Great journalism in Atlanta needed now more than ever

By Lyle Harris

OK, already.

I’ve apparently set some dubious distinction for my last opinion column which was an optimistic ode to 2010, as in last year.

Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of grief about that from friends and frenemies who have helpfully informed me the expiration date for relevant internet content is usually measured in seconds, not months.

Who knew?

As it turns out, my year-old gig as chief flak and bottle washer at MARTA has consumed a lot of my time and much of my so-called life. Despite the daily craziness of dealing with my former media compatriots and colleagues, I’m loving every minute of it. Most of it, anyway.

Unfortunately, my role as a full-time spokesguy effectively precludes me from being a regular contributor to the SaportaReport.

Although I’m giving up my byline for the time being, I will always support this website and its founder who is one of the finest (and fairest) journalists I’ve ever worked with and one of the most generous and genuine souls I’ve ever known.

But I don’t intend this as a shameless plug for a friend and fellow traveler.

As a former journalist turned PR professional, I’m convinced that independent media outlets, such as the SaportaReport, represent the best hope for an industry still reeling from cultural forces beyond its control, a global economic tsunami and editorial decisions that were just dumb as dirt.

Given my current job, of course, I can’t name any names – not yet.

But frankly, I’m shocked and mortified by what passes for journalism in the Atlanta region these days. I’m sure many of you feel likewise which is why sites such as this one are critical to keeping people informed about the issues that truly matter to our city, state and region.

That’s why I’m issuing a challenge to the local media to re-focus their energies and resources toward enlightening the public rather than pandering to their basest, human impulses in order to boost ratings and readership. Just stop.

I also offer this as a challenge to working journalists, many of whom also know better, but have abandoned any notion of objectivity and sold their souls for the sake of a steady paycheck.

Granted, we certainly need vigilant watchdogs to keep an eye on every public agency – including MARTA.

But we don’t need a pack of rabid attack dogs disguised as reporters spreading the toxic and false idea that every government agency is corrupt, incompetent – or both.

For those ink-stained wretches turned keyboard jockeys who are still providing fair, accurate and thoughtful journalism, I salute you and thank you.

The rest of you, not so much.

A year into my metamorphosis from hack-to-flak, I’ve had a chance to see life on both sides and this much I know: We need great journalism now, more than ever.

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2 comments
Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Mr. Harris, you seem to be the pot calling the kettle black.
You challenge working journalists you say have "...abandoned any notion of objectivity and sold their souls for the sake of a steady paycheck."
What is the difference between them and you, the self-proclaimed "former journalist turned PR professional" now in the service of MARTA as "chief flak and bottle washer?"

Steve
Steve

A good example of the state of journalism is the reference on the front page of today's AJC stating that Leah Ward Sear is a former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I guess there really aren't any copy editors left.