Glossy city magazines often get caught up in their own vanity,
without appealing to any particular audience. However, as Kimberly
Krautter reports, Atlanta magazine has managed to create broad
Atlanta has produced some of the nation's most important artists:
authors Flannery O'Connor and Alice Walker, to blues and rock legends
Ray Charles and Otis Redding. It's a city whose ethos can be summed up
in the word "aspiration."
Its endemic charm makes the city one of the most livable places in the
United States. However, rushing headlong into a new century and with a
population influx from the four corners of the nation, Atlanta is also a
city that can be criticized for not having a strong sense of self. For
40 years, Atlanta magazine, produced by Emmis Publishing, has been
trying to provide that anchor.
Originally crafted in 1961 as a trade development magazine by the
Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, it then morphed into a lifestyle
publication in the 1970s. Lately, it has become an indispensable read
for local Fortune 500 executives and the region's housewives alike.
Most metro magazines have to be parochial in nature, as they serve a
distinctly finite demographic. But Atlanta magazine, unlike its
brethren, must serve a population that largely originates from outside
its famous Perimeter loop. Atlanta's Sunbelt became the destination of
choice for businesses, which brought with them people with roots in New
York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Keith Dunnavant, former managing editor of MediaWeek, was hired as
executive editor last year to re-tool Atlanta magazine for the new
decade. In recent months, the magazine has introduced a set of columns
in the front section called Talking Points that "set the tone and have a
witty, attitudinal quality," says Dunnavant.
He has also engineered a dramatic expansion of the editorial to include
10,000-word features with the kind of subject matter and depth
ordinarily found in national magazines like Vanity Fair.
The April issue saw a cover profile on the city's embattled Mayor Bill
Campbell. Originally lauded as the next great political hope, a virtual
trench warfare between him and the editors of The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution became personal to all parties, with mutual charges
of racism, cronyism, demagoguery, and worse - all played out on a very
public stage. Atlanta magazine senior editor Scott Freeman dug deep into
the story to present one of the most balanced presentations of the
city's sociopolitical scene ever published.
"We want to provide a home for the intellectually curious," says
"We think of it in terms of producing a magazine that is comfortable and
provocative - unpredictable, but not jarring."
Dunnavant admits that makes his magazine sound like the publishing
equivalent of an oxymoron, but it also describes the difficulty of
serving a readership like Atlanta's. His editorial task is further
challenged by newspapers and other media outlets.
With his roots in sports journalism, Dunnavant has added a spate of
chatty sports spotlights and articles with an odd twist, such as this
month's feature on University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley's
gardening prowess. Such moves have given male readers more reasons to
peruse the title beyond the restaurant listings.
The magazine sells itself as a read for the affluent and upwardly
mobile, and Dunnavant admits, "We want to be the city magazine for
everybody, but since the upwardly mobile is who our reader is, that
tends to be what we reflect." Which brings up the subject of diversity.
For much of its history, Atlanta magazine was the coffee-table read for
the white suburban housewife, whereas the city's history has been as
much about the African-American experience as any other.
"Atlanta has this vibrant black middle class; there is a greater
percentage of upwardly mobile blacks here than anywhere in the country.
It's very positive for Atlanta and for this magazine." However,
Dunnavant says he does not feel pressure to publish for any single
ethnic or demographic group. "We're about living well in the context of
your own ambition."
Address: 1330 W. Peachtree St. NE,
Suite 450, Atlanta, GA 30309
Tel.: (404) 872-3100
Fax: (404) 870-6219
Editor-in-chief: Lee Walburn
Executive editor: Keith Dunnavant
Deputy editor: Linda Sherbert
Senior editor: Scott Freeman