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Nation & World

'Atlanta Journal-Constitution' Political Columnist On Retiring After 41 Years

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

My very first paid gig as a journalist was summer intern at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This was back in the mid-'90s. And when I showed up to start in the AJC newsroom, Jim Galloway was already an institution. Galloway joined the paper in 1979. He still writes two political columns a week, plus a daily morning newsletter. He says he has a few more in him, but after 41 years, he is retiring in January, right after the big Senate runoff elections. Well, Jim Galloway joins us now for something of an exit interview.

Hey there, Jim.

JIM GALLOWAY: Mary Louise, it's great to be here. Thank you for having me.

KELLY: It's great to have you. Congratulations on the imminent retirement. And I got to say, you sure picked your moment to step down as the dean of political journalists in Georgia - I'm just going to grant you that title - at a moment when Georgia is kind of the center of the political universe.

GALLOWAY: Yeah. Some have greatness thrust upon them.

KELLY: (Laughter).

GALLOWAY: I think this is one of those cases.

KELLY: I saw - you were planning to - what? - gracefully step down at the end of the year. And you just couldn't stand to miss the runoff. You were like, I'm going to stay.

GALLOWAY: Well, it would be - I think it would be somewhat irresponsible to dump that on incoming staff. This is such a historic moment for Democrats in particular in Georgia because they're making something of a comeback. I'm not sure that they will carry one or either of these two Senate seats. But my goodness - Joe Biden wins the state for a Democrat for the first time since 1992 with Bill Clinton. It would be like stopping the book with the last chapter unwritten.

KELLY: Yeah. So if you're going out with a bang with this huge Georgia political story with two Senate races and the entire U.S. Senate in the balance, what would you point to as one or two other stories that will stick with you, that felt like a tipping point in covering politics in Georgia? Go back as far as you want. I know when you started at the paper, Jimmy Carter was president.

GALLOWAY: I was also an intern at the AJC in '76 when Carter was nominated, so I was working the phones that night when he gave his speech. I mean, personally, the most important, significant moment was I was on Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. That was a singular moment.

KELLY: And what drew you back to Georgia after covering something like that in China?

GALLOWAY: Well, the AJC is a Cox paper. It's a privately family-held company. And my dream when I'd started at the paper had been to be a foreign correspondent because Cox had them. I mean, they had bureaus everywhere, and they were thinking of putting one up in Beijing. So then I had my - I did a University of Michigan fellowship with Mike Wallace, spent a year studying language, got over there. And, of course, things kind of blew up - came back, and first big newspaper recession had hit. And so there goes the dream of a career in journalism foreign service. And ultimately, that's what put me back in Georgia politics.

If I had to pick another moment, you know, I guess it would be covering Andy Young when he was mayor. That was one of my more interesting assignments. And we still talk. He's still quite active and still carries weight in the city.

KELLY: What will you miss?

GALLOWAY: I will miss picking up the phone and being able to talk to some very special, very smart people. I will miss the Johnny Isaksons, the Max Clelands. I will miss the Andy Youngs. And, you know, I will be bowing out before we get a chance to really see what will happen with Stacey Abrams and the 2022 race for governor. You know, the story's never finished.

KELLY: This is the problem. There's always more news. And people like us never want to miss it.

(LAUGHTER)

GALLOWAY: And let me say, I am not dying. I will still be around. But I've had 20 years of deadlines hanging over my head. And I would like to get through a day where I can have maybe three or four hours to think on a particular topic before I sit down and write.

KELLY: Yeah, that sounds awfully good. Well, Jim Galloway, thank you. And I wish you all the best of luck in the next chapter.

GALLOWAY: Well, thank you very much. And Mary Louise, let me just say it's been a joy to watch what's become of you. Look at where you were in the '90s, and look where you are now. Look where you are now.

KELLY: Oh, so nice.

Jim Galloway - he'll retire from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January after a 41-year career. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.