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Atlanta Magazine Celebrates 60 Years, Editor-In-Chief Discusses The Stories That Led To Its Success

Atlanta magazine celebrates 60 years as a publication.
Atlanta magazine celebrates 60 years as a publication.
Credit Alex Martinez

Atlanta magazine has been covering this diverse city for the last 60 years. The magazine was created in 1961 by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, with Jim Townsend as its founding editor. He was deemed as “the father of city magazines” by Time Magazine and he pushed the limits of what they covered in the city, often upsetting the Chamber of Commerce. Atlanta magazine was eventually sold in the 1970s and it evolved in its focus and design over the decades.

“City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Editor-in-Chief Betsy Riley about the magazine’s evolution and the diverse stories that led to its success.

Interview Highlights:

What differentiates Atlanta magazine from other publications:

“Atlanta magazine has always completely devoted to journalistic integrity. We maintained the old ‘church and state’ rules where advertisers can’t influence our content. We’ve invested in our content. The beauty of a monthly is that you can spend several months working on a story and really take a deep dive into it and we fact check everything relentlessly. We are known for taking the deeper dive into stories. Occasionally we might break news, but that’s really not our goal. Our goal is to take a deeper look,” said Riley.

She continued, “We are involved in affordability issues, to travel, to medical issues, education, you name it and pretty much we’re going to cover it.”

Why they have three different cover photos for their 60th anniversary issue:

“We started with wanting three different generations since the magazine had been around for 60 years. We thought it would be fun to play off the three different generations. We wanted people who were familiar to readers. You know, for each generation those people are familiar. We had to tell a lot of people who Jalaiah [Harmon] was, but you don’t have to tell anyone under 25 what the ‘Renegade Dance‘ is. And we couldn’t really settle on one person that we felt represented who we are as a city right now,” said Riley.

The three artists featured on the covers are Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, Jalaiah Harmon, and Dominique Wilkins.

Behind the title “Atlanta’s New Way:” 

“Atlanta has always been a diverse city, but I think Atlanta is finally embracing that diversity in a way it hasn’t done in the past. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting started. I think that there will be a new way, and there’s already a new way because younger people are starting to come into leadership positions and they look at things differently.”

In 2015, Riley launched Atlanta magazine’s HOME, a quarterly home and garden publication. The HOME issue covers architecture, design, real estate, gardening, and all things home-related within the city limits.