Televised Debates Scheduled for Georgia Candidates

By Walter Jones for Morris News Service

Voters anywhere in the state will get to see and hear candidates in the top contested primaries debate in a series organized by the Atlanta Press Club to be televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

“We look forward to another busy season with our Loudermilk-Young Debate Series,” said Lauri Strauss, the club’s executive director. “Our debates are an important public service giving candidates the opportunity to debate each other and helping voters learn about each candidate so they can make an informed decision on Election Day.”

The series is named for Aaron Rents founder Charlie Loudermilk, who is the financial underwriter, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young.

The nation’s second-largest press club has become the premier host of Georgia election debates because of the reach of its broadcasts and the respect candidates have for it. More than a few candidates in past years selected the Atlanta Press Club debate as the only time they shared a stage with opponents.

Several of this year’s debates were triggered by the retirement of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and the vacancies created when three congressmen gave up their seats to run for his. The senator stressed the value of debates on Thursday.

“Debates are a critical element to any election,” he said. “We have the distinct privilege in the United States to elect our government officials, and it is important voters have the opportunity to hear directly from the candidates in opposition to each other in order to make an informed decision.”

This year’s series kicks off May 11 with the Republicans in the 10th congressional district at 5 p.m. and the GOP hopefuls in the 12th at 6 p.m. The evening is capped off with the showdown between the Republicans running for the U.S. Senate.

The next evening, the Senate Democratic hopefuls will faceoff.

On May 14, the Republicans running for governor take the stage.

On the 18th, debates include the Republicans for the 11th District and separate events for those from each party running for state superintendent of schools.

They will be held in the GPB studios in Atlanta, and they’re open to the public. Some debates will occur earlier and videotaped for later airing.

“GPB is proud to once again broadcast the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series giving Georgians state wide an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates they’ll have the opportunity to vote for on Tuesday, May 20,” said GPB Chief Operating Officer Bob Olive. “The Press Club debates offer one of the few chances voters have to evaluate candidate stands on issues of substance and importance.”

Because of limited air time, the club is conducting a debate for the one contested primary for the Public Service Commission at The Commerce Club and streaming it live online.

All qualified candidates are invited to participate. Those who decline are represented by an empty lectern as a way to illustrate that the club does not exclude anyone.

Journalists from media outlets that cover particular races volunteer to moderate and serve as panelists to pose questions for the candidates to discuss. The series also allows each candidate to question one opponent, often the only time in months-long campaigns that candidates actually have a one-on-one dialog.

The club’s staff is issuing formal invitations to candidates and pinning down journalists for their roles.

Here are the times candidate debates sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club will air on Georgia Public Broadcasting:

April 29:

7 p.m. – Public Service Commission, Republicans

 

May 11:

5 p.m. – 10th District, Republicans

6 p.m. – 12th District, Republicans

7 p.m. – U.S. Senate, Republicans

 

May 12:

7 p.m. – U.S. Senate, Democrats

May 14:

7 p.m. Governor, Republicans

 

May 18:

5 p.m. – 11th District, Republicans

6 p.m. – Superintendent of Schools, Republicans

7 p.m. – Superintendent of Schools, Democrats

Atlanta Press Club Unveils ‘Forward at Fifty’ Initiative for 50th Anniversary

By Maria Saporta for The Saporta Report

The Atlanta Press Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014 by looking forward rather than focusing on the past.

The APC’s “Forward at Fifty” initiative will seek to leverage the anniversary year as a way of strengthening the role of journalism in serving the public interest. The year-long series of events will unfold under three themes — “Celebrate, Educate and Engage.” The Cox Media Group will sponsor the APC’s “Forward at Fifty” initiative.

“As the nation’s second largest journalism organization, we want to embrace the challenges we face and ensure that we continue to play a vital role in our democracy,” said Susanna Capelouto, president of the Atlanta Press Club.  “We’re creating a year-long initiative to get as many people as possible involved in considering not just what the media has contributed but how it can be effective going forward.”

Bill Hoffman, president of the Cox Media Group, said the company “is honored to support the rich heritage of Atlanta journalism.”

The Cox Media Group is the parent company of several of Atlanta’s top media brands — the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, MundoHispánico, WSB TV, and four radio stations including WSB News/Talk.

“The Atlanta Press Club and its members embody one of America’s greatest freedoms, the freedom of speech,” Hoffman said. “We celebrate this landmark year with all Atlanta journalists and look forward to the next 50 years.”

Events during the year will include a forward-looking journalism symposium, the club’s first, and a special edition of the Hall of Fame ceremony.

At the 50th Anniversary Kickoff on Feb. 4, several dignitaries will attend including Xernona Clayton, the group’s first minority member and a Hall of Fame honoree, along with current media luminaries, sponsors, and journalism educators.

Capelouto will lay out the initial slate of activities and talk about recent accomplishments. The club is one of the nation’s largest professional journalism organizations, with more than 560 members.

Poynter at the Press Club storytelling workshops start off Educate activities

Two nationally known journalism coaches and storytellers from the renowned Poynter Institute will provide a powerful first Educate element.  Poynter at the Press Club will help participants hone their narrative skills in the new age of electronic journalism.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, Al Tompkins, senior faculty member for broadcasting and online, will present three sessions on “Writing Across Platforms.”

Then on Saturday, March 22, Sara Quinn a visual journalism faculty member and multimedia expert, will lead four sessions on “Social Media for Journalists.”

Both events will take place at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The sessions are open to the public but seating is limited and members will get special pricing.  For more information see www.atlantapressclub.org.

On Sept. 6, the club will present a day-long journalism symposium in partnership with Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.  The symposium will explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the convergence of traditional and new media forms and examine where journalism is heading in an electronic world. Tim Regan-Porter, the director of the center, will discuss the symposium at the Feb. 4 kickoff luncheon.

Celebrate and Engage activities will occur throughout the year

While the year will be forward-looking, the club believes in the importance of documenting its history as a way of celebrating what the club’s journalists have accomplished.  A multi-media project with that aim is in the active planning stages.

Plans for the celebratory Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony taking place on Nov. 6 are also under way.

“We promise an event to remember with a stellar group of inductees worthy of our 50th anniversary,” said Jon Shirek, reporter for WXIA-TV, program chair and past APC president.

With 2014 statewide elections promising a lively political season, the club will once again Engage the community during the primary and general elections with its Loudermilk-Young Debate Series.

Funded through a $1 million endowment from Charles Loudermilk, the debate series has become recognized as the preeminent series in the state.  It has already provided years of debates with candidates responding to questions from respected journalists to help the electorate make more informed choices.

One symbolic way for all supporters of the club to become Engaged during the year is already active.  Throughout 2014, those purchasing event tickets or making a contribution to the organization will have an option to make an additional donation of 50 cents to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

Proceeds will go to APC’s internship program, which is helping to Educate a new generation of aspiring journalists.

Incoming press club president Anita Sharpe noted, “We want our 50th anniversary to be on the minds of everyone who cares about good journalism in Atlanta and beyond.”

For more information, please visit www.atlantapressclub.org or call 404-577-7377.

Note to readers: In the interest of full disclosure, Maria Saporta serves on the board of the Atlanta Press Club and chairs the committee that organizes the Loudermilk-Young Debate Series.

ICE’s Sprecher Sees Continuing Role for Humans at the NYSE

 

By Nick Baker for Bloomberg

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) –Jeffrey Sprecher, whose electronic IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE) is buying NYSE Euronext, said human traders are still needed for buying and selling stock.

Sprecher said the reliability of the New York Stock Exchange, where humans stand on the trading floor, is one of the reasons his Atlanta-based company is buying the parent. Trading in the $20 trillion U.S. equity market is spread across 13 public exchanges and 44 actively operated alternative trading systems, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission research paper this month. Almost all of them are electronic.

“Markets need a human touch,” the chief executive officer of ICE said today at an event in Atlanta held by the Atlanta Press Club. “When there’s a problem in the market, business goes back to the floor. What we’re buying in the New York Stock Exchange is the place where everyone goes in times of trouble or times when the market is wanting real certainty,” he added. “That’s the one you want to own.”

Sprecher said NYSE also has a competitive advantage, which it shares with Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., of conducting opening and closing auctions used by some of the world’s biggest money managers.

ICE agreed to purchase New York-based NYSE Euronext in December, forming one of the world’s largest exchange owners by the market value of its stock. ICE, a specialist in energy trading, will expand through the deal into interest-rate swaps and U.S. stocks. ICE expects to complete it on Nov. 4, pending further regulatory approvals, Sprecher said today.

NYSE ‘Adrift’

Shares of ICE fell 0.5 percent to $197.25 today. They have advanced 59 percent in 2013, the fifth-biggest advance in the 27-company Bloomberg World Exchanges Index. NYSE Euronext (NYX) has risen 42 percent this year. Their market values are $14.4 billion and $10.9 billion, respectively.

NYSE’s business was “adrift” when ICE agreed to buy it, though the New York Stock Exchange building in lower Manhattan remains an iconic symbol of American capitalism, Sprecher said.

“The NYSE building and what happens in that building is critically important,” he said. Although the number of traders working there has dwindled over the years, Sprecher said more people could end up working there.

He said changes are forthcoming at NYSE, but he declined to describe them because the transaction hasn’t closed yet.

“It’s sort of like buying someone’s house,” he said. “I don’t really feel comfortable talking about how I’m going to redecorate. There’s something kind of unseemly about that. You don’t want to actually talk about their drapes. You actually want to own the house and then let them move to Kansas, and then you can go in.”

Too Complex

One of Sprecher’s deputies said this month that rules governing U.S. equities trading should be pared back because regulations have made the market vulnerable to breakdowns.

To improve the U.S. stock market, “I would probably start by getting rid of rules — and some pretty big rules,” Tom Farley, the senior vice president of financial markets at ICE, said Oct. 8 at a Baruch College conference in New York. He declined to identify those he would prefer to eliminate.

“There’s been several significant rules that have been layered on in the last 15 years that have resulted in a costly and complex market,” he said two weeks ago.

Human market makers have been squeezed out of U.S. stocks by declining profitability. To spur trading, exchanges use a pricing model known as maker-taker to coax computerized trading firms to facilitate transactions.

Senate Election

“I don’t like maker-taker,” Sprecher said. “You shouldn’t pay people to trade,” he added. Market makers “need to be able to earn a living.” He didn’t elaborate on alternatives.

Sprecher said his wife, Kelly Loeffler, hasn’t made a decision on whether to run for U.S. Senate. Loeffler is the vice president for investor relations and corporate communications at ICE, and also co-owns the Atlanta Dream, which plays in the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Bob Barr, the former U.S. Representative from Georgia and Libertarian Party candidate for president, was among attendees at today’s event in Atlanta.

The Healthcare Headache

As more Affordable Care Act provisions will soon take effect, The Atlanta Press Club hosted a panel discussion, on Thursday, to contemplate the complexities of healthcare reform and looming ACA topics.  

The panel of experts included editor of Georgia Health News, Andy Miller; executive director of the Georgia Association of Health Plans, Graham Thompson; and the director of health policy at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Timothy Sweeney. Dr. Pam Roshell, the regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services, was also invited but canceled her appearance the day before the event.

Below is an overview of the event by Atlanta Press Club member John McCosh, which was written for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s blog.

_______________________________________________________________________________

By John McCosh, Director of Communications, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

Georgia’s news reporters should hone in on next month’s selection of insurance marketplace navigators as the next big development in the ongoing story of health care reform.

That tip was one of many offered by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s Timothy Sweeney during a panel discussion about media coverage of health care reform hosted by the Atlanta Press Club Thursday, July 25. Sweeney was joined on the panel by Andy Miller, editor of Georgia Health News and Graham Thompson, executive director of the Georgia Association of Health Plans.

Several dozen journalists were on hand to ask the panelists questions, including representatives of CNN, the Morris News Service chain, independent stringers and online reporters. After several opening questions by the moderator, longtime Atlanta radio journalist and club president Susanna Capelouto, she opened the discussion and the panel responded to a wide range of questions from the audience.

Asked to suggest important health care reform stories on the horizon, Sweeney said reporters should prepare for the announcement of grants to hire and pay health care navigators August 15. Navigators will help people understand their enrollment options when the health insurance marketplace opens this fall.

An important story the media should tell is how the navigator system is working once it kicks off. Journalists should try to sit in on a consultation to see firsthand how it works, Sweeney suggested. Navigators need to do a good job to ensure people make informed decisions when faced with a wide range of coverage choices.

“The complicated part is: Does your income meet the threshold for this subsidy?” he said. “How much subsidy are you going to get? Then look at that relative to the cost of the plan you’re looking at and then decide, which one do I want? Do I want to spend an extra hundred bucks a month to have this better plan, or not?”

Although Georgia’s insurance industry positions don’t always align with policies recommended by GBPI, the interaction among panelists was cordial, even gracious at times. But Sweeney did take exception to Thompson’s claim that many young Georgians don’t get health insurance because they think they are “invincible.”

“The reason most people are uninsured is because they can’t afford it,” Sweeney said. “I don’t think the reason most people are uninsured is because they walk around saying, ‘I’m invincible.’ Roughly half the uninsured population in Georgia is below 138 percent of the poverty level. Right now, a quality health insurance plan is out of reach for those people.”

Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent Stepping Down

By Christopher Seward for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Phil Kent, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System Inc., told colleagues Wednesday he will not renew his contract with the company when it ends next year.

In a letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent said his decision followed many conversations with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes over long-term leadership planning for Turner, a company started by cable TV pioneer Ted Turner but is now a division of Time Warner.

Chief Financial Officer John Martin will assume the title of CEO at Turner in January. Kent will remain chairman during a transition period next year

“Nothing changes for me or any of you until then,” Kent told colleagues. “ I’ll come in tomorrow and be on the job with the same enthusiasm as today, just as I know you will.“

Bewkes praised Kent’s leadership at Turner, which also operates CNN, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network and truTV.

”At Phil’s initiation, he and I agreed that now is the right time to announce the next generation of leadership, and I am pleased that he will serve as chairman,” Bewkes said.

Bewkes credited Kent with guiding Turner’s networks “through a period of rapid change, all the while building on each network’s leading position with viewers and advertisers and forging stronger relationships with distributors.”

In an effort to reverse poor ratings at CNN last fall, Kent hired former NBCUniversal President Jeff Zucker in November to replace Jim Walton as head of the struggling Atlanta based cable news network. Bewkes reportedly had ordered the network’s top brass to find a solution to its programming issues. While at NBC, Zucker was credited with building up NBC’s “The Today Show” as executive producer in the 1990s.

Kent has been chairman and CEO since February 2003. He joined Turner in 1993 from Creative Artists Agency. Over the years has served as president and chief operating officer of CNN News Group, president of Turner Broadcasting System International and president of Turner Home Entertainment.

In his letter, Kent said “a dozen years is a long run in a top leadership position, particularly in such a dynamic and fast-changing industry as ours. I’m very proud of Turner’s business results over the past decade. But I’m equally proud of the culture that we have built together to foster creativity, collaboration and risk-taking in the pursuit of excellence.”

Before being named CFO in 2008, Martin had been executive vice president and CFO of Time Warner Cable Inc. since August 2005. Before joining Time Warner Cable, he spent nearly 12 years at Time Warner, most recently serving as senior vice president for investor relations from 2002 to 2005.

The Legality of the Unpaid Internship

By Courtney Overcash, Atlanta Press Club Assistant Director 

Last week, a U.S. District Court ruled that production company Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal labor laws by having unpaid interns work on the set of the 2010 Academy Award-winning film “Black Swan” handling frivolous errands and tasks.

New York Southern District Judge William Pauley ruled that Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, two men working as interns for Fox Searchlight, were actually employees, and therefore entitled to at least New York’s minimum wage. The ruling serves to be a benchmark decree for other companies using intern labor, as well.  It is believed that thousands of companies are improperly using internship labor.

A recessive economy with a surplus of jobless college students means that young adults, even ones with degrees, are flocking to take unpaid internships.  These internships are meant to provide beginners with contacts and experience before entering the job field.  Like many unpaid interns, Glatt and Footman claim, however, that they were being used to complete meaningless tasks such as fetching coffee, filing and general clean up.

So when is an unpaid internship a valuable learning opportunity and when is it socially acceptable free labor? In order to legally staff unpaid interns, organizations must pass the 6-Point Test spelled out by Walling v. Portland Terminal Company, a 1947 Supreme Court case.  These 6 points ensure that employers are not getting any “immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees” and that they provide training “similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.”  The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends on the adherence to all 6 of these points being met.  The points can be found in The Fair Labor Standards Act on Fact Sheet # 71.

The suit against Fox Searchlight Pictures may have been the inspiration for several class action suits that have been filed over the last several weeks all claiming that interns were cheated out of potential wages.  Some feel the burgeoning litigious attitude toward unpaid interns will lead some organizations to shut down their internship programs or simply hire minimum wage workers instead.  Recent studies are bringing in to question the legality of many internship programs.  Young people should guard against any misuse by companies of internship programs.

Note: In 2013, The Atlanta Press Club developed an internship program in which it selects qualified journalism and communications students for summer internships at eligible local media organizations. The interns receive stipends from the Atlanta Press Club. Atlanta Press Club interns are based on their interests and abilities. For more information visit www.altantapressclub.org

Journalist Michael Hastings Dies at 33

On Michael Hastings By Max Fisher for The Washington Post 

Michael Hastings, a contributor to Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed, died on Tuesday morning in a car crash in Los Angeles at the unforgivably young age of 33.

He is best known, rightly, for his 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who as commander of the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan was the face of the war that Hastings saw as misguided and poorly managed. His profile, “The Runaway General,” portrayed McChrystal as a loose cannon so sure of himself and his strategy for the war that he and his staff openly derided their civilian overseers, including Vice President Joe Biden.

President Obama dismissed McChrystal over his comments in the story, which also won several awards, as if Hastings needed a plaque to know that a piece of journalism that led a president to fire his top general was something special.

Hastings is today, and will likely continue to be, remembered as the journalist who brought down a four-star general and the face of the war in Afghanistan. But that story was just one piece of a remarkable but too-short career of speaking the truths that no one else was willing to, keeping his notepad open when others might have closed it, a refusal to play by the unspoken rules and a delightful disobedience to which we were all beneficiaries. He was never afraid to burn a bridge if he thought doing so might help him tell his readers something they needed to know.

But, for all his take-no-prisoners bravado, in my all-too-brief encounters with Hastings he was more thoughtful than he let on in public. After I wrote critically about his McChrystal profile, he reached out to offer a kind word and invite me to drinks, a small gesture but one that few writers – perhaps myself included – would have been generous and unguarded enough to make to a critic.

Last year, he offered ten tips on Reddit for aspiring journalists. He was in a better position to offer them than I was, but I can reproduce them for you here. If you’re just entering journalism or considering it, follow his advice, and not just because it’s good, although it is. We could use more like him.

Okay, here’s my advice to you (and young journalists in general):
1.) You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.
2.) When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word “prose,” or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.
3.) Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.
4.) When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.
5.) Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.
6.) You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.
7.) If there’s a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.
By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can’t come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it’s going to be a challenge to get it published.)
9) Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life–family, friends, social life, whatever.
10) Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.

New rule sets out which vanity plates are 0FFLMTS

By Ariel Hart for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

GAYGUY, looks like you’re good to go.

GUNSDAD, not so much.

Responding to a lawsuit, the state Department of Revenue has just issued an “emergency” rule spelling out which kinds of vanity license plates are allowed and which are not. The agency is trying to make its rulings more consistent, after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out stark inconsistencies, and one driver sued.

Under the old, less specific guidelines, the state had approved G0D4EVR but nixed G0DROKS. It gave the okay to G0TBEER but put the kibosh on L0VWINE. And so on.

“It seemed arbitrary to us,” said Cynthia Counts, a lawyer for James Cyrus Gilbert, whose requested GAYGUY tag was denied, along with 4GAYLIB and GAYPWR.

Gilbert and Counts argued that denying his request also chilled his right to free speech, violating the federal and state constitutions.

“It’s the right result,” Counts said of the settlement. “The state did the right thing.”

Gilbert can soon pick up his GAYPWR tag as part of the settlement, she said. He will also win some money, although he has earmarked all of it for legal fees.

The rule will not become final until after July 9. In the interim the agency will take public comment on it.

Wednesday, state officials would not address specific examples of words that would pass or fail under the new rule, but it seems clear that some tags now on the roads would not be approved under the new framework.

For example, tags with references to guns fell into a gray area before. Now weapons can’t be mentioned.

However, drivers whose tags don’t fit the new rule may be okay as long as their old tags last. “The purpose of this regulation is not to go out there and pull tags off the road,” said Rick Gardner, a supervisor in the department’s office of tax policy. The aim, he said, is to have clearer rules and be consistent in issuing tags from now on.

Under the new rule, the state will still keep a list of banned plates — about 10,000 are now on that list. But officials now have a new, longer and more specific set of reasons for putting words on the list.

And the state will police itself better. It must now review the list at least once a year. If the banned words don’t fall within one of the specific criteria, they’ll come off the blacklist and become available for picking.

Georgia has struggled over the years to regulate more than 100,000 requests for vanity license plates.

It’s hard enough just to read the things. When is “8” part of the word “hate?” The possibilities in the age of texting have state employees running tag requests through the online Urban Dictionary.

Compounding the challenge, the old rule left considerable room for interpretation. For instance, it banned tags “referring to a crime or criminal activity” or with “language, a message or material that might reasonably invoke violence upon persons or property.”

So someone at the department banned GUN. But someone approved GUNZZ.

Both would seem to be out under the new rule, which prohibits “any reference to weapons, drugs or alcohol.”

An activist for gun rights said he didn’t like it, but there were worse outrages.

“Basically, I’ll just say it doesn’t surprise me that they don’t want guns on license plates,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry. “They don’t want them in several other places in the state of Georgia.”

The courts have struggled with the license plate issue too. Are license plates personal speech, or a state-manufactured billboard on your car? Or some combination?

Take, for instance, plates with state-stamped slogans. In 2006 the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Tennessee to offer drivers a license plate with the specialty stamp “Choose Life,” although Tennessee refused to issue a pro-choice plate.

But when South Carolina tried to do the same thing, the Fourth Circuit said that would violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court declined to step in and sort out the issue.

As for vanity plates, in 2009 the ACLU took up the cause of a Colorado vegetarian who was denied the plate ILVTOFU. Colorado officials were concerned the phrase referred to an activity rather than a food.

The woman chose to back down so the case was never resolved in court, said Mark Silverstein, the Colorado ACLU’s legal director.

During the controversy, the ACLU also offered to go to bat for a state senator who threatened to apply for the plate ACLUSUX.

“Absolutely,” Silverstein said this week. “We don’t agree with the ACLUSUX license plate but we would defend anyone’s right to display it on their car.”

That might not fly in Georgia, though: The new rule explicitly bans the word “suck.”

Catching up with CNN Ex-COO Steve Korn

The Daily Report’s Katheryn Hayes Tucker recently talked to Steve Korn about his experience running Radio Free Europe in Prague.  

 

Korn Still Speaking Truth To Power By Katheryn Hayes Tucker for the Daily Report

After a career of building the business and legal framework for journalism, the man who was Ted Turner’s top lawyer during the creation of Cable News Network has returned from a stint at the helm of Radio Free Europe with a new appreciation for speaking truth to power.

“The people who work there, the journalists in particular, are absolutely courageous, brave heroes,” Steven Korn said of the staff of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty Inc., where he served as president and chief executive officer from July 2011 until the end of January 2013. “Time after time, they’ve endured prison, solitary confinement and harassment in their home countries and they are completely dedicated to providing a free press.”

One reporter from Iran was beaten, tortured and held prisoner by the government for 33 days simply for considering a job offer with the U.S. government-funded broadcasting company, whose mission is to provide news in countries that don’t allow freedom of speech. When that reporter was released, he sneaked across the border and took a job with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague.

Another reporter, a woman from a Muslim country, was blackmailed with a sex video taken by a hidden camera in her own apartment. She decided to keep doing her job anyway, knowing that such a video in her country could place her life in danger.

“It was an honor to work with these kinds of people,” said Korn, former publisher of the Daily Report. “I’ve spent my entire professional life with and around journalists. This was a great opportunity to do something I really believed in.”

Korn also felt the pain of speaking truth to power during the time in Prague. He took a business-like look at a 60-year-old non-profit organization—which began as an arm of the Central Intelligence Agency—and quickly saw it was in need of change. He upgraded facilities, added new equipment and cut unnecessary spending, including layoffs in overstaffed bureaus. For that, he suffered a barrage of criticism in the press and the blogosphere.

“Little did I anticipate the fierceness with which the old guard would oppose any change whatsoever,” said Korn. “I ran into quite a buzz saw.”

Although the service operates in 21 countries, much of the heat centered on Russia, where radio ratings had dropped drastically. Korn’s strategic plan included investing heavily in new equipment to move to a digital platform, but it called for cutting 89 jobs that “could not be justified,” Korn said, releasing a storm of criticism for cutting back on the commitment to Russia.

Here’s what Washington Post editorial writer Jackson Diehl said in a Feb. 3 opinion piece under the headline, Static at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “Steven Korn, then president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, presided over the firings or resignations of more than 40 of Radio Liberty’s 100 staffers, including a number of veteran journalists, who were unceremoniously ejected from the Moscow office. As former supporters such as Mikhail Gorbachev and human rights icons Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Sergei Kovalyov loudly protested, a new strategy of focusing on the Internet and softer content bombed, leading to a big drop in audience.” Korn said 43 were fired, reducing the staff from 89 to 46.

Korn said criticism of his tenure was “almost comically inaccurate,” since the organization was actually increasing its investment there. But, like other news organizations, the service was confronted with the need to change based on market pressures and technological advances. He’s proud of hiring a Russian service director who’s based in Moscow rather than Prague, as past directors had been, and of creating a new bureau with “state-of-the-art video and audio” facilities.

Letter to Attoney General Eric Holder

Several Atlanta area media organizations signed on to a May 14 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing their concern over the Department of Justice’s subpoena of phone records of the Associated Press. The letter was sent under the auspices of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and additional signers included ALM Media (parent company of The Daily Report), Cox Media Group (owner of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WSB radio and TV) and CNN.

View the letter