Former state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers makes his public return with the debut this week of his “Georgia Works” show on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s statewide radio network.
It will be the first time he’s hit the airwaves since January, when he took the $150,000-a-year job and angered scores of contributors and others — including one longtime producer who quit in protest because staffers had otherwise endured layoffs, outsourcing and no pay raises.
Don’t expect, however, for Rogers to take a on-air swipe back at his critics. He’s leaving the fireworks to others.
“Ultimately, we want ‘Georgia Works’ to be a trusted source for positive stories about Georgia,” Rogers said in an email, his first public comments since he took the job.
“All Georgians, regardless of political persuasion, should join our efforts in championing our state and the wealth of opportunities that exist here,” he said. “Good jobs and access to opportunities are something everyone in our state should support and celebrate.”
The show is a first for GPB, a programming effort championed by GPB President Teya Ryan to cover Georgia’s push for more jobs and economic development statewide. Rogers is leading it, helped by an executive producer hired in May. Regular podcasts have already begun online, as well as regular posts about job tips and hiring.
According to GPB, the “Georgia Works” blog has already gotten 90,000 hits and is its second-most-viewed blog behind “Downton Abbey.” Thursday’s debut, which will feature tips on job searches, branding opportunities, a “job opportunity of the week” and a weekly feature on a Georgia-made product, adds to the effort.
The show will air at 7 p.m. every Thursday on GPB’s 17-station radio network and can be heard live on GPB’s website.
“We want to use the reach of Georgia Public Broadcasting to highlight the significant number of economic and career opportunities in Georgia and pathways to reaching those opportunities,” Rogers said. “Serving for a decade in the Legislature allowed me to meet entrepreneurs all across the state. The real-life stories behind their success are what we want Georgians to know about.”
One of the state Legislature’s most visible Republican leaders, Rogers resigned in December to take what he called a “dream” job with GPB. His political successes were tempered by a series of missteps that included his failure to repay a bank loan, public disclosure of his work for a sports gambling network and national attention garnered from a statehouse briefing he hosted about what some conservatives believe to be a United Nations-driven conspiracy against American property rights.
The new job was seen as the removal of a lawmaker some viewed as a liability. Gov. Nathan Deal played matchmaker between Rogers and Ryan, although he disavowed any direct involvement in the hire.
Still, GPB acknowledged at least a couple hundred complaints about the hire — particularly given that Rogers’ salary is paid solely through state taxpayers’ money and made him GPB’s second-highest-paid employee behind Ryan. It is unclear, however, what effect those protests have had.
GPB Vice President Nancy Zintak said there would be no way to quantify if or whether Rogers hiring had an effect on GPB’s fundraising since its two most recent membership drives — one for radio and one for television — both exceeded goals.
She declined, however, to provide totals of how much those drives raised.
And despite GPB’s efforts to assuage concerns, the hiring could have a lasting effect for some. Longtime GPB contributor Sandy Wood, who in January cut off her regular $20 monthly donation because of Rogers’ hiring, said this week she may start her contribution again — but at a reduced rate to reflect what she called “my little protest.”
“I’m feeling guilty because I’m indirectly punishing honest state employees who had nothing to do with this,” said Wood, who wants to support some of GPB’s most popular shows, including “Georgia Traveler.” “I am committed to public television. But I will not listen to Chip Rogers’ radio show.”