A very Happy New Year from the Cobb County Courier

the Cobb County Courier logo with 2024 in gold underneath

As the editor and publisher of the Cobb County Courier, I’d like to wish every one of you a Happy New Year.

I’d also like to let you know what the Courier has in store for the coming year.

Of course we’ll continue the cutting edge coverage of the Cobb County School District by Rebecca Gaunt.

Maybe this year the district will come to the realization that it’s childish and foolish to refuse to talk to us, and that it’s also a bit inept to give canned responses to the other media.

For a billion-and-a-half dollar budget the district should be able to hire communications staff that can answer questions fully, honestly, and using more than one sentence. Probably more than half the high school seniors can do a better job than what the district’s doing. It might be a good work/study project.

But in 2024 we’ll keep digging.

I’ve already written about our plan to ramp up election coverage in this important presidential election year. We will make every effort to make the Courier your destination for election news.

But please read the election news from other sources, too. No one outlet can truly be a one-stop shop for any topic, much less a presidential-year election with a large number of offices on the ballot! Read the MDJ, the AJC, East Cobb News, and news from any other source you can find.

Another thing that’s a personal project of mine is to provide data-driven journalism about the current characteristics of the county. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people inside and outside the county who seem to think that the Cobb County of today is the same county it was in 1980.

To address that I’ve begun publishing interactive maps that use the U.S. Census Bureau’s data from the enormous 2022 5-year American Community Survey.

For my fellow geeks and nerds out there, I’m using the programming language R, along with the libraries tidycensus, censusapi and leaflet. For the benefit of non-nerds that translates into “I’m writing programs that pull numbers from the census and builds maps with them.”

So far, we’ve published articles and maps of the distribution of median household income, median home value, and on rental rates and number of rental properties across the county. Publishing the maps isn’t the project’s end goal, although they can help you get a good feel for what the numbers show about your community. I intend to expand that into examination of race and ethnicity across the county, commuting patterns, housing types, and anything else that seems worth reporting from the 31,000+ variables in the American Community Survey.

The long-term goal is to use these maps and the data that populates them to create feature articles that include more information drawn from interviews, meetings, and government documents. Then rather than dry data the numbers will give support to writing compelling stories about our communities.

Things we’d like to do this year, but that aren’t likely

There are also a number of things that I’d like for the Courier to undertake, but that we don’t have the resources to pull off.

I’d like to cover all Cobb County Board of Commissioners meetings, all the city council meetings in the county, all probable cause hearings in Cobb Magistrate Court, and all hearings related to land use and zoning.

While we’ll continue to cover those things as time and resources allow, right now our most consistent coverage is of Mableton and Kennesaw city council meetings. We sporadically cover Smyrna, even more sporadically cover Powder Springs, Acworth and Austell, and have never done any significant coverage of the Marietta City Council and Marietta City Schools.

To fill those gaps would require at least one full-time assignment reporter plus additional freelancers.

If you want to help us get to that point, you can either buy ads from us (if you run a business or other organization that buys advertising), or hit the long black donate button at the top of this page.

In addition to covering more meetings and court proceedings I’d also like to take on more investigative journalism. Believe it or not that’s a bit more realistic than trying to cover every government meeting because we can spread the research and time allocated to an investigative project over a longer period.

There are always a nearly infinite number of topics worth investigating: corruption and self-dealing by public officials, the influence of money on legislation, the way systemic racism is baked into various institutions, environmental malfeasance … the list is nearly endless.

I could go on forever building a wish list, but will end by once again wishing you a Happy New Year!