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Defining a Journalist

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—According to Reporters Without Boarders, there have been 59 Journalists killed, 12 media assistants killed, 21 “Netizens” and citizen journalists killed and 176 journalists imprisoned so far this year. Reporters Without Boarders notes that, “Journalists killed” includes only cases in which the organizations clearly established that “the victim was killed because of his/her activities as a journalist. It does not include cases in which the motives were not related to the victim’s work or in which a link has not yet been confirmed.”

Here in Alabama, we have had no journalists killed, though we have had one blogger imprisoned and this publication threatened.

Journalism is one job of the very few jobs where a person can lose their life for just stating facts. Here in Alabama, journalists lives are not threatened only their livelihood.

Presumptive, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has said that he wants his staff to define who is a journalist. In a report by Tim Lockette for the Anniston Star, Marsh is quoted as saying, “All I’ve asked for is some sort of criteria, so that if someone is not a journalist, they won’t be in the press room.”

In the same article he told the Star that, “He never considered the Britts to be real journalists.”

(See article here.)

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So, by this logic, Marsh has predetermined that the Britts should not be in the press room.

However, speaking with Mary Sells of the Decatur Daily, Marsh said, “I think Bill Britt is taking it personally, like it’s against him, it’s not.”

(See article here.)

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Marsh’s statements would seem to contradict each other. He says he wants a criteria “that if someone is not a journalist, they won’t be in the press room.” Then he states that he has “never considered the Britts to be real journalists.” Then he tells Mary Sells, it is not about “Bill Britt.”

Marsh appears to use pretzel-logic; bending the facts so as not to be seen targeting a particular group of journalists. Or perhaps, Marsh reveres the truth to such great magnitude that he uses it with the utmost economy.

Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia by the Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University, says, the Free Press Clause in the First Amendment “protects the right of individuals to express themselves through publication and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government.”

By this definition, it is not the media conglomerate or those who own a printing press, or any media outlet, but the “individual,” who is protected under the Free Press Clause.

Like Freedom of Speech, the Founding Fathers were thinking about the rights of citizens, not corporations.

In 1972, the Supreme Court reaffirmed this notion in, Branzburg v. Hayes, stating that Freedom of the Press was “a fundamental personal right” that is not confined to newspapers and periodicals.

The Supreme Court has held that the “lone pamphleteer,” is at the very heart of the Free Press Clause.

According to the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, the United States is ranked 46, behind such countries as the Czech Republic, Namibia, Ghana, El Salvador and other places not often seen as bastions of freedom. In fact, the US is just above Haiti on the Freedom Index.

And Alabama is far down the list of states that allow easy access to public records.

Censorship America offers a historical prospective on freedom to the press. “A celebrated legal case in 1734-1735 involved John Peter Zenger, a New York newspaper printer. He printed a newspaper that publicly bashed the ruler at this time, and he was taken to jail. He was taken to court and charged with seditious libel for assailing the corrupt royal governor of New York. His lawyer Andrew Hamilton defended him well, and was made famous for his speech “truth cannot be libel.” This court case paved the way for Freedom of the Press in the United States to be adopted in the Constitution.”

(See “History of Censorship” here.)

According to the Library of Congress, the Alien and Sedition Act was “Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.”

As Censor America points out a major aspect of the law was to set out the punishments of imprisonment for writing or publishing “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” about the President or Congress.

It would appear that Marsh who has sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, doesn’t agree with the Framers of the Constitution, and much prefers the egregious Alien and Sedition Acts.

The Anniston Star and the Montgomery Advertiser have taken exception to Marsh’s desire to limit press access to the Senate.

The Star published an editorial titled “You might be a journalist”…

(See article here.)

…while the Advertiser said, “Don’t limit definition of journalists.”

(See article here.)

Both editorials are welcome and show the kind of intellectual honesty that challenges the “Marsh Doctrine.”

The editorial board of al.com and others are yet to weigh-in on the subject, challenging the notion that they are the big dogs of journalism. But, there is still time for them to assert their considerable editorial power.

As of yet, no one has been greatly harmed and no one is likely to be killed by Marsh’s actions, but, his is the path of every would-be tyrant. It is utterly amazing to think that he will lead the Senate of Alabama for the next four years, when there are actually freedom-loving leaders who are much more suited for the job.

But, just so no one, not even a State Senator can miss the point that a journalist, according to the strict interpretation of the constitution, is an individual who expresses himself through publication and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.

Of course, there is that pesky part about interference, constraint or prosecution from the government, which Marsh seems ready to supply.

Still, every year, journalists put their lives in mortal danger to tell the truth about corruption. Not for money or glory, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Wish the same could be said of the man who would lead our State’s Senate.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

The Alabama Forestry Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville in the upcoming general election.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Tuberville said. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship.

Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University, the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl.

Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

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Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Health

Corinth, Mississippi, is the scenario that school superintendents must be prepared for

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Many Alabama school systems will resume in-person classes later this month. Corinth, Mississippi, rushed ahead to open classes and already there are positive tests for the coronavirus, and more than 100 students are now in quarantine. This is the fear that every school superintendent in the country will have to face when making the decision on whether or not to resume in-person classes in their school systems.

Taylor Coombs, a spokesperson for the Corinth School District, told CNN that six students and one staff member have tested positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Coombs said that an additional 116 students have been considered in “close contact” of a positive case and have been sent home to quarantine for 14 days. Corinth has 2,700 students.

The Corinth School District told parents in a letter posted on Facebook Wednesday that an individual from Corinth Middle School tested positive as well as an employee at Corinth Elementary School. The letter said the school has done contact tracing and is asking anyone who had contact with the individuals to quarantine for 14 days.

While in quarantine, children cannot attend school or any school activities, such as sports.

In-person classes resumed in the district on July 27, according to the school calendar. Corinth parents were given the option of returning to the school for normal classes or doing virtual learning.

Corinth has been screening students and staff on a daily upon entering the building with temperature checks, according to the district’s reopening plan. Staff are having to answer questions daily about if they have had symptoms in the past several days. Despite this, a number of students still were infected during the first week of school and over a hundred were exposed to the virus.

On Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a mandatory mask mandate for the state which includes schools, beginning Wednesday.

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“I know that I want to see college football in the fall,” Reeves said. “The best way for that to occur is for us all to recognize that wearing a mask, as irritating as it can be — and I promise you, I hate it more than anybody watching today — it is critical.”

Mississippi has the fifth-highest recorded case count per 100,000 people. At least 2.13 percent of the population having been already diagnosed with the infection. Mississippi trails only Louisiana, Arizona, Florida and New York.

Alabama is seventh in the country at 1.93 percent of the population. Of Alabama’s 91,776 total cases, 21,363 — or 23 percent — were diagnosed in just the last two weeks. At least 1,639 Alabamians have died already from COVID-19, and 314 of those deaths — or 19.2 percent — were reported in just the last two weeks.

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Despite the setbacks, Mississippi is pushing ahead on reopening schools.

“I believe that there is enough motivation (now) to safely get our kids in school that we can really juice the participation of mask-wearing throughout our state for the next two weeks,” Reeves said on Tuesday when he issued the mask order and the new measures to combat the virus.

Reeves acknowledged that the earlier “piecemeal approach” had not been effective.

Alabama will follow Mississippi’s lead and begin reopening schools next week, with the understanding that outbreaks, like Corinth, are possible and perhaps even likely as we move forward with in-person classes and high school football to follow later this month.

School systems need to open with a plan for testing, quarantining and unfortunately even for the unfortunate deaths of a staff member or student.

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National

Public asked to help find missing mother of three en route to Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Marilane Carter is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY.

Marilane Carter, age 36, left Kansas City, Kansas, late Saturday night Aug. 1 heading to Birmingham seeking help for her mental health. She was seeking help possibly at Grandview or UAB.

Her last known phone contact was near Memphis, Tennessee, around Sunday, Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. near I-55.

According to the family, there has been no contact and no vehicle sighting since that time. Her phone is dead and there have been no credit card charges on her account.

“We are concerned for her safety,” the family said in a statement.

Marilane is married to Adam Carter, and together they have three young children.

The family is asking the public to keep an eye out for Marilane, and keep her and her family in your prayers.

Carter is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She has long brown hair, green eyes and was last seen wearing a green T-shirt and black yoga pants.

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“The biggest thing: pray that God orchestrates this in such a way that brings Marilane to safety — as well as glory to Him,” the family wrote. “We covet your prayers and help to find Marilane. #findmarilane.”

Marilane is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY. She has family in Kansas City, Birmingham and Fairhope. If found or you have any information, call 911 and ask for the police.

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Elections

Jones campaign says Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously

Brandon Moseley

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ re-election campaign released a statement critical of Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville, suggesting that he is not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously enough.

“The Washington Post reported today that the stock market plummeted after jobless claims climbed last week by 1.4 million and the economy shrank by 9.5 percent — the biggest decline in most of our lifetimes,” the Jones campaign wrote. “While economists are worried about the permanent damage COVID-19 will do to the economy, and public health experts are pleading for people to abide by state and local mask orders, Tommy Tuberville ‘snickers’ in response to questions about flouting public health orders while in DC to raise campaign cash. The people of Alabama need to know that Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously, raising serious questions about how he would handle this crisis if elected.”

The Washington Post reported that “Tuberville is fundraising and holding ­in-person meetings in Washington this week, defying orders from D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) that visitors from Alabama and other coronavirus hot spots quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.”

“Tuberville spent at least some of his time at the Trump International Hotel, according to a photo posted to Facebook by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) showing the two men in the hotel lobby on Tuesday night,” the media reports stated. “Neither man was masked.”

Tuberville told AL.com that he has been called “everything in the world” so the last week is nothing new.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday the former Auburn coach broke Washington D.C. policy requiring “non-essential” visitors from states with high coronavirus case counts to self-quarantine for 14 days when he attended fundraising meetings in the city this week. In addition, a photo of Tuberville with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington showed neither man wearing a face covering.

Tuberville addressed the controversy in comments to the Alabama Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. Tuberville said that he followed all the rules and wore his mask everywhere he went. When he was at events he would take his mask off to dine and people would come over to his table to shake his hand and get their picture taken. The press has seized on those moments to attack him, he claimed.

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has killed 707,158 people worldwide including 160,833 Americans since it first was discovered in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. Absent an effective treatment or a vaccine, social distancing and masks are the only tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus.

The Tuberville-Jones race for U.S. Senate is going to have an important role in whether or not Republicans are able to hold on to their narrow Senate majority.

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He is best known for his tenure as Auburn University’s head football coach, which includes an undefeated and untied team that won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. He also coached at Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Mississippi.

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The general election is Nov. 3. Tuberville has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

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