August 10, 2010 saw this lone Shelby County newspaper tout a revamp of its site based on a myriad of self congratulatory reasons. We noted some things that were more interesting than that feel good propaganda and call this "newspaper" again into question on what its real agenda is, while reminding readers that when editor Tim Prince came on board he claimed it would be a "champion voice for the community."
What was left in the software graveyard were a number of stories on Vincent, Alabama and the proposed quarry (WRQ), in addition to some older stories that had anything to do with Chemical Lime, Martin Marietta, ADEM and the effects those quarry industries had on their respective communities.
What is also absent are all of the previous reader comments on some of these same stories and a declaration that readers wishing to comment must sign up all over again. To be fair, the latter is somewhat understandable, however, we have seen other webpapers go through a redesign process and this was not necessary.
So, why is it necessary with this paper?
The newspaper, for whatever reason (budget, censorship, suppression) has redesigned the web page, but in so doing, has MANIPULATED SOME CONTENT and DELETED OTHER CONTENT.
It is no longer an accurate online representation of the publication and its archives, it is a selectively edited website that is neither a complete nor accurate version of the print edition.
Which means that parties interested in doing ANY research on the content of the Shelby County Reporter cannot trust the website, but must consult physically archived print or microfiche copies such as used to be found in libraries, but… modern budgetary limitations make library hours shorter and curtail the physical acquisition of the newspapers, and binding new copies into reference room editions is probably just not done any more.
Which makes a selective or edited Internet edition nothing but an exercise in evasion. There’s no law saying libraries have to keep and file, but this seems like a deliberate attempt to make the public record difficult to access.
We truly hope this is just a glitch and they are still ironing out the kinks with their new design, but we are of the opinion something else is afoot, and are glad that a number of citizens have kept a close eye on certain stories and the comments that accompanied them--and printed them in their entirety before they attained "error 404" status.
Change is good and websites are to be commended for making the most of advancing technology we agree, but exclusion and editing on reader forums and specific stories by this newspaper have given the appearance of censorship and bias, in addition to an attempt to "control the message."
Neither should be a part of journalism based in integrity particularly when the those same outlets claim otherwise. The truest voice of any community is the news reporting that presents accurate, equal and non prejudicial coverage that informs the reader fairly and allows for introspective thought and independent conclusion without any hidden agenda to form the readers opinion for them.
Shelby County will have to wait longer for their "champion voice" because it is still not present in any of the current local news media despite persistent attempts to demonstrate inclusiveness and improvements for the self professed most "important asset of the paper, the readers."
Lipstick on a pig doesn't pretty up the pig--it's still a pig.
So say we the opinion board of the Vincent Alabama Confidential