The paper’s book reviews are now assigned by Tom Sabulis, who is also responsible for overseeing Sunday’s Arts & Books section and Friday’s Movies & More. “We’ve developed a mission to try to focus more on southern topics, southern authors, even southern book reviewers who might have a better feel for what’s coming out of the university presses,” says Sabulis, who says the actual space devoted to books coverage has increased (from roughly a page and a half to two pages). The paper regularly picks up wire service reviews, however, something it rarely did in the past.
While the prospective arts reshuffling caused ripples outside the paper, the perceived status distinctions between the two content departments—News & Information and Enterprise—were probably more divisive internally.
A typical N&I reporter’s day begins at 9 a.m., and by mid-morning many are already filing quick “bursts” for Digital, before reworking their stories with “day and a half leads” for Print. The pace can be ferocious. Davis, who ended up with a revamped cultural-institutions beat that widened his responsibilities, says he had twenty-one bylines in August (up from about twelve a month in the Old World), but enjoys more freedom to choose his stories. “If you stay busy working your beat, you don’t have time to complain so much,” he says. “It works for me.”
By contrast, Enterprise’s task is to develop watchdog, explanatory, narrative, profile, and investigative stories destined mainly for the newspaper—with the help of sources and story tips from N&I. Naturally, “almost everyone who is a reporter applied for Enterprise,” which had just forty-five reporting positions, says Thomas Oliver, the department’s senior editor for specialists. “When you hear News & Information and you hear Enterprise,” says Sabulis, “as a reporter, which would you naturally gravitate to? ‘Oh, Enterprise, that’s me. I need a week to do my stories and polish them and put them on the front page.’”
According to Oliver, forty-four people applied for the four narrative/profile writing positions under Jan Winburn, a writer-friendly editor with a reputation for producing award-winning work. Moni Basu, who has made six trips to Iraq for the paper, was pleased to nab one of those plum jobs. But, she says, “the biggest challenge is to come up with stories. When you’re not covering something on a daily basis, it becomes very difficult.”
Perhaps fearing that Enterprise reporters would malinger, editors have imposed story quotas: sixty a year for explanatory and narrative/profile writers, and twelve for the investigative reporters. It’s unclear how two of the paper’s most significant, and time-consuming, projects this year—one on problems in state mental-health institutions and the other on the inequitable application of the death penalty in Georgia—would have fared under the quota system. But Oliver says that the reorganization did free the death-penalty series, which ran in late September, from the perennial plague of “serial editing.”
Ariel Hart, an N&I transportation reporter, says that one “huge fear,” that N&I reporters would be unable to do enterprise stories, has “been allayed somewhat.” Hart, who added public transit to her former roads/commuting beat, says that “the first and primary fear was that enterprise reporting would not be allowed for non-Enterprise folk, that the policy was: ‘We don’t do enterprise, Enterprise does enterprise.’” Now, she says, “I feel encouraged to the nth degree to do enterprise—if I can find time.”
The overall workload at the AJC has increased, says Roughton. “If you were to break this down into a factory, I think we’re being called upon to produce more product, and we do have fewer people,” he says. As a result, there are “some reporters who feel that they’re running as hard as they can and it’s not quite hard enough.”