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Release Date: 09.21.2017 | Location: All Metro Atlanta | Organization: East Cobb News

"4 Questions" Journalist Spotlight with Wendy Parker of East Cobb News

Leff's Atlanta Media's Weekly Feature Conversation with an Atlanta Journalist

Each week, in partnership with Leff’s Atlanta Media (www.leffsatlantamedia.com), Atlanta Daybook presents our "Journalist Spotlight." Mitch Leff offers a conversation with a journalist in the Atlanta market, asking them four questions that'll help you learn more about local Atlanta media. What makes them tick? What's new at their media outlet? What drives them?

This week we’re talking with Wendy Parker, editor/publisher of the East Cobb News. She launched this independent daily news site in July of 2017 to focus on government, education, development, public safety, community events and more. Wendy grew up in East Cobb and was a reporter for The Marietta Daily Journal and the Cobb bureau of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the days before the Internet.

Later she was a sportswriter covering college and women’s sports, soccer and the Olympics, and an online producer and editor at the AJC. She’s also been a writer and editor for the WABE website. She came back came back home again as founding editor of East Cobb Patch.

What kind of story makes you proud to be a journalist? 

The last story I covered at Patch was the crippling ice storm in January 2014—with motorists stuck on the interstates and kids and teachers at schools overnight. The next day, I woke up to many e-mails and messages from readers wondering about the roads and the schools, and people sent photos of their iced-over neighborhoods and wrote about their ordeals getting home.

Before I could post any updates, I got laid off on a conference call. AOL had sold off Patch and hundreds of us lost our jobs at once. My first thought was: Not now! Not in the middle of an ice storm! Not: Wow, I’m unemployed, now what? I did work that day, updating the Facebook page; I felt like I owed it to my readers to give them all that I could before telling them it was over, at least for me. I loved the work so much, and I’m still inspired by that.

What's new and different about East Cobb News? 

It’s online-only, the only daily news source exclusively covering East Cobb. As far as I know, I’m the only full-time journalistcovering this community (which is 200,000 people), and I think also I was during my Patch days. This is a competitive news market, but I believe community journalism is best done by people deeply embedded in a community.

I’m trying to do the news for the way people live today, on the go, with their mobile devices, by giving them relevant, useful information. It doesn’t always have to be “high-church” journalism, from the ivory tower, fitting a newspaper production schedule that most readers left behind long ago. This is an affluent, well-educated community that wants and expects good quality news.

If you really listen to people in your community, they—and advertisers—will follow. Certainly, stories about government process, mug shots and car wrecks and controversy must be done, but not overdone. But you’ve got to cover the church festival, the garden club tour, the Rotary breakfast, the school ribbon-cutting, the high school softball game just as much, if not more.

Do the daily, mundane, seemingly boring things every day, what the newspapers and big-city media outlets aren’t doing, or not as much. It’s not just about filling the gaps they’ve opened, but reviving what local news is supposed to be about.

What is the best and the worst thing about your job?

Being independent has been truly liberating. I get to play to my strengths, not be confined by an org chart. I love covering everything under the sun, because it’s in the best traditions of general-interest journalism that’s vital to communities. However, as a solo bootstrapper, I am responsible for everything: news-gathering, ads, the business side and technology issues.

I’m trying to get comfortable with promoting myself and my site after being a company person for 30+ years. This is all so new. It also feels isolating at times. The hardest thing is being patient. As I’m writing this, a few days after Irma, I’ve had the best two or three best traffic days thus far by a long shot. My objective is to provide news that really matters to the people who live here.

I’m encouraged by my early progress, but there’s much work ahead for East Cobb News to be what I want it to be, and what I hope my community will value.

What’s the coolest thing people should know about you?

I have never been cool. I’m an ordinary, hopelessly suburban journalist who used to be a traveling sportswriter and who’s now a homebody starting a local news site while tending to a couple of nutty cats. These days, I’d rather watch book authors on C-SPAN 2 than linebackers on ESPN2.

I loved what I did in my previous newspaper life, but I have had to turn career change into substantial life change. It’s very uncool these days to be middle-age. Yet I’ve never been more content at any stage in my life than right now, despite the challenges (and fears) of starting a business and taking the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.

About Wendy:

  • Last Books Read: “The Revenge of Analog” by David Sax and “The Victorian Internet” by Tom Standage.
  • Favorite Atlanta Restaurant: I’m not much of a foodie, but I like several local breakfast places on the weekends.
  • Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Being a night owl and sleeping late, lifelong habits I’ve had to ditch starting a business.
  • Local Getaway: My local parks and public libraries.
  • Favorite Non-Work Hobby: On the side I run a sports books & history website, sportsbiblio.com, that’s a fun creative outlet.
  • Twitter: My site handle is @eastcobbnewsnow; personal is @wparker.
  • Website: www.eastcobbnews.com.


Mitch Leff is the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources. Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook at Leff & Associates.

 

Contact Info

Contact Name: Mitch Leff

Company: Leff & Associates Public Relations

Phone: 404-861-4769

E-mail: mitch@leffassociates.com