Native Atlantan and UGA graduate Greg Bluestein joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2012 as a political reporter covering the governor’s office and state politics. Since then, he has appeared on multiple media outlets, interviewed major national figures and written his own book.
On May 13 Bluestein delivered the convocation ceremony for the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, along with graduating senior Joshua Marx.
Bluestein summarized the crux of his comments. “Channel the power of journalism into a force for good, and strive to remember your audience and your sources are more than just soundbites.”
Much has changed since Bluestein graduated 17 years ago as a newspapers and political science double-major. He uses both his degrees daily. Noting that there’s not a “Newspapers” major any more, he embraces the curriculum that today’s Grady students follow: coursework in TV, digital and other media that prepare for today’s journalism ecosystem.
“When I graduated, I never imagined all the different demands we face: newsletters, blogs, podcasts, radio appearances and TV hits – sometimes, all in the same day. But I know today’s graduates of schools like Grady College are ready for whatever comes their way.”
Bluestein mused about what practical guideposts he has learned along his career that are shareable. “The first is to be empathetic, to show our audience and the people who entrust us with their stories that we’re not faceless, soulless robots. We are members of the very same communities and share many of the same dreams and desires.
“The second is to acknowledge that journalism — and every other career worth pursuing – is not always a smooth path. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fun, but it sure is rewarding,” he said.
“The third is to constantly question authority. Our politicians are people, too. They make mistakes, they say silly things, they have triumphs and tragedies, ups and downs. It’s our job to factor that into our coverage as we hold them to account on decisions big and small that affect how we live our lives. “
In terms of the balance of print and social media, he notes that he’s glad the AJC is publishing seven days a week, and acknowledges that many print readers around his age and younger read the AJC almost exclusively online. “It’s why I’m so happy we have a robust presence across the board: In print, on digital, on social media and beyond. I’m not sure what the future of the printed newspaper will be, but I know we’re well positioned, agile and ready for whatever comes our way.”
Responding to which of his own particular attributes contribute to his success, he said he cultivates a broad array of sources from all across the political and business spectrum, to not “surprise” anyone with his coverage and to get at the “why” of the story as much as the “who/what/when/where/how” part. He strives to be consistent, accurate and, as one of his mentors described, “enlightening and not enraging.”
Bluestein ponders one of the big questions facing the Republican party, a key question for 2022. “There’s a deep divide in the state GOP over the direction of the party, and what role former President Trump will take. Will pro-Trump forces still steer the party going forward, or will Republicans find a path ahead without him?”
When it comes to his Jewish upbringing vis-a-vis his approach, he recalled, “Growing up in Jewish day school, we were taught to go beyond the black-and-white on paper to try to understand the motivations and reasoning behind passages in the Torah and Talmud. I feel like I lean on that background every day as I try to understand why the people I cover say or do certain things.”
A father of two, Bluestein tries to be a fun, fair and patient dad. He took them along to campaign events to get up-close views. His daughters wound up interviewing all four Senate runoff candidates at different stops, and they made their own YouTube channel documenting the experience. “Hopefully they will remember that for a long, long time!”
View Bluestein’s UGA graduation address at https://grady.uga.edu/spring-2021-graduation