It’s more and more unusual for a print journalist to make almost an entire career from working at one publication, but Jim Galloway is that rare bird. The 1977 University of Georgia graduate spent about 18 months at a South Carolina paper before jumping to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Galloway was hired as editor for the Atlanta paper’s North Fulton Extra, a weekly suburban edition. He next jumped to the Journal to cover religion. Stints at Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and as a foreign correspondent, among others, followed. He became a political columnist about 20 years ago, a position he planned to retire from after the Jan. 5 runoffs for the U.S. Senate seats representing Georgia.
Shortly before his retirement, we asked Galloway to reflect on his career and the changes in Georgia’s political landscape.
What influences drew you to journalism?
I would guess probably reading the paper when I was growing up. We took the Journal, the evening paper. Then there’s this: Remember the movie “Teacher’s Pet” with Clark Gable and Doris Day? He was a feisty old city editor. Also, Art Buchwald, the humor columnist of the day, influenced me.
How has covering politics changed?
My first presidential candidate is an example. He was Florida Gov. Ruben Askew. I think it was 1984. At that point you were assigned to a specific candidate. I remember he had this interesting tic. Every so often his voice would stop and his eyes would roll to the back of his head. Nobody ever wrote about it. Fast forward to today, can you imagine that happening?
Then there’s the immediacy. The rhythm of the business has changed so much. Usually I finish the Sunday column at around 5 p.m. on Thursday. It goes up at about 6 p.m. and then into the Sunday paper. So, the internet presence gets priority over print. And you’re competing with all these social media outlets, trying to combat all the disinformation that’s out there.
What were highlights of your career?
I thought my stuff out of Beijing during all the [1989 Tiananmen Square] unrest was pretty good. I have spent about the last 20 years as a political columnist and that has gotten more and more interesting every year. The other big one I did was in 2006, when Ralph Reed was making a play for governor of Georgia, and that’s when the [Jack] Abramoff scandal was breaking. It turned out that Reed had taken a good bit of money that had been laundered through another organization to stop the state of Alabama from establishing a lottery and [halt] gambling initiatives in other states. It was one of those cases where it paid to have covered religion for a while.
What will you miss?
It’s something I already miss: Talking to people face to face. I always did my best stuff when I could look someone in the eye. Now you don’t see their faces… everybody is masked up. The other thing is that I have gone through life half deaf, and you don’t realize in a situation like that how much you depend on lip reading.
What’s ahead for politics in Georgia?
I don’t know if it will happen this cycle or the cycle after that or the cycle after that, but Georgia is changing demographically, and by 2030 we’ll be a majority-minority state. White voters will be outnumbered by everybody else. The question is, how are we going to react to that? The arc has been coming to grips with the progression of the U.S. into a multiracial democracy.
Were you surprised by the recent election and runoff?
November surprised me in that Democrats did well at the top of the ticket – in the presidential, Senate and congressional contests — but not down-ticket. They made minimal gains in the state Legislature, which bodes ill for them during a special session to redraw political boundaries later this year.
The results of the two Senate runoffs on Jan. 5 surprised me less and less as we moved closer to final voting. With Trump insisting that he won, against all evidence, he made sure that the election was about him, and not about putting a check on Democrats. In essence, he asked Georgia whether we were really sure about how we voted on Nov. 3. And on Jan. 5, we said yes.
What’s next for you?
I haven’t decided what I’m going to do next. I have a lot of woodworking tools I want to play with. I’ll have to buy a new laptop. I don’t know what I’ll write but I’ll keep writing.
The great American novel, perhaps?
Naw, I don’t know how I’d write fiction.