Jim Burress

Senior Reporter

Jim Burress is a proud native of Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Wabash College in Indiana, and a master’s in Mass Communication from Murray State University.  That's where Jim started his public radio career (WKMS-FM). 

Jim moved to Atlanta to work on his PhD, but after a year away from reporting, he realized he preferred the newsroom to the classroom.  He came to WABE in the spring of 2008 when there were just six people in the entire newsroom. 

As a licensed pilot, Jim is fascinated by airplanes and aviation, which is why you’ll often hear him report on the commercial aviation industry.   As a Kaiser Health News/NPR fellow, Jim also covers healthcare and healthcare policy for WABE. 

In 2014, Jim wrote and produced WABE's first news documentary in more than a decade, "Stuck in the Bluff." He also traveled to Liberia to document the West African country's efforts to rebuild post civil-war, and happened to be at the same hospital, the same week, where the massive Ebola outbreak started.  

Jim is a frequent contributor to the national show Marketplace, and his reports regularly air nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, and All Things Considered.

Jim has won numerous professional awards, including 1st place honors from both the Kentucky and Georgia Associated Press and several regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.  In 2010, the Atlanta Press Club awarded Jim its radio “Award of Excellence” for his reporting on unlawful practices within the Atlanta Police Department, and again in 2012 for a joint project looking at special needs students attending Clayton County schools. 

But his biggest prize came in 2001 when he won it all on the game show, "The Price is Right."  

Ways To Connect

Ric Feld / Associated Press

The battle over gate space at Dallas Love Field continues in a Texas federal court, as Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines duke it out. 



TomorrowWorld organizers said in a statement that they understand festivalgoers' frustrations and disappointments following a weekend that many attendees called "chaotic."  

Brandon Brookshire sits with Kelly Gissendaner's two other children Tuesday at a last-minute hearing of Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles. Brookshire testified why his mother deserved clemency, according to those close to the case.
Jim Burress / WABE

The Georgia Pardons and Paroles Board Tuesday afternoon denied Kelly Gissendaner’s last-minute plea for clemency, despite an appeal from Pope Francis to spare her life. 

Gissendaner was convicted of orchestrating the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in 1997.  But unlike most death penalty cases, Kelly Gissendaner did not actually commit the murder, nor was she present when a co-defendant carried it out.  

By Atlanta standards, this stretch of the Downtown Connector is moving along rather well. During rush hours, the merged Interstates 75/85 often resemble a parking lot.
Jim Burress / WABE

Earlier this month, WABE sent our reporters out to find out one thing: "What defines Atlanta, exactly? Do we have a unique identity?" This is the latest installment in the project series. 

Atlanta: Where you go to get somewhere, but can't get anywhere

Fulton County

The embattled head of Fulton County's Health Department will step down on Wednesday, WABE confirms.

Recently, Dr. Patrice Harris said she'd stay on the job as medical director of the facility through the end of the year.

A collage of well-known fast-food chicken restaurants
Chris Potter, Mike Mozart, Mike, Mike Mozart / flickr.com/86530412@N02, flickr.com/jeepersmedia, flickr.com/shmajent, flickr.com/jeepersmedia

Fast-food chain Bojangle's has its eye on Atlanta with plans to open several more locations in the area this year.

That brings its total number of Atlanta locations to at least 45, or about one-third the number of local Chick-fil-A restaurants here. Add in Popeye’s with 10, Church’s Chicken with 32, and KFC with nearly 60, and it’s clear Atlanta has a lot of chicken choices.

"In order to make it, you've got to make it in Atlanta,” says restaurant analyst John Gordon of Pacific Management Consulting Group.

But is the market saturated?

The Budgetel Inn on Fulton Industrial Blvd. in Southwest Atlanta is home to many who are one step away from living on the streets. Georgia's new $5 a night hotel tax has an exemption for stays longer than 30 days, but both hotel operators and guests remai
Jim Burress / WABE

A $5 nightly hotel tax to fund state transportation projects quietly surfaced in the final hours of this year's legislative session.

It took effect July 1 and instantly caused confusion. 

The Georgia Department of Revenue issued an emergency order in June to help hotel operators. On the consumer side, the department also set up a toll-free number to handle questions.

Atlanta's traffic is legendary. But a new report finds delays are more predictable compared to other large cities. For example, most commuters know the Downtown Connector will be slow-going much of the day.

Atlanta's traffic gridlock is returning to pre-recession levels, according to Texas A&M's annual Urban Mobility Scorecard.

Gridlock caused the average Atlanta driver 52 frustrating hours last year, the study finds. Factor in wasted fuel and productivity, and Atlanta's so-called "congestion tax" came to more than $1,100.  

Pilgrim Travelers Baptist Church sits directly on the Westside Trail at MLK.
Christopher T. Martin

It doesn't matter whether the focus is Allah, Yahweh or Jesus ─ the BeltLine Partnership's new "Faith-Based Collaborative" wants a buy-in from all religious organizations. 

"There are few better ways to reach the community than through faith-based institutions," said Chuck Meadows, executive director of the BeltLine Partnership.

A travel advocate accuses Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines of shaming certain customers into buying a higher fare ticket. Delta says it's providing transparency as a way to better inform customers.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

Delta's lowest published fare, Basic Economy, comes with a lot of restrictions -- no changes, upgrades or assigned seats, to name a few. And you'll be last on the plane.

For customers who choose that fare online -- what some call the "Economy Minus" rate -- Delta shows a screen letting travelers know exactly what they're not getting.

The CDC has taken back millions of dollars in HIV prevention money the Fulton County Health Department failed to spend. Now, the Fulton Commission has ordered a full audit of the department.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Nearly $9 million in three years. 

That's about how much Fulton County failed to spend in federal HIV prevention funds in the past three years.

WABE broke the story in June and has since discovered Dr. Patrice Harris, director of the Fulton County Health Department, blocked at least one Centers for Disease Control and Prevention effort to intervene on its behalf.

Getting To This Point

Noble Investment Group hopes to build two new hotels to Midtown at what's now a parking lot along 14th Street.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports Marriott's AC and Moxy brands will share a single building. 

Co-branding hotels under one roof is a somewhat new trend in the hotel industry, said Georgia State University School of Hospitality director Debby Cannon. 

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May called a Wednesday press conference to "set the record straight" on the county's handling of tax dollars to entice a professional soccer club. He also, for the first time, publicly addressed a scathing, preliminary report that l
Jim Burress / WABE

The head of DeKalb County government Wednesday called a press conference to take issue with a scathing report that found widespread, “top-down” government corruption. It's the first time interim CEO Lee May has spoken in public about the independent report's preliminary findings.

May told reporters it upset him last week to read special investigators Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde’s report, which classified DeKalb as “rotten to the core."

Dr. Gregory Felzien of the Georgia Department of Public Health says treating people with Hepatitis-C early makes eradicating the virus a possibility. Tuesday, he told a panel of state lawmakers getting there won't be cheap.
Jim Burress / WABE

When is a $60,000 tab for one person’s medication considered a bargain for Georgia taxpayers?

When it goes to pay for a hepatitis C cure, state health officials told a group of Georgia lawmakers Tuesday.

Hepatitis C used to be considered a death sentence. Now, new drug treatments can cure nearly 100 percent of those infected. But they're expensive — up to $90,000 at a retail pharmacy, or a discounted rate of just $60,000 for health plans.

Officer Antonio Gonzalez, seen here speaking to a local Spanish-language television network, formerly served as APD's Hispanic liaison. While the department employs a good number of Spanish speaking officers, it still needs to hire many more to reflect At
Atlanta Police Department

Hispanics make up about 5 percent of the city’s population, a diversity rate the Atlanta Police Department aims to reflect in its force.

That quest is an ongoing challenge, police officials say. That's largely why the Atlanta Police Department has recently focused part of its recruiting efforts beyond the Atlanta region, targeting cities with a large Hispanic population — like New York City and Miami.

Audience members at Monday night's APS board meeting hold signs challenging board members to publicly oppose Gov. Deal's "Opportunity School District" plan. That proposal, which appears on the Nov. 2016 ballot, would allow the state to take control of cer
Jim Burress / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools' board members got an earful Monday night from parents and others angry over the board's silence on what they say is an essential issue.

They’re opposed to “Opportunity School District,” the name of Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to allow the state to take control of underperforming schools.

One in every three adult Americans has diabetes and 9 percent of the U.S. population overall is battling the disease, according to the CDC.
John Lorinc / WABE


Add up the number of folks living in Nebraska (1,881,503), Alaska (736,732) and Rhode Island (1,055,173), and you'll only get about one-third the number of people the U.S. Census says live in Georgia.

Yet each of those states is getting more than Georgia in the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant earmarked to prevent and fight disease outbreaks.

Shaun Lee, co-founder of Atlanta-based Bohemian Guitars, holds the company's newest product--a ukulele
Jim Burress / WABE

Bohemian Guitars claims an expansive, yet modest industrial loft in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward as its worldwide headquarters. While small compared to most corporate main offices, it's a far cry from Stephen Lee’s basement. That’s where, about four years ago, his sons Shaun and Adam first started turning old oil cans into distinctive-sounding guitars.

"It became a warehouse,” Lee said. “I was only too happy to have them there because it was where they started to grow.”

Emergency entrance at Emory University Hospital
Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

U.S. hospitals have become breeding grounds for dangerous, even deadly, infections, according to Consumer Reports. On Wednesday, the publication issued ratings for most of the nation’s hospitals.

And the results are troubling, according to Doris Peter, director of Consumer Report’s Health Rating Center.

"Across the nation, we found only 6 percent of the hospitals that we rated received our two highest ratings,” she said.

Those conducting Atlanta's homeless youth count wear T-shirts to clearly identify them with Georgia State University. Survey takers must ask intimate questions, which is why they try to build rapport and come across as non-threatening. One volunteer says
Jim Burress / WABE

Teams of Georgia State University students, researchers and volunteers are spending the summer on Atlanta's streets, trying to get a grasp on just how serious youth homelessness is here.

And while the goal is to come up with an accurate number, researchers understand solving the problem will take more than just compiling raw statistics on homeless youth.

That means getting personal.  

Alfredmy Chessor, a health worker from Liberia, is taught how to remove her protective gear without touching her face, a potentially deadly mistake while treating Ebola patients.
Michell Eloy / WABE

On July 9, 2014 — one year ago — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention activated its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

To mark the occasion, the CDC on Thursday released online "The Road to Zero," a multimedia showcase of its Ebola efforts. 

As Dr. Tom Frieden prepared his organization, the CDC director understood one thing about the Ebola outbreak. 

The Budgetel Inn on Fulton Industrial Blvd. in Southwest Atlanta is home to many who are one step away from living on the streets. Georgia's new $5 a night hotel tax has an exemption for stays longer than 30 days, but both hotel operators and guests remai
Jim Burress / WABE

Every time someone spends a night in a Georgia hotel, the state collects $5. The charge, which went into effect July 1, is earmarked to pay for state transportation projects.

But the fee is causing confusion, especially for those living in extended stay hotels.

That includes 58-year-old Marshall Rancifer, who fears the tax will fuel a wave of homelessness across Georgia.

Rancifer ended up at the Budgetel Inn off Fulton Industrial Boulevard in January after the house he was renting fell into foreclosure.

A Delta Airlines jet departs Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta.
John Bazemore / AP Photo, File

After a year at the top, Georgia can no longer claim to be the best state in the U.S. for business. 

On Wednesday, CNBC bestowed the honor on Minnesota in its annual "Top States for Business" rankings. The state moved up from its previous sixth-place showing.  

In crowning Georgia No.1 in 2014, CNBC praised the state for being home to “the nation’s best workforce and the top infrastructure.”

Alicia Gibbons holds an empty bottle of naloxone, sold in the U.S. under the brand name Narcan, that she used to save the life of her daughter Ashley at their home in Mays Landing, N.J.
Mel Evans / AP Photo

Last month, an Atlanta police officer found a man slumped over in his car, unresponsive, with a syringe near-by.

The officer broke into the car, sprayed a dose of the drug naloxone (brand name: Narcan) into the man's nose, and within seconds, reversed a heroin overdose and potentially saved his life.

It happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in northwest Atlanta, which falls into the Atlanta Police Department's Zone 1.

Dick Anderson stepped on as Fulton County Manager in March. He says he's never worked for a government with more red tape than Fulton County. Anderson is spearheading efforts to "review and revamp" county procedures, a process he says should be finished b
Fulton County Government

The person in charge of Fulton County's day-to-day operations says the county government's policies and procedures are outdated and cumbersome. 

County Manager Dick Anderson is now leading a complete overhaul, which will be guided by an outside consultant. Anderson expects the changes to be complete by the end of the year.  

Anderson says the change is necessary because some of Fulton's bureaucratic processes have been mounting for about a century. He says many policies either conflict with or overlap other county protocols. 

One in every three adult Americans has diabetes and 9 percent of the U.S. population overall is battling the disease, according to the CDC.
John Lorinc / WABE


The Fulton County Commission ordered a full audit of the county health department Wednesday.

The move comes after a WABE investigation found millions of dollars set aside for HIV prevention went unspent.

Author Matthew Vines
Jason Parker / WABE

By the end of the month, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the legality of same-sex marriage in the United States.

And many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians ─ and their supporters ─ are concerned whether the church will accept them.

This week, about 300 Christians will convene at the Sheraton Atlanta for what organizers call a “Bible-based training to advance LGBT inclusion in the church.”

The CDC has taken back millions of dollars in HIV prevention money the Fulton County Health Department failed to spend. Now, the Fulton Commission has ordered a full audit of the department.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Even as Atlanta struggles with one of the nation’s highest HIV infection rates, the agency tasked with curtailing the epidemic here is failing to spend millions of dollars set aside for HIV prevention.

In some years, the Fulton County Health Department has given back to the federal government as much — or more — than it spent.

Change in national HIV policy

The HIV/AIDS rates in certain areas of the U.S. are so bad, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  in 2012 decided to change the way it tackled the epidemic.

Violet Chachki performing at Mary’s bar in East Atlanta.
Jim Burress / WABE

Some call "RuPaul’s Drag Race" on Logo TV the “Olympics of Drag.” On Monday night, an Atlanta drag queen took home gold. 

From the start of Drag Race’s seventh season, Violet Chachki, 22, stunned both the audience and show judges with her talent, poise and look — described as both classic and modern. 

RuPaul — the show’s creator and a former Atlanta drag queen herself — asked Chachki where she finds such confidence.

A tornado forms over a house near Pilger, Neb., Monday, June 16, 2014.
Mark 'Storm' Farnik / Associated Press

A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina struck nearly 500 miles from Atlanta. Even that far away, the storm still caused 18 tornadoes across the state.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lisa Janak says tornados are only one danger a hurricane poses to the metro area. 

“It can bring high winds that can knock down trees and power lines. It can have a tropical storm that can hover over an area, drop a lot of rain [and] cause severe flooding,” she says. 

That's why Janak says even metro Atlanta residents should have a disaster readiness plan.