Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sunday Paper bids adieu to News Editor Stephanie Ramage — and news (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 11:22 AM

Stephanie Ramage, the outspoken news editor of the Sunday Paper, a CL competitor, was let go last week as part of the weekly publication's upcoming redesign — an overhauling of the paper's mission that apparently won't include news coverage.

Ramage wrote in a weekend blog post and e-mail to her contact list:

"I have just been given the news by my publisher and friend Patrick Best that The Sunday Paper will be taking a different, less newsy path, and so it looks as though our adventure has come to its end. It’s been a respectful farewell. We part on good terms."

Launched in 2004 by Patrick Best, a former CL ad sales manager, SP marketed itself as a more conservative, family friendly alt-weekly. Gone was the colorful language and ads for massage practitioners, in came the advocacy journalism and locally produced columns on national politics.

It's fair to say that CL and SP have had a somewhat prickly relationship, especially when Best made a publicity-seeking offer to purchase the Loaf for the Dr. Evil-esque sum of $1 meeellion during our bankruptcy. (CL exited bankruptcy in late 2009. We're happy to report we're doing well.)

In recent years, Ramage, a former CL staff writer, fixed her sights on the City Hall and the police beat. Nearly every week, she's taken what she admits to Atlanta Progressive News was a "pro-cop" approach, often times advocating for the rank and file. She'd even taken the unusual move of speaking out at public hearings before the Council, thereby crossing the line between journalism and activism that most reporters and editors view as inviolable.

(UPDATE, 2:50 p.m. View Ramage's response, which she submitted via e-mail, at the bottom of this post.)

Over the past year, Ramage had become increasingly critical of mayor Kasim Reed — whom she had earlier endorsed — culminating just last week in a blog post in which she excoriated three-time Pulitzer winner and best-selling author Thomas Friedman for a recent column in which he praised Reed. "Friedman…will apparently swallow any line that’s conveniently and tastily fed him," Ramage wrote.

In the same post, she accused the mayor of cronyism, misrepresenting city finances and being a "classic tax-and-spend liberal."

Ramage says that, in addition to fielding several job offers, she's launching her own personal websites and will continue covering City Hall.

But it appears SP won't. As Ramage noted, the redesigned paper won't include news coverage. Visitors to SP's website find the following message:

SP will be back on January 7, 2011 as the complete source for coupons, deals, fun and culture in Atlanta.

Best's voice mailbox listed on a cached version of SP's website was full. We've sent an e-mail as well asking for comment. WABE is scheduled to air an interview with the publishers today. And here's APN's piece.

UPDATE: Ramage responds via e-mail:

"I have spoken twice at City Hall, both times in the Public Safety Committee—once to ask the committee not to approve George Turner's nomination as chief of police because the citizen input process had been violated and once to point out that the League of Women voters was supposed to have only one seat represented on the CRB, but in practice had two because its president was occupying the seat designated for the Gate City Bar representative. [...]

"You write in your post 'She'd even taken the unusual move of speaking out at public hearings before the Council, thereby crossing the line between journalism and activism that most reporters and editors view as inviolable' making it sound as though this were a regular occurrence, first, and, second, making it sound as though there is some tenet of journalism somewhere that says columnists aren't allowed to speak at public meetings. Both are baloney. The very columnist whom you praise as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman, has spoken at public meetings of the very entities about which he writes. The only rule we must follow regarding such public appearances is that we divulge to the public in our writing that we have done so. My aim in doing so was to document on Channel 26 the concerns I had expressed in my column—my first and foremost responsibility as a journalist is to inform the public, and yes, as a columnist I am, by the very nature of my role as a opinion writer, an activist. (Friedman is certainly an activist.) Those are my priorities, not the accolades of other reporters who are more eager to stab me in the back than to report accurately on politicians.

"You praise Friedman and publish only one tiny line of a blog post that showed how completely misinformed he was regarding Reed's policies. Not even Campbell or Franklin bled the residents and small business people as Reed has done in less than a year in office."

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