By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
According to a Facebook post by Veronica Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Joey Kennedy has been fired from the Alabama Media Group.
“For those of you who haven’t heard: My husband, Joey Kennedy, was fired by Alabama Media Group on Thursday for being ‘too personally involved’ in covering his beat and for ‘threatening sources’ wrote Mrs. Kennedy wrote of her husband’s fate.
For years Kennedy has been pilloried over of his left-leaning columns. But, it was his refusal to tailor his message to fit nicely into the every growing echo chamber of faux right-wing talking points that led to his declining voice on the pages of the Birmingham News and al.com.
In a nation where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are enshrined in its Constitution, ideas that do not reflect the thinking of the majority are often met with hostility and public vitriol.
But, it is our willingness to read and contemplate differing ideas that has made this country a great nation. The many voices, the many ideas, this idea of E Pluribus Unum is a shared artery that carries freedoms, and life giving blood.
In 1991, Joey Kennedy, Ron Casey, and Harold Jackson received a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for their analysis of the inequities in Alabama’s tax system and needed reforms.
The first editorial begins by stating, “The first thing they won’t tell you about your taxes concerns the caldron of poverty, exploitation and rotten politics from which they bubbled.”
That idea is as fresh today as it was when it was penned over 20 years ago. So, it is with another editorial that notes, “Too often, others use our cheap labor to take our cheap natural resources, and then they sell the finished products back to us at a much higher price – as though we were some conquered colony.”
And as if ripped from tomorrow’s blog post:
“…earmarking turns the tax system on its head. Instead of deciding what is the fairest tax and then how it should be allocated, we decide what we want to fund first and then pick the easiest way to squeeze out some money for it. Reducing the amount of earmarking will mean placing more trust in the Legislature and governor to make wise spending decisions. Alabamians have been loath to do that because they don’t trust their elected officials.”
As Governor Bentley looks for ways to increase the State’s revenues to avoid falling even further behind, Kennedy’s editorial collaboration seems almost prophetic: “The amount of tax money that goes into the General Fund grows little when it grows at all. Most of its money comes from fees or taxes that provide pretty much the same amount every year. Yet, the burden on the General Fund increases every year.”
Near the end of the editorial series, this statement stands as a reminder of how little progress has been made in the last two decades:
“As long as we provide only bargain-basement schools, roads, public amenities and social services, Alabama will never be able to bring good-paying jobs to its people from the outside or provide a nurturing atmosphere for them at home.”
Kennedy may be finished at the Alabama Media Group, but, like him or not, what he wrote in 1991 still rings true today.