MEDIA PROFILE: Atlanta magazine's diverse appeal suits its city andits readers

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."


Atlanta magazine

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

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