“They diagnosed it as malaria but it wasn’t, it was something I ate I think,” Burress says. That was 2008.” ‘I’VE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH ATLANTA’ Things were much different at WABE back then, and Burress didn’t see himself sticking around long.“So yeah, that was the scary part.” The openly gay reporter and local host of the station’s “Weekend Edition” got home safe, healthy and armed with another story to add to an award-winning career. “My plan was to be here for two years to get the credentials to go to KQED in San Francisco. “There were four of us in the newsroom when I came and every day was awful.After graduation he went to work for a television station in Terre Haute, where he eventually came to a realization. “The final week of class I knew I was not going back, but I had no idea what I was going to do,” he says. They’ve since tripled the size of their newsroom staff. Burress considers the growth a necessity, thanks to the demands of the Atlanta radio audience.“I’d actually applied [at WABE] when I still worked in Kentucky two years prior. “They expect a city of this size to have a station of a higher caliber,” he says.One day in late March, WABE reporter Jim Burress toured a Liberian hospital where the first three people in Guinea diagnosed with Ebola had come for treatment.The next day, he found himself back in the same hospital—but this time in a bed, showing signs of the deadly disease that’s gripped the world’s attention.So the station is investing in the newsroom because that seems to be driving most of the interest.” Early August Jim Burress was walking from a downtown parking garage to an appointment when he noticed one of the city’s red panhandling prevention “giving meters” and got to thinking about how the program was going since it was introduced several years ago.
During our pledge drives, we’ve really seen a lot of success.The opportunity to cover such hard-hitting stories in depth wasn’t always present at WABE, Atlanta’s NPR affiliate, but circumstances have changed over the years—and they’re about to drastically change over the next several months for Burress, the WABE staff and the Atlanta radio community. Everybody seems to be in it for the complete wrong reasons. So it’s all about making money.” He got out of the TV business and went to grad school at Murray State University in Kentucky, where he started his public radio career at NPR affiliate WKMS. We had to get the same amount of news on with just four people doing it. I’ve fallen in love with Atlanta.” WABE got another shot in the arm with the Nov.A MAGIC PHONE CALL The WABE newsroom is a long way from Wabash College in tiny Crawfordsville, Indiana, where Burress worked at a student radio station while getting his bachelor’s degree. He found his way to Atlanta after that by moving here to work on his Ph D, but after a year away from reporting, he was itching to get back in. I started to burn out.” But he hung in there and after a couple of years, more funding came through, the station started to hire more people and WABE’s name recognition within Atlanta’s reporter community grew. 6 announcement of a four-years-in-the-making plan to cut back classical music during the day, expand its local news, talk and arts coverage and nearly double the size of the news staff.This takes the city several weeks to process before the request comes through.
The verdict: the money is sitting in a city bank account and hasn’t gone anywhere.September through early October Burress talks to city officials who tell him Central Atlanta Progress was behind the marketing.