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Release Date: 08.02.2018 | Location: All Metro Atlanta | Organization: Leff & Associates

"4 Questions Journalist Spotlight" w/Christian Boone of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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." Atlanta public relations professional Mitch Leff of Leff & Associates 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?

Mitch also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (http://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.

The Spotlight Shines on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Christian Boone!

Christian covers public safety for the AJC, which includes everything from police-involved shootings to pretty much every high-profile court case of the last ten years, including the Andrea Sneiderman saga, the hot car death of Cooper Harris and the surprising conviction of Tex McIver.  

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

Exposing corruption and trying to correct an injustice excites any journalist, but I'm not sure I ever feel "proud" of a story. The people I write about do the heavy lifting. They're the ones taking the risk. I'm just telling their story. I enjoy it. So, it's more about satisfaction than pride.

I will say it was very rewarding to be one of the trio of reporters -- with Jodie Fleischer and especially Pete Combs, who brought us in on the story -- to bring down Narconon of Georgia. It advertised as a residential drug treatment facility for multiple offenders but was actually a money-making scam that funneled profits to the Church of Scientology.  

And showing how, for decades, the Boy Scouts, and the churches that sponsored its troops, shielded child molesters from prosecutors was a story that needed to be told. My editor, Shannon McCaffrey, and I were not the first to report about what was a national scandal, but it took on a greater significance for me because our story was set in the town where I attended high school. I knew, to varying degrees, the victims, the perpetrator and some of the people who covered it up.

What’s new and different about what you’re doing at the AJC? 

Optimizing is as tedious as it sounds, and I'm not the swiftest optimizer. And there's a lot of that these days. Utilizing multiple platforms has been an adjustment, but once you master the technology it becomes second nature. I used to hate doing Facebook Lives until discovering that a selfie stick, properly aligned, need not make you look 10 years older and 20 pounds fatter.   

What is the best and worst thing about your job?  

The worst thing about the job is universal among local newspaper reporters. The inevitability we once took for granted is no longer guaranteed. Journalism is still relevant, but to fewer people, unfortunately. I hope I’ll still be doing this 20 years from now but the odds are against that, unfortunately.

Best thing? My luck in editors. With just one exception -- and that person is no longer with the AJC -- I've been given the time and trust to develop the stories that I felt were particularly deserving. We also have to think more thematically now, and that's had some positive benefits I didn't initially anticipate.         

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

I'm not sure it qualifies as cool, but I'm one of two voices behind the parody Twitter account @BlackLarry King. The great Andisheh Nouraee came up with the idea and, knowing I shared a perverse appreciation for Larry King's uninformed malaprops and celebrity name-dropping, asked if I'd like to run the account with him.

Because Andisheh and I are not black, there was some concern about embodying a character who is, but we've had zero complaints, even after our identities were revealed in a piece that appeared on The Awl. For us, race is just a character device born of necessity. White Larry King already exists, and we don't know enough Brazilian celebrities to support a Brazilian Larry King. 

We've been doing it for six years, nearly 15,000 tweets, though we're not as active in the early days. Andisheh has been more loyal to the character than I have, and I'm grateful, because I still can't help but thinking like BLK. It's gratifying to know there will always be a platform for such banal observations as, 

"I once asked the great comedian Gallagher why he only smashed watermelons. Why not papayas or coconuts? I don't remember his answer."

Best of all, Kasim Reed blocked us because of a benign tweet about "The ATL," the song commissioned by the city that was supposed to become our "New York, New York" but likely hasn't been heard by anyone since 2010. Now that made me proud.  

Worst Interview

Believe it or not, Walter Payton. I was in high school, working for the Gainesville Times, and Payton, post-retirement, was dabbling in car racing. I was nervous, of course, but not terribly. This was "Sweetness" after all. After keeping us waiting for two hours, we were finally summoned into his trailer. On the second step I heard a crunch under my feet. I had stepped on Payton's sunglasses, worth $250, he informed me. "Then why are you leaving them on the floor," I thought but did not say.

He had no interest in being interviewed, offering one-word responses to most questions. (Except when I asked him something about the Chicago Bears, from whom he had just retired. "Why are you asking me about the Bears? That's a stupid question.") Twice during the interview he lifted his leg to pass gas, a punctuation mark, if you will. Then he brought up the broken sunglasses again. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life. I posted this on Facebook not long ago and Jeff Hullinger said he, too, had a miserable encounter with Payton, who, by all other accounts, was a great guy.

About You

Last Book Read: "Confederacy of Dunces." I re-read it at least every five years.

Favorite Atlanta Restaurant: Busy Bee Cafe

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Greyhounds (not the dog)

Local Getaway: Used to be Turner Field. Still a Braves fan, but The Mallpark ain't my scene. 

Favorite Non-Work Hobby: Collaborating w/ two friends on our screenplay, "Family Coming Through" We started it seven years ago.

Twitter: @ReporterJCB

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Contact Info

Contact Name: Mitch Leff

Company: Leff & Associates

Phone: 4048614769

Cell: 4048614769

E-mail: mitch@leffassociates.com