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Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sports Reassignments Defy Common Sense

Monday, April 20, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 9:59 AM, under , , ,

There was never any doubt that big changes were afoot at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution when they offered buyouts to members of the sports department. A bunch of big names at the AJC did take them, including columnist Terence Moore and Atlanta Thrashers beat writer Mike Knobler.

Knobler will be heading to law school in the fall, so this buyout works for him. Ronnie Ramos, who had previously been reorganized out of the sports department, is leaving the AJC to become managing director of new media strategies and content development for the NCAA (is their some irony here or what?).

But more shocking are the moves that editor
Julia Wallace is making with those who did not accept the buyouts. The best way to describe it is "let's make life so miserable for everyone who refused the buyout that they will want to quit."

The best example of this is what they have done to former columnist Tim Tucker and University of Georgia beat writer Chip Towers.

The University of Georgia is located in Athens, Georgia. During peak traffic times, it can take anything from 2-3 hours to get from downtown Atlanta to Athens. Tim Tucker lives and works from Atlanta. Chip Towers lives and works from Bogart, GA, which is just outside of Athens. He has been covering the Georgia beat for 12 years or so (I forget exactly when he left the Athens Banner-Herald to head to the AJC).

In Chippier Times: Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Sports Department gives an enthusiastic press-box thumbs up
before the Oklahoma State - University of Georgia football
game in September 2007.
Photograph Copyright 2007-2009 byEye on Sports Media/
The Cayuga Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

So what does Ms. Wallace do? Among other head scratching reassignments, she cuts the UGA beat to one reporter, giving the beat to Tim Tucker (who covered the beat with Towers) moves Chip to "General Assignment Online."
moves Tim Tucker to the UGA beat and moves Chip to "General Assignment Online."

This means if a big story breaks in Atlanta, Towers will have to haul arse down to Atlanta to cover it even though Tim Tucker lives and works there. And when news breaks out at the University of Georgia Athletic Association (which happens a lot), Tucker will have at haul arse over to Athens to cover that. This, of course, is in addition to having to drive both ways to cover Georgia football and basketball games, even though Chip is "write" here.

So here is a short thought for Ms. Wallace:

Where is the common sense in these moves? Of course, all of the factors that fed into this decisions are not public. But on their face, they border on stupidity at best. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has become a joke of a newspaper in the 15 years I have lived in Georgia, and the only saving grace for the newspaper is the sports section.

Morale at the AJC, and other newspapers, is at an all-time low. Why make assignment decisions to make it even worse. Tim and Chip are excellent writers who know their stuff and know their audience. With all of the commotion down on Marietta street, why through even more discontinuity and confusion into the mix?

If the underlying desire is to make your writers so miserable that they quit, why not just cut through the charade (or perhaps crap would be a better word here), and issue their termination notices now? Or is the management of the AJC too spineless to do the right thing?

If you agree, why not email Ms. Wallace at and let her know what you think?

Here are the people who accepted the buyouts at the AJC, as reported in Creative Loafing. If online is the future of journalism, a few of the buyouts definitely raise some eyebrows:

Rich Addicks – photographer
Nancy Albritton – city editor
Jim Auchmutey – news feature reporter
Kevin Austin – editor
Moni Basu – news feature reporter
Wendell Brock – theater critic
Tasgola Bruner – online producer
Celine Bufkin – photo editor
Mary Civille
Brenda Coglianese
Larry Conley – DeKalb bureau chief
Holly Crenshaw – obit writer
Michael Dabrowa – graphics
David Deckert – archives manager
Lea Donosky – strategic manager,
Kevin Duffy – business reporter
Gerdeen Dyer - copy editor
Joe Earle – editor
Sandy Eckstein – feature writer
Ginny Everett – director of news research
Louis Favorite – photographer
Ron Feinberg – Sunday features editor
Vivian Flagg
Cathy Fox – visual art critic
Clark Freeman – copy editor
Phil Gast – news manager,
Steve Harvey – digital
Robin Henry – managing editor,
John Hollis – Southside reporter
Joey Ivansco – photographer
Drew Jubera – features reporter
Phil Kloer – features reporter
Mike Knobler – Thrashers reporter
Montse Knowlton – feature writer
Pat Koester
Connie Lawson – circulation librarian
George Leite
Donna Lewis – news reporter
Rachel Lister – copy editor
Derrick Mahone – news reporter
Andy Miller – healthcare reporter
Terence Moore – sports columnist
Sonia Murray – hip-hop reporter
Doug Nurse – North Fulton reporter
Thomas Oliver – business columnist
Evelyn Ortega – features design desk manager
Michael Pearson – Gwinnett business reporter
Kay Powell – Cobb communities reporter
John Reiter – calendar editor
Susan Reu
Frank Rizzo – comics editor
Holly Roseberry – editor
Pierre Ruhe – arts critic
Jennifer Ryan – news researcher
Chip Saye – sports writer
Paul Shea – metro news manager,
Stacy Shelton – environmental reporter
David Simpson – DeKalb reporter
Ben Smith – news reporter
Jim Smith
Kim Smith – photographer
Lewis Sturm – systems editor
Ron Taylor – Channel Manager, AccessAtlanta
Jerome Thompson – graphics reporter
David Tulis – photo manager,
Chuck Turlington – editor, Gwinnett
Melissa Turner – senior editor, Sunday
Steve Valk – Sunday metro editor
Omar Vega – art director
Reagan Walker – Sunday editor
Harold Weaver – producer,
Gayle White – higher education reporter
Janine Williams
Schauna Wright – blog coordinator

Posted on April 20, 2009

Currently have 5 comments:

  1. I'm thinking of borrowing a hoop skirt and heading down to Marietta Street to do my Madness of Julia "The Undertaker" Wallace interpretive dance routine... but only if I get at least two Atlanta bloggers to put it on YouTube. And their Facebook pages of course.

    I'll throw in a Rhett Butler look-alike and a pole dancer if they promise to Twitter it too.

  1. Shawn says:

    There are few errors in your post and I wanted to clarify.

    We have been fortunate to have two strong reporters covering UGA. However, we've had to reduce staff, and so we have named Tim Tucker as the sole full-time UGA reporter. Tim is one of our most seasoned reporters, and has also been an editor and columnist. He understands how to develop a beat and find stories.

    Tim will be helped by many on our sports team including Jeff Schultz, Mark Bradley and blogger Bill King.

    Chip Towers will be moving to our breaking news team, where he'll be aggressively jumping on breaking news on a variety of topics, heavily focused on sports. Chip is also a veteran sports reporter who knows how to find and break news and he'll be good at breaking news.

    No one likes the fact that we had to reduce staff, and we understand that job changes can be difficult for employees. Our goal is to continue to be a premier sports source in print and online and our editors believe this arrangement best positions us to provide readers with the strong coverage of UGA and sports breaking news.

    Shawn McIntosh
    Public editor

  1. @Shawn,

    With all due respect, it is hard to understand how there can be "errors" when this is talking about appearances, and the appearances of what is going on at the AJC.

    Decisions like this one impact quality of life for the reporters,both of whom are excellent in what they do.

    I, and the couple of thousand readers who have read this, appreciate your taking the time to respond.

    But unless you can give more substantive reasoning for the moves, or say exactly what "errors" are in here, I will have to say "that dawg don't hunt."

    I appreciate we do not know all of the back story, but this is all about appearances and how it seems your staff is being treated.

  1. Shawn says:

    The original posting suggests editors took one reporter off the beat and replaced him with another. That is not correct. Both Tim and Chip were covering the beat and now Tim is the sole full-time reporter covering the beat.

  1. @Shawn - I will gladly make that correction, but it still does not address the seeming lack of logic in this decision. So help us it and tell us the real reason why?

    As far as blogger Bill King is concerned, one of the rules of blogging are concerned, it is considered bad form to delete comments.

    Why do I bring this up? because someone (and I have no idea who the person is, except that they are a critic of the AJC) posted a link to this in a thread on King's blog, and it was a relevant link because someone asked what happened to Chip Towers.

    This comment was DELETED from the thread. Was this censorship on the part of the AJC or just a mistake in judgment? I would like to think it is the latter, as Tony Barnhart did not do the same thing with similar comments in his threads.

    Any comment on that?

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