The Clayton Crescent

EDITORIAL

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day when nonprofits like The Clayton Crescent send out e-mail appeals and social media blasts seeking donations to keep their operations going. Your gift is matched by NewsMatch, which makes grants to hundreds of nonprofit newsrooms all over the United States.

We’d like to tell you why The Clayton Crescent is different, and why we have earned your financial support.

We’re about government oversight in a news desert. We lead metro Atlanta news coverage of Clayton County, functioning as a de facto bureau for other local newsrooms. When you see a story about Clayton County that isn’t about a shooting, chances are The Clayton Crescent broke it first, often weeks or months in advance.

We like to say, “Dare to compare.” Compare our stories about Clayton County with those of our competitors. We especially like it when you compare the dates. Guess who nearly always got the story first. When we aren’t first, we make it our business to go deeper. (And if you haven’t heard from us in a minute about a certain story, that means we’re investigating.)

How is that possible?

Well, we actually live here. Our office is here. You see us all over the county. We take part in student support activities for Clayton County Schools and VOX ATL. We hosted a Northwestern University journalism summer intern from Atlanta, Elena Hubert, giving her invaluable hands-on experience in production, writing, and reporting. She went on to become copy chief at the Daily Northwestern. We care about the next generation.

It’s easy to cover a place where you don’t live. But it’s not the same thing as living in a place and being part of the community. We don’t drop in like tourists, then run back to gentrified life inside the Perimeter. And that means it costs us a lot more personally to do this kind of news. We take a pass on county-sponsored aid to nonprofits because that would create an ethical conflict for us.

We get threats. We get hate mail. We get whisper campaigns. (Yeah, we heard.)

We don’t drink, golf, or party with elected officials.

We’re still here.

We don’t give free passes to powerful people who abuse the public trust or elected officials who treat the taxpayers’ dollars as their personal allowance.

We don’t charge fancy meals or travel to The Clayton Crescent’s business account (which is actually YOUR money that we use to bring YOU the news).

We don’t funnel a lot of garbage content to boost our web traffic artificially.

We don’t dial it in. Sure, we can’t be everywhere, and we do watch some meetings over video. But we don’t make a habit of it. We get up, put on our shoes, and head to the meetings where the decisionmakers are. In person. Face to face. Eye to eye. We see the nuances on the dais and the audience not visible from a single fixed camera view.

These are just some examples of the impact we’ve made and of the level of dedication that The Clayton Crescent has to this community:

About cameras: When the City of Forest Park denied citizens and reporters access to important City Council meetings, in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, and used COVID-19 as a pretext for doing so, we and our lawyers fought back. Thanks to The Clayton Crescent, Forest Park citizens can now view city council meetings live and a new public record—video of the meeting itself—is created every time. This is a great non-COVID-19 resource because it accommodates people with disabilities, seniors, people without transportation, and people who are working during the meeting to keep an eye on their elected officials.

About COVID-19: In the early days of the outbreak, health officials were reluctant to release public information about where the virus was spreading the most. The Clayton Crescent worked with the Clayton County Health District, securing case counts by city and zip code, and regularly updating those numbers during the height of the pandemic. We also broke the news of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Clayton County Jail, a fact that Sheriff’s Department officials denied but that CCHD substantiated.

About the Clayton County Jail: The Clayton Crescent regularly reports on conditions in the county jail. We spoke with attorneys who sued on behalf of pretrial detainees who had suffered maltreatment behind bars. We were the first news organization to spot FBI agents wheeling out one of the infamous restraint chairs during a raid on Sheriff Victor Hill’s office. We were there throughout Hill’s federal trial and conviction on six of seven counts of violating pretrial detainees’ civil rights under color of law.

Credit: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent

About courthouses: We also were there for most of former CCSO Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers’ trial on public corruption charges stemming from her time at Atlanta City Hall. Many of the events related to that trial took place in Lake Spivey, Clayton County’s poshest neighborhood. The only thing that kept us from covering the entire trial was Executive Editor and CEO Robin Kemp’s cancer diagnosis and quick-turnaround surgery. Robin wrote the verdict story from her bed two days after surgery.

And we’ll be back at the federal courthouse, and the county courthouse, for trials that we have covered since Day One like Hannah Payne’s shooting of Kenneth Herring three years ago, about which national TV networks and local stations came to us for help a couple of weeks ago, and for former Clayton County CFO Ramona Bivins’ federal suit against the county and two sitting commissioners.

About the whole “saving democracy” thing: Maybe you don’t know about the national and international coverage The Clayton Crescent got for our coverage of the 2020 Presidential election and the events surrounding the vote tabulation, the recounts, and the risk limiting audit. You can read a bunch of articles and listen to a bunch of interviews about that here.

If The Clayton Crescent hadn’t taken the initiative to go watch the count in person, the nation would not have known what was going on here—and things might have gotten out of hand.

That’s the vital importance of having journalists witness the mechanics of government. And we continue to educate Clayton County about how the election process works, debunking myths and disinformation and raising the bar for responsive government along the way.

About working six and seven days a week: Our editor is not interested in having a recurrence of cancer and has been working too hard for too long without a fully-staffed newsroom. This is why The Clayton Crescent needs to raise $100,000 before November 30 in order to secure matching funds from NewsMatch. Many of you have given and we thank you so much. But it’s a very heavy lift. Especially when it takes courage to stand up for the truth in a climate of lies, half-truths, and uncomfortable social repercussions.

Here are the facts:

We serve about 300,000 people. Only a fraction of them financially support The Clayton Crescent.

We usually see even more cities checking in. Looking at you, Chicago, Detroit, NYC, Seattle, Las Vegas, Houston, and surrounding areas! Mmm-hmm, yep. We see you.

Many of our readers are important government officials and journalists in metro Atlanta, Washington DC, and many other U.S. states. We know this because we can see when and where our readers are logging in through our web traffic reports. We can’t see who you are, so don’t panic. But we know who these important people are because they tell us they are reading The Clayton Crescent. And they like what they see.

So do you. All over Clayton County, every day, our readers say, “Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job. We appreciate you. We need you. This county needs The Clayton Crescent.”

And we say, “Thank you! Please tell your friends and neighbors!”

You ask, “How can we help The Clayton Crescent?”

We say, “Donate at https://donorbox.org/clayton-crescent and be sure to click the MONTHLY donation tab so that we can get TWELVE TIMES the match from NewsMatch!”

We don’t have a staff of well-heeled grantwriting professionals. We don’t have an army of volunteers out there fundraising for us. We don’t pay people to tell us their stories—and they can’t pay us to tell them a certain way, either. That’s called advertising. You can dress it up like a news set, and you can play-act at being a reporter (and some political people LOVE to pretend they are doing news!) but that’s not the same thing as the actual hard work of journalism, without fear or favor, telling more than just one side of the story.

We don’t blow smoke up orifices or mislead you about whether it’s raining down your leg.

We tell you the facts—ALL the facts, not just the ones that make a candidate look good or bad—and let you make up your own mind. That’s why we have the respect of people from a wide range of political viewpoints. We covered Herschel Walker in Jonesboro and we covered Sen. Raphael Warnock in Morrow. We cover the very things you care about and that other news organizations blow off completely.

We are, without question, the best at what we do and the best news source in Clayton County. You deserve to know what’s going on. The best way to hold your government accountable is to give generously to The Clayton Crescent. Help us help you. With your generous tax-deductible donation, and those of your friends and neighbors, we can expand our staff and that means even better coverage for you.

The alternative?

It’s a fact: Studies show that political corruption increases in news deserts. When a single paper—or no paper—covers an area, that lack of oversight is a green light for crooked politicians.

By keeping voters in the dark, and by offering bread and circuses in place of accessibility and transparency, those who would abuse their power take advantage of the public trust.

If you want to keep them honest, support The Clayton Crescent.

We invite you to use our search function to see what we’ve accomplished in two and a half years with a single reporter and the occasional contributor or intern.

We ask you to reflect on the news and the history that would have been lost if The Clayton Crescent hadn’t been here to dig it up, to witness it, to record it.

We ask you to invest in the only news organization that has invested in you: The Clayton Crescent.

Thank you, Clayton County!

Robin Kemp

Executive Editor/CEO
The Clayton Crescent, Inc.

Leave a comment

Cancel reply