If you are anything like me, you have never paid that much attention to state level politics.  

That changed for me recently after the events that occurred between Nov 3, 2020 and Jan 6, 2021. Until that point, I was hypnotized by the national 24-hour news cycle. 

Each dose of national news I consumed left me feeling more overwhelmed, helpless, and downright angry, yet I could never get enough. However, those feelings were amped up and multiplied by about 10,000 from the morning after the election to the infamous Jan 6th debacle.  I could see plain as day what was going on, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. 

I wanted to pull my hair out. I found myself yelling at the television — apparently Aaron Lewis wasn’t the only one — and I soon began to realize there was nothing I could do about what was going on in a swamp 800 miles away. However, I began to think there may be something I could do about what was going on here in Alabama. 

Think about it like the adage of eating an elephant. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” When we focus on all the things going on nationally, we get overwhelmed, we feel helpless, and we easily fall prey to despondency. Not to mention these 24-hour news stations must fill all 24 hours, so stuff that isn’t even newsworthy starts making headlines just to keep us angry and tuned in. Joe Biden falling up the stairs is not news and there is certainly nothing we can do about it, yet that was played over and over and over. The point is, we need to start taking manageable, actionable, bite size steps, and that begins by focusing on things closer to home that we can actually influence. 

The first problem I recognized as I tried to familiarize myself with what was going on in Alabama was that there was nowhere to turn for good statewide news that wasn’t either radically Left or bought and paid for by current “Republicans” who wanted favorable coverage as they  attempted to pass the kind of legislation that would make a New York Democrat blush. 

No one was asking the politicians tough questions. Historically, a free press has always promoted a healthy skepticism of the government because it was the job of the press to hold the government accountable. That isn’t happening in Alabama right now. One outlet spends all its time shaming Alabamians for believing the Bible and supporting Trump, while the rest of the publications cozy up to Governor Kay Ivey, telling us how spectacular she is and what a wonderful job she is doing. 

I believe there was a time when the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press Register had great reporting that held the people in power in this state accountable. Those days are no longer. 

Fortunately for me, I was able to take action. Because of my background in news and media, I know a lot of people that work in the political space in Alabama, so I was able to get some information about what was really going on. What I found was, in a word, astounding. Almost no one in Alabama has any idea about what’s going on behind the scenes because the press in our state refuses to report on issues that might make the people in power look bad.

Let’s look at the 2021 Legislative Session, for instance. Coming off the heels of COVID lockdowns, business closures, school closures, children being masked, and much more, there was plenty to talk about. But what was prioritized in the legislative session? 

Before you start guessing, remember that Alabama has a Republican supermajority. Alabamians are widely known to be the most conservative folks in the country. No one — and I mean no one — wonders what you mean when you say, “Alabama Values.” Surely our legislative session would have focused on doing something from the GOP Platform that got them elected.

Surely we’d try to get rid of the state income tax or the grocery tax. The State of Alabama had the largest budget surplus in history, which seemingly should have meant a tax cut or a sales tax holiday or something, right? Wrong. There were no tax cuts of any kind. 

With our poorly performing schools, surely we implemented some form of school choice that would create competition to provide opportunities for poverty-stricken children zoned for failing schools, right? Wrong. No meaningful action on school choice. 

Did we try to pass some commonsense legislation that would alleviate pressure on small businesses and help Alabama to be a less regulative place for folks trying to start or run businesses? Nope. Nothing substantial happening there either. 

So, what did we do? 

Most of the 2021 legislative session was taken up with gambling and medical marijuana. No matter how you feel about either of these topics, the way in which those in authority attempted to obsess about and pass these pieces of legislation was less than forthright. 

The gambling bill, in fact, sought to give exclusive rights to run full-blown gambling establishments to a handful of handpicked entities whose names would be forever emblazoned in the Alabama Constitution. There was little mention of this in local media. Instead, it was advertised as a lottery bill. You know the line, “Are you tired of driving over the state line to get your scratch tickets? We can end that with this ‘lottery’ bill.” 

Those benefiting from this so-called “lottery bill” just happened to be the same people that have been thumbing their nose at the law for decades. They have been running establishments like this illegally, and now those in power seek to reward them for their criminal behavior by writing their names into the Alabama State Constitution so they can have exclusive rights to run these establishments in perpetuity. Keep in mind that this bill soared through both houses. The only reason it didn’t pass was because Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted about how terrible the bill was and enough Alabamians became aware of the shenanigans being pulled. 

However, despite Trump, Jr.’s tweet, most Alabamians continued to be left in the dark.

Had you heard about this?

The other bill that took most of the air out of the State House was the medical marijuana legislation, which did pass both houses and was signed by the governor. Again, this isn’t about whether you think medicinal marijuana is good or not; it’s the way in which the legislation was written and passed. This bill was advertised as a bill that would help children with epilepsy, when in fact the driving force of this bill was to make money for a select few cronies and expand government. If you think Alabama’s ABC Board and state-run liquor racket is ridiculous, wait until you see the “gubment” start slangin’ ganja.

If the people of Alabama truly wanted medical marijuana, surely there was a way to get it passed that didn’t impose massive government-controlled infrastructure that would financially benefit a few select people. Did you know that this bill established an entirely new government bureaucracy and gave that bureaucracy powers seen in few other areas of government? Surprising ...

Again, very few in Alabama know about any of this because it wasn’t investigated thoroughly and reported on. And this is what it all comes down to. The great people of Alabama are being underserved by their news outlets and it is a crying shame. 

The difference between these state-level problems and the national ones I first mentioned is that I feel very confident we can change what is going on here in Alabama. 

This is why I started 1819 News. 

As I mentioned above, the people of Alabama are underserved by the statewide news outlets. No one is asking tough questions. There are no statewide media outlets that act like they have the people of Alabama’s best interest in mind. 

We are going to fill this gap and more. 

1819 News will be a statewide, state-focused, full-service multimedia company for the State of Alabama (which became the 22nd state in 1819).

1819 News will be an incredible source for hard-hitting news from a team of seasoned journalists. We will deliver beat reporting and investigative journalism that exposes the truth and provides Alabamians with the vital information they need to actively participate in their civic duties. 1819 News will have a large stable of opinion writers that weigh in daily on the most important issues facing Alabamians.

In addition, 1819 News will produce a broad variety of content that celebrates what is good, true, and beautiful about our great state. From podcasts to in-depth feature stories, short videos, sports reporting, outdoor coverage, and a statewide radio network, we will raise the bar for journalism in Alabama. 

I believe very strongly that the people of Alabama can take their state back. Historically, politics has been downstream from culture. Nothing happens in politics or public policy until it has first happened in the culture. However, that is not what we are seeing in Alabama. The overwhelming  

majority of Alabamians fear God and believe in hard work, personal responsibility, strong families, competition, free markets, and limited government. Despite that, our legislature often fails to reflect those values. This has to change, and I believe it will change when the people of Alabama say “enough is enough” and they have the information they need to put their foot down. 

1819 News will give them the tools to do just that.

Bryan Dawson is CEO of 1819 News and lives in Wetumpka.