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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cynthia Tucker absconds from AJC

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It's been two years since the AJC disbanded its editorial board and sent former editorial page editor and star columnist Cynthia Tucker packing off to D.C. to blog about national politics.

Well, the paper just posted an article announcing that Tucker is leaving the AJC "to become a visiting professor at the University of Georgia’s journalism school."

The only question is, what took her so long?

We've criticized the AJC for many of its editorial and business decisions over the past few years, but none of the paper's actions has been as craven and shameful as its transparent stifling of its own editorial voice. After studiously ignoring its hometown through a couple of election cycles, the AJC officially threw in the towel on all political endorsements in October 2009 with the following cynical spin: "We have heard from readers — and we agree — that you don’t need us to tell you how to vote."

That announcement coincided with the decision to dismantle the editorial board, which had long taken heat from critics on the right for its liberal leanings. Tucker had been particularly demonized by right-wingers — which goes to show how far over the edge many of today's conservatives are. Tucker, IMO, had always written fair, well-considered, persuasive columns that were as likely to criticize Bill Campbell or the King family as they were Republicans. This is the woman, after all, who won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, the AJC's first top-tier writing award in many moons.

And yet, after stripping Tucker of her editor's duties, the paper hurriedly shipped her off to Washington in an apparent effort to placate the angry conservative readers whose business it so desperately wanted to court.

I must admit I largely got out of the habit of reading Tucker after her move. I usually found her insightful when writing about local subjects, but there are plenty of syndicated columnists opining about national issues and I guess I didn't need to add another to my must-read list.

So now she'll be landing at UGA. But her separation from the AJC won't be complete. Today's announcement cryptically describes her new post as the result of a "partnership between the AJC the university’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication."

From my point of view, that's too bad — I would've liked to interview her to get her candid take on the AJC's transformations. Looks like that won't be happening any time soon.

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