This website is still being developed. This page was created for the Auburn Journalism internship program and can only be navigated to by a direct link.

Below are links to some of my stories from my internship at

'When it happens to one of us, it happens to all:' Huntsville vigil for Charleston shooting victims

Alabamians with disabilities sew veteran burial flags with VA contract

Police left gay slurs out of report, says man beaten outside Huntsville bar

Have you seen a 'Fallout Shelter' symbol around town? Here's the story behind it.

Madison County Commissioners oppose Confederate monument removal

Should Alabama change its coat of arms? One state senator thinks so

Inside the emergency animal shelter for Lawrence County

TV reporter stops robbery, holds suspect until police arrive

Below are examples from my Journalism classes where I was given written assignments.

JRNL 2310

Uber must abide by same regulations as other taxis in Auburn

Jim Little

JNRL 2310

Auburn taxi owners want the Auburn City Council to stop Uber.

Jeff Steiger, owner of taxi company KGM Auburn Trax, spoke on behalf of other taxi companies to the City Council at the Tuesday, Sept. 9, council meeting and asked the City Council to apply taxi regulations to Uber.

Uber, a popular ride-for-hire service ordered and paid for through a smart phone app, announced it was operating in Auburn on Aug. 28.

“The City of Auburn licensed taxi business owners would like the council to support us in maintaining safe transportation for our community members,” Steiger said.

City Manager Charles Duggan told the council Uber would have to follow Section 23 of the City Code, the same regulations as a traditional taxi company.

“This (Uber) appears to be a taxi service so we’re going to treat it like one,” Duggan said, “and being fair to everyone we need to apply the same regulations.”

Mayor Bill Ham agreed with Duggan’s assessment.

“We want everybody to be playing on a level playing field,” Ham said.

Section 23 of the City Code requires taxi companies to have public liability insurance for its passengers and for drivers to undergo background checks by the city—requirements Uber doesn’t have to follow, according to Steiger.

“Private insurance doesn’t cover commercial passengers,” Steiger said, “and that’s a concern because 50 percent of what we make in income goes into the [public] insurance.”

Katlin Durkosh, Uber communications representative, told The Plainsman via email Uber wants to work with city officials to modernize regulations.

“As a technology company, Uber doesn't own any vehicles or employ any drivers,” Durkosh said, “so forcing antiquated transportation regulations on a modern technology simply doesn't make sense.”

Durkosh also said Uber would continue operating in Auburn.

“Taxi companies should focus their efforts on improving the quality of service for their customers,” Durkosh said, “rather than trying to restrict competition and limit the opportunity and choice that the people of Auburn deserve.”

Small taxi companies are at a disadvantage when Uber doesn’t have to follow the same regulations, according to Steiger.

“You have to compare apples to apples,” Steiger said, “It would be like having a store move across the street from your store and they didn’t have to pay for utilities and insurance.”

Steiger was representing Twin City Taxi, Spirit taxi, Tiger Taxi, Eagle Town Taxi and Fourth Quarter Taxi.

Other items approved by the City Council:

  • Approved an ordinance adjusting the budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
  • Passed a series of resolutions to start work on renovating parking lot behind Toomer’s Corner and the alleyways that connect to the sidewalks along South College Street and Magnolia Avenue.
  • Approved an alcohol license for the Oktoberfest event at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

Jim Little



Desmonte Leonard takes stand to testify

Desmonte Leonard took the stand today in his own defense on Friday, at the Lee County Justice Center.

Leonard answered questions posed by defense attorney Jeff Duffey about the events of that night and told jurors he fired his gun after he was being kicked on the ground.

Leonard is charged in the capital murder of three people on the night of June 9, 2012.

Judge Jacob A. Walker called court into session and 9:30 a.m. and the prosecution immediately rested their case. The defense called Leonard to the stand.

Leonard said he was invited to a party at University Heights, and he brought his friends Christopher Traywick and Jeremy Thomas.

DeAngelo Benton had gone, “into a rage” about with the way Leonard had looked at him, so Leonard said he decided to leave.

As Leonard was walking out with Traywick and Thomas, Turquorius Vines and others attacked him, and he ended up on the ground being kicked.

“I was forced to make a split [second] decision so I pulled out the gun and started firing,” Leonard said. “I thought I was going to be killed.”

Earlier in the night, Thomas and Eric Mack got into an argument and Leonard broke them up, according to Leonard.

“I told (Thomas) to chill, because we didn’t come here for that,” Leonard said. “I said the same thing to Mack and he actually shook my hand.” Mack was later wounded in the shooting.

Traywick brought the Glock-22 and gave it to Leonard during the party. Later, Mack approached Leonard and said Benton had a problem with him, according to Leonard.

“(Mack) said, ‘My partner doesn’t like the way you’re looking at him,” Leonard sad. “Mack walked up to me and said, ‘(Benton’s) drunk, just stay out of eye sight.”

Benton grew angrier and was taken outside by Mack, according to Leonard. “(Benton) said you’re not going to make it out of Auburn tonight,” Leonard said.

After the shooting Leonard said they got in his 1988 Chevrolet Caprice and fled.

Thomas threw the pistol out of the window, according to Leonard. After turning himself into police on June 12, 2012, Leonard told Auburn Police Division detectives his side of the story.

“I told them I was sorry for the loss of the people, I was sorry for the families that had to take a loss like that,” Leonard said. During cross examination Leonard answered questions posed from District Attorney Robert Treese.

“I would have used anything I had to protect myself. If I would have had a slingshot I would of used it,” Leonard said.

“So you were just lucky you had a firearm?” Treese said. “Yes sir,” Leonard said.

Leonard was still on the stand when the court recessed for lunch until 1:15 p.m.

JRNL 3530

Jim Little

Lessons for Lutz preview

JRNL 3530

The father of former Auburn football player Phillip Lutzenkirchen will speak to students about the dangers of drinking and driving, and the personal toll of his son’s death Wednesday, March 11, at the Auburn Arena.

Mike Lutzenkirchen has traveled around the country speaking to young people about to tell his son’s story.

"As a parent, I have a responsibility to share Philip's story with young people in the hopes that no other family has to experience the loss of a child like we have," Mike said. "As a member of the Auburn Family, I know how much Philip meant to the university. He was a true Auburn man whose character, service and faith inspired everyone around him."

Jennifer Johnson, a Public Relations instructor and former teacher to Phillip, is on the committee organizing Mike’s visit to Auburn University.

“I don’t know how (Mike) is doing it honestly,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how he finds it in him to talk about Phillip’s last day on Earth so honestly and bluntly.”

Johnson said Mike has put himself out into the public eye by doing interview with ESPN.

“He is, at times, gut wrenchingly honest about the choices Phillip made that day and those decisions,” Johnson said. “I don’t know where his strength is coming from, but he is an amazing individual.”

Johnson said when Phillip’s blood alcohol content of 0.377 percent became public the Lutzenkirchen family was paralyzed for about two days, but the Mike took it as a calling to help keep others from the same fate.

Eric Smith, director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services and also on the committee organizing Mike’s event, said if one person comes to his office for help he will view the event as a success.

“We at Auburn, in particular, have this view of the Auburn person – the Auburn man, the Auburn woman – and they look like all of us,” Smith said.

“They present this awesome outward image, and often there is some stuff going on inside that none of us are privy to, and none of us know about.”

Smith said his office helps people overcome those problems and prevent a drinking or drug problem to become a life changing mistake.

"Philip made a major mistake his last day on earth," Mike said. "However, there is a bigger meaning beyond his tragic death, a lesson that resonates with his life and legacy."

The doors of “Lessons for Lutz” open at 6 p.m. and the event begins at 7 p.m.

Jim Little

Basketball presser

JRNL 3530

Auburn Basketball prepares to face off against Southeastern Conference opponent Texas A&M.

Coming back to Auburn after a 57-55 defeat to Alabama, Pearl said they gave the Alabama too many second chances and didn’t come up with enough second chances for themselves.

“Certainly, we hung in there in the boards against Alabama, but we did not rebound the ball late,” Pearl said. “You could say that a couple of offensive rebounds late were major factors in costing us that opportunity.” KT Harrell, who scored 22 points at the Alabama game, said despite the loss, it was Auburn’s best road start all season.

“[We] played with a lot of confidence—a lot of swagger,” Harrel said. “I think if we continue to do that, we’ll win most of our road games.” Pearl said his Auburn Tigers (10-2, 2-4 SEC) have a challenge ahead of them against Texas A&M (13-5, 4-2 SEC).

“Our challenge is we are not very tall, and we are also not very quick,” Pearl said. “We are a little quicker than some people because we are smaller than them, but not necessarily quicker.”

Auburn which is coming off two losses will face A&M, who are on a five game winning streak, Tuesday, Jan. 27 at the Auburn Arena.

Pearl said A&M’s coach, Billy Kennedy, was one of the best coaches in the SEC.

Auburn will have to get the entire team to contribute to face A&M’s challenge, according to Pearl.

“We play best when everyone is contributing,” Pearl said. “When everyone isn’t contributing and we go on the road we haven’t won.”

JRNL 3220

Jim Little

Feature Writing Trend Story

April 10, 2015

Getting a job can be tough. It can be tougher for a recent college graduate.

Since 2009, the economy has undergone the longest, most severe period of economic weakness since the Great Depression, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

College graduates who graduated in 2014 faced an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent compared to the national average of 8.5 percent.

Employers are hesitant to hire workers without experience. One such employer is Jerry Rigby, president of a small T-shirt company in Auburn, Alabama called Tiger Rags.

Rigby has operated Tiger Rags since the 1980s. Tiger Rags specializes in selling game-day T-shirts for Auburn University.

Rigby, who is in his 60’s, has been working closely with college students and graduates since the store opened.

Rigby says he’s never seen a time when students had so little work experience. He has been trying to fill a management position at his store for four months.

“I interviewed 28 Auburn graduates with no work experience,” Rigby says. “I still have not filled that position, because I’ve not been able to find anybody qualified.”

College graduates who do find work without work experience may end up in jobs not suited to their degree. Nearly 45 percent of recent college grads were underemployed, according to a 2014 study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“That’s why internships are so important,” Rigby says.

Brining in students for internships, Rigby says he finds out they do not realize how much an internship matters.

“I just had one [student],” Rigby says. “I invested a full year, Auburn graduate – college jock – the whole thing.”

A student worked for Rigby for 11 months and decided he wanted to leave. “He tells all the other employees before he tells me,” Rigby says. “Which is a real no-no.”

Rigby says the student left him before the busiest time of the year. “I told him, please don’t put me down as a job reference, because all I can do is tell the truth,” Rigby says. “And what I would say is, ‘Just when I got to see what you could do, you left.’”

Driving two hours every day to work from his home in Georgia to work sometimes 12-hour days, Rigby says he is worried about current college graduates.

“It’s not a sin to work when you’re in school,” Rigby says. “It’s good to work, because the employers need you to have that experience.”

Jim Little

Feature Writing Assignment 1

Feb. 23, 2015

Everyone would love to create their own job, but not everyone gets that chance.

David Dorton, public affairs director for the city of Auburn, got to do just that.

Dorton spends most of his days behind his desk in Auburn City Hall reworking press releases before they are issued or copy editing the city-wide, monthly newsletter Open Line.

“Beyond that, it’s figuring out what do people need to know that’s not on the surface,” Dorton said. “It’s about trying to get our finger on the pulse of what people need from us.”

Dorton has always been interested in government and politics. His interest is what drove him to get a master’s in political science from Auburn University, and then follow it up with another master’s in public administration.

It was during his time as a second-time graduate student, that Dorton first became involved with the city.

“I started out in an internship [with the city].” Dorton said. “I worked with the assistant city manager at the time, helping launch the city’s newsletter.”

It was 1999, and Dorton had a hobby level interest in HTML code for websites. His internship duties spread out from working with the city manager’s office and the city IT office. When he graduated, he started a part-time job with the city IT office.

“I was working on the website, and really doing all the IT stuff, the computer and network maintenance,” Dorton said. “Working on the website I stayed on the pulse of press releases and things that needed to be released for the city.”

As it became clear, how important the website would become, city leaders decided it needed a full-time content manager.

Dorton was transferred to the city manager’s office and given the title assistant to the city manager.

Dorton found himself drafting and publishing more and more press releases for the city to publish on the website.

Charlie Duggan, current city manager, but assistant city manager at the time realized the need for what Dorton was doing. The old way the city had issued press release was through a contracted attorney for the city. Dorton’s title was changed to director of public affairs.

“Instead of filling an empty position, I found the holes to fill that the city needed,” Dorton said. “So it was a good opportunity to create my own focus.”

Dorton was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but his parents moved the family to Jacksonville, Florida when he was a 1-year-old.

When Dorton was in high school, his father had a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Dorton’s family had to move to Bradenton, Florida so they could be near to a rehab center that could deal with his father’s injuries.

Dorton attended Manatee Community College, now known as State College of Florida, Manatee—Sarasota, which is close to Bradenton. He was originally a music major, but got interested in radio, film and television when he transferred to Auburn.

Images have always been a hobby for Dorton, which is how he became the city’s official photographer, a role that started out unofficially. “I’ve definitely chased (photography) down to find photo opportunities and hopefully beef up the city’s photo library,” Dorton said.

Today, Dorton may be taking a photo at a city event, then put together a press release for a future construction project, make a few changes to next week’s council meeting, then copy edit a brief for the newsletter sent over by a city department.

Dorton said he also receives contacts from the media daily.

“There seems to be a little bit of a cycle to it,” Dorton said. “I’ll see the TV folks less during the football season.”

When the Alabama State Legislature is in session, Dorton is also responsible for keeping an eye on any bills that may impact the city.

Two bills Dorton said he will be paying attention to for the 2015 legislative season are a bill about employee and employer liability and a bill regulating a city’s responsibility for protecting a watershed.

“They’re on our radar this year,” Dorton said. “If they come up, we’ll definitely have to encourage them one way or the other.”

To top off his duties, Dorton runs all of the city of Auburn’s social media accounts.

Dorton said although he misses living in a big city, when he first visited Auburn he thought it was different from most college towns he’s been to.

“I think there’s something intangible about Auburn that hangs onto people and brings them back,” Dorton said.