The speaker at this morning’s Madison County Republican breakfast was Huntsville Times editor Kevin Wendt. Last year about this time he addressed the MCGOP as the newly hired editor, and he’s had a year or so to settle into his job. He recognized then the frustration that many people in Huntsville felt about The Times, and IMO he has made some positive steps toward improving the paper’s relationship with the community. More about Wendt in a minute…
Tim James won the Madison County GOP Straw Poll with 35%, Bradley Byrne came in second with 26%, and Roy Moore came in third with 15%. In a departure from previous straw polls, this poll was open to MCGOP members only (to minimize skewing the poll results).
Here’s a post about Tim James MCGOP visit in May 2009.
Tim James visited the meeting today, and it was nice to hear that he and his friends read Flashpoint.
The meeting was standing-room only, packed with about 250 people. In addition to Tim James, notable notables included State Senator Paul Sanford; State Representatives Mike Ball, Howard Sanderford, and Mac McCutcheon; County Commissioner Mo Brooks (AL05 Congressional candidate); County Schools Superintendent Terry Davis; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Huntsville City Council Members Sandra Moon and Mark Russell; and Judge Bruce Williams. Candidates for office included Les Phillip (Congress AL05), Mary Scott Hunter (State Board of Education), John Wilson (Senate 9), Tony Cochran (Senate 9), and Don Spurlin (Senate 9). I was pleased to see that Dale Jackson of WVNN joined us for breakfast.
I enjoy seeing Mayor Battle and I appreciate that he’s accessible to the citizens of Huntsville. I should probably write up something positive about the City to make up for all the fussing…
Now back to Kevin Wendt. In his speech noted that he’s made some “changes at The Huntsville Times”. He noted that circulation dropped a little bit to 50,000 papers daily, due to the “economy” and the “price increase”; Sunday’s paper circulation is 72,000 (about the same as last year).
Wendt said that when he took over, the editorial page writers “leaned to the left” and that he was trying to “balance out the editorial page”. He promoted John Peck to editorial page editor, offered buyouts to John Ehinger (who I think was fair and pretty good), David Persons (who was one-dimensional), and David Prather (who was a poor tipper according to people I know in the restaurant industry).
Wendt expanded the Business Section to make it a stand-alone section of the paper. He hopes to differentiate the paper based on it’s strength reporting local news and business. The paper is focusing on local coverage and started up a “watchdog page”.
The Sunday paper is where Wendt is building a “national page”. He cited as an example of this page the recent printing of the text of the health care bills and the text of a Dick Cheney speech. He said that The Times ran Cheney’s speech with the purpose of reaching out to the right and getting “to know our audience better”.
Wendt says there are things The Times can do better. He plans to improve election coverage, in part because “we didn’t do a good job” in the Sanford / Hall Senate 7 special election (if only someone like Dale Jackson at WVNN had spoken up about it or maybe if Brian had said something the Times would have realized their error sooner).
Wendt said that endorsements for candidates “are key to what a local paper can bring to the table”.
QUESTION AND ANSWER (brief summary):
Q = is political diversity important
A = Yes. Need to be “aware of issues”
Q = ACORN on page 8
A = “national story”, “goal is to highlight local issues”
Q = Are you going to balance the Faith and Values section – buncha lefties
A = “don’t plan changes”, “aware of it”
Q = why Cynthia Tucker
A = email Peck with ideas
Q = Great job, you’ve made the paper better
A = Thanks
I missed a couple Q&As here… Keep in mind I’m trying to eat, listen, and write at the same time…
Q = Why is the Big10 covered in the Sports section?
A = “we won’t get into a discussion about the Big10 being overrated”
Overall, Kevin Wendt made a good speech, he was witty and forthright in the Q&A, and his remarks were warmly received. Good job, Kevin!