Friday, November 19, 2010

AJC's Julia Wallace is "disappointed" by our mock DJC cover

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 7:18 PM

Apparently, this week's CL cover story about the AJC's repositioning itself as a community newspaper for the northern suburbs didn't sit too well with that paper's editor, Julia Wallace.

That comes as no surprise. I'd interviewed Wallace briefly for my article, then followed up by e-mail with additional questions about the recent tone of the AJC's news coverage, the role of the "bias editor" and the offer to share news content with suburban weeklies. Wallace responded by saying my questions concerned her and indicated that the AJC wasn't planning to give short shrift to intown coverage.

"We have a renewed focus in our entire newspaper," she wrote. "Not just one area over another."

Now, that statement flies in the face of what I was hearing from recent and former AJC staffers, as well as what I've seen in its pages in recent months. While the daily paper hasn't stopped covering Atlanta, it has placed a visible emphasis — through story selection, placement and tone — on news from the northern 'burbs.

So when I found out Wallace had agreed to be interviewed about my cover story by WABE reporter Jim Burress, I couldn't wait to hear her reaction.

Another non-surprise: Wallace canceled the radio interview, by e-mail and without explanation, 30 minutes before it was to scheduled to take place. But she apparently had enough time to write and send a statement to Burress. It follows thusly:

We of course are disappointed in the angle of the Creative Loafing story — how some of the important work we're doing got overlooked as well as overly exaggerated.

As we clearly stated to Creative Loafing, our readers benefit when we make our best efforts to know and address issues that are close to home for them. We have a newsroom of more than 200 journalists, and because we have readers that live all over metro Atlanta, we cover issues throughout the area. Because so many people live in Gwinnett, Cobb and North Fulton, we have added resources to cover those communities better, but not at the expense of other areas of Atlanta.

We're also really proud of the depth and scope of the work being done by our largest investigative news team. To name a few, we have uncovered questionable land deals in Gwinnett that led to a county commissioner being indicted, uncovered suspicious contracting in the DeKalb County schools that led to the superintendent and others being indicted and dug and dug at the test scores in the Atlanta Public Schools and now two special investigators, the GBI and the feds are now involved. Our responsibility as a watchdog for the community spans throughout metro Atlanta.

And while we're also putting added focus on balance and bias in our coverage, there's no hidden agenda. We want to make sure we are being as fair as possible, and we have editors trained and focused on that issue. Readers care about it, and we do as well.

Bottom line is we have a renewed focus in our entire newspaper. Not just one area over another. We've stabilized financially and are improving our content to make our readers and the community more and more satisfied.

Julia Wallace

I suppose I can be somewhat relieved that Wallace didn't seem to find any inaccuracies in the story; it seems she simply didn't agree with my conclusion that the AJC has placed a higher priority on serving suburban readers than on its traditional Atlanta audience. Frankly, I'd say my piece focused more on analysis than judgment — depending where you live, the AJC's shift to the 'burbs could be good or bad.

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