By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on March 18, 2019
On July 27, 2012, Weld for Birmingham Publisher Mark Kelly issued a telling press statement on the newspaper’s website about reporter Kyle Whitmire’s decision to leave Weld to accept a job at the Alabama Media Group, which owns The Birmingham News and the website AL.com. Kelly stated:
“Over the past several weeks, substantial differences arose between our management team and Kyle. Those differences were related to our plans for the immediate and future direction and priorities of Weld for Birmingham and its online and print publications. They also involved issues related to Kyle’s current and past job performance and fulfillment of his duties as a shareholder in our company. It seems clear that all of that factored into his decision to accept the position he has been offered with our competitor.
Regarding the issues that contributed to Kyle’s decision, I will not provide specifics, as they involve proprietary information about our company’s operations. We have been aware for a few weeks that Kyle was in discussions with Alabama Media Group, though he did not see fit to share that information with us until yesterday, when he told us that he had received and intended to accept a job offer.
On a personal note, I do find it ironic that their recruitment of Kyle comes at a time when the Birmingham News has fired a substantial number of talented and seasoned reporters. Clearly, it is a competitive move in response to the inroads Weld has made in the past 11 months toward our goal of becoming the primary source of news and information for the Birmingham area. That certainly is their prerogative, as it is Kyle’s to accept what I assume is a substantially higher salary than we as a startup company can afford. Of course, it’s ironic anyway, given some of the reporting and editorializing Kyle has done about the company for which he apparently now will be working. These things happen in business….”.
In his own words, Kelly publicly told the Birmingham community that Weld had issues with Kyle Whitmire’s job performance and his unwillingness or inability to fulfill his duties as a shareholder in Weld. I interpreted Kelly’s statement as a subtle pronouncement that Weld found Whitmire sorely lacking in productivity as a journalist and failing as a financially capable and reliable business partner.
Additionally, Whitmire deserted his business partners at Weld without letting them know he was bailing out on them until the last minute. The way in which Whitmire deserted Weld speaks volumes about his loyalty and commitment to the people with whom he shared a fiduciary relationship in business.
Furthermore, Whitmire joined a media competitor he privately and publicly disparaged while working at Weld. In essence, Whitmire abandoned business partners who trusted him to get in bed with Weld’s media “enemy" at the time.
This “enemy” -- The Birmingham News -- has a sordid past. In 2004, the Alabama Supreme Court described how The Birmingham News defrauded six of its longtime former newspaper distributors in the case of The Birmingham News v. Sherry Horn. The News never publicly acknowledged defrauding these victims and has never apologized for the serial acts of fraud it perpetrated against them.
Whitmire found a journalistic home that fits him well. It has solid credentials in defrauding business partners. It regularly departs from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics when writing and publishing articles. It has a documented history of fabricating fake racist quotations and attributing them to adversaries. And, it has a long and distinguished record as a ready, willing, and able COINTELPRO participant.
Can Kyle Whitmire be trusted to report news on a fair and objective basis? Based upon how Whitmire betrayed and deserted Mark Kelly and Weld for Birmingham, and based upon Whitmire's biased reporting and undisclosed conflicts of interest in my case, I do not think so.
PHOTO: AL.com columnist Kyle Whitmire (left) and Weld for Birmingham Publisher Mark Kelly (right).