Greg Bluestein’s ever-evolving career in political journalism has led him to a new endeavor – that of author.
In a recent conversation with the Atlanta Jewish Times, the senior political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discusses his first book, “How the Peach State Turned Purple,” which was scooped up in a book-bidding war by Viking, a division of Penguin Random House.
He shares with the AJT insights about how his passion for politics has reached national attention in the literary world thanks to what readers have witnessed, which is his up-to-the-minute, close-up view and vast knowledge of Georgia’s political landscape.
AJT: How did you land in the political arena as a journalist?
Bluestein: I’ve wanted to be a reporter since AJC beat writer I.J. Rosenberg came to speak to my fourth-grade class at Greenfield Hebrew Academy about covering the Atlanta Braves. I remember coming home and telling my parents about my dream, and then writing my first newspaper story a year later, at Woodland Elementary, with a catchy headline: “Woodland Catches Braves Fever.”
Though my dreams got sidelined – for the next few years I thought I wanted to go into medicine – they were revived in high school when my best friend Jessica Schiffman’s father, Jim, took us to CNN in the middle of a major breaking news event. I never turned back. I joined the North Springs High School’s Oracle newspaper and at the University of Georgia plunged into The Red & Black, where I ultimately served as editor-in-chief for my senior year.
AJT: You’ve lived and breathed deadlines and politics for two decades. Tell us what you are most passionate about.
Bluestein: I’m passionate about telling Georgia’s story from the perspective of someone who is born and raised here. And that means all sides of the story. I try to shape my work with the perspectives of major political players, activists and others from across the ideological spectrum. I’ve known Gov. Brian Kemp since I covered his state Senate run in college; I’ve known Stacey Abrams since she was a little-known newcomer to the state Legislature. I’ve chronicled the careers – good and bad – of all the dominant forces in state politics, and sharing their stories is what drives me.
AJT: What motivated you to write this book?
Bluestein: The story of Georgia is really the story of national politics for the next decade – and beyond. And I’ve had a front-row seat to capture Georgia’s political change for much of the last two decades, capping with one of the most exhilarating and exhausting elections in modern history. It’s a pivotal moment in the state’s history, and I am overjoyed to tell it.
AJT: Any details you can share about the book’s focus?
Bluestein: The book is an account of how Georgia transformed from one of the staunchest Republican strongholds to the nation’s most captivating swing state, ground zero for the disinformation wars, and bellwether for the future of both political parties, culminating with the story of the epic Senate runoff flips.
AJT: Tell us about living in Atlanta and being Jewish?
Bluestein: I grew up at the heart of the Jewish community in Sandy Springs and live just a few miles from where I was born. The same community cornerstones that helped shape my life – Congregation B’nai Torah, Camp Barney Medintz, the Marcus Jewish Community Center – now shape how my wife Sheryl and I raise our two daughters. We are so fortunate to have such a strong, vibrant and supportive community.
AJT: Tell me about your college days? Did they prepare you?
Bluestein: One of the first steps I took at the University of Georgia was joining The Red & Black, the independent student newspaper. It was the best training ground I could have imagined. Every day we were on the front lines of covering a city and campus teeming with great stories, and a legendary team of professors who scrutinized our every word after our stories were published. I spent my senior year as editor-in-chief, leading a talented crew of dozens of reporters, photographers, editors and designers through a roller-coaster of developments at UGA.
AJT: Who is the most exciting person you’ve ever interviewed?
Bluestein: I’ve had the chance to interview an amazing array of newsmakers, from presidents to celebrities. But one of my most prized moments was returning to the MJCC – where so much of my life has revolved – and leading a sold-out discussion [at the Book Festival of the MJCCA in 2017] with Dan Rather about his career as a reporter and anchor at CBS News.
AJT: Is there any time you’ve been caught off guard and speechless?
Bluestein: I’m not usually knocked off guard. But I was when Katie Couric interviewed me about the Georgia runoffs and mentioned something that I shared in common with her father: He, too, was an Atlanta political newspaper reporter, covering state government for The Atlanta Constitution. It was a really neat moment!
AJT: What are your plans from here?
Bluestein: It’s going to be a busy year! I’ll be working on the book while also continuing to cover state politics with a fantastic team of reporters at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Robyn Spizman is a New York Times best-selling author and media personality who has written dozens of books, www.robynspizman.com.