ALVIE “AL” HACKLE
Balancing life with daily 50-mile trek
Q&A by Erica Relaford, Savannah State University SPJ Georgia Collegiate Pro
Name: Alvie “Al” Hackle
Current Home: Claxton, Georgia
Current Gig: Reporter on education, city government and politics at the Statesboro Herald, six-day newspaper in the hometown of Georgia Southern University. Also writes for a weekly business page. “Here you have to do a bit of everything.”
What are your hobbies?
When Hackle isn’t writing, he enjoys hiking and walking with his family, bicycling with his son and reading. “My favorite genres are philosophy and ancient history,” Hackle said. He also enjoys cooking. One family favorite is a pasta dish. “We call it rigatoni pepperoni pasta pizza bake,” he says. “I can’t give you the recipe because there isn’t one.”
How did you know writing/reporting was your passion?
“I was always interested in finding out new things and I enjoyed current events.”
How do you manage life and work as a journalist?
When I’ve managed any sort of work-life balance, it has only been sporadically or for a season. For a decade, I chose to go from a daily paper to a weekly paper so that I could have some real home life. That worked for a while, especially since my office was a mile from our house. Now, after a briefer season when I did some freelance work and took classes toward my master’s, I’ve returned to the daily paper and a 25-mile commute each way. Honestly, that’s not working so well. You’ve got me thinking about taking a real vacation.
What is your educational background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Mercer University. After decades as a reporter, I’ve now taken classes for a master’s in journalism online with the University of Memphis. All I have left to do at this point is complete a thesis project. I’m working on a national survey of journalists on an ethics topic.
How have you evolved in/with journalism in the last 25 years?
If you’re asking about technology, obviously I have evolved with it, or I wouldn’t still be in the business. But I think too much is made of the changes in technology. Tools are tools, and people decide how we use them.
What’s more important to me is that I’ve come to see journalism more as a form of human communication, among many, but with special purposes. It should serve people. At first I saw it as a sort of mission, an obligation. We were bound to report certain things, and our sources had to make certain things public.
But now I think about what people want to know and why. Tools such as social media may give us more insight into what people want, but we still have to use some trained judgment about what is worth knowing. Otherwise journalism is no longer about news, no longer has any element of public service, and it all becomes social media and entertainment.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as a reporter?
I really think it was serving as editor of a century-old weekly paper, The Claxton Enterprise, in a very rural South Georgia town for 10 years and opening that paper’s coverage up so that it represented the community and its diversity a little better.
For example, I’m pretty sure the Enterprise had always covered the Martin Luther King Day parade, but I started reporting more from what was a whole series of MLK week events, including a step and spoken-word competition that involved a lot of young people. I think it came off more as the whole community’s celebration. One year we also had a little project with a Hispanic student who worked with the high school’s Spanish club to produce a school news feature—part of a page—in Spanish. I have no idea how many people actually read that in our otherwise English-language newspaper, but I think it said something important about inclusion.
What interested you in becoming a member of SPJ?
I’ve long been impressed with the SPJ Code of Ethics. Last November I gave a presentation on my ethics topic at a conference in Missouri. Another of the presenters was the SPJ’s national ethics committee chair, Andrew Seaman, who talked about recent work to update the code, keeping it a living document. I decided to join the SPJ to be part of a group with a commitment to maintaining relevant standards not just for how we report, but what we report.
Erica Relaford, a SPJ Georgia collegiate pro and 2015 SPJ Georgia summer intern, is the news and culture editor for Tiger’s Roar, the student newspaper at Savannah State University. She is also a freelancer for So Fresh Magazine in Atlanta, Georgia, and has written for the Cross Roads News in Decatur, Georgia. As a senior at SSU, she majors in journalism and mass communicat