The Pulitzer Board recognizes the editor of the Alabama Reflector in the commentary category

Brian Lyman in his welcome columnstarted the States Newsroom outlet in Alabama with the following words: “Alabama’s pain and promise collide on Dexter Avenue in the heart of Montgomery.”

Founder of the Alabama Reflector, who has covered state politics for most of his 24-year journalism career. And, he joked, he hasn’t written a column since college. But he started writing every week.

His lifelong pursuit of difficult news informs how he approached the work that earned Lyman recognition by the Pulitzer Board in comment category “for bold, clear and blunt columns that challenge increasingly repressive state policies that disregard democratic norms and target defenseless populations, written under the command and authority of an experienced political observer.”

The winners were announced on Monday. Vladimir Kara-Murzaa Russian writer imprisoned for opposing the war with Ukraine, won with columns published in The Washington Post.

Lyman’s writings often focus on history through the lens of contemporary issues unfolding in Alabama. “There are patterns in this state that repeat over and over again,” he said in an interview. “You can change characters. You can change the lines. You can change the settings.” But the key theme, he said, is that Alabama’s government tends to serve the powerful, not the underdog.

“If you’ve seen this show before, you can get a sense of where things are going,” Lyman said. The role of his comments in the bigger news picture he looks at every day is to provide context and background for readers who are trying to understand what is happening. “For people who may feel like they may be lost in the wake of the latest crisis in Alabama… I hope people will read my articles and maybe have a better understanding of what is going on.”

His analyzes typically rely on the work of Reflector reporters who find stories that Lyman puts into context. One column recognized by the Pulitzer Board: “The high price of low taxes in Alabama”, could not have happened without reporting by Ralph Chapoco, who spent months analyzing Alabama’s fines and fees system. Other, “Why GOP lawmakers fear “divisive ideas.””, jumped out from an candid account Jemma Stephenson AND Alander Rocha. “You can’t really write about these things unless you’re dealing with a really hard-working and observant staff,” Lyman said.

However, his comments do more than serve as a guide to the Reflector team’s news coverage. They also helped change the way some historical stories were told.

One of his first columns last year was about Arthur Madison, a civil rights hero who organized a registration drive in the 1940s that helped get hundreds of Black voters on the voter rolls. Madison was then targeted, arrested and disbarred. Lyman drew attention to this history, arguing that the historical record needed to be corrected. A few months later Madison was there inducted into the Alabama State Bar Hall of Fame.

“Alabama is rich with examples of what happens when you give the powerful too much power and don’t limit them,” Lyman said. “But the problem is that we also have many examples of Alabamians who refuse to accept this and are constantly fighting for something better.”

Lyman said the state he writes about every week is one where America is confronting itself. “Alabama is where we see the worst and the best of the American character.”

The nod to Lyman is a first United Newsroom — a national nonprofit news network that Alabama reflector belongs to – had a Pulitzer finalist. “We are proud and honored that the Pulitzer Prize Board recognizes Brian’s uncompromising and insightful analysis of this pivotal movement in our history unfolding in Alabama,” said Chris Fitzsimon, president and publisher. “That’s why States Newsroom was founded, to tell the stories of those impacted by decisions made in Montgomery and other statehouses across the country.”

Alabama reflector is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Alabama Reflector maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact editor Brian Lyman: [email protected]. Keep following the Alabama Reflector Facebook AND Twitter.

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