Opinion: AJC, readers are a partnership

On Thursday morning, about 20 journalists gathered at the East Atlanta home of an editor to plan coverage for the 2018 General Assembly Session. We have done this for many years.

Thursday’s conversation ranged through the usual issues - education, health care, transportation, taxes, and we spent some time swapping rumors and talking politics.

Around the room were AJC reporters, editors and columnists as well as visual and data journalists - and a podcast specialist. It as a sight to behold. When other newspapers are shrinking their investments in covering state government, the AJC is again sending one of the largest teams in America to cover a statehouse.

The insights, sincerity and experience embedded in the conversation Thursday was as impressive as the barbecue that followed.

Later in the day, I heard plans for two very ambitious projects that promise to reshape the way we all think about important aspects of our community. (Sorry, no details, yet).

A common thread - implied and said out loud - connected all these discussions: We work to make Atlanta and Georgia a better place to live.

I wish you had been there for all these discussions. Yet, in a very real sense, you were.

As a subscriber, you were our silent partner. Your money supported all the work completed and contemplated.

You’re investing in the work of deeply committed and curious people who work on your behalf to get at not always obvious truths.

You also pay us to keep Atlanta’s story. We chronicle the shared moments that make us a community – the Olympics, the death of a great leader, the Falcons’ rise to the Super Bowl and heartbreaking loss.

As I write, our reporters are booked to bring back the stories from the Rose Bowl, stories we’ll all share for years to come.

Earlier this year, your subscription allowed us to capture the shock and horror of a car-bound city losing a major interstate because it burst into flames. Your support helped our reporters get to the bottom of what caused the fire and then keep a close watch as the state spent your tax money to make repairs.

We devoted months of reporting to get beneath the headlines of the opioid crisis. Our team uncovered the sober reality that irresponsible doctors carry much of the blame.

Without you, who would invest so much to delve so deeply?

We devoted a legion of reporters and editors to reviewing thousands of documents related to the allegations of bribery in Atlanta City Hall. Without you, these records would have not been reviewed in such depth by professionals who owe loyalty to no one but you.

We chronicled the artistry and architecture that is the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and took note that the place has acoustical challenges and let its owners know.

And when the Braves moved to SunTrust Park in Cobb County, we not only covered every game we also gave you the scoop on the team’s decision to forbid you from bringing your own food into the park. This news made you so mad that the Braves changed their minds. (Nice work, partners!)

Our reporters and editors go to restaurants, plays and concerts to alert you to their joys and miseries. We know you are foodies, so we toured restaurants off the beaten path in places like Clarkston, Hapeville, East Point and College Park.

When changes in Washington rippled through Georgia, bringing change to everything from health care to immigration and our ability to speak civilly with one another, we were there. We were in Washington for you on Inauguration Day and the day after when thousands of Georgia women trekked to the capital to express their displeasure.

But we know all news is local. So, when DeKalb County was spilling sewage, we dug in to bring pressure on the county to get a grip on the situation.

We also watch your money. We devoted our talented folks to explaining why car insurance is so breathtakingly high in Georgia, and we took a hard look at what the Equifax data breach meant to you.

We scrutinize every metro county budget every year so you don’t have to.

We also looked out for folks elsewhere in Georgia – sending our folks to the cost to endure and then write about Hurricane Irma – all on your dime.

Our reporting improved the miserable conditions at some Georgia prisons. In podcast, we told the heartbreaking story of a man who may spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime he probably didn’t commit.

We also shared inspiring stories, like the one about a Syrian refugee who grew up to become a cardiologist or the doctor who serves South Georgia’s poor for little to no compensation. Then there was the one about the 11-year-old who enjoyed his first summer camp after surviving a heart transplant.

These stories makes you feel better about our community

Our columnists, editorial writers and cartoonist take strong - but informed - positions that made you think even when you didn’t like it. (I know, I received the emails.)

The great Ralph McGill, who wrote for these pages for decades, saw the paper’s mission as grand and noble. To him, it was a civic cornerstone and joint venture between readers and journalists.

“It seems to me readers would insist their newspapers not merely provide information, but also stir the minds of their readers,” the Pulitzer Prize winner wrote in the summer of 1943. “A newspaper and its readers must participate.”

Nearly 75 years later, nothing has really changed. We still want to “stir the minds” and, in the words of Henry Grady, continue to raise “a brave and beautiful city.”

But make no mistake: We couldn’t do it without you.