff for The Birmingham News and al.com, John Archibald was retained and Kyle Whitmire was hired. Both are excellent writers and journalists, but their jobs are to be political commentators. They don’t have to be fair or give both sides of a story. If they hit a raw nerve and get the public riled up, then they’ve done their jobs. It’s just too bad so many folks in our community judge Birmingham, Jefferson County, and public officials based on this inflammatory type of reporting without any kind of balance.
When the publisher of The Birmingham News announced the decision to curtail production, there was no employee of The Birmingham News or al.com that wrote incendiary articles or opinions to galvanize the public against a very unpopular decision. So there were no demonstrations, no social media explosion, and no ‘no confidence’ votes against the publisher. Everyone clearly understood the decision was made by Advance–not the publisher.
UA Board of Trustees made decision to end football program
The University of Alabama Board of Trustees wanted to kill UAB football. If they would have allowed UAB to build an on- campus stadium the program would not have been terminated. Dr. Watts’ may have botched the announcement, but he was the messenger—and the public decided with the one-sided story being told by the media to ‘kill the messenger.’
When Advance made its unpopular decision, did Archibald or any of his co-workers write scathing inflammatory pieces criticizing their publisher or their bosses in New York? Archibald is not crazy–he preferred to keep his job.
However, when Ray Watts announced that the UAB football program was being dismantled, Dr. Watts was criticized for being a coward and not standing up to the UA Board of Trustees. Watts is not crazy either.
This is clearly a double standard.
Editor’s note: In fairness to The Birmingham News and al.com, 12 days after Dr. Watt’s historic announcement, they did publish a balanced piece on Dr. Watts written by Barnett Wright, one of the few experienced– talented journalists who survived Advance’s cut backs. Of course, this was well after the damage had been done.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising Agency and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham(REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).