Stanley R. Tiner

Stanley Ray Tiner (born 1942) has since May 2000 been the executive editor and vice president of The Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi-Gulfport, Mississippi. He previously served briefly as the executive editor of The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and as editor of the Press-Register in Mobile, Alabama. The Sun Herald under Tiner's editorship won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for public service because of its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Tiner dedicated the Pulitzer gold medal to the people of South Mississippi for their perseverance in the wake of such massive adversity. When he was with the Press-Register in 1995, Tiner was a judge on a five-person panel to select the winning editorial for the Pulitzer Prize that year.

Early years, education, military

Tiner was born in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish and the largest city in north Louisiana. He graduated in 1960 from Fair Park High School in Shreveport. In 1969, he procured his bachelor's degree in journalism from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. He was the editor during his senior year of The Tech Talk, the student newspaper, and studied under journalism chairperson Wiley W. Hilburn. A long-time editorial writer for the Shreveport Times, Hilburn was subsequently inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield because of his expertise in Louisiana politics. Tiner was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a former chapter president of the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi. Tiner served in the United States Marines during the Vietnam War. .

A political reporter

Tiner began his newspaper career at the Minden Press-Herald, a small daily which specializes in local news, in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish located in northwestern Louisiana some thirty miles east of Shreveport. He was the Press-Herald managing editor from September 1969 until March 1970, when he thereafter left to join the staff of The Shreveport Times. At the The Times, he became the newspaper's chief political correspondent and covered the 1971–1972 gubernatorial campaign from which Edwin Washington Edwards became the dominant political figure in Louisiana for the rest of the twentieth century. Edwards, after having barely secured the Democratic nomination over then State Senator and later U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., of Shreveport, faced a stronger-than expected Republican challenge waged by the then Metairie lawyer and later U.S. Representative and Governor David C. Treen. Tiner soon became, like John McGinnis (author of The Louisiana Hayride) one of the resident experts on the flamboyant Edwards and Louisiana politics in general.

The Shreveport Journal

In 1974, Tiner, then thirty-two, was recruited from The Times to become the editor of the afternoon daily, The Shreveport Journal, published by Douglas F. Attaway. The Journal was the smaller of the two Shreveport papers and was struggling to remain competitive. Tiner was seen as the "new blood" the paper needed. In 1976, the Attaways sold the paper to the Shreveport industrialist Charles T. Beaird, who was also an intellectual and a philanthropist. Beaird, a liberal Republican, and Tiner, a Democrat, moved The Journal, which was known for its previous conservative editorials during the Attaway tenure, far to the political left. While at The Journal, Tiner offered an editorial position to former Shreveport Mayor James C. Gardner, later the president of the first city council under the mayor-council government and also the vice-president of the Southwestern Electric Power Company. Gardner turned him down because of salary and retirement considerations, but Tiner often held up Gardner as his idea of a "model" public official. He wrong a lengthy editorial on Gardner's legacy as "Mr. Shreveport" when the councilman decided not to seek reelection in 1982. Tiner stayed with Beaird until the mid-1980s, when he became a public relations spokesman for a natural gas company. The Journal closed in 1991 but operated as an editorial page within The Shreveport Times until the last day of 1999. Beaird died in 2006.

Tiner and Edwards

Tiner was known for his inside sources in the Louisiana political world. For instance, after the 1983 gubernatorial race in which Edwards unseated Treen to win a third nonconsecutive term, Tiner reported on a controversial conversation that he had with the Louisiana legend. Tiner found three books in Edwards' possession: a Bible, a copy of Playboy magazine, and Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. Tiner asked Edwards, a Roman Catholic who had once been a Nazarene preacher, if he believed in the Christian concept of Jesus Christ sacrificing Himself for the sins of mankind, undergoing crucifixion on a Roman cross, and then resurrection from the dead. Edwards told Tiner that he did NOT believe in the essence of the Christian faith and that he doubted that he would go to heaven after death. "I think Jesus died, but I don’t believe He came back to life because that’s too much against natural law. I’m not going around preaching this, but He may have swooned, passed out, or almost died, and when He was taken down, with superhuman strength, after a period of time He may have revived Himself and come back to life," Edwards told Tiner. Reports of Edwards' revelations, however, surfaced AFTER the 1983 campaign, and the disclosures, which angered many conservative Christians, did not stop him from winning yet a fourth term eight years later.

On Long, Roemer, and Duke

In 1986, Tiner opined that retiring U.S. Senator Russell B. Long may have stepped aside from seeking a seventh full six-year term because Long may have been unseated by Republican U.S. Representative Henson Moore of Baton Rouge. Long's successor, John Breaux, also a U.S. representative at the time from Crowley, however, defeated Moore, who had led in the jungle primary, in the general election. Long said that he merely wanted to have a few years of retirement while the calendar was still somewhat favorable to him. Long lived until 2003. In 1991, Tiner noted in an interview that the returning Edwards, poised to win his fourth and final term as governor, was dependent on disillusioned supporters of former Governor Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III, a Democrat-turned-Republican, to provide victory over then State Representative David Duke, the one-time figure in the Ku Klux Klan who was opposed by nearly two thirds of Louisiana voters. According to Tiner, "The Duke vote is impenetrable. It's going to be there even if a tidal wave rolls across the state. Edwards is dependent on the Roemer voters who despised him four years ago -- he was the dragon Buddy Roemer promised to slay. That's a pretty scary prospect if you're sitting in Edwards's seat." As it turned out, Tiner appeared to have overrated Duke's electoral appeal in 1991.

Tiner's own campaign

Tiner himself ran for the U.S. House in a special election held on March 8, 1988, the same day as the presidential primaries. The opening developed when Roemer vacated his Fourth Congressional District seat to become governor. Democrat Tiner ran third with 19,567 votes (16 percent), with the runoff held in April between Republican James O. McCrery, Jr., a former aide to Roemer, and Democrat Foster Campbell, then a state senator and later a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission and a 2007 gubernatorial candidate. Tiner trailed Campbell, a self-styled "populist" by 4,653 ballots and was hence eliminated from the special election runoff. McCrery prevailed over Campbell and has held the seat since.

Some had wondered if Tiner's liberal newspaper editorials had cost him potential votes in the congressional race. In a 1987 interview, Tiner publicly praised David O. Connelly (born ca. 1952), a native of Ohio and the arts critic of the Shreveport Journal for having declared Connelly's homosexuality in a newspaper column. Tiner added that he could recall no other person of standing making such a declaration in Shreveport, the last capital of the Confederate State of America. Tiner said that Connelly's declaration could be helpful in fostering awareness of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

First Amendment issues

Tiner took a leadership role in the American Society of Newspaper Editors as chairperson of the Freedom of Information Committee. He became vocal in his support of First Amendment issues: "ASME embraces the long American tradition of open courts and open trials.,The press serves as a surrogate to the public. The American public can’t be crammed into a trial room. The press represents the public at the trial. Newspaper editors are troubled by what appears to be an overzealous emphasis on privacy bordering on secrecy in the courtroom." Tiner added: "The Founding Fathers built Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the principle of open trials.

Pulitzer Prize

In 2006, Tiner addressed an American Press Institute seminar in Reston, Virginia, in which he discussed how The Sun Herald covered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He invited media representatives to come to the Gulfport-Biloxi metropolitan area to see firsthand the impact of the storm. API president Andrew B. Davis noted that newspaper executives need "leadership skills to deal with a wide spectrum of chaotic management scenarios," as the devastation of Katrina so proved.

Encouraging student journalists

Tiner often encouraged journalism students in colleges and universities. When he was the editor in Mobile, the Press-Register teamed with the University of Alabama Journalism Department in Tuscaloosa to produce Alabama’s Black Belt, a 20-page special section on the old Cotton Kingdom of the state. Associate Professor Bailey Thomson and a team of advanced undergraduate and graduate students spent six months immersed in the life of three Black Belt counties. The students reported on the area economy, culture, and politics. Press Register assistant editor Dewey English coached the classes on in-depth reporting and helped to edit the stories for publication. The Press-Register staff laid out the stories and photos, and the paper ran the project on January 18, 1998.

"We have tried to do two things: encourage students to think of journalism as a grand opportunity for public service, and to promote a deeper understanding of a remarkable region that struggles to adapt to changing times," wrote Tiner in his introduction to the project.

The Tiner family

Tiner resides in Gulfport with his wife, the former Veronica Jo "Vickie" Thibodeaux (born June 23, 1947), the daughter of Robert and Irene Thibodeaux from Church Point in Acadia Parish. The Tiner children include Marcus Gerard "Mark" Tiner of Mobile (born ca. 1969), Jon Stuart Tiner, a Gulfport attorney born 1970 in Shreveport, and his wife, Betsy Sadie Tiner, and Heather Nicole Tiner of Gulfport (born ca. 1973). Tiner described himself in a 1987 interview as a "dedicated Baptist".

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