Friends and family probably think of me as the Jethro Bodine of Atlanta. Jethro, a character in the 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies", would change from one unlikely career goal to another with each episode. At various times he wanted to be a brain surgeon, a spy, a private investigator, and a movie producer.
Like Jethro, I've toyed around with a number careers, with varying degrees of success. After working a variety of industrial and warehousing jobs, I owned a commerical cabinet shop for few years, then embarked on a twenty year career in information technology. After I retired from the IT world, I tried my hand at online retailing (which was boring beyond description), and writing fiction.
About a year ago I took an inventory of the things that interested me the most, the activities I enjoyed, and my skill set. Everything pointed to three things: writing, community issues in the City of Atlanta and its near suburbs, and technology. I enrolled in the Journalism program at Georgia State University, and started the process of setting up an online news site. Online news and analysis is a good fit for all three of my passions.
The form of journalism I'm interested in pursuing is known as explanatory journalism. At the national level the best know explanatory news sites are Vox and FiveThirtyEight. The site I'm setting up is known as The Atlanta Tortoise.
I chose the tortoise as a symbol because the site will not deliver fast breaking news. In the spirit of the Slow Food movement, news is best delivered with care and thought behind it, and I don't believe those are attainable within the current fast news cycle.
The Atlanta Tortoise will officially launch on January 1, 2015. In the meantime the site is up with the announcement and a list of editorial principles. The content will consist of a mix of my own writing and as many original, good quality, local freelance articles as I can acquire within the budgetary constraints of a new organization.
I'm in a local Toastmaster's club, and a friend introduced me at a meeting one evening as follows: "Larry is back in school pursuing a degree in journalism so he can die alongside the newspaper industry." It was a hilarious introduction, but the decline of hardcopy newspapers doesn't mean the death of news. The media may be undergoing techological changes, and revenue models may be changing, but the internet won't kill the need for journalism any more than the transition from monks with quills to printing presses killed book publishing. I hope the Atlanta Tortoise is a positive, if only small, contribution to the transition of the local news media.