Christian Enterkin, who's challenging District 5 Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong in a crowded race to represent several southeast Atlanta neighborhoods, has penned a scathing editorial for East Atlanta Patch that accuses Atlanta Progressive News editor Matthew Cardinale of, among many things, working as a "paid operative" for the incumbent.
Cardinale, who has long covered and participated in City Hall's happenings, has penned several articles endorsing Archibong throughout the past few months. Over the weekend, the APN editor published a story on his
blog news service that raised questions about Enterkin's employment as an executive for Landmark Dividend, a company that leases billboards and cell towers, and whether it would influence her work if elected to City Council. Cell phone towers have been a heated issue in East Atlanta in recent years.
Enterkin last night responded to the piece. In doing so, she also questioned Cardinale's journalistic integrity and perceived bias in covering the Council race:
A blog that goes by Atlanta Progressive News has been running negative, unsubstantiated stories about my campaign and the company I work for. The blog's creator, Matthew Charles Cardinale, is a fanatical supporter of Natalyn Archibong. He has misused his blog to make baseless attacks on my character. APN endorsed Natalyn Archibong before qualifying began and before I entered the race. He has never had a conversation with me or interviewed with me to be considered for an endorsement. As a matter of fact, I have never met Matthew Cardinale.
Mr. Cardinale has stated in his own blog that his top priority would be getting Archibong re-elected. With this level of support, voters of District 5 cannot expect impartial coverage, nor trust statements made by Mathew Cardinale - aka Atlanta Progressive News.
Cardinale this morning responded with a new post that accuses her of writing "baseless personal character attacks rather than simply state her positions" on particular issues. And he also asserts that cash he receives from candidate ads haven't skewed his editorial remarks. He writes:
[Enterkin] notes that APN accepts advertising from campaigns and has a campaign ad from Archibong, implicitly asserting that advertising with APN constitutes APN's News Editor being a paid operative.
To be sure, APN has extensive campaign advertising, both in our e-newsletter and on our website. Since the beginning of the campaign season, APN has had at least fifteen municipal candidate advertisements, and we are extremely proud of this fact because it shows how much the candidates value our readers, and how much the candidates desire to have the opportunity to connect with our readers directly through online graphic advertising.
With only a week to go until the election, other online news services have only a small handful of online candidate ads, while others have none.
For what it's worth, Archibong has spent $1,400 in APN ads this year. Those expenses were noted on her campaign finance disclosures.
Roughly three weeks ago, Atlanta Journal-Constitution staffers were told by Editor Kevin Riley that layoffs in the newsroom of the metro region's paper of record were possible. The upcoming budget was expected to be tight. Now they know that cuts are indeed happening.
Yesterday at the news outlet's Dunwoody headquarters, Riley gave staffers the tally. The photo department staffed by award-winning journalists would be reduced from 11 people to six, which includes one photo editor. (Two other Cox-owned newspapers are offering voluntary buyouts to photographers.)
In addition, two "news technologists" who, among other things, make sure that journalists' laptops function and Air Cards can transmit stories, will also be cut. The four-member customer-care team that screened some readers' calls and helped handle the complaints of print subscribers who missed their morning paper will also be eliminated. An editor who oversaw the county-by-county news page will also be cut.
"We care about those people," he said. "They made important contributions."
The news comes at a tough time, especially after the paper has, from what we've heard, met its targets and produced several high-profile investigative pieces. In addition, these are probably the most high-profile cuts Riley's had to make since moving to Atlanta three years ago from a Cox sister paper in Ohio. The news he delivered yesterday, according to one source, looked to take a toll on him. But his approach and transparency about the AJC's operations and inner workings, our sources say, helped blunt some of the frustration and win respect.
In a phone interview this afternoon with CL, Riley said that the decisions about which jobs to eliminate were "guided by the newspaper's core journalistic mission and consistent with where we need to go with our long-term strategy."
Yes, Fresh Loaf readers who start their day with Fox News, you read that graphic on the lower third of your TV correctly: "Rising Democratic star: Atlanta mayor is party's newest trailblazer."
Kasim Reed graced the cable network's Fox & Friends morning show a few hours ago, where he discussed public safety, pension reform, and how he's balanced the budget for four straight years.
Cable news anchor Brian Kilmeade seemed particularly interested, given Washington's financial and partisan gridlock, in how Reed managed to turn the city's books around. Reed stuck to the talking points and credited pension reforms for saving the city $270 million over the next 10 years, which has been reinvested elsewhere such as hiring 800 more police officers and opening recreation centers.
"Leadership always matters," Reed says. "I think you have to show that you care. At the end of the day, I'm not ever going to get an Atlanta pension. What I was really trying to do is to protect the folks in the building who have given so much of their lives to the city."
Meanwhile, Reed's planning to hold his campaign office's grand opening Saturday morning at 11 a.m. We're not sure he really needs that, considering he's got a $1.6 million war chest and hardly anyone challenging him. But if you're looking to attend, here are the details.
Things have changed from several years back, when the metro region's largest daily newspaper was reportedly bleeding $1 million a week. According to several sources, Editor Kevin Riley, who's led the AJC for two years, told newsroom employees that the paper was on track to meeting its targets. A decision by parent company Cox Media Group in 2011 to centralize its newspapers' copy editing at the Dayton Daily News, one of the AJC's several sister papers, helped save some cash as well.
But next year's budget is expected to be more conservative. And it's possible that spending plan will need to be addressed with layoffs, followed in 2014 by a reorganization of the newsroom, which in the last six years has shrunk from approximately 500 budgeted positions to the current figure we've heard of around 180 full-time employees.
Last Friday, WSB-TV reported that Emory Healthcare was cutting more than 100 jobs in its Psychiatry Services Program. Obamacare was cited as one of the reasons during a presentation to employees, according to an "upset viewer" who contacted the station. Opponents of the health-insurance program trumpeted the story.
The Atlantic's Ford Vox is reporting that's not necessarily the case. Vox, an Atlanta physician, says the story is more complex and about the "changing practice of psychiatry" more than the debate over Obamacare. Reports Vox:
In interviews Sunday, Emory Healthcare's CEO and a nurse executive who made the announcement directly contradicted a quote attributed to Vince Dollard, the spokesman who talked to WSB last week. I spoke with Dollard, who read me his notes for his conversation with the station: "We are looking at an uncertain future. The healthcare landscape is uncertain. The ACA is part of that environment. The economy also plays a role." But WSB quoted him as saying, "In part, the new health-care law President Obama pushed for played a role in the layoffs." Dollard told me that he was trying to make a more nuanced point than what WSB reported. We'll get to that in a minute.
What about the presentation [to employees announcing the news] - what was really said? I spoke with Emory's chief nursing executive, Susan Grant. Grant gave the presentation multiple times last Monday and Tuesday, and told me that the words "Obamacare," "ACA," and "health reform" never came up, either in her talk or the question-and-answer periods that followed. The layoffs of nurses and other support staff, which will happen in November, are coming entirely out of the in-patient psychiatry program, she told me, which is currently spread over two facilities. Grant says that these changes have nothing to do with Obamacare - rather, represent Emory trying to respond to patient and community needs. Grant added that she expects Emory's demand for nurses to continue to grow, and if anything thinks the ACA will contribute to that growth.
Vox, whose full story is worth a read, even spoke with John Fox, Emory Healthcare's president and CEO. He said Emory "would be taking this action even if the ACA hadn't been passed." So... maybe not as much to do with Obamacare as originally thought?
According to a Cox press release, the former AJC and Miami Herald reporter will become director of leadership communications starting Oct. 31. In the role, she will handle - surprise! - communications, including "messaging, speech writing and presentations" for Cox Enterprises' Chief Operating Officer John Dyer. Dyer is set to succeed Jimmy Hayes as president and chief executive officer starting in 2014.
"I'm thrilled that Sonji will be joining our organization," Dyer said in a statement. "She is known for providing strategic counsel to senior leaders and communicating to a broad spectrum of constituents. And, as a former Cox employee with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she understands our company culture and strong values. Sonji is the perfect fit for this role."
So sayeth the mayor, in a statement: "I appreciate Sonji Jacobs Dade's service to the City of Atlanta and her many contributions as a member of my Senior team for nearly four years. Her talent, energy and drive will be missed. I wish her the very best in her new role and I am sure she will exceed all expectations in her new role at Cox Enterprises."
Dade tells CL that it's been a "complete honor and privilege to work for Mayor Reed and members of his administration. A tremendous, incredible experience. I've loved every minute of it."
"That said, I feel like we're nearing the end of the mayor's first term and pretty much all the goals and objectives he set out to accomplish in his first term, he did," she says. And she thinks the communications team was able to "get those out in the right way."
The Cox gig "felt like a good fit and opportunity to work with the incoming CEO" and take everything she's learned at City Hall - as communications director, she wrote speeches, scheduled appearances, put out fires, and more - to the private sector.
Asked if she'd ever return to public sector work or politics, Dade said that she's focusing right now on the move to Dunwoody. "I'm very excited to work for Cox and be working with incoming CEO John Dyer."
No word yet on who will take her place. Resumes, however, can be sent to @kasimreed.
Doug Richards yesterday aired his grievances in a personal blog post about Cox Enterprises, the media company that owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. In his full post, which is worth a read, the WAGA alum and current 11 Alive reporter calls out the company for its overindulgent reminders that they, yes, are doing their jobs.
So why the nausea?
Very simply, it's the chest-beating. Every single time the newspaper produces a story about the Atlanta Public Schools scandal, it includes a box that informs the reader that the AJC broke the story and has followed the story at every step. Every word is true. The AJC did great work sizing up the test scores and bringing the scandal to light.
And I'm OK with some chest-beating. All news organizations do it. But the AJC never passes up an opportunity to do it on countless stories. Its putrid feedback loop of endless self-congratulation and self-promotion makes me want to hurl. Lord knows how bad it would be if the AJC had won the Pulitzer it undoubtedly craved for APS story.
This is in stark comparison to the pre-2008 AJC that carefully and almost painfully separated its marketing from its editorial content. We'll let local TV sully itself with that, you could almost hear them saying on Marietta St. How things have changed. Even its Sunday editorial page column by Kevin Riley or whomever, wherein the boss purports to bring transparency to the newsgathering process, ends up being a predictable exercise in chest-beating. Barf.
Maybe WSB-TV is as self-congratulatory as its "partner" in Cox crime, the AJC. However, self-promotion has been part of the TV news game since forever. TV is competitive. The AJC is the only game in town, newspaper-wise. So TV chest-beating is more defensible than the AJC's.
Richards then goes to pick apart a few Cox employees. That includes: WSB-TV reporter Mark Winne, who describes himself on as Twitter: "TV reporter at #1 major market station in America. Priorities: God, Family, Truth for our viewers." Winne didn't take too kindly to his remarks, but unsurprisingly reaffirmed the reputation Richards was highlighting.
@MarkWinneWSB Love ya like a milkshake! A milkshake made of sweet but weird ingredients.
- doug richards (@richardsdoug) September 3, 2013
There was also a "heavily made-up blonde" intern who drove a baby-blue Hummer to assignments and an arrogant station manager who snubbed all other major Atlanta news stations by saying WSB is more focused on competing with other metros' outlets.
He's definitely got a point. For instance, anchor Jovita Moore recently claimed that the alleged McNair Elementary gunman wanted to exclusively talk to WSB-TV. But bookkeeper Antoinette Huff, who phoned the TV station that day, said that the suspect didn't actually have a preference for which station should be called.
Talking to my co-workers, the gunman said he wanted WSB cameras there to "film as police die".
- Jovita Moore (@JovitaMoore) August 20, 2013
Richards admits he goes over the top - he used the word "barf" seven times during his critique - but there's plenty of truth in what he's saying. It's nevertheless amusing and worth a tip o' the hat.
In an effort to boost its audience and garner more membership dollars, the non-commercial radio station attached to Clark Atlanta University has started pre-programming its playlist and narrowed it down from about 900 songs to 400 songs Monday-Friday, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution radio reporter Rodney Ho, who spoke to WCLK's general manager of the last 20 years, Wendy Williams.
"We're going to play what the listeners want," Williams told the AJC. But from the responses pouring into WCLK's Facebook page, a new Save our S.O.U.L. campaign Facebook page, and the Change.org online petition calling for the station's return to original DJ programming, smooth jazz is not going over so smoothly.
The main concern is over celebrated WCLK DJ and on-air personality Jamal Ahmad, who's S.O.U.L. of Jazz show has been a longtime listener favorite, recognized locally and internationally for its groundbreaking programming.
"Jamal Ahmad's show is one of the last bastion's on noncommercial music in the city of Atlanta," reads the first line of the petition, started by Creative Loafing contributor and publisher of Slo Mo magazine, Carlton Hargro.
Douglas-Brown and other Voice staffers launched the news operation in March 2010 after the parent company of the Southern Voice, where Douglas-Brown was also editor, went bankrupt. Along the way, she's helped the paper win awards and provide excellent coverage of the city's vibrant LGBT community.
Douglas-Brown writes in a letter to readers, which should be read in its entirety:
Some of you may know that the first anniversary of GA Voice coincided with my mother's diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. For most of the next 18 months, I took calls from her doctors at my desk at work (we hadn't transitioned to a virtual office yet) and made newspapers at all hours from the side of her hospital bed (thank goodness for patient wifi). I sang my children their bedtime songs over the phone from both.
If I gained anything from her death a year ago at age 63, it is a deeper understanding of what is most important to me, as well as the courage to move forward - knowing that there is no point in waiting, as our time may be shorter than we think.
I can honestly say that I enjoy all aspects of GA Voice's coverage, from news to features. But as our mission statement suggests, it is the world of activism, nonprofits and the broad struggle for human rights that most inspires me. That is where I want to focus my energy now, either professionally or in a career that gives me the freedom to volunteer for the issues that mean so much to me.
Matt Hennie, a former Southern Voice editor who went on to launch and edit Project Q Atlanta, wrote a detailed post on Douglas-Brown's tenure that outlines the efforts she and other Voice staffers made to bring the news operation to life.
David Aaron Moore, a veteran journalist who worked at the Southern Voice and served as editor-in-chief of Jezebel Magazine before moving to Charlotte, N.C., will take over in September. You can read more about him here.
The program is called "Georgia Works" and will air every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. Like his Georgia Works blog, which received more than 45,000 page views in its first month, Rogers' broadcast will feature job-related segments on hiring trends and resume tips. The program will also tell stories about the state's entrepreneurs and community-minded business leaders.
"Georgia Works is about opportunity; career opportunity, educational opportunity, entrepreneurial opportunity, and personal investment opportunity," Rogers said in a press release. "Everything we do is geared towards supporting the idea that the American dream is alive and well in Georgia. I am excited that our new statewide radio program is underway and can play a pivotal role in helping connect Georgians to the chance to improve their lives."
Rogers joined GPB as an executive director in January following his resignation last year from his elected Senate seat. Upon joining the public broadcasting network, he received criticism for his $150,000 salary that critics have called "unconscionable" and likened his pay to a "taxpayer-funded golden parachute."
We've reached out to Rogers to learn more, but were told by GPB spokeswoman Nancy Zintak that he might be willing to chat after the station had a "few shows under our belt." So we'll just have to see what's in store come Independence Day!
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