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Work that’s yielded results

Most print journalists don’t do what they do for the fame or the fortune. Generally we care more about what will happen as a result of our work such as who we will help, how we hold officials accountable, and how we inspire change or elicit emotion.

For most of us the impact that we have is the ultimate motivator, above all else.

As a leader at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 10 years, I’ve been proud to work with an outstanding team of journalists. Because it isn’t for personal glory, the work is rarely recognized in ways that the newspaper heavily promotes publically outside the newsroom. In other words we don’t brag about what we do, we let our work speak for us.

Exposing our readers, through various platforms, to issues that impact their lives is why we exist. Our job is to inform, whether it’s investigating an issue in our school systems or reporting information about the latest blockbuster movie being filmed in Atlanta.

Later this month, several AJC staffers will be recognized for the ways they informed you in 2015.

Each year the Atlanta Press Club announces its Awards of Excellence to recognize individual journalists for quality work that made an impact.

The awards honor journalists who either work for Atlanta news outlets or who are based in Atlanta. Nominations can come from anyone.

The Awards of Excellence, judged by members of the National Press Club, are based on quality of content, did it make an impact and demonstrated reporting skill.

The award categories are print/online daily and non-daily, television reporting, videography, radio reporting, documentary/series, used of sound, single image photo, a collection of photos or photo story, and investigative reporting.

There also are three other special awards: “Rising Stars,” journalist under age 30, Reporting on Civil and Human Rights (in partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights), and the Atlanta Press Club Impact Award for a Georgian (not necessarily a journalist) who, according to club guidelines, had significant impact on the journalism profession in the previous calendar year and has furthered the mission of the press club.

In a time when many industry groups across journalism are hard pressed to get membership and buy in because there are so many options and disciplines, the Atlanta Press Club has maintained its industry and community status.

Before the drum roll of AJC award nominees, here’s some of the history of the Atlanta Press Club taken from the organization’s website.

It was founded in 1964 by a group of print journalists. As the group grew, broadcast journalists were added.

According to its history, the club created informal monthly programs that gave guests a chance to speak freely, knowing their remarks would be kept off-the-record. The group tackled issues such as city politics and equal pay for women in the newsroom.

With the 1980’s membership surge and a desire to be closer to the day-to-day action, the club opened offices at CNN Center. It was active in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, providing information and hospitality to visiting journalists.

In 1997, the club moved to Georgia Public Broadcasting and expanded its televised programming, including its political debate series. In 1998 the televised debate series became available on its web site.

Today, the club is located in downtown Atlanta. Journalists from print, broadcast, and online make up over half of the club’s 600-member roster, making it one of the largest press clubs in the United States.

The public is invited to attend some club events. Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, will be at the next newsmaker luncheon at noon April 20. The club will recognize those honored with excellence award 7 p.m. April 18. Both events will be at The Commerce Club, 191 Peachtree Street.

And now for the drum roll. Congratulations to our AJC 2015 Atlanta Press Club nominees and our Cox Media Group television partner WSB-TV. When you finish the list, I dare you to tell me you aren’t impressed. Even I was moved and inspired by the incredible journalism represented here. You can find all the stories and multimedia below on Visit after April 18 to find out the winners in each category and check out other upcoming club events.

Print/Online – Daily

Features reporter and blogger Jennifer Brett is nominated for her story “Strong Survivor.” The story was part of the AJC’s popular Personal Journeys feature that appears in the Sunday printed edition and on during the week. Strong Survivor told the story of Felicia Villegas who endured years of sexual abuse as a child and homelessness as a teen. A number of readers were moved by Villegas’ determination and perseverance and many contributed to a fund set up for Villegas.

Investigative reporter Alan Judd is nominated for his lengthy investigation into Dr. Kris Sperry, former Georgia chief medical examiner, who had taken on more than 500 cases as a paid forensic expert and his moonlighting had created conflicts of interest and undermined his scientific and medical judgment. Sperry abruptly quit the job and retired less than a month after our investigation.

Sports columnist and blogger Jeff Schultz is nominated for his Personal Journeys feature “Lost and Found,” about his family’s personal struggle with addition and recovery during his son’s treatment for an addiction to Oxycontin in 2011. His story showed how our reporters are willing to share their personal testimonies to help or inspire others.


Senior editor Richard Halicks and legal affairs reporter Bill Rankin are nominated for Breakdown, a new podcast series from the AJC. The first podcast launched in May 2015 following the twists and turns in a case that some say landed an innocent man in prison. The podcast told the story of Justin Chapman who was convicted of arson and murder in Bremen, Ga. (Update: Season 2 of the Breakdown podcast series launched this week exploring evidence against Justin Ross Harris who is going on trial for murder two years after the death of his son Cooper who died in a hot car. Visit for the Breakdown podcast series.)


Multimedia photojournalist Robert Andres is nominated for his video feature on Chicago Joe Jones. He spent the summer with Jones and the students of his summer rock ‘n’ blues

camp to bring viewers inside that experience.

Single Image Photo

Andres and multimedia photojournalist John Spink are both nominated for single breaking news photographs.

Investigative Reporting

Investigative reporter Brad Schrade and data visualization specialists Jeff Ernsthausen and Jennifer Peebles and Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer and investigative producer Patti DiVinzenco are nominated for the year-long series, Over the Line. The series is the most comprehensive analysis of police shootings in Georgia history. Our reporting exposed misconduct in closed cases and an unfair grand jury process, prompting state leaders to act and pledge reforms.

Reporting on Civil and Human Rights (in partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights)

Editor Kevin Riley and AJC staff including Editorial Page Editor Andre Jackson, blogger and reporter James Galloway, Features reporter Shelia Poole and News Enterprise reporter Rosalind Bentley are nominated for various articles about the Islamic American community in Atlanta.

Investigative reporter Danny Robbins is nominated for his investigative series into a Georgia prison doctor linked to the questionable deaths of at least nine female inmates who died without receiving treatment that could have saved or prolonged their lives. Shortly after the investigation Dr. Yvon Nazaire was placed on administrative leave and Georgia Regents University launched a probe into the university’s management of correctional health care in the state as a whole.

Impact Award

The 2015 Atlanta Press Club Impact Award will be given to David Armstrong, Director of Georgia News Lab and Lecturer/Journalist in Residence, Communications Department, Georgia State University. This project, done in partnership with Cox Media Group, the AJC and WSB-TV, provides training in the techniques of investigative reporting to students and aspiring journalists at local colleges. The Georgia News Lab was one of a dozen university-based collaboratives awarded $35,000 grants, sponsored by the Online News Association, to fund innovation in journalism education. “We are proud that we have been able to establish a diverse pipeline of young investigative reporters who can help shape the future of public service, accountability journalism,” said Armstrong.

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