2011 flashback: Fox 5's 'Georgia Gang' a stable force


Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Posted May 24, 2011 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

It's probably the least threatening gang in Atlanta, but "The Georgia Gang" has survived for three decades.

The weekly show, Atlanta's longest-running public affairs program, features current and former journalists parsing an array of state and local issues. Seen at 8:30 a.m. Sunday on Fox 5/WAGA-TV, the show began in 1981 as "Sunday News Conference" on Channel 2 WSB-TV and lasted six years. WATL-TV revived it in 1989, where it was renamed "The Georgia Gang." Later it moved to WAGA.

The lineup has shifted, with one original member left: Dick Williams, editor of the Dunwoody Crier and former Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist. But the simple, low-production talk format has not changed. Besides the conservative Williams, regulars are Phil Kent, a former Augusta Chronicle editor and fellow conservative; and Alexis Scott, publisher of the African-American newspaper the Atlanta Daily World and a self-proclaimed "bleeding-heart liberal." Former AJC writer Jeff Dickerson , a moderate, recently left the show. Williams is seeking a moderate/liberal replacement, preferably with a journalistic background.

"I find the discussion is always interesting, always dynamic, " said Ruben Brown, media relations specialist at the American Red Cross Atlanta chapter, who has watched the show regularly for a decade.

Atlanta political blogger Grayson Daughters participates in a live blog on the Peach Pundit site each week, making snarky comments while "The Georgia Gang" is on. Why? "We're all political junkies, " she said. "The show features all these ancient journalists who have been around forever! It's a clash of old and new media." Then she added, jokingly, "When do we stage a coup and take over the show?"

Williams jots down topics during the week, then shares them Thursday night with the others so they're prepared for the Friday taping. "We draw a lot of businessmen who travel and like to watch the show to catch up on the news, " Williams said. The "Gang" was more pugnacious in its early days, but the goal has always been to "disagree without being disagreeable. We try to engage in an intelligent discussion of issues."

At a recent taping, the group hit upon a dozen issues, from Newt Gingrich's possible presidential bid to HOPE scholarship cutbacks to illegal immigration, throwing in "winners and losers" in the final minutes. The tone was congenial. "Not very contentious today!" Williams noted. Kent protested: "Alexis and I mixed it up a bit!"