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