HALL COLUMN: Cleaning out the ol’ notebook

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This and that from here and there, just not quite everything from


Hillary impresses me for once

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When Gov. Bill Clinton was running for president, I was one of his

biggest non-voting supporters. I remember driving home from my fast-

food restaurant job in Tupelo, Miss., listening to election returns

on the radio, cheering all the time. I stayed up way too late that

night to watch his acceptance speech. His presidency held a lot of

promise to the youth of our nation, and that night was the beginning.

It is hard for me to believe that his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton,

inspires young people the way he did. For certain, she does little

for me.

But I will give credit where credit is due, and that is over her

stance on the Iraqi war &045; specifically over her voting for it. She

refuses to apologize. She has said many times that she wants to end

the war. She has spoken out against the troop surge under

consideration. She has even said that if she knew now about Iraqi

weapons of mass destruction what she knew then that she would have

voted differently.

But the lady whose advisers have told her polls &045; and the Democratic

primary voters &045; demand her to say, &8220;I’m sorry,&8221; refuses to do so.

Aides have told various press outlets that she refuses to apologize

for the vote because she takes her duties seriously. She voted the

way she did with the knowledge she had, and she will not now change

her tune just to appease voters.

That’s impressive. Compared to Sen. John McCain, who now likes

ethanol subsidies; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who now

thinks abortion is a bad idea; and former Sen. John Edwards, who is

sorry he voted the way he did on the Iraq war, Hillary is a welcome

contrast to these cow-toeing politicians.

Web presence lacking, we know

So how did I first meet The Times? I knew Todd Carpenter, president

of Boone Newspapers, was about to offer me a job, but I didn’t know

where. We had a morning conference call scheduled, and I was set.

The night before, I went and bought a map of Alabama. That morning, I

left out of my office just before the prescribed time and headed to a

place where I could sit in my car, talk and look at a map.

The problem was, I didn’t know where I was going. Ironically, I ended

up behind a closed-down Bennigan’s, off of I-55 in Jackson, Miss.

The Demopolis Times, it was to be, I learned from that call. I

located the city on the map, and I liked the location &045; centrally

located to my wife’s family and to my mother.

When I got back to the office, I pulled up the newspaper’s Web site.

Impressed I was not. Neither was our managing editor, Gennie

Phillips, when I was recruiting her. Ditto for our staff writer,

Brandon Glover, when I lured him to town.

That makes it all the more satisfying for the three of us as we

prepare to launch a redesigned Web site, complete with multimedia

offerings and daily blogs.

We’re trying to build a true news companion to the newspaper, a place

where you don’t just get a rehash of the print product but you get

exclusive content, where readers can interact about important topics

and an outlet for coverage of local events from a reliable source as

a news happens.

Rest assured, you’ll hear more about it as we get closer to the

launch date.

Fill out the survey and win

Dr. Arthur Ogden stopped me in Wal-Mart last night and asked me about

the survey we are running.

So, what’s up with it? Just what it says. We are trying to get your

thoughts on what we do. The newspaper industry is evolving rapidly,

and we want to position ourselves to stay ahead of the trends.

We’re also not afraid of hearing constructive criticism. Your input

makes us a better newspaper.

So, please, take time to fill it out so we can hear from you. It

won’t be the last time we ask for your advice and input, because when

we say we want to be your community newspaper, we truly mean it.

We’re The Demopolis Times

Last week, several of our readers came up to me to say how childish

they thought two of our weekly brethren were in taking potshots at us.

The first was Tom Jones, former editor of The Blackbelt Gazette, in

his infrequent column there. He accused us of sensationalizing the

coverage of Mayor Cecil Williamson’s indictments.

The second was the The Democrat-Reporter in one of its editorials. It

basically said it was the only newspaper to ever break a story in

this area, and that we are just a &8220;so-called&8221; daily.

While I grant you The Democrat-Reporter has a great history of

investigative reporting, I

question their current ethical standing

to criticize any other publication or media outlet if for no other

reason than they would stoop so low as to use the word &8220;retard&8221; in a

headline. Shameless.

For Jones, it is laughable. He has been around long enough to know

that design plays an increasingly important role in newspapers of all

sizes. Funny that it did not bother him when we used the same simple

design technique in the coverage of a tragic multi-car accident or

for the discovery of what could be the city’s original cistern or for

the State of the Union address.

I have absolutely no desire to get into a tit-for-tat with either of

these newspapers, because we are far too busy doing what we do to be

bothered by nonsense. But I do want to say two things:

4First, I’m proud of what this staff has accomplished in the last

eight months. They have taken a newspaper that was not respected in

the community and was a dwindling property and turned it around. They

have made it a newspaper that breaks news, covers everyday people and

provides advertisers with results. So when someone questions our

integrity &045; this staff’s integrity &045; I’m going to defend them. This

staff works too hard not to have me do them that simple courtesy.

4Second, I’ve always written by the motto that if you are going to be

bold enough to criticize someone in print, then you shouldn’t be so

cowardly as not to call them by name. Mr. Jones and The Democrat-

Reporter would be wise to do the same.

Sam R. Hall is editor and publisher of The Times. He can be reached

by e-mail to sam.hall@demopolistimes.com.