Buckhead Business Radio on Business RadioX Spotlights Atlanta Press Club

Lauri Strauss Discussed Atlanta Press Club’s 50th Anniversary 

ATLANTA, GA–(Marketwired – September 09, 2014) – Lauri Strauss, Executive Director of the Atlanta Press Club, was featured on the August 19, 2014 episode of Buckhead Business Radio on Buckhead Business RadioX to promote the Journalism Next event.

The Atlanta Press Club is one of the largest professional journalism associations in the nation with nearly 600 members. Lauri Strauss was featured to discuss how the Atlanta Press Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“We’re excited to announce the Journalism Next Conference geared not only toward journalists but communications professionals alike,” stated Strauss. “We’re focusing on two different tracks. One will be for students from area universities just getting started, while another will be for professionals with more experience.”

The Journalism Next Conference was held September 6, 2014 at Mercer University, Atlanta Campus. To learn more about this year’s conference, information can be found at journalismnext2014.com.

To listen to the entire radio show and learn more about the other featured guests from Mercer University, Simply Buckhead, Jet Senters Aviation, Keller Williams, and Bert’s Big Adventure, tune in to Buckhead Business Radio.

About Buckhead Business Radio:

Buckhead Business Radio spotlights thought leaders and companies doing business in and around the Buckhead community (the heart of Atlanta’s financial district) with compelling stories to tell. Join Host Rich Casanova Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am Eastern on http://buckhead.businessradiox.com.

About Business RadioX®:

Business RadioX® interviews dozens of innovative entrepreneurs and successful leaders each week. Its mission is to help local businesses Get the Word Out about the important work they’re doing for their market, their community, and their profession. With a pro-business slant and a long-form interview format, guests don’t have to worry about being ambushed or talking in “sound bites.” Guests have enough time to tell their whole story and to share their insights and experience without interruptions. Business RadioX® hosts are business professionals interviewing their peers, drilling down on the critical issues, and delivering practical information to an engaged business audience. Business topics that are frequently covered include: Law, Finance, Healthcare, Technology, Trade Shows, B2B Marketing, Venture Capital, Training and Development and other issues impacting the business community. For more information, visit: http://www.businessradiox.com.

Georgia Candidates Debate on Public TV

By Walter Jones for Morris News Service

ATLANTA — Republican Senate hopefuls Jack Kingston and David Perdue pitch to voters in their own words — and challenge each other — in a televised debate Sunday.

It will be their final statewide opportunity before the runoff votes are counted July 22.

Their confrontation is the capstone in a series of half-hour runoff debates organized by the Atlanta Press Club and airing statewide by Georgia Public Broadcasting that also features congressional and school-superintendent races.

Ad spending in the Kingston-Perdue runoff has topped $11 million, blanketing news, sports and entertainment programing with an array of attacks on both men attempting to say what the other believes. So, the debate will give them a chance to speak for themselves.

It will also give them a chance to answer questions from a trio of professional journalists selected for their experience, objectivity and skill. Although the editorial writers at some of the organizations they report for may make political endorsements, the Press Club’s Debate Committee limits participation to unbiased reporters from the areas of the state voting in a given race.

“The Atlanta Press Club is known for organizing debates that are fair and balanced for all candidates,” said Lauri Strauss, executive director of the club. “We carefully select a diverse group of journalists to serve on the panels to ensure each candidate has an equal opportunity to share their views and what they hope to accomplish if elected into office.”

All but one of the candidates has agreed to participate. Brian Reese, a candidate in the First District congressional runoff for the Democratic nomination, declined because of long-standing prior commitments. As a result, the air time for that session will be halved as his opponent, Amy Tavio, fields questions from the journalists.

For television scheduling reasons, the First District debates will air Wednesday night.

Statement from Cohn & Wolfe on the Passing of Norman Wolfe

Norman Wolfe, co-founder of global communications firm Cohn & Wolfe, passed away on Wednesday, June 4. Norm founded Cohn & Wolfe with Bob Cohn in Atlanta in 1970, after a career in journalism where he became Executive Editor of the Orlando Sentinel. His passion was public affairs and he directed the crisis communications efforts for Cohn & Wolfe. Bob and Norm sold Cohn & Wolfe to Y&R in 1984 and led the agency as an independent network with a distinct identity. Norm retired from his position as Vice Chairman of Cohn & Wolfe in 1992 and continued to provide counsel on a number of clients for a number of years.

“We were very saddened to hear of the passing of Norman Wolfe. In 1970, Norm founded Cohn & Wolfe, along with Bob Cohn, and had the foresight and determination to imagine a public relations agency unlike any other,” said Donna Imperato. “Norm was a true visionary, baking branding and creativity into the DNA of the agency from the very start. He and Bob created a powerful consumer marketing agency that grew from Atlanta to New York and then went on to become a global leader. Our condolences go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Political Debates Still Important

By Lauri Strauss

The cornerstone of our republic is our election process. Elections matter, regardless of which side of the aisle one sits, and everyone should agree the best electorate is one that is informed about the issues to be decided and the candidates to take office.

Today’s political campaigns are waged in many arenas.

Candidates still use yard signs, pound the pavement and canvass neighborhoods to build name recognition and establish a base of supporters. Social media has elevated the game to a whole new level, allowing not just politicians, but the public at large to step into the fray.

Despite the move to digital, there may be no better way to truly understand candidates’ positions on the key issues and to evaluate their viability for public office than through a public debate.

For more than 20 years, the Atlanta Press Club has sponsored a debate series, today in honor of Charlie Loudermilk and Andrew Young. An open and honest forum is at the heart of the Press Club’s mission, and in 2014, the debate is as important as ever.

This primary season, the Atlanta Press Club will host a total of 9 debates for races at the state and national level. Once the primaries are decided, we’ll return with additional debates as we march toward the Nov. 4 general election.

Many of the races the Atlanta Press Club is featuring as part of this year’s debate series are already receiving national attention. But, these are races that can be impacted and decided at the local level.

The Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series gives voters the opportunity to educate themselves before they step into the voting booth. As an organization, we pride ourselves on bringing issues to be discussed to a public forum, and our debate series is no different.

Social media is fantastic, but don’t rely merely on the rhetoric, reposts or repackaged sound bites. Listen to the candidates for yourself, hear their statements and come to your own conclusion on who will best represent you – whether it’s in Atlanta or Washington. And please help us encourage the candidates to participate in the debates. Face-to-face debates provide some of the best opportunities for voters to learn about the candidates so they know who they want to support on Election Day.

We invite you to join us in person or online. Debates will be held at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s studio on 14th Street in Atlanta and will be broadcast live on public broadcasting affiliates statewide, streamed on gpb.org and archived on atlantapressclub.org.

For a full schedule of debates, visit www.atlantapressclub.org. To attend the debates or for more information, call (404) 577-7377 or email info@atlantapressclub.org.

Ashes to Ashes – Mourning the Passing of Emory’s Journalism Degree

By RICHARD T. GRIFFITHS, vice president and senior editorial director of CNN as well as a member of the Emory Journalism Program Advisory Board

Note to readers: Richard Griffiths delivered these remarks on April 25 at a reception celebrating the Emory Journalism Program’s “18 years of courageous inquiry and ethical engagement.” As of now, Emory no longer offers a degree in journalism.

You know, from time to time, I’ve had a dear friend – someone I’ve grown up with – die.  There’s the disorientation.  How could this be?  What cruel joke of nature was played on my brilliant / funny / loving / challenging friend?

There’s a sense of loss, grieving at the sense that somehow he or she was cheated out of a full and complete existence.  So young, with so much to offer.  Never got to see how the children turned out, never got to meet the grandchildren.

I’m feeling a bit of that tonight.

As if a good friend has met an untimely death and we perhaps are all still processing it – Some of us in different stages of grief:  Disbelief, Anger. A few might have even reached acceptance.  (And some here are twitching at my use of “untimely death.”  Most editors and all journalism faculty will tell you that all deaths are untimely.)

Like all good departed friends, this journalism program has left a mark on each of us.

Just as good friends challenge us, push us, and tell us the truth we sometimes don’t want to hear, Emory’s journalism program has over the last 17 years challenged hundreds of students to more fully develop their critical thinking, taught them – you – not to be afraid to question authority, to hold those in leadership accountable.

That’s part of the reason perhaps this program did not go quietly.

Unlike my dear friends who have died, this program did not die a natural death.  It died young, a relative teenager, just as it was hitting its prime.

Certainly the administration has made its decision.  And certainly given that this program was resurrected in 1997 from the ashes of a previous journalism department closed in 1953, it is now not likely to be brought back to life.

So that brings us to the search for meaning.

At most funerals and wakes, a speaker or two will talk fondly about some of the foibles of the dear departed:  The eccentricities that made him or her beloved.

One of the endearing eccentricities I loved most about Emory’s journalism program is its co-major requirement… A requirement that not only must the Emory students develop the critical thinking skills, the writing, the reporting skills, but that every student had to have another major, a field of learning about which the journalism student also developed a passion.  Pre-med, mathematics, chemistry, sociology, anthropology, Chinese, French.  A way of better understanding the world and a way of expressing that understanding.

That’s what has made the Emory journalism students so consistently strong:  A specialist’s understanding and a journalist’s ability to convey the larger truths.

Special editorial cartoon drawn by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Luckovich in memory of Emory’s journalism degree

Nurtured by some very dedicated faculty, you have learned investigative journalism, crisp writing, video literacy, an understanding of story-telling, a history of the profession, a sense of the legal and ethical challenges that will await you.

And you have learned to develop that most valuable friend of journalism and a healthy society – curiosity.  Certainly, after this experience, you will likely be more prone to be skeptical as you question authority.

So, let me charge the graduating students and the students who will graduate next year, and the year after:

Do not allow the achievements of Emory’s journalism program – your achievements – to be forgotten.

Show the world what you have got, what you’ve learned, what you can accomplish.  Show the world that the critical thinking you learned in this program is worth something.  And when asked, proudly say that you are an Emory Journalism graduate.

Ten years ago, I was invited to begin regular talks to Emory journalism classes.  Those encounters grew to sometimes two or three times a year.  Every faculty encounter was positive, constructive, impressive.  As a member of the Journalism Program Advisory Board, I learned about the passion of the faculty and their drive to adjust the journalism offerings to meet the needs of a world that is changing at astonishing speed.  Sadly, many of those faculty are now leaving the university.

As the last act of the Journalism Program Advisory Board, I want to convey our thanks to each of the faculty for what you have done…

David Armstrong… for sharing his prodigious investigative skills that serve to keep society healthy.

Sissel McCarthy… for infecting others with your enthusiasm for journalism, both in your news literacy and electronic media classes.

Sheila Tefft… for inspiring the countless students to stretch their thinking and writing to reflect the large world we live in and for directing this program for nine years.

Hank Klibanoff… for your ability to discern truth, your passion for history and ethics, and your exemplary leadership.

I understate it when I say you have all made a real difference, changed the world in a positive and constructive way.

Isn’t that what we all strive for?  Whether a dear friend or a journalism program we all want to be remembered for making a difference.

The history of this program might ironically be ashes to ashes, perhaps. But this program is not mere dust.

It’s left a legacy of fine professionals in countless fields who understand journalism and its importance.  It’s left a legacy of serious journalists, in this room and in newsrooms around the world.

So, let’s think good thoughts about the dear departed.

Atlanta Press Club Asking Public for Best Stories Over Past 50 Years

By Maria Saporta for The SaportaReport

As a way to celebrate the Atlanta Press Club’s 50th anniversary, it is asking its members and the general public to get in the spirit.

The Club is issuing a public call for people to nominate the best Atlanta stories of the past 50 years.

The search, which will conclude in the fall with the announcement of “Atlanta’s Ten Best Stories” as determined by public voting, is entitled: “Finding Atlanta’s Best Stories: Journalism that Moved Us Over the Last 50 Years.”

The submissions may be any type of media story ranging from a hard-hitting investigative report to an unforgettable feature to an enduring column.

“The stories we will identify will highlight the role robust journalism plays in the lively, informative civic discussion that makes Atlanta great,” said Anita Sharpe, president of the Atlanta Press Club. “Over the past 50 years, the Atlanta Press Club has nurtured and promoted the professional development and public engagement our important media forum requires.”

The search begins immediately with a request for nominations from the public, educational institutions and media outlets for the best stories that “moved us” over the 50 years beginning Jan. 1, 1964 to the present.

Stories must be submitted by June 15, 2014. Entries may focus on an issue of national significance, but the submission must be centered on the 13-county metro Atlanta region.

Nominations must include a copy of the actual story in the form of a web link or a scanned reproduction.

Stories may be from any medium: broadcast, print or digital. Entries must be accompanied by a summary of no more than 150 words explaining what makes this story one of Atlanta’s best in the past 50 years.

“Already we’ve had some great discussions about all the wonderful stories in Atlanta’s history, and that’s the whole point – to get people talking about the importance of good journalism in our civic life,” said Betsy Riley, a member of the professional panel that will review the entries.

The panel will screen the entries and a list of finalists will be made available for public vote to determine the best 10 stories.

For additional information on guidelines for submission, please visit www.atlantapressclub.org.

Entries should be sent to this e-mail address: beststories@atlpressclub.org.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been serving on the board of the Atlanta Press Club for more than 25 years. I would like to thank fellow board member Jay Lawrence of Wells Fargo Banks for helping put this all together.


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.”