Bronner takes aim at columnist
Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
The embodiment of hubris
I arrived in Montgomery about a year before David Bronner, having been appointed Deputy Court Administrator in the fledgling State Department of Court Management by the late Chief Justice Howell Heflin. A year later Bronner, who was assistant dean of the law school at Alabama, was named to head the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).
I have had a long time to observe David and I have most always spoken and written in a complimentary way about the job he has done at RSA despite my belief that he should plead guilty to hubris. A few months ago his hubris morphed him into a jackanapes as he began a barrage of attacks on Montgomerians and other Alabamians who opposed the construction by RSA of a 12-story office building that would severely obstruct the historic vista up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol.
Following his public references to those who opposed his building, which included remarks such as “mouthy old guard preservationists,” and “do nothings,” I labeled him “Alabama’s Decider.” There was also this classic Bronner line… “If there is some little old lady who can’t see the Capitol from Dexter Avenue, I don’t care.” I suggested that he apologize to those citizens who, by the way, help pay his handsome salary and that he give the citizens of Alabama sufficient time to properly lodge complaints about the building.
Enter Editor Bronner
The RSA Advisor is the newsletter of the RSA, but it has primarily been the tool of Dr. Bronner to vent his views about the world of pensions, reproduce any glowing account of his achievements and sometimes take shots at individuals, candidates and public officials of his choice, and support or oppose certain ballot issues. He labels some of his writings as editorials. The Advisor is mailed or otherwise distributed to some 320,000 people at what must be a pretty expensive price tag and is paid for with public dollars, yours and mine.
Last Friday, I participated on Alabama Public Television’s “For The Record” news program along with Kim Price, publisher of The Wetumpka Herald, and State Rep. David Grimes of Montgomery. After the show’s taping, we were talking at the reception desk in the State House. I looked down and spotted a stack of the RSA Advisor on the desk. Since I had not received the normal two I get in the mail, I picked up a copy and there in print was Alabama’s “boy wonder” writing about me. “Wow,” I thought. “I have made the big time now.”
I won’t bore you with all the missiles fired at me by David, but here is the first paragraph, which ought to be of interest to newspaper folks: “Bob Martin is a retired state employee who is now the editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent, a weekly newspaper. As the investor in 93 dailies and 50 weeklies, the RSA knows the difficult problems facing the industry. Weekly newspapers are especially difficult for the publisher to be successful simply because of the competition. They tend to be very local and require finding, or making up, news that others do not cover on a daily basis.” Oh my, David you have spent too many hours reading The Onion.
My serious reply to that not very savvy statement is two-fold. (1) Dr. Bonner, if your analysis is correct why has RSA financed and continues to hold the paper on those 143 properties, particularly the weeklies, (under the corporate signature of CNHI)…and (2). As the chief investor for Alabama public employees, why do you not understand that it is the large metropolitan daily papers that are declining in value, not the small community newspapers? I may be wrong, but at this point in time I do not know of a single small daily, bi-weekly or weekly newspaper in Alabama in trouble or one that has “to make up the news.” A recent “industry report” says this: “Buyer demand for solid weeklies remains strong. We are also seeing solid demand for smaller and mid-sized daily newspapers.” And recent national surveys show that 83 percent of Americans read a community newspaper. So perhaps now is the time for CNHI to sell some of those weekly properties since it is your belief that it is difficult to succeed with a weekly paper. If you decide to sell one David, call me. I think I can find a buyer.
Huntsville’s WHNT-TV politically exonerated
Last week the great conspiracy theory engulfed Huntsville’s CBS affiliate WHNT-TV surrounding the blacked-out segment on 60 Minutes dealing with a report on the trial and conviction of former Gov. Siegelman. It was reported by several news outlets that the station’s owners had made heavy contributions to President Bush and Republicans. It was later discovered that some contributions had been made to Republicans, but they had contributed far greater amounts to Democrats. Also, it is very difficult to believe that having touted the Siegelman segment all week, the station would sabotage the show and lose significant ad dollars.