UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Tom Baxter, January 28, 2011

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:18 - Introduction

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This is Bob Short and Reflections on Georgia Politics, sponsored by the Russell Library at the University of Georgia and Young Harris College

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Short introduces interviewee Baxter

00:00:43 - Early life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: It all began in Montgomery, Alabama.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter discusses his education and his early career in journalism.

00:05:01 - Transition to political journalism

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What happened was that there was a, a, a change of the guard at the Journal-Constitution...

Segment Synopsis: Baxter explains how he transitioned into the role of a political journalist and columnist despite his initial reluctance to cover the political beat.

Keywords: "Three-dotter"; Akin, South Carolina; Ann Richards; Atlanta, Georgia; Bill Kovach; Bill Shipp; Chief political correspondent; David Duke; Democratic National Convention; Doug Wilder; Edwin Edwards; Furman Bisher; George W. Bush; Haley Barbour; Hard news; Lee Atwater; Louisiana; Mississippi; New York Times; Republican National Committee; Ron Martin; Super Tuesday; Texas; Virginia

00:12:15 - Decision to become a journalist / Changes in journalism

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you always want to be a journalist?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter discusses his early interest in writing and how a high school internship at the Montgomery Advertiser convinced him he was a newspaper man, and briefly comments on his recent transition away from the newsroom.

00:15:17 - Politics in Georgia and the South

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What was your impression of the State Capitol when you first arrived?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter compares Georgia's state capitol and politics to those of surrounding Southern states.

Keywords: Alabama; Architecture; Cell phones; Cellular phones; Chicanery; David Ralston; Florida legislature; House of Representatives; Lester Maddox; Lieutenant Governor; Lobbyists; Press conference; Senate chambers; Speaker of the House; State capitol; Symbolism; Tallahassee, Florida; Tom Murphy

00:21:21 - Relationship between media and politicians

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned Tom Murphy; he was not always easy on the media.

Segment Synopsis: Murphy describes his professional relationships with various Georgia politicians and the relationships between journalists and politicians in general, and details how journalists manage anonymous sources.

Keywords: Headline; Honesty; Interrogation; Mass media; News copy; Newt Gingrich; Nuclear standoff; Official source; Political interests; Sources; South Korea; Tom Murphy

00:26:30 - Political bias in the media

Play segment

Partial Transcript: How difficult--excuse me--is it to keep your own personal political philosophy out of your stories?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter speaks about practicing objectivity in his reporting regardless of his political views.

Keywords: "Curveball question"; "Softball question"; Bias; Detached view; Forum; News story; Objective perspective; Political philosophy; Press baiter; Press conference; Scientist; Wallace v. Brewer

00:30:12 - Internal politics in the newsroom

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, what sort of uh--well, let me call it guidance--do you get from uh, from your newspaper or your present management regarding your job?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter discusses management's impact on the newsroom, including his frustration with dogmatic editorial policy.

Keywords: Competition; Dogma; Fundraiser; George W. Bush; Human interest; James Salzer; Man on the street; Savannah, Georgia

00:34:19 - Spin doctors / Impact of social networking on news readership

Play segment

Partial Transcript: How do you deal with spin doctors?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter opines that the public currently desires to talk with politicians rather than be talked to by them, and opines that social networking has created a greater fracture between liberal and conservative readers.

Keywords: "Spin alleys"; 1988 presidential campaign; Arab Spring; Barack Obama; Birthers; Cable television; Democrat; Diversity; Egypt; Erick Erickson; Facebook; Internet; James Carville; Liberal; Michael Dukakis; Middle East; Misinformation; North Africa; Republican; Social media; Social network; Spin doctor; Tea Party; Telephones; Terrorism; Terrorist; Truthers; Tunisia; Twin Towers; Twitter

00:41:11 - Corruption in government

Play segment

Partial Transcript: There seems to be more corruption in government now more than ever.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter opines that journalism suffers by focusing more on political scandals than day-to-day policy-making.

Keywords: Corruption; Cost-effectiveness; Governor; Investigative reporting; Legislative news; Mike Easley; Nathan Deal; North Carolina; Personal finances; Raleigh News & Observer; Raleigh, North Carolina; Scandal; Websites

00:44:40 - Reporting on politicians' personal lives

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, where do you draw the line between a politician's professional life and his personal life, his or her personal life?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter speaks about reporting on a politician's personal life only when it has potential repercussions in their political decisions, such as Glen Richardson's affair with a lobbyist, and discusses why the AJC chose not to publicly reveal Newt Gingrich's affair.

Keywords: Agriculture Department; Andy Alexander; Bureau chief; Callista Gingrich; Circumspect; Conflict of interest; Daughter-in-law; Ethical standards; Extramarital affair; Glenn Richardson; Impeachment; Lobbyist; Marriage; Michael Isikoff; Monica Lewinsky; Moralizing; Newt Gingrich; Washington, D.C.

00:49:56 - Personal impact of Georgia politicians

Play segment

Partial Transcript: During your career doing political journalism, you must've met some Georgia Representatives and Senators who, who made a mark on you.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter reveals some of the Georgia politicians who left notable positive and negative impacts on him.

Keywords: Europe; Harold Ford Jr.; Impeachment trial; Jet lag; Libertarian; Lieutenant Governor; Pandering; Paul Coverdell; Public official; Roy Barnes; Senate race; Senator; Speaker of the House; Tennessee; Thurbert Baker; Zell Miller

00:55:42 - Zell Miller's swing to the right

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Were you at the Republican convention when Senator Miller made his keynote address?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter speculates on some of the reasons for Zell Miller's move to the Republican party after serving as a longtime Democrat.

01:00:44 - Economic boom and struggle

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, Tom, Atlanta and Georgia have been two of the greatest boom stories, uh, perhaps in the last century.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter opines that Georgia has struggled more than its neighbors to regain economic footing after the boom years and discusses the future of the HOPE scholarship.

Keywords: African-Americans; Atlanta Metro; Atlanta, Georgia; Clergy; College tuition; Gambling; Gaming; Georgia lottery; HOPE scholarship; Louisiana; Middle class; Nashville, Tennessee; North Georgia; Oil and gas; Rural interests; State capitol; Unemployment; Urban interests; World Congress Center

01:06:35 - Challenges facing Georgia and its new governor

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, it's 2011: Georgia has a new governor and we're broke.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter discusses what he considers some of the challenges facing Georgia in 2011 and some of the "Cheshire cats" being lobbied by the House in an effort to balance the budget.

Keywords: Balanced budget; Bed tax; Budget cuts; Casey Cagle; Cheshire cat; David Ralston; Economy; Field hearings; Fiscal issues; Groceries; Medicaid; Nursing homes; Rainy day fund; Revenue; State deficit; Stimulus money; Tax Reform Commission; Tax increase; Taxes; Texas

01:11:58 - Republicans gain control of Georgia politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let's go to 2002--Georgia, for the first time in 138 years had a Republican governor.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter speaks about some of the factors contributing to Georgia's swing from a traditionally Democratic stronghold to a Republican state beginning in 2002.

Keywords: "Big money politics"; "Opinion makers"; "flagger"; Atlanta perimeter; Campaign advisors; Friday night football; Georgia state flag; Jeb Bush; Political intent; Reapportionment; Redistricting; Republican surge; Roy Barnes; Sonny Purdue; Teachers; Trending

01:16:10 - Republican sweep across the U.S.

Play segment

Partial Transcript: 2010 was a big Republican sweep in Georgia. Is there any way to explain that?

Segment Synopsis: Baxter explains that the rise of the Republican party in Georgia was reflected elsewhere in the country.

Keywords: 2010 elections; Asian-Americans; Bear majority; Bi-racial coalition; Black Americans; Citizens United; Civil rights; David Bossie; Disenfranchisement; Ethnic minorities; Georgia politics; Hispanic-Americans; Imbalance of power; National politics; One-party politics; Political power; Republican sweep

01:21:13 - Career since leaving the AJC

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell us, if you will, about your current pursuits.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter discusses his professional activities since leaving the AJC, including his work with the website Insider Advantage Georgia and its publications James Magazine and Southern Political Report

Keywords: Bi-partisan; Chuck Clay; Consulting; Gary Reese; Insider Advantage; James Magazine; Matt Towery; Media enterprise; Pierre Howard; Polling; Recession; Small business; Social networking; Southern Political Report

01:24:57 - Internet news sources v. newspapers

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, let's, let's talk for a minute about Internet news.

Segment Synopsis: Baxter details some of the differences between traditional newspaper journalism and online journalism, suggesting that some online publications can be superior sources of news, and that the newspaper industry was suffering before the widespread use of the Internet due to poor leadership and lack of foresight.

Keywords: "Fat and happy"; Advertising; Blog; Dr. Juan Cole; E-reader; Editorial correction; Egypt; Electronic reader; Freelance; Intellectual; Kindle; Leadership; MidEast; Middle East; National drug companies; New York Times; Newspaper column; North Fulton County, Georgia; Paid model; Profits; Riots; Slate reader; Tunisia; University of Michigan; Web log

01:34:49 - Conclusion

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now Tom, it's been a great pleasure talking with you.

Segment Synopsis: Short concludes the interview with Baxter.