Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) politics reporter Stephen Fowler has put extra miles on his Toyota Prius during the last yr than most individuals placed on their automobiles in 5. Fowler’s travels all through the state overlaying Georgia’s wild political panorama have most lately seen him reporting from marketing campaign stops held at eating places, espresso retailers, and small companies forward of one other consequential midterm election.
Radio spots are recorded whereas hopping between assignments. A jacket and tie may be hanging from the hook within the again seat of his automotive, simply in case Fowler has to make a fast look on TV for GPB or different retailers. However discovering time to eat is a giant precedence for Fowler, who says eating places and meals each play pivotal roles in his reporting, and in politics all through the South.
Fowler’s been with GPB for six years, having landed a job as a day radio producer and fill-in host on the Atlanta bureau after graduating from Emory College, the place he was the digital editor for the faculty newspaper. He even had his personal Atlanta brunch column.
“I first met the [“All Things Considered”] anchor on the time, Rickey Bevington, when she got here to MC an occasion at Emory and stayed in contact till I graduated,” says Fowler. “They took an opportunity on me.”
Previous to 2018, Fowler had lined some political races for GPB, most notably the particular election between John Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) for Georgia’s sixth congressional district and the Atlanta mayor’s race between Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) and Mary Norwood (R). Fowler remembers his GPB boss asking him at some point to proceed overlaying politics, as 2018 was shaping as much as be one other important election yr in Georgia.
However a turning level in Fowler’s then fledgling political reporting profession got here on January 3, 2021, when he was one of many first reporters to interrupt the information of that infamous recorded phone call between former President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The Georgia politics beat now retains Fowler greater than busy on most days, with quite a lot of of these spent on the street.
“GPB is the one really statewide outlet in Georgia,” Fowler says. “I attempt to get out and about and really speak to actual individuals and get the true tales.”
These actual tales and other people, together with many politicians, are sometimes sitting throughout the desk from him having a meal, whether or not that’s in Thomasville overlaying the 2nd congressional district race or a protest in Atlanta. Fowler says he spends as a lot time as attainable getting sound bites. Whereas a telephone name or Zoom would possibly yield the identical data, it’s totally different than capturing the precise sights and sounds at an area bar internet hosting an election night time watch celebration or standing with a candidate as they chat with individuals at a barbecue joint or espresso store on the path.
He admits discovering time to eat a good meal is difficult, particularly when working from place to put for a narrative. It’s not at all times attainable to sit down down at a restaurant, as an alternative resorting to grabbing an $8 combo meal at a drive-thru. Nonetheless, Fowler says he tries to make the latter the exception, not the rule, strategically planning his workday across the subsequent meal, the place he would possibly conduct an interview over lunch or end up story analysis on his laptop throughout a late breakfast.
One among his favourite spots in Atlanta to conduct face-to-face conferences within the morning is Home Grown in Reynoldstown. It’s only a 10-minute stroll from Fowler’s home. Within the afternoon or early night, Fowler would possibly meet individuals for a narrative only a block away from House Grown at Muchacho. After work, he enjoys unwinding on the patio at El Tesoro in Edgewood or enjoyable out again with a beer and sizzling canine at Red’s Beer Garden in Benteen Park.
“I do numerous food-based conferences. The place you might need the identical degree of conversations with individuals, there’s additionally cozy hen biscuits concerned and all of this humanizes the interview and dialog,” says Fowler.
Fowler gravitates towards eating places serving Southern consolation meals or a hole-in-the-wall providing barbecue when he’s on the street. It’s usually the place locals dine, too. For a 2021 story, Fowler shadowed then U.S. senate candidate Kelvin King (R) on a multi-city tour by means of southwest Georgia. The day ended with a meal at fried hen restaurant Carter’s in Cuthbert. It was the primary time Fowler tried hen gizzards.
“There’s loads of these mom-and-pop locations that aren’t massive chains all through the state, and they’re the locations that the majority carefully characterize the neighborhood, and that’s why I like to go to them.”
If Fowler is at GPB’s Macon bureau, he frequents Francar’s Buffalo Wings subsequent door. He loves the Mercer Gold flavored wings. He additionally by no means misses an opportunity to hit the Buc-ee’s off of I-75 in Fort Valley. The smoked brisket sandwich is usually his order or one of many breakfast biscuits, if he’s round within the morning.
Fowler says he’s even eaten a Buc-ee’s brisket sandwich at 1 a.m. on the best way again to Atlanta with one other reporter after overlaying a Trump rally on the Perry Fairgrounds. They sat below a Beaver-branded pergola consuming their sandwiches whereas individuals walked into Buc-ee’s carrying pajamas to purchase groceries or a gallon of milk, or for one man, to buy a cattle cranium head. He likens the scene to Waffle House, the place no one bats a watch on the characters who frequent such locations.
Throughout a current reporting gig in Savannah to cowl the U.S. senate debate between Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R), Fowler dined on tempura fried chicken and Belgian waffles at Collins Quarter within the metropolis’s historic Forsyth Park. He tries to cease at favourite childhood spots like Spanky’s in Savannah or the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, and praises the recent seafood he’s had overlaying conventions on Jekyll Island.
When he’s reporting on candidates from the path, many occasions characteristic catering from native eating places, just like the historic Fresh Air Barbecue in Jackson or Shirley’s Sole Food in Toccoa. After interviewing proprietor Shirley Combs for a narrative, Fowler loved a number of the finest fried hen he’s ever had at her eponymous northeast Georgia restaurant. In 2020, Fowler remembers selecting up an order at Atlanta soul meals establishment Busy Bee Cafe with Kamala Harris.
“Loads of campaigning and politics, particularly within the South, facilities round meals. I meet with lots of people, whether or not that’s on the native barbecue place or a espresso store. You possibly can actually get the sense of the surroundings,” says Fowler. “So long as I’m not shoving a giant microphone in somebody’s face mid-bite, sitting all the way down to some meals whereas I conduct an interview, persons are fairly amicable.”
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