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Reflections: Saying good-bye to ATL Biz Chronicle; hello to new journalism ventures

Maria Saporta
The Buckhead headquarters of the Atlanta Business Chronicle (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

Last week marked the end of my tenure with the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

It’s a strange time to be in transition. The world as we know it has changed as we try to figure out how we can survive during the Coronavirus outbreak, and none of us know what will happen and how we will be impacted.

All I know is how much I’m relying on journalists – print and broadcast – to help me understand what’s going on.

So, while I will no longer be writing weekly columns and stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle, I remain firmly committed to my profession.

The Buckhead headquarters of the Atlanta Business Chronicle (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Fortunately, I have options – not the least of which is SaportaReport, a website I started more than 11 years ago as a place where I could share insights and observations. It was a complementary platform to the columns and stories I was writing in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Over the years, SaportaReport has grown significantly thanks to a wonderful team of talented journalists who have been willing and able to cover our community. We also have had a wonderful team of partners who have helped us keep the operation running combined with our Thought Leaders and corporate sponsors.

And we are just beginning. For the past couple of years, we’ve been working to build a sister nonprofit journalism outlet – the Atlanta Civic Circle. The goal is to promote civic journalism, which will lead to greater civic literacy, which then will lead to the most important outcome – civic engagement. We are part of a national conversation about how essential journalism is to strengthening and nurturing democracy.

Bill Bolling, Atlanta’s longtime civic leader who founded the Atlanta Community Food Bank, has agreed to be the founding board chair of the Atlanta Civic Circle. We have been putting together a board of strong community members as well as a skeletal team to put together the new venture.

So, while I would have stayed at the Atlanta Business Chronicle until I was ready to retire, it may end up being a blessing in disguise. I have nothing but good things to say about the Chronicle, and I wish them great success. As a society, we need as many solid news outlets as we can get.

Some may wonder why I’m leaving the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

In short, there was concern by the parent company that SaportaReport had become a competitor. I was given an opportunity to become a fulltime employee, but it was with the condition that I give up SaportaReport.

That was just something I could not do. I decided to sacrifice what I was making at the Atlanta Business Chronicle because I so believe in SaportaReport and the Atlanta Civic Circle. Again, I believe we need more journalists, not fewer.

Instead of viewing each other as competitors, I believe news organizations will need to collaborate and partner with each other to better serve the public.

Going forward, I am exploring options to replace what I was making at the ABC and to continue writing about Atlanta’s business and civic community. I am running on faith that it will all work out.

Thanks to the Coronavirus and all the subsequent cancellation of events, this has turned into a period of reflection. It dawned on me over the weekend that I have been working in daily journalism for 40 years.

In April 1980, I joined the Macon Telegraph – starting at $225 a week – where I spent 15 months before I finally was able to get a job with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July 1981 as a reporter with the Intown Extra.

AJC political columnist Jim Galloway with former AJC editor Jim Minter at Manuel’s (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Coincidentally, the person who hired me – Glenn McCutchen – was in town last week when we held a gathering at Manuel’s to honor Jim Minter, who was serving as editor of the AJC in the 1980s.

It gave many of the old-timers an opportunity to share tales of the newspaper back in the day, including the kidnapping of Atlanta Constitution editor Reg Murphy in 1974. Minter recalled how he ended up delivering the $700,000 ransom money in an open jeep.

Sitting among a group of veteran journalists, most of them retired, only made me appreciate our profession even more. It made me feel nostalgic for the days when our daily newspapers were robust – teaming with reporters and editors covering our communities.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was instrumental in helping me develop my voice as a reporter and columnist, and I will always treasure the 27 years I spent at the newspaper.

When I left on Aug. 30, 2008 (thanks to a buyout), I was fortunate to immediately join the Atlanta Business Chronicle, where I have spent a rewarding 11 and a half years.

I can’t think of a better career – one where we learn something new every day, and we’re able to share it with others.

A line that has always resonated with me is: Journalists write the first draft of history. Professional journalists do all they can to make sure they get it right – to the best of their knowledge. It’s an honorable quest – especially in these trying times when there is so much misinformation and so much animosity against the truth tellers.

So, as I try to wade through all the uncertainties in our world, I pledge to continue reporting, writing, analyzing and learning about what’s going on in the Atlanta region.

It gives me comfort to know other news organizations – such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta Business Chronicle, as well as new nonprofit outlets – are reinvesting in the field of journalism.

Let’s all do what we can to keep journalism alive and well in Atlanta.

A gathering at Manuel’s of people who worked at the AJC when Jim Minter was editor (Photo taken by one of the waiters)

Former AJC Managing Editor Glenn McCutchen and his ex-wife Tish McCutcheon at the Manuel’s gathering (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Tom Baxter and Caroline John at Manuel’s (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Former AJCers Don O’Briant and Herb Steely (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Charlie Seabrook, Jay Lawrence, Melita Easters and Don O’Briant at Manuel’s (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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21 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Debby Durrence Baker March 17, 2020 9:46 am

    God bless you, Maria. I was a journalist back when newspapers were an integral part of the community. I went over to the dark side (PR) when it was evident to me that newspaper journalism that I loved was fast becoming a thing of the past. So grateful to you and your peers for cherishing civic journalism and committing to keeping it alive.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Bill Bulpitt March 17, 2020 9:46 am

    Good luck – seems like the ABC is being small minded, but hope you will thrive in your new situation. None of us know what is next in this environment…Report

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Linda Harris March 17, 2020 9:46 am

    Maria,
    Thank you for this article and thank you for your service to the community. I have always appreciated your insight, talent, and take on what is happening in the community. I look forward to seeing what happens with the Atlanta Civic Circle. It is an intriguing and much-needed concept. Let me know how I can help.

    Linda HarrisReport

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Angela Cassidy March 17, 2020 10:04 am

    Maria, we have depended upon your insights and wisdom for so many years! I’m glad to hear that you’re starting Atlanta Civic Circle and that Bill Bolling will be joining you. With this great start, we can rest assured your work and watchfulness will continue for the betterment of Atlanta. Sending you my best wishes! Angela CassidyReport

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Steve Williams March 17, 2020 10:10 am

    Thanks for yours service at the Atl Biz Journal and so glad the Saporta report will be moving forward. I look forward to seeing you at the next newsworthy event and your publication next Tuesday!

    SteveReport

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    virginie kippelen March 17, 2020 10:34 am

    Thank you for this article and your insight. You’re right. We need more journalists and more civic engagement. All the best with your new endeavor and let me know how i can help.Report

    Reply
  7. Avatar
    David W Hibbert March 17, 2020 10:53 am

    Maria, keep up the good work. Journalism needs more torchbearers like you. So much “media” has become entertainment and ratings. It’s refreshing to get the straight scoop from you.
    David HibbertReport

    Reply
  8. Avatar
    J. Scott Jacobson March 17, 2020 11:29 am

    Maria: I love this article and your courage to make a change in a difficult environment. Keep up the good work!Report

    Reply
  9. Avatar
    Julia Bernath March 17, 2020 12:50 pm

    Maria, you have put your journalism degree to far better use than I have mine, and as a fellow Grady Grey Knight, I am so proud of your many accomplishments! I certainly think of you as an “old timer” but, rather, a quality seasoned veteran of the news force and a journalist of great integrity. The civic work you describe is most needed during these turbulent times, and I am glad to see someone like yourself is helping to craft a design for what could be of such great benefit to our region. If I can be of service in that arena, please let me know. In the meantime, carry on the good work you have always done! You are appreciated!!Report

    Reply
  10. Avatar
    Tom Woodward March 17, 2020 2:45 pm

    Best wishes for the new Atlanta Civic Circle! We so need well-considered civic journalism, higher civic literacy and broader civic engagement in our disconnected world!Report

    Reply
  11. Avatar
    Noel Mayeske March 17, 2020 2:52 pm

    Maria, your leadership in Atlanta journalism is legendary – and I don’t say that lightly or as a compliment in this time of transition.

    So many of us – whom you’ll likely never know in person – have looked to your honest, fair, disciplined form of journalism to shed light on so many key issues for Atlantans and beyond.

    You are wise to look at this change as an opportunity for an exciting new chapter, with SaportaReport and the Atlanta Civic Circle as key parts of the story.

    Again, I can’t thank you enough for the type of journalism you create, and look forward to hearing about your next steps through this transition. Godspeed in your journey!Report

    Reply
  12. Avatar
    Joshua Schiffer March 17, 2020 3:00 pm

    I’m going to fanboy for a moment, and tell you how much I deeply appreciate your voice and your work as a member of the Atlanta community. Your perspective envision is invaluable to me as a practicing attorney an active member of a community that I love. Thank you so much for your dedication to real journalism from real reporters and an editorial perspective of deep value. I’m very excited about your new venture and would love to be involved.Report

    Reply
  13. Avatar
    Jon Sinton March 17, 2020 4:55 pm

    Maria, This is so disappointing. I’m mostly disappointed in the parochial view of the Business Chronicle. I subscribe to the WaPo, WSJ and NYT, and all three constantly link to each other. Sure, they’re competitors, but they are journalists first, and are pulling together when it is necessary to inform us.
    Good luck in the new venture, and of course, to the continuing effort of the Report.Report

    Reply
  14. Avatar
    Jeff Jowdy March 17, 2020 7:48 pm

    Grateful for your true journalism! Looking forward to your future endeavors!Report

    Reply
  15. Avatar
    Péralte Paul March 17, 2020 9:11 pm

    Excited to read the next chapter in the life of Maria Saporta!Report

    Reply
  16. Avatar
    Neely young March 17, 2020 9:37 pm

    Nature is gold the hardest hue to hold. Please Marie keep being Gold. What a great friend you have always been to me and to all of Atlanta.Report

    Reply
  17. Avatar
    Steve Leeds March 17, 2020 9:52 pm

    I applaud your decision to continue with the Report and remain independent.
    I assume you have considered making it subscription based. If you do, I’m all in!Report

    Reply
  18. Avatar
    Kathy Colbenson March 18, 2020 6:06 pm

    Maria, you have been a very special gift to Atlanta for many years and I am glad that you will continue to bless us with your special wisdom, perspective and candor. Although not a journalist myself, I truly believe that truth telling from different perspectives is critical to our community, our nation and our world. Your writing and articles have provided authenticity and graciousness. I am grateful to you for your leadership and your friendship. I feel privileged to know you and get to help make the community better working alongside you. Much love and best wishes.Report

    Reply
  19. Avatar
    Carrie M Salvary March 19, 2020 4:03 am

    Maria
    I look forward to following you on your new venture and will continue following you on Saporta Report. Your courage to speak truth to power resonates with my values in journalism.Report

    Reply
  20. Avatar
    John Sibley March 19, 2020 1:41 pm

    Godspeed on your new journey, Maria. So glad your unflinching voice for the good of our community is not going away. And why is it that you are the only one in the picture who has not gotten older?Report

    Reply
  21. Avatar
    Barron Segar June 18, 2020 5:47 pm

    Maria,

    I will always be here to support you any way I can. It is courageous to leave a long time job and, like me, you will find you made he right decision. You are a wonderful friend to me personally and the entire non-profit community. I can’t wait to follow your success at SaportaReport!

    BarronReport

    Reply

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