Tag Archives: details

Investigative journalism initiative announced last week, initial focus this week

Tutwiler photoAlabama Media Group, producers of The Birmingham News and AL.com, and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) announced a collaborative initiative, the Alabama Investigative Journalism Lab, last week. The lab is set to focus on journalism rich in digital storytelling and audience engagement based on the blog post and press release on CIR’s website on February 27.

CIR executive director Robert J. Rosenthal will serve as senior adviser for three months. A post describing the partnership on AL.com last week says the former award-winning reporter and editor will also serve as a contributor to a new fellowship established in the lab.

Among the first topics the lab will be focusing its attention, you ask? Prisons. The topic is not one the news organization has necessarily ignored; it all but predicted a lawsuit or investigation in a January 2012 editorial. AL.com has also been working on a series of pieces looking at the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the state of Alabama.

It will be interesting to see the types of collaborative efforts the new partnership will forge here in central Alabama. Two possible local partners that stand out are WIAT (CBS42) and WBRC (Fox 6) due to reports filed by Kaitlin McCulley and Beth Shelburne (respectively) in 2012 when the Equal Justice Initiative filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice about the the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. The subsequent investigation led to a damning report from the federal agency and the national publications like The New York Times asking if it’s enough to finally lead to change for the state system.

WIAT uploaded McCulley’s three-part series from 2012 to YouTube in January. Shelburne’s November 2012 follow-up to her original piece from that May is available on the station’s website, as is a follow-up post from last spring. The Justice for the Women of Tutwiler Prison fan page on Facebook shows some other potential partners for at least a portion of this new effort.

The new initiative is well underway, as this piece filed by Stan Diel today demonstrates. They are using the hashtag #alprisons to make it easier to follow via social networks.

Looks like we’re getting new buses

xcelsior_21Smoke bellowed from a MAX Dart shuttle bus during lunchtime in downtown Birmingham today, leading some to turn to Twitter (like this person) to find out what was happening. The fire is leading some to make snarky comments and varying opinions offered about the future of the region’s transit authority, MAX, otherwise known as the BJCTA.

It’s not the first time it’s happened here in town (like this instance in 2010) and there are no reports of injuries at this time. It’s also not as though it doesn’t happen elsewhere with newer buses – like this incident in Seattle last month (video).

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) had just shared on January 25 news the BJCTA had just signed a five-year contract with New Flyer of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, (with production facilities in the U.S.) for as many as 50 of their Xcelsior buses. The contract was probably finalized before January as it was included in the bus manufacturer’s press release listing firm commitments for orders this year at the beginning of the month.

The purchase was funded by a $2.5 million grant BJCTA received from the Federal Clean Fuels Grant Program in mid-September 2012. It was the second time the transit authority had received been awarded funds from the program, the first time being in 2009 when they agreed to purchase buses from Anniston based NABI. They received the first of those buses in 2010 according to this account from The Birmingham News. BJCTA has been eligible for the grants because of the region’s past non-attainment status as it relates to ozone.

The 40-foot buses they’ve agreed to purchase have been seen occasionally driving throughout the metro area in recent months and are also in use in larger service areas like New York City (as pictured above).

The authority has been fairly quiet publicly in recent months, including a reduction of activity on its own 4+ year old website. Its new director, Ann Dawson-August, has only been on the job for one month, replacing former director, Peter Behrman. He left the authority nearly a year ago this month (joining a long list of predecessors).

While we haven’t heard directly from Dawson-August since her introductory press conference late last year, a review of a piece she wrote for Mass Transit Magazine in December 2008 about relations between an agency executive and the board and an interview conducted with her a little more than a year earlier should give you a better understanding of her style – and why we may not hear from her nearly as often as her predecessors.

Photo: courtesy of New Flyer.

A website launches for 2013 commemoration

birmingham13.com screenshotSomething that hasn’t been talked about very much – at least publicly – are the plans to commemorate 50 years passing since the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in September 1963. A visit to the city of Birmingham’s official website now provides you with a link to one major source of information about those plans.

Birmingham13.com is the official website for the commemoration, reminding those who visit that it was part of “the movement that changed the world.” According to the site’s city plans page, there will be a traveling exhibition (called “The Civil Rights/Sister Cities Traveling Exhibition”) visiting five sister cities highlighting their contributions: Selma, AL; Washington, D.C.; Jackson, MS; Columbia, South Carolina; and Memphis, TN. (Montgomery, AL is listed on the site as well though the original National Press Club announcement from January did not include the city.) The site also suggests that the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail will be expanded (it would be the second time that the trail was expanded and the first instance since late 2010) in addition to plans for a humanities conference and a three-day festival in September. You can also watch the video of Mayor Bell’s remarks at the National Press Club on the site’s “Sharing” page.

It contains a calendar section as well that will most likely be updates with events being organized by other organizations and institutions as details are finalized.

Screenshot: birmingham13.com home page.

WordCamp Birmingham 2009 is on!

PhotoMatt @ BlogWorld 2007 OK folks, It’s on; WordCamp Birmingham 2009 that is!

I’m happy to announce a bunch of things related to our second annual conference for WordPress users and bloggers of all ages, currently scheduled for Saturday, September 26. The first WordCamp Birmingham 2009 planning meeting will be next Thursday, March 12, at 11:30 a.m. at o kafés! in Pepper Place. Please let me (André) know if you’re interested in helping plan this year’s edition via email.

I’m also happy to confirm that our keynote speaker will be none other than WordPress’ founding developer (and all around nice guy) Matt Mullenweg, pictured here with his very own black Terminal T back in 2007. Nashville’s Mitch Canter of Studio Nashvegas has also agreed to come back and present.

Finally, we will be launching the WordCamp Birmingham site on The Terminal next Wednesday afternoon.

That’s all… for now.

Condoleezza Rice gets book deal

Condoleezza Rice - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008, World Economic Forum/FlickrIn case you hadn’t already heard, Birmingham, AL native and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signed a 3-book, $2.5 million deal with Crown Publishing Group, the same folks who published then U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. The first book is scheduled for release in 2011. USA Today has all of the other details that I’m sure you’re looking for.

Photo: Condoleezza Rice – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008. World Economic Forum/Flickr.

Larry Langford arrested, charged as part of 101-count Federal indictment

Photo: Bob Farley/f8Photo. Note: To view the entire gallery of photos taken by Bob, please on the image above.

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, arrested early Monday morning at his job at Birmingham Budweiser, appeared in federal court in leg-irons and pleaded not guilty in federal court as prosecutors outlined a 101-count criminal indictment alleging bribery, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns; he is named in 60 of them.

Langford, with longtime friend and lobbyist Albert LaPierre and Montgomery-based investment banker William Blount, are accused of creating “pay to play” criminal schemes in which they personally and professionally profited from Jefferson County’s billion-dollar sewer bond deals.

Langford was the County Commission president from 2003 to 2007, and oversaw the county’s financial committee. During that time, prosecutors allege Langford got as much as $235,000 from Blount through LaPierre, and that Blount’s firm, Blount Parrish & Co., received $7.1 million in fees from county bond swap transactions.

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Highway 132 Yard Sale, various locations

Think of it as your warm up for the World’s Longest Yard Sale in August.

This is the first year for this eighteen (18) mile stretch of many different antiques, collectibles, lots of odds and ends. It’s a pretty scenic drive as well even if you don’t get anything. The fun starts at the U.S. Highway 278 & Highway 132 junction and it ends in Oneonta (passing through Altoona along the way).

NOTE: We didn’t put an end time since we’ve been informed that the various participants will most likely end at different times.

Cost: Free (unless you end up buying something).

For more information, please call 205.589.6740.