While most newspapers across the country would scoff at the idea of a publisher, editor or reporter holding public office, Citronelle Call News Publisher Willie Gray recently announced his plans to run for Alabama’s House District 102 seat next year.

In an article released in May’s AlaPressa, the Alabama Press Association newsletter, Gray says running for public office is “where the Lord wanted us to go.” He aims to be elected to the seat currently held by Jack Williams, who has announced his intentions to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Rusty Glover.

And while Gray’s political ambitions are at odds with national journalistic ethical standards that say members of the press shouldn’t run for public office, in Alabama he wouldn’t be alone in trying to straddle the line between media and politics. According to Alabama Press Association Executive Director Felicia Mason, the Yellowhammer State has at least a few newspaper folks who wear two hats.

“There are currently several publishers/editors that serve as mayors or council members throughout the state. Publishers from Jackson and Tallassee have served in the Alabama Legislature,” Mason wrote in response to questions from Lagniappe.

APA’s code of ethics, passed in 1968, does not address the matter of members of the press holding public office. Mason affirmed that APA does not have a stance on publishers, editors and reporters running for or holding public office.

However, a Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee position paper on political involvement says it bluntly — “The simplest answer is ‘No.’ Don’t do it. Don’t get involved. Don’t contribute money, don’t work in a campaign, don’t lobby, and especially, don’t run for office yourself.”

SPJ’s position paper does address the matter of publishers doing things politically they would not allow of reporters or editors, including donating to political campaigns, but does not specifically speak to a situation where a publisher actually runs for office. The paper does refer to publishers getting involved in politics financially when they wouldn’t otherwise allow employees to do likewise as a “double standard.”

While Gray is the publisher, he also has journalistic duties as a reporter and regular opinion columnist. It is not clear whether the Call News has any policies restraining editorial staff from running for or holding public office.

How Gray intends the Call News to report on his or any challenger’s campaign, or upon his activities in office, should he win, are unclear. A good bit of the paper’s primary coverage area is in District 102. Questions posed to Gray were unanswered as of press time.

Farewell Katie Hammond
One of the most universally beloved members of Mobile’s media community passed away last week after almost a decade of battling breast cancer.

Katie Hammond, 41, passed away June 8. Professionally she was a producer and assignment editor at WKRG-TV from 2005-2016. Prior to that Katie worked for five years at Fox10 TV and also had a stint at the Press-Register.

She was also known to many in local media for her work helping hold together the Mobile Press Club for several years.

Katie was known for her upbeat attitude and toughness through her devastating battle.

A memorial service will be held at Dauphin Way United Methodist Friday, June 16 at 12 p.m. with a visitation immediately following at the church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mobile Patriots Wheelchair Basketball Team, 4595 Hawthorne Place, Mobile, AL 36608 or the Mitchell Cancer Center.

Friends will also gather at The Brickyard (266 Dauphin St.) from 6 – 8 p.m. to share happy memories and toast Katie.