“Smart conversation is what matters most”: Veteran broadcaster Bill Nigut talks joining the Politically Georgia podcast 

Though his flagship political talk show Political Rewind was canceled in June, Nigut will join the AJC and WABE as a new co-host of the Politically Georgia podcast

"Smart conversation is what matters most": Veteran broadcaster Bill Nigut talks joining the Politically Georgia podcast 
Bill Nigut

Photograph courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

All eyes are on Georgia right now. Between the recent indictment of former President Donald Trump in Fulton County and the Peach State becoming a battleground ahead of the 2024 election, Georgia politics are taking center stage. Local news teams here in Atlanta are ramping up their coverage and preparing for the busy year ahead. Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution announced it would bring veteran political broadcaster Bill Nigut back to the airwaves.

Nigut is the highly regarded former host of Georgia Public Broadcast (GPB) political talk show Political Rewind, and the new role comes at an interesting time. In June, GPB announced Political Rewind was set to sunset at the end of June, disappointing longtime listeners. This fall, he returns to airwaves to co-host the Politically Georgia podcast alongside the AJC’s award-winning reporters, Greg Bluestein, Patricia Murphy, and Tia Mitchell.

“I am ecstatic that I am able to continue in a career that I’ve loved dearly,” Nigut says. “When people say to me, Why don’t you retire, my answer is, Because I love what I get to do.”

In partnership with the AJC and WABE 90.1, the Politically Georgia podcast will expand to air five days a week, airing live weekdays at 10 a.m. before living as a podcast from the AJC on all platforms each day. Atlanta magazine caught up with Nigut to talk more about the show, political reporting in a polarized state, and next steps in his career. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Last month, Political Rewind aired its last episode and your retirement was announced from GPB. This month, you’re co-host of Politically Georgia. How did this all come together?
I had done Political Rewind and created the show, actually, for Georgia Public Broadcasting for nine years. It was somewhat surprising to me that it was canceled so abruptly and my tenure at GPB was terminated. I really felt terrible for our statewide audience, which really is invested in that show and has been for quite a long time. It’s meant quite a lot to them. But the good news is that relatively quickly, the AJC asked me if I would like to talk with them about coming on board to be part of the Politically Georgia podcast.

The news of you joining the Politically Georgia show comes at a pivotal time. Georgia is purple now—a battleground state ahead of the 2024 presidential election. What’s your coverage plan?
We’re going to do our best to cover all of that news and a lot more beyond just what’s happening with the indictments that were revealed early [Tuesday] morning with Fani Willis. Indictments of 19 people in what she called a “criminal enterprise,” which is shocking language when you think that it involves a former president of the United States. We’ll be covering that closely along with other colleagues at the AJC. We’re also going to have an extraordinary legislative session coming up, where it’s possible that the legislature, led by conservative Republicans, may attempt to recreate some of the more conservative legislation [that has] been happening in places like Florida. We’ll keep our eyes on that. And then, of course, there’s a presidential election that plays out, that’s already begun—the first debate is coming up [next week].

You mentioned that “Georgia is a crucial state that is entering a crucial election season.” What does that mean, and what key moments or topics should listeners expect from the Politically Georgia team?
I’ve been around Georgia politics for a long time. I came here in 1983 and started covering politics then. For more than the first couple of decades, no presidential campaign wanted to spend time in Georgia with their candidates because it was presumed to be a Republican state. We also had one-party control of the apparatus of state government, the legislature; all the constitutional offices were Democratic. [Then] everything switched, in terms of the state, in 2003. Suddenly, we had our first Republican governor in more than a century, if not longer. And then we come, a number of years later, to the point where suddenly Georgia is a pivotal swing state in the election. Although Republicans now dominate statewide offices, Democrats are trying to make inroads there, and we’ll watch to see how that develops in the 2024 election and beyond.

Let’s zoom out. Nationwide, America is in a politically polarized state, where so many things can become controversial, heated, and divisive. Many listeners regarded your show as having balanced reporting. How do you navigate reporting politics in this climate? And more importantly, how do you do it fairly?
The most important thing we can do is help our listeners have a deeper understanding of the issues and the forces that are impacting how issues are being played out. If we do that, it’s easier to be balanced because what we’re trying to do is just explain the dynamics to our listeners out there. But in any case, [be] respectful. Smart conversation is what matters most. At GPB, there were those who were very disappointed that I said I wasn’t going to [invite on the air] the people who denied that the 2020 presidential election was honest. I wasn’t going to have the people who supported the fake electors on. Instead, I had people who were willing to talk in larger terms about issues from a perspective that provided balance.

How does former President Trump and today’s heated political climate impact those goals, considering the indictments?
Trump makes that very difficult, very difficult. And the fact that the other Republicans in that [presidential] race refuse—except for very few—to speak out in terms of his misbehavior, and perhaps illegal behavior, makes it a little more difficult. It’s a very tricky thing, isn’t it?

Your career in politics and reporting spans decades, and to five different presidential elections. What are some of the biggest things you learned from that experience, and how do you hope to use those lessons in your new role with Politically Georgia?
Because I spent a lot of time out on the campaign trail with candidates—traveling with them, getting a closer look at them than most people do—I realized that whether they were Republicans or Democrats, many of them—not all, but many of them—were people of genuine integrity, who had real contributions they felt they could make to the country, and were also decent human beings. What that helped me understand is that regardless of partisanship, I had to look at these people. I had to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Political reporting is no easy feat. What do you do to keep yourself sane?
First of all, I love the volume of political news. It gives me so much to dig into. It’s extraordinary. There’s a lot of work now because of the volume that goes into it. I’m routinely up at four in the morning, when I begin reading the AJC first, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Politico, and the other websites. If we fail to do that, we’re not going to be as well-informed as we need to be as we pursue our work. One of the things that keeps me sane, and also very tired, is that I feel as if I’m able to have a handle on the news as it develops, and that helps me. That helps me a lot.