SaportaReport explores Atlanta Civic Circle to convene engaged citizens

By Maria Saporta

SaportaReport hit an important milestone this past week.

We brought together our Thought Leader partners and friends for a special evening of fellowship on Nov. 9 – when we discussed how we can improve civic journalism in Atlanta.

The evening culminated with two sequential interviews with Atlanta’s mayoral run-off candidates, when they were able to share their vision for Atlanta’s future. We were the first venue to have a joint appearance of candidates Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms after the Nov. 7. general election. Here is our livestream on Facebook.

But the real purpose of the evening was to convene our community of special friends and sponsors – to thank them for their support and to connect people who may not have ever met. Several of our Thought Leaders expressed interest in meeting their fellow Thought Leaders, an idea suggested by several of our partners.

Something magic takes place when we bring incredible people together.

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SaportaReport gathering to talk about Civic Circle (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

How far we’ve come. When the website was launched in February, 2009, it was just supposed to be a part-time platform for me to weigh in on issues and topics in the Atlanta region.

For more than eight years, the site has prospered editorially with a multitude of special features – columns by David Pendered, Tom Baxter, Lyle Harris, Eleanor Ringel Cater’s movie reviews, Lance Russell’s Stories of Atlanta, Kelly Jordan’s photos featured in Seen in ATL and Photo Picks, Jamil’s Georgia, weekly guest columns and daily news stories by Maggie Lee, David Pendered and yours truly.

SaportaReport has been able to survive and thrive with the dedicated help of Judith Service Montier, Britton Edwards, Stan Fong, Cara Hebert, Paula Hovater and so many others along the way.

The Commerce Club hosted our gathering – an appropriate spot given the club’s role in bringing together Atlanta’s leaders to help guide the city through its various generations and challenges.

The invitation-only event included civic leaders from our region – representing a wide variety of organizations, professions, generations, races and ethnicities.

Over the last 18 months, SaportaReport has had the good fortune to work with Otis White, a former editor/publisher of Georgia Trend, who now runs the Civic Strategies consulting firm. He has been helping us develop a strategic plan for SaportaReport by studying other online journalism models around the country.

All along the way, we’ve had the wise counsel of Bill Bolling, a community builder who is literally family and who has helped keep us centered.

After months of brainstorming among a small group of us, we saw a need to combine civic journalism with community gatherings and engagement.

We presented a draft of our idea – the Atlanta Civic Circle – at our gathering on Thursday night (see below). Now we are seeking feedback from the people who heard the idea, so we can figure out how to proceed.

The hope is that we can serve as a convener and connector of all the various people and entities committed on making Atlanta as vibrant and livable a region as it can be.

The journey has just begun. We will keep you informed on our progress and solicit your involvement and ideas.

In the meantime, we will do our best to provide you solid information and insights –hopefully giving you a better grasp of what is going on in our region.

Thank you all for being part of our journey.

 

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Atlanta Civic Circle White Paper

(draft)

The Atlanta Civic Circle will be an independent, sister entity to SaportaReport that will focus on highlighting the top issues in metro Atlanta.

Goal: To create a safe place where engaged Atlanta leaders can deepen the conversation on how to make our region better for all.

Strategy: To create an independent sister entity to SaportaReport, with nonprofit status, that will include the participation of civic leaders interested in supporting civic journalism, civic literacy and civic engagement.

Its impact would be felt in multiple ways. The Atlanta Civic Circle would:

  • Convene several times a year to shine the light on the most pressing topics of the day. Facilitated meetings would seek to get beneath the surface of those issues and to bring different voices to the table.
  • In partnership with SaportaReport, provide resources to deepen coverage on selected issues as a way as to increase community understanding.
  • Explore ways to expand SaportaReport’s media channels – through podcasts and other platforms – as a way of reaching and engaging a broader audience.
  • Invite SaportaReport team members to provide information and analysis on key issues.

Again, the purpose of the Atlanta Civic Circle would be to deepen and broaden the conversation around critical issues facing the Atlanta region.

The Civic Circle would decide which issues have the greatest priority.

Once priorities were identified, the Civic Circle would then explore the best ways to promote greater understanding. Our goal is for the Civic Circle to play a key role in strengthening relationships between the business, academia, nonprofits, governments  and communities in our region so that together, we can find solutions.

The Civic Circle would work collaboratively with different organizations on particular topics. Through SaportaReport, it would encourage a formal way to present those issues and promote more in-depth communication among the players in the region.

See more photos from the event here: SaportaReport Civc Circle event photos

See a list of the attendees here: SaportaReport Civic Circle event attendees

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.

1 reply
  1. John Sibley says:

    Maria, after the years of contemplating a “civic circle” approach, congratulations on getting it off the ground yourself. And while I’m at it, congratulations on turning that part-time platform into such a must-read force for good in our region.Report

    Reply

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