Dunwoody resident Greg Bluestein wears many hats: Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter, host of the Politically Georgia podcast, and moderator of political forums, to name just a few.
One of his most important roles is that of a dad. Immediately after moderating a recent Atlanta mayoral forum, he was helping his daughters Brooke, 7, and Nicole, 10, with homework.
“Brooke, am I good at subtraction?” Bluestein asked his daughter.
“No!” came the quick and definitive answer.
But Bluestein is good at writing about Georgia politics – a job he has had for nearly 10 years at the AJC. He’s also written for the Savannah Morning News, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.
He traces his interest in journalism back to the fourth grade when I.J. Rosenberg, former AJC sports reporter and broadcast personality, visited his class at Hebrew Academy in Sandy Springs.
“I told my mom, ‘I want to be a reporter.’ She said, ‘Cool. You have to learn how to type,’” Bluestein said. He said that concerned him enough that he went down the medicine path for a bit.
His interest in journalism returned when he was a junior at North Springs High School after he met a classmate’s CNN-employed father. Bluestein started writing for the Oracle, the student newspaper.
He went to University of Georgia, double majored in newspaper journalism and political science, and wrote for the UGA student newspaper, The Red & Black. He covered student government and larger stories such as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s 2002 Senate race.
“It’s a perfect preparing ground for real-life journalism, because it is real-life journalism,” he said. “You are writing stories that affect lives.”
Bluestein became editor in chief of The Red & Black in his senior year. He earned an internship with the Associated Press after his 2004 graduation. He then worked for the Fulton County Daily Report before returning to the Associated Press. He started at the AJC in 2012.
“No matter where you work, you’ve got to write to your audience,” he said. “You’ve got to understand who your readers, your listeners, your viewers — whoever they are – and write stories that affect them.”
Bluestein covered the 2016 presidential election from the road.
“I was everywhere around the country covering the presidential race. It was a great race, and I was covering it through a Georgia lens. But part of the reason I was there was because the story was not really in Georgia,” he said. “Georgia was seen as a Republican stronghold.”
It was 2017 when things started to change. Democrat Jon Ossoff gave Republican Karen Handel a run for her money in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which had been reliably Republican since 1979.
Then came the Kemp and Stacey Abrams matchup for governor in 2018.
“I was thinking about writing a book then,” Bluestein said. “But it’s harder to sell a book when what the conventional wisdom says will happen happens.”
Two years later, Georgia became front-page news.
“When Democrats defied that conventional wisdom, when they flipped the state for the first time since 1992 … it is the story probably of a lifetime,” he said.
Bluestein turned that story into a book: “Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power,” which comes out in March 2022.
“It opened up a door to me of how fun and interesting this type of storytelling can be,” he said.
What has not been fun is the fallout from his coverage.
“Any reporter working for a major outlet right now has faced threats and just negativity,” Bluestein said. “Often I don’t want to look at my email.”
Sometimes the venom comes from the candidates themselves. But that’s part of the job.
The media’s role is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable – a phrase attributed to a fictional character created by Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne.
Bluestein’s solution is simple: “Your duty is to be fair and responsive. If you mess up, to fix it and to communicate.”
It’s a duty he takes seriously because of his ties to the community.
“That’s kind of the cool part about being the hometown reporter. You’re not a national reporter just ‘parachuting in’ and leaving. You have a relationship with both sides of the aisle because you’ve known them, you’ve covered them,” he said. “I always tell candidates, ‘Look, I was there before this became a crazy, nationally watched race. I’ll be there during it, and I’ll be there after.’”
He’s also visible as a soccer, softball and basketball coach. He and his wife Sheryl attend all of their daughters’ events.
“We try to play an active role because this is our home,” he said.
He has taken Brooke and Nicole on the campaign trail. They have a presence on YouTube with the politics-focused Bluestein Blogs. And perhaps they will follow in their father’s footsteps as a journalist and author.
Bluestein is proof that you are never too young to know your calling.