Rick Bragg: ‘Any writing life I have, I owe in some way to The Anniston Star’

Rick Bragg got his start at The Anniston Star. That’s where he first began telling his distinctively southern tales that eventually led him to The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize. So it’s not surprising that Bragg reacted with wistful sadness when he learned that the Star will stop printing every day sometime this fall.

“I fully understand the economics behind it,” he said in a phone interview from the University of Alabama, where he’s a professor. “I fully understand the technological and sociological reasons behind it. I understand all that. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean I have to like seeing a print paper fade.”

He added, however, that “if this is a strengthening of the paper as a whole … then I’m for it. But you hate to see any change in things that have been part of your life forever.”

The newspaper announced this week that, starting around October, it will stop printing on Mondays, among other changes. Circulation is lowest on Monday.

The announcement makes the Star the fourth Alabama paper (and the first one not owned by Advance Publications) to recently announce plans to cut back on print. Bragg also worked at The Birmingham News, a much larger paper that is pursuing a more aggressive Web-first path.

Bragg, who grew up near Anniston, came to the Star when he was 20, after dropping out of college and doing a short stint at The Daily Home in Talladega, Ala. He covered sports.

“Any writing life I have, I owe in some way to The Anniston Star. It’s where I learned my craft,” he said. “It’s where, on a few hundred Friday nights, I wrote a deadline story about high school football. I learned how to write in a hurry.”

He still reads the paper when he visits his mom outside Jacksonville, Ala., like last weekend. “Part of my ritual is to get an Anniston Star and sit at a meat-and-three, usually the Village Inn or a little Chinese restaurant in town called the Golden Dragon.”

He described his routine: sports section first, then to page 1, always heavy on local news, around to the features and ending with the comics. “It’s a small daily, but it’s a good one, and I have always found it to have the things in it that I needed to know.”

“I’ve never had a day on this planet that didn’t have something to do with The Anniston Star,” he said, including, he figures, his birth announcement. “I’m pretty sure my obituary’s gonna be in it.”

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  • Anonymous

    and the KEY GAFFE was the fake dateline, the “get” just to get the dateline when in fact it was NOT always a true get! of course, 2003 was LONG ago….

  • Anonymous

    Ella James wrote, in response to danbloom:
    At the time, using assistants without crediting them with a “Rick Brag &” type of byline was normal. Lots of other NYT reporters did it. That was a bit before the ombudsman jobs all got created, if I recall. DAN ADDS: YES ten years ago was a long time ago. !!!! SIGh…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/77MPD2RVHNDS3OO25KHMYZ2C24 Ella James

  • Anonymous

    Times Reporter Steps Down Amid CriticismBy JACQUES STEINBERGPublished: May 29, 2003Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent for The New York Times , resigned yesterday, five days after the newspaper published an editors’ note that said he had relied heavily on the reporting of a freelance journalist for an article about the oystermen of the Florida Gulf Coast. Mr. Bragg, a roving correspondent based in New Orleans who is the author of two best-selling memoirs, offered his resignation during a conversation with the newspaper’s executive editor, Howell Raines. The resignation came at the end of a frenetic day of debate among journalists over the appropriate amount of assistance that correspondents should receive from freelancers. Some of Mr. Bragg’s colleagues on the national staff had exchanged phone calls and e-mail messages, angered by comments from Mr. Bragg suggesting that it was routine for Times correspondents to rely on freelance contributors to do the bulk of the reporting on some articles.

  • Anonymous

    and since then i have found four or five fake dateline “gets” from Times freelancers in Asia…..and nobody ever checks. when i asked one of the freelancers if she was really in Taipei for that interview, she said well not really i was in Beijing, Does it matter ? yes if its the NYT it matters, but her editor let it go. i contacted him too. VIP journalism i call it. scare quotes not mine

  • Anonymous

    amnesia? wasn’t Bragg that guy who left the NYT under a cloud of doubt re his drive by fly by dateline gets, which some questioned as not always being real? Why no mention of that here? I seem to remember reading about that a few years ago from my cave here in Taiwan…submitted stories to the Tiems with a dateline of say, SUCH A SUCH A CITy, when in fact, his assistant was there doing the get quotes, no? Or am i confusing Bragg with another reporter?

  • Anonymous

    lol. no offense, and i’m sure your columns were quite good. however, the star will publish virtually anything that’s half way literate as long as they don’t have to pay for it.  

  • http://twitter.com/rsmithtex Richard Smith

    The Star published a couple of my columns from Cox and the NY Times News Service. I didn’t get paid any extra for it, but I appreciated the extra readers.

  • Anonymous

     Then they’ll hold it until Tuesday…when it will make page 1.

  • Anonymous

     Then they’ll hold it until Tuesday…when it will make page 1.

  • poppy coq

    [[“I’ve never had a day on this planet that didn’t have something to do with The Anniston Star,” he said, including, he figures, his birth announcement. “I’m pretty sure my obituary’s gonna be in it.”]]

    …unless he happens to die on a Sunday.

  • Anonymous

    the anniston star has gotten more mileage out of rick bragg than dale earnhart ever got out of a pair of racing tires. it’s sort of funny, but it seems that the anniston paper is the only one you ever hear about playing some (truly significant?) role in helping spawn someone who succeeded in journalism when, in fact, there are dozens, doubtless hundreds, of them. wonder why the star is the only one you ever hear about?