APN Celebrates Six Years of Publication
This is the one time of year when I get to speak in first person about APN, the mission of APN, the progress of APN towards achieving our mission, and our strategy for moving forward.
You know, back in the 2003 to 2005 period, I was one of the first nationally-oriented freelancers for a number of left-leaning independent online news publications. And I said to myself, imagine how one could harness the power of Internet-based news at the local level – that one person could make more than just a dent in the coverage gap by focusing all their resources on a smaller scale, that is, a city or a county.
As many of you know, in July 2005 I set out to start that publication, the New Orleans Street News. Unfortunately, we had the largest natural disaster in the history of the US, Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005, and I had to decide where else to establish a news service.
And so, my arrival in Atlanta was a bit of an accident. That’s in part why it’s so hard to personally believe it’s been over six years now, and we’ve become an Atlanta institution.
I really believe that in the last year we have expanded our readership even more, not just quantitatively, but we have attracted a more diverse readership. You don’t know how often I hear from readers who do not agree with the progressive values that shape our news coverage, but who say they read APN to get information and analysis they could not get elsewhere.
In fact, I think we’ve evolved from covering not only things that have a progressive edge to them, but things that really everyone should be covering.
An example that sticks out in my mind is our coverage of E-SPLOST IV. It was kind of a dry, or technical piece, about a referendum on the ballot. But at the same time it was a pocketbook issue affecting working families: the amount of the sales tax paid on every dollar. We went into the coverage with no preconceived notions about whether it was good or bad; we had to request documents and conduct several interviews to not only obtain the information but make sense of it for our readers. At the end of the day, I think our coverage was balanced and of value to any reader across the political spectrum.
Well, before I go further into my reflections, I want to say THANK YOU to our readers and supporters, including advertisers and donors, who have made this–yet another anniversary–possible.
We are close–less than a hundred dollars away–from making our 2011 fundraising goal, for the whole year, which was $3,600.
And by the way, that’s just a bare minimum survival budget. If anyone has deeper pockets and wants to see our business plan for quickly and vastly improving our content, viewership, and advertising revenue, with just a small initial investment, email me!Let me tell you all about the generosity and support of our readers. Yes, we’ve raised over 3,500 hundred dollars this year. This is the most we’ve raised from individual donors so far in any year, so we’ve already broken a record – thank you!
The donations we get are often quite modest, but we get a lot of them. Over the past year, I would estimate we’ve gotten about two hundred donations averaging fifteen dollars a piece. That’s a lot of people lifting us up so that our voice can be heard, so that we can empower thousands of Atlantans each year to make an informed difference in the democratic process.
Here are just some of our reporting accomplishments over the past year:
– Leading coverage of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless and their legal battles.
– The only ongoing coverage of the inner-workings of the City Council of Atlanta.
– The first news article on Occupy Atlanta. In-depth coverage of apparent police brutality, including one officer riding his motorcycle into a group of protesters, and another charging a horse at an elderly woman.
– Full length interviews with four of five candidates in APS BOE District 2 race.
– Broke the story in Atlanta on the financial connections between the prison corporations and immigration legislation supporters.
– We predicted Renee Glover’s resignation from AHA one day before she announced it.
– Broke the story on Maj. Khirus Williams’s resignation from APD.
– The only place to find coverage critical of the Atlanta Beltline.
– We kept you informed on the progress of the transportation tax wish list.
– The only place to read about gentrification concerns following the Atlanta Streetcar.
– The only place in Atlanta to read coverage critical of nuclear power.
– Only critical coverage of Shirley Franklin’s new pro-privatization national initiative.
– APN uncovered the connections between the Alisias PR firm and the BOE Gang of Five, which later led to ethics complaints filed against four Board Members and additional findings by AdvancED/SACS CASI.
– The only coverage of questions surrounding the nomination of Joann Macrina to head Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management.
– The only coverage of the coverup of the unethical actions of Atlanta Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson.
– Consistent coverage of Atlanta’s movement to legalize marijuana; breaking coverage of synthetic marijuana’s availability in Atlanta.
– The only pro-worker coverage of the Atlanta pension debate.
– The only coverage of the Council vote against 4am bar hours.
– The only print coverage of the animal rights protest at City Hall which resulted in arrests; ongoing coverage of Atlanta’s animal rights movement.
– A critical look at persistent contrails across Atlanta skies and theories about what might be causing them.
– A critical look at the official US government’s report on the events of September 11, 2001.
And much, much more…
We also–as you know–led the struggle to make sure meetings of government agencies across the State of Georgia were open and transparent. I personally filed two lawsuits against the City over the last two years.
In October of this year, I got to argue before the Georgia Supreme Court–as a pro se litigant, or non-attorney–about why secret votes are not allowed; we’re expecting a ruling in the early part of next year.
I exposed the City’s secret memos regarding their closed meetings and single-handedly warded off their attempt to prevent the memos’ publication.
In a second lawsuit, I’m currently in talks with the City and Attorney General regarding a possible resolution to several outstanding claims I’ve made regarding Atlanta’s closed meetings.
So, wow, that really is a lot. To date, we have published 929 full-length news articles, and I project we’ll publish our thousandth somewhere around April 2012.
You know, I wanted to share another anecdote, which I’d like to file under the category “we can’t please everybody.”
As you know, we’re the Atlanta Progressive News and we’ve clearly stated our editorial position that objectivity does not in fact exist. Some folks have criticized us for violating a US-based journalism school norm regarding the need to be objective.
On the other hand, we recently got a bit of backlash from some of the young protesters involved in the protests against the Troy Davis execution, many of whom have also been involved in Occupy Atlanta. At issue was our decision to seek out [from APD] and to publish the names of the individuals arrested one night, even though that was not their wish. We were told that our decision to publish the names would lead to a lack of trust in the future.
The reason I bring up this story is to say, we’re not aligned with the bourgeoisie, but that doesn’t mean we’re a propaganda machine for the progressive movement either. We’re certainly aligned with the progressive movement, but our ultimate obligation is to you all, our readers, to bring you as much information as possible. So, we’re neither completely subjective nor completely objective; we’re at a place of independence somewhere in the middle; and I think that’s a perfect place for us to be.
One of the great things over the last year is you all have been able to enjoy our brand new website, which, among other things, includes a commenting feature. Thank you, readers, for so far, making 858 comments. We established some new content sections–blog, video, op-ed–that are not operational at the moment. Our goal for next year, 2012, is to expand and diversify our content; to gain in web traffic; and to expand and diversify our advertising base.
With your help, I know we can make it happen.
Thank you again,