Twist and turns of newspaper life in a nutshell

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If you keep on reading then some of this column might makes sense.

A reader writes:

A while back I got a survey that asked me if I was a liberal or a conservative.

She said I am both — a fiscal conservative and a social liberal.

The survey, however, demanded an answer: liberal or conservative, so she opted out of taking the survey.

That is the way I feel about things some times. but I never have sense enough to opt out.

It would be wonderful if life or issues were so simple that we could label people as either liberal or conservative. Such problems reflect the way things are some times.

That’s why when people take surveys or polls they should simply ask how people will vote on a particular issue, not whether they are conservative or liberal.

The Associated Press and some newspapers require basic information about surveys or polls before they will report the results, including who is paying for the survey, when was it taken, how was it taken, and what are the sampling errors margin for the poll.

This required information is an effort to include any aspect of the survey or poll that might influence the outcome.

People being surveyed  have every right to ask such questions if they get calls from people asking questions.

I remember years ago when I was living in Tuscaloosa that before election day there would always be news stories about how willing voters were to support tax increases for education.

But I noticed that there was seldom any evidence of such support on election day. This, however, is not really what I have on my mind.

It became clear years ago that some people associated with the AEA under the leadership of Paul Hubbert were doing “what had to be done” to gain budget support for public school teachers and for public school administrators.

“What had to be done” included surveys or polls that were favorable to AEA or public education in general.

And “what had to be done” became an open secret: The AEA used its voting power and whatever political might it could muster to improve the pay for school teachers.

Even the political power of the late Gov. George C. Wallace was overcome as Paul Hubbert led the AEA in a surge that established the AEA as the toughest kid on the block.

Years later as things turned out, after I resigned as editorial page editor for the Opelika-Auburn News, I was asked by Don Eddins to write a column for The Auburn Villager, a new weekly in Auburn. Eddins is a lawyer who runs the Villager. He is also the lobbyist for the Alabama Nurses Association.

Some of my fellow codgers warned me that if I agreed to write for The Villager I would be writing columns supporting the AEA, and sometimes I would be writing columns supporting politicians favoring AEA.

With this in mind, I wrote my first five or six columns for The Villager to focus on The Birmingham News series on the questionable ethical practices of Alabama’s Community Colleges. It was a brutal series by The Birmingham News, which later won just about everything for its investigative reporting on the matter.

Eddins never said anything about my columns on The Birmingham News prize winning work. I drew from this that I could write about anything I wanted to write about in The Villager, so I just kept on writing about any thing and every thing I wanted to write about.

My problem was that my health was not really up to par, and then-editor of the Villager, Jacque Kochack, had to clarify some of my sentence structure to make my columns readable.

But the day came when I heard that Eddins had dismissed columnist Bob Mount for criticizing a state senator. This made it easy for me to resign from The Villager, and this is how I wound up,  happily so, on the Observer.

None of this column makes all that much sense, but it just came out.

Writing for the Observer has been a pleasure, and has been great therapy for me in my effort to keep on writing.

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