Jim Strickland retiring from Channel 2 Action News (WSB-TV) after 20 years


Originally posted Sunday, January 5, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Consumer investigative reporter Jim Strickland is planning to retire in February after nearly 20 years at Channel 2 Action News. He helped launch the station's consumer investigative franchise in 1999.

Strickland’s investigations over the years have shut down unscrupulous medical clinics, led to federal raids of illegally-run businesses and facilitated sweeping regulation of the city of Atlanta's car booting industry.

"He's exposed countless rip-offs and scams and he's made a real difference in helping people in Georgia protect their money and families," said Misti Turnbull, news director who has worked at WSB for about the same time period as Strickland. "We are thrilled he can now enjoy a well-earned retirement."

Strickland said at age 59, he felt it was time to move on after 38 years in the business.

"I've been doing this since before Ronald Reagan got shot," he said in an interview. (Reagan was nearly assassinated by John Hinckley Jr. in March, 1981. Strickland started at a Dubuque, Iowa radio station a few weeks before that.) "This is a hard job. The hours are wacky. The hours are long. I live in West Cobb, 30 miles door to door each way."

At the same time, he said, “it’s very rewarding, don’t get me wrong. It’s an exceptionally rewarding job. You get to a certain age, though, and it just wears a little bit.”

He takes great pride in pushing Atlanta into revamping its car booting regulations but said he’ll likely be remembered for the “dancing doctor” story, which happened just a few months ago.

A Gwinnett dermatologist Dr. Windell Davis-Boute agreed to relinquish her medical license for at least two and a half years after Strickland exposed her many malpractice lawsuits. What made the story go worldwide? The music videos she made dancing while performing surgery.

The dance partner in this infamous "Cut-It" video is a licensed anesthesiologist and is now facing his own string of lawsuits.

"It's the first time I think I've been quoted in China," he mused. "My friend Steve Osunsami put it on 'Good Morning America' day after day using our video."

Another story he took pride in from 2015 and 2016 involved a popular antibiotic Levaquin that had serious side effects. "Doctors were handing it out like candy," he said.
Medical stories, he said, "tend to resonate with viewers. And Facebook has had a huge impact. It allows me to directly interact with viewers. The feedback is instantaneous. It's fun to educate people and tell them a little about my methodology when pursuing a story."

Clark Howard, the consumer expert who has spent many years doing stories for WSB-TV, said Strickland is as close to irreplaceable as they come. "He has a tenacity and intense desire to expose wrongdoing," Howard said. "I know from my constant travel around the country that he is a household name among fellow investigative reporters."

Indeed, Strickland is active with the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization.

Fellow Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher admires Strickland's ability to focus. "He doesn't spend much time chatting at the coffee machine," Belcher said. "He has a great eye for what will attract an audience. A national class reporter. No fake news from Jim. We'll miss him."

Strickland spent the first 18 years of his career in Iowa. Getting his job with WSB-TV was a bit of a fluke. He happened to answer the phone at WHO-TV in Des Moines in 1999. On the other line: then WSB-TV news director Ray Carter. The Atlanta Falcons were about to play the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis for the NFC Championship. Carter used to be news director at WHO and was seeking to borrow a satellite truck for WSB-TV to use.

Off handedly, Strickland mentioned negotiations weren’t going well at WHO and he was open to a new job. Carter invited him to send in a tape and Strickland ended up getting hired. Carter, who is now a regional vice president for Cox Media Group in Pittsburgh, was starting a consumer investigation franchise and Strickland was a key hire.

Strickland ultimately thrived in the consumer investigation world. “You get to talk to real people in every story,” he said. “You can find real characters that the audience can have a stake in and care about.”

He said once he wraps up full-time work with the station in a few weeks, he plans to spruce up his golf game, take a cruise and attend his son’s wedding on Tybee Island in April. But given his relative youth, Strickland said he isn’t counting out doing some freelance and contract work for the station in the future.

WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are both part of Cox Media Group.