Joey Kennedy, part of a team of journalists at The Birmingham News that won a Pulitzer Prize, recently wrote about his firing from the paper a year ago.
Writing in b-metro magazine, Kennedy described his thoughts about being dismissed after 33 years working with The News. His wife was also laid off after 27 years with the company.
“What has happened to journalism? In Birmingham, at least, what has happened is that journalism is dead. It died when Alabama Media Group took over. There are no real journalists in charge there anymore. And my firing, last Feb. 20, underscores that,” he wrote. “I was fired for ‘threatening’ my sources and for becoming ‘too personally involved’ with my stories. That’s nothing new. I always ‘threatened’ my sources, throughout my 40-plus years as a journalist. If you were working on a story and a source wouldn’t respond, you’d always tell him that the story was going to be written, with or without his response. That’s a ‘threat.’ Or maybe, as in my case, you had a source who was going to put out a different and inaccurate view of a subject on social media, and you might ‘threaten’ to tell the real story if she did so.”
Kennedy refers to himself as an “advocacy journalist” who writes what he believes. He says the days surrounding his dismissal from The News were very dark for him personally because he was so tied to his job. Ultimately, Kennedy says his firing is simply a symptom of what journalism has become under the Alabama Media Group, which has now morphed into the Southeastern Regional Media Group.
“My best memories from my long career are from The Birmingham News. My worst memories are from my two years with Alabama Media Group. Those two years were horrible, mixed daily with wondering who was going to be fired next. Eventually, it gets to you. And it did. And it will,” he wrote.
Ripp returns fire in blog feud
Paul Ripp, the blogger behind The Baldwin County Legal Eagle and The Ripp Report, says he is indeed pursuing legal retribution against James Watkins and The Fairhope Times after that blog published that Ripp had suffered head injuries in Vietnam.
I wrote about the scuffle between the two bloggers last week, but Ripp did not respond in time for his comments to be published. He had publicly claimed he’d taken legal action against Watkins, but Watkins denied receiving any such notification. Last week Ripp clarified the situation.
“He will be served through a P.O. box as he has made it difficult to contact through other means. I gave him three chances to correct the statement about my military medical records to no avail. Rob, I don’t mind the name calling or even the gutter politics, however total fabrication for the purpose to discredit my efforts through the nonprofit, The Ripp Report, I take seriously. I might mention that I was encouraged, by a handful of people familiar with my work, not to let this slide. His intent is to limit my exposure to the public of the corruption that exists in Fairhope and in particular the Fly Creek Apartments,” Ripp wrote.
He said he believes there are efforts to marginalize his blog by people in power upset with his reporting. As for Ripp’s status as a disabled veteran, he provided a statement he says was sent to Watkins explaining the nature of his injuries.
“In Dong Ha our base was mortared or received sniper fire on a regular basis. One day while on the base I was caught out in the open during a mortar attack, I was not injured by shrapnel, however I was so close to the blast that I received a body concussion and was thrown quite some distance. My torso, arms and shoulders were all twisted. As a result of this injury I have had over 14 shoulder operations. In 2010 I was considered fully disabled as a result of those injuries. In Vietnam I was exposed to Agent Orange and in 2006 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had a kidney removed. I have never had a head injury or even concussion in my life,” Ripp wrote.
For his part, Watkins said last week Ripp had told him personally of having a concussion.
“Ripp told me the story himself, years ago, about a concussion from an artillery shell in Vietnam. Woke days later in the hospital … supposedly. Used to sign his letters to editors ‘disabled marine sniper,’” Watkins wrote.