What a year it has been for SaportaReport.
Spending this past week in Mexico has given me an opportunity to reflect on all the developments that have taken place this past year. It also has given me a fresh perspective on where we’re headed as we enter a new year.
SaportaReport.com actually was launched in February, 2009 — about six months after I had accepted a buyout offer from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after 27 years — the last 17 as its business and civic columnist.
For more than two years, SaportaReport rocked along — primarily as a solo effort to provide insights and commentary on what was happening in our city, region and state.
About a year ago, Chris Schroder — who had helped me launch the website in 2009 — told me it was time to take SaportaReport to the next level. Not only did he share his ideas and his enthusiasm, he also invested in SaportaReport and became a true business partner.
That’s how we were able to get David Pendered, a former AJC colleague who had taken the buyout at the same time as I had, to be a frequent (several stories a week) contributor to the site. David has broadened our scope and presence by reporting on a multitude of topics critical to our region’s future.
We also were able to solidify a relationship with Eleanor Ringel Cater, another AJC icon who has brought a whole other dimension with her weekly movie reviews in her unique, special style.
Then, in September, yet another former AJC colleague and one of its top writers — Michelle Hiskey — began writing a weekly column featuring human interest stories on a wide variety of topics that never fail to touch our hearts.
Another key development for us was when we started emailing our weekly updates every Tuesday morning — letting readers know what stories and columns had run in the past week.
Again, that weekly email has helped propel the site and contributed to more than a doubling of our monthly readership.
All along we’ve been running weekly guest columns from some of the most impressive thinkers and leaders in our region and state. We have been so fortunate to have so many fabulous people share their views and perspectives that have contributed to our community’s conversation.
That’s not all. As you may have seen, Chris will be starting his weekly “Moments” column in January, and I know that will become one of our most popular features.
When I was in Mexico, it hit me that SaportaReport has taken on a life of its own. Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of so many of our team members (including Stan Fong, Ivey Doyal, Reid Childers and Sarah Funderburk) and all our thousands of readers, it really feels as though this venture could have some staying power.
We are still trying to unlock the Rubik’s cube of how to make modern-day journalism financially sustainable. Although we know we’re not paying our writers what they deserve, we are proud to be able to say that they are being compensated for their work.
Meanwhile, we believe we are building a promising model thanks to Chris’ creative idea on the “Thought Leadership” pages. We also have managed to stay in business because of the persistent support of Jeff Cochran, another former AJC colleague who has been selling ads on the site since the beginning.
Again, we’ve been lucky to have great community partners — from the Urban Land Institute, the Livable Communities Coalition, Fair Share for Transit, the Clean Air Campaign, the Atlanta Falcons Physical Therapy Centers, BreakThrough Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress, BoardWalk Consulting to so many others — who have bought ads on the site.
And there have been so many others who have contributed their ideas, support, uplifting words and encouragement all along the way — there are too many to name, but a few deserve special recognition.
Two are former AJC editorial writers — Lyle Harris and Jeff Dickerson. Lyle actually was a regular SaportaReport contributor when we launched until he accepted a full-time position at MARTA. One day, I hope he will return.
As for Jeff, he gave me the courage and strength to leave the AJC — a place that I dearly loved. He helped pave the way — showing me how I could create a new life after the AJC.
Most importantly, it was Jeff who first suggested that I should strike a deal with the Atlanta Business Chronicle — a relationship that has been and continues to be vital to my success as a journalist in this new world.
ABC Publisher Ed Baker not only has welcomed me to the paper — making me feel truly valued, he has been a booster (and media partner) of SaportaReport. He has provided invaluable advice and guidance as we have taken the site from one level to the next. Seriously, I could not have made SaportaReport what it is today without Ed’s support (and the promise of a regular paycheck).
The holidays are an opportune time to take stock on where we’ve been and where we’re going. SaportaReport is still a work in progress (and probably will always be).
But it does feel good to be able to say that we have created something that is contributing to the betterment of Atlanta and Georgia.
We are giving readers insights and stories about what’s happening in our community — information that they may not be able to find anywhere else. We also love it when readers join in the conversation by posting comments on our stories.
And most importantly, thank you all for reading SaportaReport and contributing to its success.
With my deepest appreciation,