APN Celebrates Eight Years of Publication
(APN) ATLANTA — On the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the publication of Atlanta Progressive News’s first online news article, News Editor Matthew Charles Cardinale released this statement:
Happy anniversary to us! On this momentous day, Atlanta Progressive News enters its ninth year of publication.
First of all, a big thank you to our individual small donors, and a couple larger donors, whose contributions make APN possible! We have already surpassed our fundraising goal for the year of 4,200 dollars!
This has also been one of our best, if not the best, of revenue years to date. Our political candidate advertising shattered records both in terms of the number of ads and the sales numbers. We had more political advertisers than any other Atlanta publication, by far. This is something we are proud of because it means that our readers are valued and coveted, and candidates want to connect with our readers because they know our readers are engaged and interested in democracy – not just during the last month of the election season, but months before qualifying! Because of this, we were able to make some smart investments in the company.
This is great news because it means that while news organizations across the country are struggling to remain viable, we are surviving and thriving. We remain independent. And while we didn’t build the Internet, yes, President Obama, we built an online news service that nobody believed was possible.
While we met our goal, we would like to see if we can raise a few more hundred dollars by the end of the year, to take advantage of a promotion to extend a laptop warranty for four years, and make some other investments to support our news gathering and reach.
In celebration of our eight year anniversary, we are asking for donations with eights in them: $8.88, $18.88, $28.88… $88.88, or, if you’re feeling fabulous, $888.88.
To date, in eight years, we have published 1,275 original full-length news articles! I have personally edited every single one.
Second, there is something I wanted to share with all of our readers. As many of you already know, an interesting thing happened. In July 2013, I, the News Editor and Publisher of APN, relocated to Spokane, Washington, where I have been attending law school on full scholarship. I am now almost finishing up my first semester of a three year program.
It was an opportunity too good to pass up and many of you recall how my interest in law increased through my pro se Open Meetings litigation against the City of Atlanta, which began in 2010 and ended earlier this year.
So, surprise! Atlanta Progressive News for the last four months of publication–including all the scoops, exclusives, and original coverage–has generally been operating from approximately three thousand miles away.
We still have volunteer writers in Atlanta [thanks, Gloria Tatum, Cheyenne X, and others] and we still maintain our PO Box there. And we still have people locally who can be called upon to help get us information. So, APN’s continuation is also due in part to contributions from the community.
We decided not to make an announcement at the time because we wanted the transition to be seamless and did not want there to be any doubts that our coverage could continue from Spokane.
I am committed to continuing APN, especially seeing as how there is no other institution that could or would carry on the work we do, and I hope that as a successful attorney I will have more resources to invest in APN so that we could actually pay our writers, etc.
As you all know, we cover Atlanta elections like no one else in town [or, out of town, as it were]. We do that because we want to empower our readers with substantive information so they can make an educated difference in the democratic process, especially through voting.
I believe in this last City of Atlanta Municipal election season, including City Council and Board of Education races, that we really were able to showcase the contribution that we have been able to make through our coverage.
One of our key contributions to elections coverage was our City Councilmember Scorecard, in which we score Councilmembers’ progressivity or lack thereof on the basis of over forty controversial individual votes dating back to 2003.
Because the information was so transparent and substantive, we heard from a lot of community stakeholders who were able to benefit from the information whether or not they agreed with the editorial positions that shaped our scoring.
We also heard from a lot of stakeholders with respect to our Atlanta Public Schools BOE candidate questionnaires, and we are so thrilled that people benefitted from them, whether or not they oppose charter schools as we do.
We believe that characterizes much, if not all, of our coverage: that you do not have to be progressive or even agree with our definition of progressive, to benefit from the information we provide. Even if you disagree, the information still empowers you to make a meaningful difference in the democratic process.
As a City Hall reporter, I can tell you there is something about longevity that makes for better coverage. So, that’s definitely something to celebrate! The product in year nine is better than the product was in year five, which was better than the product was in year one.
Truth be told, we outlasted all our naysayers at Creative Loafing. Their remaining two news staffpersons have been covering City Hall, respectively, for about five years, and for about one year. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes through City Hall reporters like candy.
By the way, when anyone doubted our ability to continue operations from Spokane, Washington, I said, if the AJC can cover Atlanta from Dunwoody, Georgia, then APN can cover Atlanta from Spokane, Washington!
So, there’s something to be said for not going away. It means institutional knowledge, relationships with sources, and ultimately, better coverage for our readers!
Now there’s something I want to address with respect to our endorsements and our news coverage.
On October 28, 2013, I responded to a defamatory and irresponsible op-ed by a largely unknown candidate who later lost the City Council District 5 race to incumbent Natalyn Archibong (District 5).
While some of these comments are not worth addressing because of their baselessness in fact, I would like to address the relationship between our news coverage and our endorsement process.
I do so to help our readers understand APN and how we operate, and as part of a broader exercise in media literacy.
In a February 17, 2010 editorial, Notes on Objectivity and News, I explained our philosophy on what it means to be progressive news; that there is no such thing as objectivity in news; and that the only difference between us and other media outlets is that they purport to be objective even though they are not objective, while we never purport such a thing.
Well, I would say the same analysis applies to endorsements of political candidates.
We are, again, the “Progressive” News. We do endorse candidates based on progressive policy principles. Do we also tend to give progressive candidates favorable coverage? Yes, but again, that’s because we’re the progressive news.
But it doesn’t mean the endorsements cause the positive coverage. Both the endorsements and the positive coverage flow from an independent cause, which is the progressiveness of the candidate.
When a candidate has things about them that are less progressive, we typically call them out on those things.
But other publications are also subjective.
The AJC is extremely pro-Mayor, and has been since before his first election in 2009.
By the way, City Hall and Cox Media Group, which owns the AJC, share a revolving door. Former City of Atlanta Communications Director Sonji Jacobs just returned to Cox after working for the City; before that she was an AJC reporter. She was replaced as Director of Communications by former AJC reporter Carlos Campos. Reed advisor David Bennett also was an AJC reporter.
Just because the AJC does not make endorsements anymore doesn’t mean they are not biased. Based on their content, they have an apparent corporate agenda that supports charter schools, privatization, and pension cuts. They also have an audience who they increasingly believe is based in cities and counties outside of Atlanta.
Creative Loafing also used to be quite pro-Mayor, but that was driven quite a bit by Scott Henry, who left some time ago. CL’s editorial position seems to be more driven by the idiosyncratic interests and beliefs of the individual writers and editors who work there at the time, than any overarching or comprehensive editorial platform.
It was revealing when in their recent endorsements, CL had a split endorsement in one race, and the Editorial Board–consisting of one editor and one writer–confessed that the endorsement was split because the editor supported one candidate, while the writer supported the other.
In the District 5 race endorsement, the two of them spoke as one voice, saying that incumbent Natalyn Archibong was the only Councilwoman who had anything going on with ethics violations. Notwithstanding the inaccuracy of that statement, it was an aha moment because it revealed: they had… [cue scary music]… a position!
Does the fact that the people at Creative Loafing writing negative things about Councilwoman Archibong harbored… perhaps somewhere deep inside… an opinion about her, make a difference in terms of the reliability of the reporting? No, of course not. What’s important, for any publication, is that they report things that are factually true, relevant, and useful to their readers.
And that’s where media literacy comes in. You as the reader benefit from a publication being transparent about what their editorial positions are, as APN does.
APN is also transparent about the standards and rubrics by which we make endorsements.
Creative Loafing, on the other hand, shrouds themselves in objectivity while writing slanted coverage that is opaquely shaped by their writers’ personal opinions.
As I’ve said many times, the goal of Atlanta Progressive News is to advance progressive public policy, not to objectively document as Atlanta goes to hell in a handbasket.
And that’s another thing: Media institutions are actors in society.
This odd, contemporary US notion of journalism, based on this false notion of objectivity, posits news media as so many observers, sitting passively on the sidelines. But this notion is not consistent with reality.
Consider what happens when news medium X covers a topic in article A. Next someone responds to article A, perhaps in a press conference. This press conference now results in article B.
But the subject matter of article B would never have occurred had the news medium X not published article A.
In other words, there is always an interrelationship between media and society, something that the corporate media typically brags about and obscures at the same time.
The AJC, for example, boasts about how intrinsic they were to setting the stage for the APS cheating scandal investigations. Atlanta Unfiltered recently boasted that their coverage of State Sen. Don Balfour’s questionable spending has resulted in the Senator’s indictment and suspension from the Legislature. What tremendous achievements!
But that means that news media are active agents, creating change in society in profound– sometimes obvious, sometimes insidious–ways.
A few great APN accomplishments from the past few months come to mind:
– Our coverage of Teach for America’s increasing role in election politics attracted the interest of national charter school critics, including Diane Ravitch. Ravitch wrote about the four APS BOE candidates at the time who are TFA alumni, attracting media attention from local sources and the Washington Post. Ravitch visited Atlanta and held an event here and made endorsements in the APS BOE races.
– Our coverage brought to light an SEC investigation of an Atlanta pension fund adviser, Larry Gray, who advised the pension board to invest in his company without disclosing his ownership of the company. Gray later resigned from the Board. Now, according to the New Haven Register, the pension board in New Haven, Connecticut, is reviewing their relationship with Mr. Gray.
– For years, we have worked to expose the deplorable ethics record and deplorable voting record of Councilman Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large). Willis was unseated in the 2013 election. We also educated people about the least progressive Councilmember, Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), who also will not be coming back in 2014.
– As for Natalyn Archibong (District 5), we helped educate people about her progressive voting record, and she was returned to Council despite four opponents. We also helped educate people about the voting record of Felicia Moore (District 9), who was reelected despite two opponents.
– Finally, we educated people about APS BOE candidate Shawnna Hayes-Tavares’s arrest record, her record of being banned by the local parent teacher council, and her record of commenting on the APN website, falsely using the names of fictitious supporters. Despite receiving financial support from the establishment, she did not make it into the District 6 Run-off.
In closing, as we look to year nine, we plan to continue our work in creating a more informed, more progressive Atlanta.
Thank you, again, to our readers, for your readership and your support.