Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bert Nettles, July 13, 1974. Interview A-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Media coverage of Alabama's politics

Owned by S. I. Newhouse, Advance Publications began purchasing newspapers around the nation. Among those operated by the company were the major papers in Alabama's four main cities, and Nettles worries that this situation decreased the quality of political reporting that occurred.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bert Nettles, July 13, 1974. Interview A-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
We sort of have a cursory impression that the level of political reporting in Alabama is pretty weak. Is that correct?
BERT NETTLES:
It's very weak in Mobile. We have one political reporter who plays favorites.
JACK BASS:
Is it weak in Montgomery?
BERT NETTLES:
Yes. Where it's strong really . . . by comparison . . . it's nothing like Atlanta. What you have in Louisiana with the New Orleans papers. Birmingham. You've got some good reporters. I don't want to . . . . I've always gotten along well with all but the one here. But yet they . . . in the papers . . . . You have to say this, the news media have done a terrific job, I suppose, generally, in fighting Wallace. But they've always been unsuccessful. Like the Birmingham News, the largest state paper, is very conservative as far as its stand with . . . it takes the chamber of commerce position on most tax issues and things like that, although they . . . . Most of the newspapers do . . . . Did you happen to talk with Jim Boone in Tuscaloosa, who owns and publishes the Tuscaloosa News and has several other newspapers. He and I are close friends and classmates. David Matthews, University of-
JACK BASS:
He was gone. We'd written him-
WALTER DE VRIES:
Gone to China.
BERT NETTLES:
Oh yes. But you've got some young, aggressive newspaper people coming up. Jim Boone already owns the Tuscaloosa, Selma, those two dailies and a number of weeklies around the state, biweeklies. He's very . . . well, on the Alabama scene, you would say he's very moderate, progressive type. Very responsible. But generally, the newspapers have let us down and Mobile is a prime example.
JACK BASS:
Who owns these papers? Are they locally owned?
BERT NETTLES:
Sam Newhouse.Yes sir. And it's the saddest situation in the world.
WALTER DE VRIES:
I only looked at the editorial page one day and that was pretty bad.
BERT NETTLES:
It's every . . . every . . . very seldom . . .
WALTER DE VRIES:
Typical Newhouse paper.
BERT NETTLES:
Well, I don't . . . it's the type of thing . . . . Newhouse owns the Huntsville newspapers, owns the Birmingham News, he prints the Birmingham Post-Herald and he owns the two Mobile papers. The only big, influential papers he does not own or control in some way would be the Montgomery papers. And it scares us to death because eventually he'll get them all. Now he allows local control. In Mobile that's certainly the case. I wish it were not true here, because you've got one man here who is just . . . . It's almost an impossible situation. And very, very regressive, conservative, establishment . . . . I say establishment, I-
JACK BASS:
So all your major newspapers in Alabama are owned out of state. Have out of state ownership.
BERT NETTLES:
Yes. Of the four largest cities that's true. Tuscaloosa, Anniston, Decatur, Gadston. See those, you're getting into your second area. Those are locally owned. But again, they're not state wide papers. Area papers. But the major cities, the four major cities, all of those are owned by out of state.