The telephone has been ringing at this desk more frequently during the past two weeks.
It rings pretty often anyway, but there have been dozens of additional calls since this newspaper printed a story about comments a local teacher made to students about gays and the first lady.
Callers voiced outrage about the comments that included words such as "fat butt Michelle Obama" and "queers." Others were passionate in support of the teacher, who also coaches football. Some of those used creative and colorful language to describe their displeasure with us for printing the story and posting a nearly 90-second audiotape at TimesDaily.com.
More than a couple of people accused our reporter and me of blowing the story out of proportion and trying to make a good man look bad. Sorry, that one doesn't fly. We cover news here, and there's no question this story is newsworthy.
This writing is not about right or wrong, though. It's more about perception.
Those calls in recent days included four from national media outlets that wanted to know more about the story. Other national newspapers and media operations also did stories. Yes, the comments and the way the school board addressed the issue made national news. No one in their right mind should be surprised.
Do these comments reflect who we are in the Shoals?
Numerous forum writers on national media websites have concluded that the coach's comments are "typical Alabama." As a colleague pointed out, that kind of comment represents a negative generalization about millions of people and is just as misguided as what the forum writers are criticizing.
Having been fortunate enough to travel all 50 states, I concluded long ago that Alabama is nowhere close to being the country's most racist state. Now, we do earn our reputation sometimes and have far too many people who are racist and filled with hatred. (You should listen to some comments made on our "You Said It" line.)
I'll tell anyone that our community is filled with good, decent people who care about their fellow man. They don't see skin color and couldn't care less about sexual orientation or one's religious beliefs.
For one, I'm ready for the teacher comments story to go away so we can focus on the good things our area offers.