Lagniappe’s editorial staff has been announced as a finalist in the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies annual national journalism competition.

Under the category of “Race Reporting,” Lagniappe joins three other newspapers in vying for first-place recognition. Our series, “DiverseCity: An Exploration of Race in Mobile and Baldwin Counties,” was led by Assistant Managing Editor Gabriel Tynes, who led a team consisting of Dale Liesch, Jason Johnson, Eric Mann and John Kelsey. Lagniappe art director Laura Rasmussen added illustrations to the project and Thomas Strange handled mapping.

“DiverseCity” ran in October 2015 and featured articles and maps explaining the history of our changing ethnic population and disparities that continue to exist between the various communities. Tynes worked on the series as part of an H.F. Guggenheim fellowship through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Lagniappe is up against stiff competition in the 2016 AAN Awards. The Chicago Reader, Cincinnati CityBeat and Washington City Paper have also been nominated, making Lagniappe the paper from by far the smallest market.

Winners will be announced at the 39th AAN Annual Convention in Austin, Texas, July 9.

Ripp wins blogger lawsuit
The defamation suit lodged by one Baldwin County blogger against another was decided Monday, with Baldwin County Legal Eagle publisher Paul Ripp winning his case and a $500 award.

Ripp, a blogger who publishes The Ripp Report and The Baldwin County Legal Eagle, filed suit against James Watkins, a blogger who publishes The Fairhope Times, in late February. Ripp sued Watkins for $5,000, saying Watkins libeled him in a Jan. 31 post in which he said Ripp was disabled after suffering a head injury in an explosion while serving in the Vietnam War. Ripp says he has never suffered a head injury.

Baldwin District Court Judge J. Clark Stankoski heard the trial last week and on Monday ruled Ripp was indeed libeled by Watkins. Even though the court considers Ripp a public figure, which raises the threshold for libel, Stankoski found Watkins had not taken reasonable care to ensure what he was writing was true and didn’t reply properly to Ripp’s requests for a correction.

Ripp says he “respectfully disagrees” with the judge as to his status as a public figure. He considers himself more of an “irate citizen who sees something wrong and decided to do something about it.” Stankoski believed Ripp’s public postings, email newsletters that go out to thousands each week and regular appearances at public meetings made him something more than just a concerned citizen.

“I wish he had ruled for a little more so I could pay for attorneys fees,” Ripp said, but added he is still satisfied with the ruling and felt he had to sue Watkins because his history as a disabled veteran trying to get treatment has been quite complex.
Ripp says he holds no animosity toward Watkins and believes he just made “a horrible mistake, but doubled down on it.”
Watkins attorney Smith Prestwood said his client would have no comment on the ruling at this time.