Tag Archives: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When the Photographer Started Running, What Did He Get? #Runography, of Course

We all long for a career doing something we love.

Ben Gray, Atlanta, Journal-Constitution, AJC, running, runner, ultra distance, ultra-marathon, marathon, people who run crazy distances, instagram, runography, belt line

He carries a little tripod for the occasional selfie.

Some of us find passion in a hobby.

Ben Gray has both – and a way to combine them in a new creative project on social media.

Five days a week, Ben, 43, wraps his iPhone in a plastic baggie and tucks it into the inside-waistband pocket of his running shorts. Then Ben – an award-winning photojournalist and an ultra-marathon runner — hits the streets, trails and backroads of Atlanta for runs that can last several hours.

Along the way, when he spots something that would make a good photo, he stops, takes out the iPhone, gets a quick shot – and uploads it to his Instagram account with the #runography hashtag.

Ben Gray, Atlanta, Journal-Constitution, AJC, running, runner, ultra distance, ultra-marathon, marathon, people who run crazy distances, instagram, runographyThen he keeps on running.

Ben estimates he’ll log 2,000 miles this year. He’s burned 163,000 calories so far in 2014. This year, he ran his first 100-mile race. And he only started four years ago (not counting high school track).

At age 39, Ben had covered the Peachtree Road Race for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years. He always thought it looked like fun, so he decided to start training for the 10K.

“I hated it when I started,” he says now. “The turning point was when I could go a distance and actually get somewhere. I could find different routes and check out different neighborhoods.”

Soon he was running from the AJC’s Dunwoody office to the Lindbergh MARTA station. His wife and two kids would drive from their Southwest Atlanta home to their Decatur church 11 miles away, and he’d meet them there on foot.

The Peachtree led to his first marathon, then first 50K, 50-miler, 100K and onward.

That takes a lot of training, but a photographer’s eyes are never blind to what he’s passing. The iPhone is easy to carry and Ben likes the constraints of it and posting the shots immediately. No fuss, no filters, no slowing the heart rate — and no treating it like an assignment for work.

He’s growing a following on Instagram and considering ways to take #runography to another level.

“It’s really about what I like and what I’m seeing,” he says. “And hopefully, other people like it, too.”

Follow Ben on Instagram 

Click here for 3 easy tips for better pics


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4 Tips for the Atlanta BeltLine from Top Journalists

Atlanta Beltline, The Beltline, Atlanta, North Avenue, urban renewal project, transportation, bike trail, running trail, Ponce City Market

The BeltLine, one of the country’s most ambitious urban renewal projects, rises above North Avenue here.

The Atlanta BeltLine got some free advice from five journalists talking to a roomful of public relations professionals this morning.

  1. The BeltLine could become the biggest thing to happen to the city since the 1996 Olympics – bigger than the Games, maybe, since it will be permanent.
  2. The BeltLine might be too popular (crowded) for its own good.
  3. But residents are still going to be worried about security at night.
  4. And, finally, BeltLine neighbor Kroger “should just own (the nickname) ‘Murder Kroger.’”

The forum at the Mandarin Hotel in Buckhead was put on by The Wilbert Group, a PR agency owned by two of my former colleagues at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tony and Caroline Wilbert. Another, ex-AJC Business editor Mark Braykovich, further shows the agency’s deep roots in news. The AJC’s senior managing editor, Bert Roughton, was on the panel, along with:

  • Melissa Long of 11 Alive TV News
  • Steve Fennessy, editor of Atlanta magazine
  • Richard Fausset, Atlanta correspondent for The New York Times
  • Anita Sharpe, Atlanta bureau chief at Bloomberg

Topics included top stories of the year, the upcoming elections, commercial real estate and more. Other highlights tweeted live from the audience included:

@SavannahBDuncan The @AtlantaBeltLine is an important project but security is a concern says @MelissaLong

@HadleyHCreek The Atlanta beltline has been huge in attracting companies and people back to the city core – @BloombergNews Anita Sharpe

@lianamoran “Younger people want a walking city” – @BloombergNews on the @AtlantaBeltLine

@CarolineWilbert “What is the big thought? That is always the question from New York Times.” — NYT bureau chief

@adahatzios Panel agrees that commercial real estate is back…more cranes in town, urban centers growing in places like Roswell & Woodstock

@conorsen  Atlanta, with no natural boundaries, is defined by [transportation infrastructure and] commercial real estate.

@JBryantFisher Will the new Buckhead work? #ATL‘s top newsies debate the new feel of a city grappling with transportation cramps. #coveringatlanta

@MaryJaneCredeur Surprised by how many young business professionals say they plan to vote for @carter4governor. -Anita Sharpe, Bloomberg.

@AR__PR  .@MelissaLong says you can get just as much traction from an online story as one on the air. #coveringatlanta

And here’s The Wilbert Group’s nice SlideShare about the event. Good stuff for anyone interested in news and its coverage in our city.


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What’s Her Story: From Covering Atlanta’s Mean Streets to Hollywood’s ‘Different Kind of Scary’

RELATED: Read how other former newspaper folks are reinventing themselves.

Maria Elena Fernandez, writer, writerchica, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta, Hollywood, reporter, Venice Beach, Latina

Maria Elena Fernandez

Maria Elena Fernandez and I became fast friends at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the mid-‘90s when we were both Metro reporters. She was on the police beat and I had the courts. She’d cover a murder and its investigation, and then I’d get the trial. It was a fun tag-team.

Fast-forward through the next decade or so, and Maria ended up in Los Angeles, spending a dozen years covering TV for The LA Times. That switch from the streets to the studios was followed by another, from print to digital. Maria joined The Daily Beast and then NBCNews.com. She lives in Venice with her fabulous husband and their two dogs. The last time I visited, she was prepping for the next day’s Emmy Awards. A far cry from, say, interviewing suspects, victims and cops here in Atlanta.

We covered crime together in Atlanta and then you took on showbiz in Hollywood. Which is scarier?

Good question! There’s probably nothing more nerve-wracking and challenging than knocking on the door of someone who just experienced a personal tragedy. You talk to parents whose missing child has been found dead, and anything can happen in terms of how they respond to you.  It takes a special kind of strength and heart.

That said, Hollywood is a scary beast of a different kind, without public records or the public right-to-know on your side. All you have is your ability to connect and establish relationships. When you’re covering crime and you catch a cop doing something wrong, you might get a call from someone accusing you of being biased or not getting the whole story. But in Hollywood, you get angry, berating calls from people saying things like, “How could you? I thought you were a friend.”

It’s a very different perception of what a journalistic relationship is and entails. It’s a different kind of scary, in other words.

Which do you like better?

Maria Elena Fernandez, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Croft, Los Angeles times, MSNBC, Daily Beast, crime, Atlanta, Hollywood, show business, journalism, newspapers, reporters, online

Con mi amiga, Maria Elena Fernandez, on Venice Beach a couple of years ago.

I like them both because they bring out different sides of my personality. I love news, I love to cover things that matter, and when I was covering crime, I very rarely felt I was writing something trivial. I enjoy covering  entertainment the most when I’m writing about something in the zeitgeist. People take their pop culture interests seriously and it’s always really fun when you have the inside scoop on people’s favorite movies, TV shows, actors.

I never get tired of talking to the writers and producers behind shows and movies. They are the real geniuses to me. I love the way their minds work. But the way Hollywood operates can be really draining. On those days I miss running around communities and talking to people who don’t necessarily want to be famous.

Now, put it all together, like when life handed me the “Desperate Housewives” trial (when Nicollette Sheridan sued over losing her role) and I am in heaven. Big show, big stars, big drama unfolding in a courtroom. It was a rare, open, behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood. I always tell people who love stories: Hang out in a courtroom.

That’s for sure! People always ask me if I miss the old newspaper days. I don’t. Do you?

I miss the time I used to be able to spend reporting a story. It literally feels like a luxury to think back now to the days when a crime happened late at night, and I’d spend the next 12 hours figuring it out before I wrote a word. In today’s Digital Age, that’s a lifetime. Now you confirm something’s happened and a few sentences are up on a site in a flash.

Cuban-mapWhere did you get your passion for telling stories?

My grandmother was my best friend when I was a kid. We went on long walks every afternoon and she’d tell me all kinds of stories about her life in Cuba. When I couldn’t sleep at night, she’d tell me more. She never even finished elementary school, but she was gifted. She made me love words, the way they sound together. She was hilarious. Her favorite words were all curse words! My father, too, played a big part. He taught himself English reading the newspaper and made me fall in love with newspapers at an early age. He always used to tell me if you want to write, you must read. He was so right.

As a reader, do you like print or digital?

I still love to hold a book in my hands, but I can’t remember when the last time I actually touched a newspaper. And I can’t live without with my iPad.

Joe Manganiello, Maria Elena Fernandez, True Blood, Emmy Awards, Emmys, LA Times, reporter, MSNBC

With Joe Manganiello at the Emmys

A little Hollywood dish, please? Who are the most gorgeous stars you’ve met? I was so jealous when you met Alcide from “True Blood.”  The smartest? Funniest? A behind-the-scenes moment, something like that?

There have been some grand moments, like riding horses with William Shatner. As a big fan of “24,” meeting Kiefer Sutherland and watching him go from aggro Jack Bauer to soft-spoken and grateful off-camera is a pretty cool way to spend a workday. Also:  spending the day at James Spader’s favorite sculpture garden or getting make-up tips from the stunning RuPaul. Come on! When a short interview over coffee turns into a three-hour lunch just because you’re having a blast with a very funny person like Sofia Vergara, the job is a joy. Antonio Banderas re-enacted a scene from “Puss in Boots” for me during an interview, and my heart was won!  Lunch with the entire cast of “Big Bang Theory” was also really memorable. It was early in the run of the show–before it was the big hit it was today. It’s great when you meet people under those circumstances and later see that success doesn’t change who they are essentially. That is rare. Chris Colfer, America Ferrera are people I’d count in that short list, too. And, of course, the almighty Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. And I would be crazy not to include one of the best days ever: a one-hour interview with Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray about a year before Hagman died. That one was for the ages.

We have so much film and TV production here in Atlanta. Any chance you’ll come back and cover something going on here?

Oh yeah! I would love to. Atlanta is home to the biggest show on TV. I need to get over there and interview some zombies!

Follow Maria Elena Fernandez on Twitter @writerchica and me at @JayCroft


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