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WAGA-TV’s ‘The Georgia Gang’ a stable force on TV over three decades

"The Georgia Gang" taped March 4, 2011 featuring (left-right) Dick Williams, Phil Kent, AJC political blogger Jim Galloway and Alexis Scott. CREDIT: rho@ajc.com

"The Georgia Gang" taped March 4, 2011 featuring (left-right) Dick Williams, Phil Kent, AJC political blogger and guest participant Jim Galloway and Alexis Scott. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

It’s probably the least threatening gang in Atlanta, but “The Georgia Gang” has survived for three decades.

Atlanta’s longest-running public affair program, the weekly program features former or current journalists parsing out a vast array of state and local issues.

Seen on Fox 5/WAGA-TV Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m., the show began in 1981 as “Sunday News Conference” on Channel 2 WSB-TV and lasted six years. WATL-TV revived it in 1989, where it was renamed “The Georgia Gang,” later moving to WAGA.

Dick Williams has been with "The Georgia Gang" since the beginning.

Dick Williams has been with "The Georgia Gang" since the beginning.

The lineup has shifted, with only one original member left: Dick Williams,
former Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist and current editor of The Dunwoody Crier. But the simple, low production talk format has not changed.

In the early days, they were nicknamed, “Men in Chairs.” The feistiest period, Williams said, was during the 1980s and 1990s when journalists Tom Houck and Bill Shipp duked it out. “Those two made good TV,” Williams said. He recalls Shipp throwing a clipboard at Houck one time, just missing him. Houck walked off the set at least once in disgust. But they respected each other at the end of the day.

There are now three regulars. Besides the conservative Williams, the show features Phil Kent, a former Augusta Chronicle editor and fellow conservative, and Alexis Scott, publisher of the African-American newspaper the Atlanta Daily World, a self-proclaimed “bleeding heart liberal.”

Kent said all of them are pure “news junkies” at heart and could pontificate on virtually any major local topic of the day.

“I find the discussion is always interesting, always dynamic,” said Ruben Brown, media relations specialist at the American Red Cross Atlanta chapter who has watched the show regularly for the past decade. “It provides a good overall view of how the pundits and politicos feel.”

Atlanta political blogger Grayson Daughters participates in a live blog on Peach Pundit each week making snarky comments while “The Georgia Gang” is on. “This is for people with no life!” she said. But why? “We’re all political junkies. The show features all these ancient journalists who have been around forever! It’s a clash of old and new media. When do we stage a coup and take over the show?”

Williams jots topics down in a notebook during the week, then sends them Thursday night to the other participants so they’re prepared for the Friday morning taping at WAGA studios.

“We draw a lot of businessmen who travel and like to watch the show to catch up on the news,” Williams said. The “Gang” was more pugnacious in its early days, but the goal has always been to “disagree without being disagreeable. We try to engage in an intelligent discussion of issues.”

At the March 4 taping, the group hit upon a dozen issues, from Newt Gingrich’s possible presidential bid to HOPE scholarship cutbacks to illegal immigration, throwing in “winners and losers” in the final minutes. The tone was congenial.

“Not very contentious today!” Williams noted to the group. Kent protested: “Alexis and I mixed it up a bit!”

Later, Williams said Scott is “such a sweet lady and so reasonable, you don’t want to attack her.”

“But Phil does anyway,” she added, with a smile.

Houck, a liberal who left in 2001, said he feels the show is now more right-tilting than it was back when he was there. But he doesn’t feel any desire to return. “I’d probably get into fisticuffs with Phil!” he said, with a laugh.

Former AJC editor Jeff Dickerson, a self-described moderate who does crisis communications public relations work, recently left the show after 23 years. “It was a good ride,” he said. Given one of his clients is the Atlanta Public Schools, which is embroiled in a test cheating scandal frequently discussed on the show, he said “it was getting awkward what I could say or couldn’t say.”

Williams is seeking a moderate/liberal replacement, preferably with a journalistic background. “I’m still desperately searching,” he said.

Alexis Scott has been on "The Georgia Gang" for about a decade.

Alexis Scott has been on "The Georgia Gang" for about a decade.

Phil Kent has been a regular on "The Georgia Gang" since 2004.

Phil Kent has been a regular on "The Georgia Gang" since 2004.

25 comments Add your comment

Fern Hallman

March 11th, 2011
5:51 pm

Love the show. Each week, Phil Kent reminds me that I’m a liberal, and Alexis reminds me that I’m not a bleeding heart liberal. And Dick Williams or his producers should learn that some jackets just don’t work in HD.

Weezer

March 11th, 2011
6:15 pm

The UGA Main Library has many of the episodes available for viewing.

jals3

March 11th, 2011
9:53 pm

Williams is solid. Totally miss Dickerson, but Shipp was the biggest lost. Alexis is awful, she is obviously the token.

Coastal Cavalie

March 11th, 2011
10:24 pm

I now live outside the Atlanta area and can’t watch it. Georgia Gang is about all I miss from living up there. I wish Fox 5 would put it online even after the fact.

Deedle Dee

March 11th, 2011
11:18 pm

The show needs to have Tom “The King” Hughes on more often and should announce in advance when he will appear.

TommyJack

March 12th, 2011
8:58 am

I miss Houck. Made no sense, but was fun in not doing so.

Producer

March 12th, 2011
10:51 am

Love the show! Been watching that one and the McLaughlin Group for years. I also loved the Capitol Gang and Crossfire. Please bring back Jack Germond in some fashion. He was my favorite liberal. RIP Bob Novak.

Sheila Livingston

March 12th, 2011
12:00 pm

Love the show – and watched for Jeff every week. I will miss him – he was able to present a liberal view point without whining or name calling.

SpaceyG

March 12th, 2011
3:30 pm

Yeah, I bought Peach Pundit from Erick. For a dollar.

flacker

March 12th, 2011
4:23 pm

perry laurentio(680 the fan) and phil kent are the same person.

Ted

March 12th, 2011
4:27 pm

No one reads the Dunwoody Crier. While I like the concept of a show where people discuss issues from different perspectives, Dick Williams comments are often mean-spirited and he can’t articulate his points in an intelligent way. His ignorance is astounding. No one should watch this show to, as he describes in this article, “catch up on the news”.

Dan

March 12th, 2011
8:00 pm

Dick Williams was mean spirited when he was cashing paychecks from the AJC during the 80s. I suppose that his fall to publishing a paper that is given away by littering driveways does support his belief that the free market accurately establishes value since nobody has paid anything to read what he has to say for decades

Bryan

March 12th, 2011
11:24 pm

I must admit I DVR this because it’s too early for me on Sunday mornings. I like it I think Dick Williams is great, I do miss Bill Shipp, it would be great to have someone with Cobb County knowledge on a regular basis. The guy sitting in the chair that Jeff had isn’t bad but needs to brush up on his Cobb information. I thought Jeff was just gone on a leave of absence, he’s a trooper the man has gone through some difficult times in his personal life and kept on going a very good role model!

atlfunlvr

March 13th, 2011
12:10 pm

THis show looks like a High School production. They just talk over each other…its like listening to three drunks at a bar.

Rocket

March 13th, 2011
1:59 pm

“.. three Decadesn”???

Spell check anyone?

Watcher

March 13th, 2011
7:01 pm

Where was Dick today? I could only watch the beginning. Did Phil ever say?

Rodney Ho

March 13th, 2011
7:09 pm

Dick’s on vacation.

PTC DAWG

March 13th, 2011
10:27 pm

A bunch of argumentative cronies.

George P Burdell

March 14th, 2011
8:06 am

This show is a sad indication of Atlanta journalism.
I travel a lot and get to see similar shows in other cities.
The other cities have real journalists discussing real issues, and surprise, they actually pay atttention to facts.
The loss of Jeff Dickerson is really bad; he was the only participant that actually knew anything.
The rest are completely predictable and continually on auto-pilot.
Dick Williams – editor? of the Dunwoody Whiner seems to think Dunwoody and Dekalb stories are the most interesting topics to all of Georgia.
Phil Kent is a right wing shill for anti-immigran groups.
Alexis Scott is continually far left, even when it makes no sense whatsover.
What a waste…

Politico

March 14th, 2011
2:38 pm

There are now three certain things in life – death, taxes, and Alexis Scott’s extremely obscure name dropping references in the ‘Winners and Losers’ segment of the Georgia Gang. I love how Dick seems to feign interest in her picks and then quickly moves on.

Name One

March 14th, 2011
5:26 pm

Hey Dick Williams: Can Dickerson’s replacement be under 60 years old, please!

Anderson

March 14th, 2011
5:31 pm

Bill Shipp then Martha Zoeller and now Jeff Dickerson. This show has lost a lot of talent over the last few years. I’ve been watching The Georgia Gang for about 7 years now. The show has become a part of my Sunday morning routine. I like the panelists for the most part though Dick Williams and Alexis Scott can be irritating as both tend to be extreme in their (opposite of each other) political idealogy. Dickerson was informative and insightful though he had an annoying habit of loud talking over people. I hope Williams find a replacement for Dickerson who has energy and willing to mix it up with the other panelists.

Ernest

March 14th, 2011
9:42 pm

Rodney, I believe Dick was out since he was calling the basketball games in the state championship. I know he enjoys doing that every year.

Ernest

March 14th, 2011
9:47 pm

I should also add that I will miss Jeff on the Gang as he was extremely knowledgeable and countered points from Dick and Phil as a ‘voice of reason’. Regretfully because he served as a spokesperson for the Atlanta and DeKalb School Systems, he was called on his objectivity when commenting on them. I’m sure it got to a point where he said, “To heck with it, I don’t need anyone questioning my integrity”.

I like the idea of Jim Galloway sitting in, especially during political season for that insight.

red ryder

March 16th, 2011
10:51 am

alexis scott is the most racist person on tv. no matter what the subject is she alway brings in race. the white man is the cause for all of the worlds’ problems. think she would defend a pedophile if the he was black and the victim was white!!