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Steve Fennessy

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December 2010

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When it came time to review the hundred-plus entries in this year’s Best of Atlanta issue, I came to a simple conclusion: I need to get out more. I’m not sure if it’s a function of getting older, but I’m becoming more and more a creature of habit: shopping at the same stores (Off 5th at Discover Mills is a perennial favorite), eating at the same restaurants (Thumbs Up for breakfast, maybe, or Saravana Bhavan for dinner), grabbing coffee at the same shop (Inman Perk is on the way to the office). Each of these places, of course, is excellent in its own right—if you haven’t had a Heap for breakfast, you haven’t lived—but one of the joys of living in Atlanta is watching this city redefine itself. No, not watching; experiencing it firsthand.
 
Nowhere is this change more evident than in the dining scene. A decade ago, 10 percent of the metro area’s population was born outside the United States. Today that percentage has climbed to around 15 percent. The world has beaten a path to our door, and the newcomers have brought their recipes with them. Which means you can go to Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft (one of our best new restaurants of the year, which I finally went to last week) and order a plate of mieng kum—spinach leaves wrapped around lime, coconut, peanuts, onions, and ginger. Or sip shochu at Miso Izakaya. Or bring your friends to share some Ba Vi at Nam Phuong.
 
But hold on. What makes all this even better, as our longtime dining writer Christiane Lauterbach explains, is that the children of these very immigrants are opening restaurants that draw from the traditions of their parents while also incorporating the cosmopolitan influences now ubiquitous in Atlanta. For a diner with even a modestly adventurous palate, there is no better time to be here. Yes, the economy is still sputtering, and no, not enough fine-dining destinations have been opening up, but the essence of what this city is becoming—indeed, has become—is as deliciously evident as ever.
 
It makes the job of scouting out the best each year a challenge, but it’s a true busman’s holiday. We do it anonymously, we pay our own tab, and in this way we get the unvarnished truth. I urge you to keep this issue around for a few months and, some night when you’re looking for someplace new to go, open up to a page and see where it takes you. My hunch is you’ll be glad you did.
 
Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

November 2010

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Three years ago this month, my second child was born in a North Georgia ditch. She was sightless and stinky, homeless and heartbreaking. She was, by all accounts, the smallest in her family, which in one day had gone from just swollen-bellied Mom (Dad had long since moved on) to a yelping little Brady Bunch bumping softly into each other. The details are vague, but at some point in the days or weeks that followed, she was plucked from her birth mother, scrubbed clean, and nursed. On a cloudy day in January, she was driven to a PetSmart on Ponce. Through the wire grids of her crate, she watched the shoppers come and go. A few picked her up, but they all put her back down. My wife did not.
 
My wife named our second child Piglet. The name was inspired by Piglet’s tail, which curled like a helix. Her tail would eventually straighten, but Piglet’s insistence on living up to her name never wavered. On a walk through Grant Park one Sunday in the spring, when she was barely five months old, she was so bloated she waddled. That night just climbing the stairs left her panting. The Internet told us the condition could indicate intestinal twisting, which can be fatal in just a few hours. We raced to an all-night veterinary ER. On the way she vomited in the car. They X-rayed her stomach, put the film up on the light box, and explained what we were seeing: pounds and pounds of dog food. Piglet had discovered where we’d stashed her kibble. The bill was $285. She didn’t need to eat again for three days.
 
When we brought our third child—our first human—home from the hospital last winter, Piglet had never seen a baby person before. She took a sniff, jumped onto the couch, howled bloody murder, and urinated all over the cushions.
 
Piglet’s older sister is Sadie. I picked her out from the Atlanta Humane Society. She was so shy she wouldn’t even walk out the door with us; we had to carry her. That was eight years ago. After we adopted Piglet, my wife and I decided that animals in our house should not outnumber people. Now that we have a son, I’ve been making an argument that now is the time for another dog. She says we don’t have the room, and that our attentions are pretty well monopolized right now. She’s right, of course. But still. Reading over this month’s pets feature, I was reminded yet again of the schizophrenic approach we take to pets in the South. The lucky few are spoiled rotten, some others are thoughtlessly overbred, and the vast majority just want to be lucky enough to end up outside a PetSmart, where they have a fighting chance. Our senior editor, Amanda Heckert, compiled a trove of information that begins on page 56, but to me the most important data is found on page 92, where she lists some of the most prominent pet rescue groups in the metro area.
 
One of those, in fact, was the source of the winner of our cover contest. Dexter Ewok was adopted last spring by Kim Eisenbrandt and her boyfriend, Chris Jacobs, both of Atlanta. As Kim explained it to me, they were scrolling through Atlanta Pet Rescue’s website when Dexter’s furry mug flashed in front of them. That was all it took. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, as Piglet can tell you. If only she would talk.
Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

October 2010

If, as Tip O’Neill famously said, all politics is local, is there an elected office in America more complex, more perilous, more political, than big-city mayor? Take a city with a history of racial division, in an agricultural state that is Republican red, and add in pension obligations that are draining the city’s coffers by $125 million a year. Now remove the bottom from the economy. Don’t forget to include a demoralized city workforce, with underpaid police and clamoring unions.
 
This is what Kasim Reed walked into when he was sworn in last January as Atlanta’s newest mayor. A brutal job, its effects can be inspiring (see Andrew Young), enervating (Shirley Franklin), history-making (Maynard Jackson), legacy-building (Sam Massell), or just plain corrosive (Bill Campbell). The big-city mayor is allowed a vacation, of course, but the job is all-consuming. If a cop has been shot, it is our mayor we expect to see outside the hospital on the six o’clock news. If we’re angling to host the FIFA World Cup, it’s our mayor we want leading the delegation. If the feds are handing out buckets of money for streetcars or sewers or schools, we want our mayor at the front of the line. And even if our city makes up just a fraction of a vast metro area, we know it is the mayor who is the region’s figurehead, its heart, its spokesman. The big-city mayor must mediate, lead, console, dream, and twist arms. In Atlanta, we pay our mayor $147,500.
 
You’ll recall that Reed won the job by fewer than a thousand votes. My job requires I be pretty well-informed, but as the results came in, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know much about Kasim Reed. Sure, I knew his resume, thanks to the daily paper, but I had no grasp of who he was as a person. I don’t consider the question an academic or indulgent one, especially when we’re talking about the man who is leading the most influential city in the South.
 
Not long after his inauguration, we began work on the first truly comprehensive profile of Reed. Thomas Lake, our writer, talked to Reed’s family, his classmates, his former colleagues in the General Assembly. He talked to Reed too, of course—first for just an hour, then while he tagged along with him for two very long days. The result is the fullest picture yet of Kasim Reed, a forty-one-year-old bachelor for whom there is no line between work and what the rest of us would call a regular life.
 
As it turns out, this is Tom’s final story for Atlanta magazine. Sports Illustrated scooped him up last month, making Tom the latest in a tradition of our staffers called up to the journalistic big leagues. In his two years here, Tom’s articles have introduced us to a fallen war hero, a stymied developer in Buckhead, and a deadly flu virus. With his story beginning on page 72, Tom introduces us to Kasim Reed, our mayor.
Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

Over $1000: The Inn at Palmetto Bluff

After a few days at Palmetto Bluff, you’re likely to spend the four-and-a-half-hour drive home trying to reconcile some conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, you’ll be grateful that such a profoundly gorgeous piece of real estate—22,000 acres of the South Carolina Lowcountry on the banks of the May River—is being cared for so lovingly by its owners.
 
Sure, those owners are developers, but they’re smart enough to know that any development will fail if its chief selling point—the place’s innate beauty—is sacrificed for profit. Which is why a third of the acreage is off-limits to builders. About half of the existing 170 homes are clustered near the village square, where ancient oaks overlook the river, while the rest are tucked away on private roads, secluded pockets of baronial splendor. In an age when the phrase “planned community” evokes images of architectural monotony and tacky homages to a past that never existed, Palmetto Bluff is the rare and refreshing exception.
 
It is also an expensive exception, which is where your other thought comes in. Home prices here start at more than $1 million. Initiation at the golf club, a Jack Nicklaus design so intent on not interrupting the natural setting that there are only three trash bins on the whole course, is $75,000. Fortunately, you don’t have to live at Palmetto Bluff to experience life here. Auberge, the luxury hotel chain, operates the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a compact and luxurious resort that serves as both a quiet retreat and advertisement to those with the means to build here.
 
My wife and I (and seven-month-old son) spent a weekend here in August. When I made reservations, the helpful agent explained that the fifty cottages overlook either the May River or a lagoon. We chose the latter, but thanks to the lush vegetation, we couldn’t really see the lagoon from our screened-in back porch. (We did enjoy watching an armadillo poke around near our back steps before waddling off toward the water.) If I go back, I’ll pay the extra $100 a night for a river cottage, if only to see the sun rise over the May River.
 
Vaulted ceilings make the spacious cottages seem even bigger. The floors are pine planks, polished to a slippery sheen. A fireplace ignites at the flip of a switch. The bathroom features Perrin & Rowe fixtures and a combination steam and shower—a soothing indulgence even if you don’t make it to the inn’s full-service spa, where you can bathe on a private outdoor veranda.
 
My only real complaint was that our plasma TV was not high-def. Then again, you don’t come here to watch television, especially when there are croquet lessons one day, tennis clinics another, and porching every day. (Porching, I discovered, is the fine art of sipping a cocktail—I recommend the blackberry-sage lemonade or the cucumber spritzer—on the inn’s wraparound porch.) Of course, you could also choose the bar near the heated pool, where you can swim 100-foot laps in one of its three lanes. From the lounge chairs you can watch egrets soar over the lagoon toward the wide river, where the tides expose sandbars and where dolphins surface magically as they make their way back to sea.
Inn at Palmetto BluffYou can also hop aboard the Grace, a restored century-old yacht with mahogany paneling, and Captain George York will pilot you past the party boats near the sandbar. Their occupants will wave, but the ibis and herons will ignore you. On our Saturday afternoon cruise were three other couples: vacationers from Nova Scotia, a member of the Spanish parliament and his companion, and a young executive from Goldman Sachs and his wife, who were building a house in Palmetto Bluff.
 
Earlier that morning I’d played a round at the May River Golf Club, a track that, like everything else about Palmetto Bluff, was designed to accommodate nature, not the other way around. The beautifully illustrated yardage book also served as a nature guide, explaining, for instance, that the inlet of water running along the seventh hole—a short dogleg left, with a green bordered by marsh grasses—was called “Greenleaf slough.” Courses that accommodate so much old growth are sometimes the toughest to play, but the May River club has vast fairways and big, slick greens. You can score here.
 
That night we dined at the River House restaurant, a swank space in the main house. Classic entrees—such as beef tenderloin or Maine lobster with house-made pasta, May River shrimp, and Sapelo Island clams—average around $35. More casual options are Buffalo’s on the square or the Canoe Club fitness center. For a final treat, grab graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate from jars near the inn’s front door and roast s’mores around a fire pit, a nightly tradition.
Travelers Notebook
LODGING AND DINING
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff
476 Mount Pelia Road
Bluffton, SC
866-706-6565
palmettobluffresort.com
Room rates from $475 nightly
 
COMMUNITY
Palmetto Bluff
800-501-7405
palmetto-bluff.com

Photos courtesy of the Inn at Palmetto Bluff

September 2010

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Our dining editor, Bill Addison, says I have bad karma when it comes to restaurants. He first said this after thieves stole my wife’s car keys from a valet stand at a swank restaurant in Buckhead. We saw the flashing blue lights of the police car while we were finishing up dessert. I remember thinking, as one does at these times, Gee, I’m glad it’s not me. Then we walked outside to discover that, indeed, it was us. The valet apologized. I don’t think he works there anymore.
 
You could say this was just bad luck, but it came not long after an evening at a beer bar in Little Five Points. My friend and I had paid the bill and were waiting for the server to come back with the receipt and my credit card, only she didn’t. Finally I tracked her down outside the kitchen, where she explained she’d lost my card. How does that happen? A half hour later, she bounced up to our table and announced that a customer had found it on the floor.
 
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were out for a rare date night, the kind that requires days of planning when you’re the parents of a six-month-old. We made reservations at one of the most buzzed-about places in town. The hostess gave us a great table in a quiet corner, and my wife sat with her back to the wall. Halfway through our second course, which involved some delectable quail, I thought I saw a shadow pass behind my wife’s right shoulder. I panned over to her left shoulder. Three seconds later, a Palmetto bug reappeared on the wall behind her, crawling toward the ceiling like it was coming home from work.
 
You’ll notice I haven’t named any of these places. It’s not out of any misplaced sense of loyalty or an excess of kindness. It’s more a recognition of the vicissitudes of fate in the restaurant business. You can open your restaurant at the nicest address in town, but that’s not going to stop a thief from rummaging through your valet’s key box. You can train your waiters for weeks, but they’re still going to drop dishes and glasses and credit cards. You can clean every corner of your restaurant every day, but nothing can stop a determined roach on a summer night in Atlanta.
 
This month we celebrate the best places to eat that have opened in the past year or so. They face the same challenges as any restaurant before them, but the stagnant economy has made the hurdles even higher. For a long time I used to think that the formula for the success of places like these was simple: Prepare good food in a comfortable location and the people will come. But the more I study them (and eat at them), the more I realize a restaurant is a living, breathing thing. Fine dining is all about control—the food, the lighting, the server—but you can’t shut out the rest of the world forever. It’ll find its way in. That’s not karma; it’s just nature.
Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

August 2010

Wen we were debating what words to put on this month’s cover to promote the inaugural season of Georgia State football, I suggested “Football comes Downtown!” (See “The F Word,” page 64.) But Eric Capossela, our design director, rightly reminded me that there’s this little team called the Falcons that already plays Downtown, and in the very stadium that will be the Georgia State Panthers’ home field.

That would be the Georgia Dome, but the Falcons’ continued presence there is by no means a sure thing. Arthur Blank, the team’s owner, has made it clear that he wants his team to play in an open-air stadium in the next ten years. All I can say to that is, it’s about time. Football is a sport meant to be played outside, on real grass, and if they can do it in Green Bay, where the average high temperature in December is 29 degrees, they should sure be able to do it in Atlanta, where a typical December day sees the thermometer top out at 53 degrees—practically sunscreen weather. Last year I had season tickets to the Falcons, and there was something profoundly unnatural about driving Downtown on a gorgeous October Sunday so I could sit inside to watch a football game.

Of course there’s more at stake here than honoring a sport’s tradition. A roof enables stadium owners to host not just football games, but basketball tournaments and motocross and U2 concerts. Taking the roof away risks losing those events to other cities and venues. What’s more, an open-air stadium in Atlanta pretty much guarantees we’ll never get a Super Bowl again. (For that we can thank Mother Nature, who gave us one of the worst ice storms in memory the very week we hosted Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.)

One answer is a retractable roof. In June, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority released a study that put the cost of a retractable roof on the existing Dome at $200 million. Keep in mind that the price tag for the entire Dome was $214 million, back when it was completed in 1992. And the estimate for the retractable roof doesn’t include another $349 million needed to pay for all the construction necessary to rehab the Dome and bring it up to a condition that would (presumably) satisfy Blank and the Falcons.

If it makes you wonder if we shouldn’t just demolish the Dome and build a new one from scratch, you’re not alone. But keep in mind that the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, considered the Cadillac of stadiums in the NFL, cost $1.2 billion.

The future of the Falcons in Downtown Atlanta promises to dominate the local headlines over the next few years. We’ll be watching that closely, but for now, as another football season kicks off, we wanted to remind readers that football in Georgia means a lot more than the Falcons. So don’t forget the team moms, or the groundskeepers, or the high school coaches, or the rivalries, or—even if you could—Herschel Walker. And don’t forget the Georgia State Panthers, as a new tradition in Downtown football begins.

Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

July 2010

My way home from work takes me past Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q on DeKalb Avenue, and it astounds me how they consistently draw lines that snake out the door. They have satisfying barbecue (the Tomminator—Tater Tots covered in Brunswick stew and melted cheese—is my personal favorite), but other places with barbecue just as compelling don’t attract near the crowds. It’s not unusual to see cars on the grass, cars on the curb, cars parked halfway to McLendon Avenue. Part of it’s the exposure on a busy street, not to mention the friendly Candler Park neighborhood that makes the place an easy walk. Part of it’s the layout of the place—bright and airy, loud and convivial. The Fox brothers themselves are Texas-born, but while the Lone Star State’s influence is detectable in their food, they label their style as Southern—“where we are from and where we are at.”

That would make for a good headline for Jim Auchmutey’s essay on page 53, which kicks off our ambitious survey of the metro Atlanta barbecue scene. Jim, an Atlanta native, set out to determine precisely what the Georgia style of barbecue is, or if it even exists. For better or worse, other areas of the country—Texas, North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City—have staked out unique and identifiable variations on the theme. Does Georgia have one? I’ll leave that for Jim to answer, but I’m not giving anything away by saying that no matter what style you’re a fan of, you’re bound to find it here. Bill Addison, our dining editor and restaurant critic, reviewed fifty-eight barbecue joints around the metro area, but only a deadline and his (presumably) soaring cholesterol numbers kept him from going on and on.

I accompanied Bill on just one outing, which took us all the way to Cartersville and Scott’s Walk-Up Bar-B-Q, a small operation where the owner, Scott Panter, will guide you through the three homemade sauces (also available for sale, and now in my pantry) you can drizzle on his fantastic baby back ribs. It was a perfect late spring evening, capped off with Scott’s sinful peach cobbler; if I’d spent it close to home, I could easily have ended up at Fox Bros., waiting a half hour for a table. Instead I was forty-five miles away, enjoying some of the best food I’d had in a long time. That night I came to my own conclusions about what Georgia barbecue is: a great excuse to take the long way home, because you never know what awesome discoveries await.

Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

June 2010

After you’re through scanning our list of 251 top doctors in this month’s issue to see if your own doctor made the list, I urge you to turn to page 64 for Thomas Lake’s story on H1N1, better known as swine flu. The media have devoted countless broadcast hours and acres of newsprint to the virus that, unlike the seasonal flu bug, mysteriously favors the young and healthy. Here at Atlanta magazine, we have a luxury that is growing increasingly rare in the frenetic world of modern-day journalism: time. Over the course of several months, Tom spent hours with some of the scores of scientists and doctors at the CDC who tracked the virus and helped develop a vaccine. As he introduces us to a happy young couple in Johns Creek who found themselves in the virus’s crosshairs, Tom’s story demonstrates why the stakes of the CDC’s work couldn’t be greater.

For a lot of us, it can be easy to forget the CDC is even here. It’s nowhere near the Connector, it doesn’t figure prominently (or at all, actually) in Atlanta’s skyline, it’s not a Fortune 500 company, and in recent years it has been woefully under-covered in the local media. In late April, a branch of the CDC called the Epidemic Intelligence Service hosted its annual conference at a hotel near the airport. The EIS was founded during the Korean War, when biological warfare became a very real threat. In the sixty years since, the “disease detectives,” as they’re known, have been dispatched to track down outbreaks of polio, Legionnaires’ disease, Ebola, Asian flu, E. coli, and on and on. Today, each EIS class consists of about eighty officers, a mix of medical doctors, scientists, and even veterinarians. The logo of the EIS is the sole of a shoe over a map of the world; the sole has a hole in it, to indicate the peripatetic nature of the job. When I spoke in early May to Doug Hamilton, the program’s director, he had just sent officers to Central America to monitor influenza, another officer to Guam to check on a mumps outbreak, another two to Uganda to investigate hepatitis E. “Our officers are in many ways the frontline troops for the CDC when they respond to a public health problem,” Hamilton told me. The H1N1 outbreak that Tom writes about in this issue was essentially an all-hands-on-deck situation for the EIS; the scale of the investigation spanned three different EIS classes and involved 184 officers.

But the work of EIS isn’t all about high-profile diseases. A glance at the EIS’s conference schedule reflected the varied work tackled by the agency’s researchers. Topics ranged from the arcane (“Potluck Dinner Outbreak of Salmonella IV Infections Associated with Contamination from Bearded Dragon Reptiles”) to the alarming (“Onsite Case-Finding During a Tuberculosis Outbreak in a Homeless Shelter—Georgia”). The thousands of scientists who have gone through the EIS program are the first responders when public health is at peril, and the work they do gives the rest of us the privilege to remain blissfully unaware.

Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

May 2010

For about five years my wife and I lived in a two-bedroom, two-floor carriage house in Inman Park. We rented. It was—and remains—the only way we could afford to live in such a gorgeous location, where some of the houses could easily fetch $1 million and where I was just eight minutes from work. Our landlords, who lived in the main house, couldn’t have been better—they weren’t intrusive, but they responded quickly when the washing machine broke down, or the toilet wouldn’t stop running, or a squirrel got under the roof. One year workers spent months renovating part of the main house, which was beautiful but old. This is the South. Wood rots. Roofs buckle. Anne, who owned the “compound,” as she called it, with her husband, would be standing outside in the driveway when I’d come home from work, staring up at her house, arms crossed, oblivious to the mosquitoes. “It never stops,” she’d say. I nodded like I could relate, but I couldn’t. I was a renter. My responsibility began and ended with one task: Write a check every month.

When you’re in your twenties, it’s fine to rent. As you get into your thirties, and certainly as you get married and think about a family, it’s not so fine anymore. People look at you funny. By the time I hit thirty-five, my friends not only thought it was weird I hadn’t bought a house yet, they told me. “Are you nuts? Interest rates are so low.” That’s what they said, but this is what I heard: You mean you’re still paying rent? Don’t you understand that for just $500 a month more and a longer commute—plus a $30,000 down payment that you otherwise could put into an interest-bearing account—you could do what I do on the weekends, which is clean the gutters, mow the lawn, shop for a new water heater, pray that property values don’t sink, and that after twenty years you’ll actually start paying more on the principal every month than on the interest?

Is this a cynical view? I’m not sure it is, especially considering that the economic spasms convulsing the nation began when the subprime mortgage market collapsed. Too many people who shouldn’t have bought homes bought them, because too many banks were happy to oblige. And government is complicit, dangling the carrot of tax credits and deductions. Politicians know it’s not businesses that are the nation’s economic engine; it’s the compounded effect of millions of us spending our money on cars and flatscreen TVs and $2 coffees at Starbucks. And houses. Especially houses. The sales pitch works. Heck, homeowning is woven into the fabric of the American dream itself.

The fact is, just because you can buy a home doesn’t mean you should. A generation or two ago, with money borrowed from their hometown bank, Americans bought a house and stayed. It made sense. Their houses weren’t meant as nest eggs, but simply nests. My parents live in the same house they did forty-five years ago. Today the average American moves a dozen times in her life. Maybe now, in the new real estate reality that we explore starting on page 55, houses will no longer be investment vehicles, but will once again simply be homes.

You can see where this is going. Last year we bought a house. In Decatur. My wife loves it. A massive oak that’s well over a century old towers over the front yard. It produces approximately 18 million leaves, which I rake most weekends. Naturally I wouldn’t trade any of this. Probably. But at least now I can relate.

Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

April 2010

The past few years have been tough on the magazine industry. Last year
alone, dozens of titles folded, and their names are hardly obscure: Gourmet.
National Geographic Adventure. Southern Accents. Travel
& Leisure Golf
. Vibe. Condé Nast Portfolio.
Each of these magazines boasted good writing, compelling design, and a
knowledge of its audience. Some titles—I’m thinking of Gourmet—had
close to a million subscribers. By these yardsticks and others, they
should have succeeded. And yet they failed, victims of a battered
economy that drained away advertising revenue, a magazine’s lifeblood.

Of course, as tough as things are for the magazine industry, they’re
nothing compared with what’s going on in newspapers, as any regular
reader of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution can divine. Through
buyouts, layoffs, and attrition, much of the staff’s institutional
knowledge—so essential to giving stories context and meaning beyond the
who, what, and where—has been cast aside. Daily circulation, as of last
fall, was barely above 200,000—this in a ten-county metro area of more
than 4 million people.

City magazines such as the one you’re holding right now (or that you’re
browsing on the web) have hardly been immune. Yet as other publications
have folded, and while metro daily newspapers have shrunk in circulation
and ambition, the need for what we do at Atlanta magazine has
never been more apparent. This is evidenced in any number of ways: the
letters we received in response to Charles Bethea’s piece last month on
the Final Exit suicide group; the requests we receive from restaurants
seeking a review; and the news we got this past week from the City &
Regional Magazine Association, which informed us we were finalists in
seven categories in the annual awards competition that pits dozens of
city magazines against one another.

Thomas Lake, who joined our staff a little over a year ago, was named in
three of those categories—one for his story last June on how the
recession had particularly battered Dalton, Georgia
; another for his
profile last fall on the unsolved murder of James Brown’s son-in-law;
and finally, for a collection of work in the category of Writer of the
Year. We were also recognized for a compelling photo essay that ran last
February. Called “Arrested Development,” the photographs documented,
better than any story could, the effect of half-finished housing
developments throughout metro Atlanta. Our excellent design director,
Eric Capossela, was also recognized for his design of the story “Deep
Freeze
,” which followed one Atlanta woman’s journey as she took
advantage of a cutting-edge technology that freezes and stores human
eggs. And in the category of Reader Service, the fine work of former
staffer Kimberly Turner was recognized for “Street Smarts,” in which we
dissected Atlanta’s traffic issues and told readers how to navigate our
never-ending congestion. And last but certainly not least, Rebecca
Burns, my predecessor who now coordinates our digital edition, was named
a finalist in the category of Excellence Online.

If the economic woes are like shrapnel hitting the industry, awards are
hardly Kevlar. But combined with feedback from readers like you, they
give us the affirmation and encouragement that we’re on the right path.
Drop me a line and let me know what stories you’d like to see next.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Contact Steve Fennessy at sfennessy@atlantamag.emmis.com

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