After spending five months in jail for contempt after refusing to remove stories about former Gov. Bob Riley’s son from his website, blogger Roger “The Legal Schnauzer” Shuler was hammered for a $3.5 million judgment this week for defaming a former campaign manager for Attorney General Luther Strange.

Shuler has made himself famous or infamous depending upon your point of view for his virulent attacks on many of the state’s Republican leaders. Some of these attacks have moved into the personal arena, with Shuler alleging affairs and other moral breaches on his site, “The Legal Schnauzer.” On Monday a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge entered a default judgment against Shuler for $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages for things he wrote about Jessica Medeiros Garrison and allegations she and Strange had an affair. She managed Strange’s 2010 campaign for Attorney General and also served as chief counsel and deputy AG in 2011.

Whether Garrison will see any of that judgment is doubtful as Shuler appears unlikely to have that kind of money and even had his house foreclosed upon in the past year. Her lawyers called what Shuler had done “cyber bullying,” and the way he has handled his blog certainly has raised questions as to how defamation cases may be handled in the Internet Age.

Before the web, a single person with little or no money would have had an almost impossible time projecting his or her viewpoint to a large audience. Shuler has been able to gain some measure of audience and have his stories become widely disseminated, which has created unique issues.

He was ordered to take down stories about Rob Riley after the former governor’s son received an injunction, but initially refused to do so and was jailed for contempt.

Shuler wrote about the judgment on his blog this week.

“As has been widely reported, I was unlawfully incarcerated from October 23, 2013, to March 26, 2014, because of a defamation lawsuit brought by Republican political figure Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke. From the moment I set foot out of the Shelby County Jail, my wife Carol and I were faced with possible foreclosure on our home — and the foreclosure actually took place on April 29, 2014. Without going into too many details at this point, that was part of the fallout from me being cheated out of my job at UAB for reporting accurately on this blog about the Don Siegelman case and the actions of wife-beating U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (who now faces possible impeachment) — and from Carol being cheated out of her job at Infinity Insurance,” Shuler wrote.

He says he plans to try to have the judgment overturned.

WPMI claims ratings dominance
Typically any time I write about radio or TV ratings someone feels their story wasn’t told properly. WPMI’s General Manager Bobby Totsch wrote in this week saying he felt I’d left out some important info when I wrote about the February sweeps last week.

In that article I focused on overall household ratings and the 18-49 rating. In both of those categories WPMI lagged, but Totsch wanted to stress the point his station has made important strides in shares, which is the percentage of audience watching in any key demographic.

“Last February WPMI (Local 15) benefitted from the Olympics, and had an overall dominant news performance. It would make sense that compared to that rating book there would be some falloff, however, Local 15 continues to make significant strides in the news market on the Alabama side. Local 15 focuses its growth on key demos and not housholds. All news audience is critical to a stations footprint, but key demos such as 18-49, 25-54 and women demographics are coveted by advertisers, not households,” he wrote.  

Totsch explained that over the past two years how close certain demographics in late night news have become.

“Local 15 is now consistently number one or number two in ratings in the four key adult demos (18-49 and 25-54, women 18-49 and women 25-54) compared to WALA 9 p.m. and WKRG 10 p.m.,” he wrote.

In all of those categories each station was within spitting distance of the other, according to the numbers Totsch provided. He also touted WPMI’s performance in the morning.

“In addition, Local 15’s morning show has also grown in key demos, and compared to WALA and KRG we have closed the gap over the past few books. If you take out last February due to the Olympics, LOCAL 15 is the only morning newscast to have grown from last May to this February in the same demos above. No other Mobile station can make that claim,” he wrote.

New reporter
Lagniappe welcomes a new reporter to our illustrious newsroom. Eric Mann joins us after almost seven years with Gulf Coast Newspapers in Baldwin County, where he most recently served as editor of the The Courier.

Prior to that he served as sports editor for GCN. And before coming to Baldwin he was sports editor and editor for the Northport Gazette in Northport, Ala.

Mann will primarily cover Eastern Shore news for Lagniappe, although he will also cover stories from throughout the community. He replaces Alyson Stokes who took a job in California in the music industry.