Jim Burress

Host, Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress

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

Jim Burress / WABE

The Federal Aviation Administration is suspending a program that allows some employees to bypass airport security after a safety inspector flew with a gun in his carry-on luggage.

The FAA employee got on a flight Tuesday from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson to New York’s LaGuardia airport, where officials say he was arrested following a security check.

The arrest comes less than a month after investigators uncovered a gun-smuggling scheme involving airline employees on planes flying to New York from Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest airport.


Atlanta Police confirm to WABE they've made an arrest in a March assault investigators labeled a gay-targeted hate crime.

APD spokesman Ralph Woolfolk said in an email the Fugitive Unit arrested 23-year-old Diego Ramirez Thursday and charged him with battery. Ramirez was transported to the Fulton County Jail. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Ramirez is suspected of attacking and throwing a gay man into traffic on Juniper St. in Midtown.

Atlanta traffic
John Bazemore / Associated Press

Be it spruce, noble fir or pine -- if it’s fake, and it’s a Christmas tree, Caroline Tuan is waiting for it at the Port of Savannah.

"Most of our product is imported," says Tuan, COO of California-based Balsam Brands. The company imports artificial Christmas trees through the Port of Savannah.

“What’s getting increasingly difficult for trucking companies is to stay on schedule," she says. That's because traffic congestion is increasing, causing longer and unpredictable travel times between the Port and Balsam's Atlanta warehouse. 

The Georgia Senate is scheduled to hear a proposal Thursday that would allow consumers to bypass a physician's referral when seeking physical therapy.
Ken Lund / flickr.com/kenlund

The “religious freedom bill” proposed for this legislative session is likely to stimulate a lot of debate and controversy.

In fact, if you were to ask Bryan Long what he sees as the biggest issue shaping up under the Gold Dome this session, he doesn’t hesitate. “Absolutely, top-of-the-list is this ‘religious freedom bill,’” he says.

This screen capture, published by the Ga Voice, shows a suspect in a March hate crime. Despite the clear picture, APD has yet to make an arrest.
The GA Voice

Last year, there were 12 offenses classified as gay-targeted hate crimes. According to GA Voice, of those crimes, Atlanta police made just one arrest.

That arrest didn’t come in a higher-profile March case, despite video evidence.

Midtown Blue security footage, obtained by the Ga Voice, shows someone assaulting and pushing a gay man into oncoming traffic on Juniper Street. The victim was able to get back on his feet and back to the sidewalk without harm.

AirTran's Final Flight

Dec 28, 2014
AirTran's final flight was on a Boeing 717. The airline was a launch customer for the plane. Now, it will go to a paint shop in Arizona where crews will repaint it with Delta Air Lines' logo and colors before sending it back to Atlanta.
Jim Burress / WABE

(Note: Story updated to include information from final flight, web extra interviews)

Late Sunday night, AirTran Airways flew 115 117 passengers from Atlanta to Tampa. But the 70-minute trip was anything but a typical AirTran flight.

It was the final one.

More than 800 hopeful travelers were on the flight’s standby list. Most of the folks who made it onboard AirTran Flight 1 were current or former AirTran employees, with a handful of journalists and Southwest executives scattered among the seats.

If you ask MARTA CEO Keith Parker how the transit system is doing, he’ll do a bit of bragging.

“Ridership is up. Revenues are up. Clayton [County] has joined. Crime is trending in the right direction,” he said Thursday at a media briefing, adding the transit system is the strongest it’s been in years.

But with numerous new initiatives on tap for the fiscal year, could lower gas prices pose a threat to ridership?

A pilot walks past a Christmas Tree at Reagan National Airport on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013.
Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

The Christmas holiday travel period is expected to be brisker this year, according to the industry trade group Airlines 4 America. About 45 million passengers are expected to take to the skies. That's up two percent compared to last year.

The good news? Airlines have added seats to accommodate the extra 47,000 passengers a day.

No surprise, Atlanta’s airport will be robust.

During a media briefing Wednesday, John Heimlich of the airline trade group Airlines 4 America said Hartsfield-Jackson will be the busiest, followed by LAX and Chicago-O'Hare.

Christmas Cottage Big John's Christmas Trees
Jim Burress / WABE

The Great Recession proved to be rough for Christmas tree growers and sellers. But those who made it through believe this year could be the best they’ve seen since 2006.

There’s early evidence to back up the that theory. To see it, one only needs to spend a few minutes watching the busy crews at Big John’s Christmas tree lot in Buckhead.

A team led by Gary Algers, Big John’s tree inventory guru, is busy shaving off from the bottom of an already-cut Christmas tree. It’s what Algers calls shaping the tree’s “butt.”

Crystal Monds burns sage around the crowd as they begin to leave. She says it will help cleanse the spiritual energy in the air and promote peace.
Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

Tyson Paul was one of two dozen people arrested during a demonstration in downtown Atlanta the night of Nov. 25. As happened in other U.S. cities, protestors took to the streets to voice their anger at the non-indictment of a Ferguson, Mo. police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

But unlike the others taken into custody, Paul’s arrest was captured on videotape. That’s because the 11Alive photojournalist let his camera roll as police put ties around his wrists and arrested him for disorderly conduct.

This is a diagram of the isolation unit at Emory University Hospital, where Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are being treated for the Ebola virus.
Emory University Hospital

Emory University Hospital Wednesday said it will accept a patient into its Serious Communicable Diseases Unit -- one of just four such outfits in the U.S. -- who "may have been exposed to the Ebola virus."

In a press release, Emory Health Sciences said the person is an American health care worker who had been in West Africa.  The hospital will monitor the unnamed patient "to see if an infection has been acquired."

Emory declined to give a time of the patient's arrival or any further details.

Maria Saporta
Saporta report

Longtime Atlanta business reporter Maria Saporta remembers well the 1992 fallout from the Rodney King police beating verdict. 

She says the recent Ferguson rallies here in Atlanta recently saw, by comparison, were more peaceful.

(To hear the interview between Saporta and WABE's Jim Burress, click the 'listen' icon below.)

A passenger looks at the flight board at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Jim Burress / WABE

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is one of -- if not the busiest -- travel days of the year.

Hartsfield-Jackson International officials predicted more than 7-million passengers will pass through its gates during November, which includes the busy Thanksgiving travel period.  They expect today to bring the most travelers of the week.

That's a lot of people.  So if you're flying this travel season, chances are you’re going to run across fellow travelers who aren’t as, um, considerate as others.

David Goldman / Associated Press

AirTran Airways’ final flight is now about one month away.

The airline - which for nearly two decades has maintained its primary hub here in Atlanta - is being phased out as Dallas-based Southwest Airlines completes its four-year acquisition.

Office parks, like this one in DeKalb County, are one place data storage centers are housed. Chances are you'd never know it, though. Companies prefer to keep their data center locations top-secret.
Jim / WABE News

Big data needs big closets.

Turns out, Atlanta’s among the best when it comes to storing the stuff.

Real estate giant CBRE recently looked at the top 23 markets for data hubs, and found Atlanta is among the most cost-effective.

“You’ve got a combination of lower cost utilities and very competitive rental prices,” says Pat Lynch, CBRE’s manager of data center solutions. “The tax component is the third part.”

David Goldman / Associated Press

It might seem strange for an economist to say a state's high unemployment rate isn’t necessarily bad.

Equally flummoxing? When an economist says falling gas prices aren’t necessarily good.

But both were points Georgia State University economist Rajeev Dhawan made Wednesday during his quarterly economic forecast. 

The security line at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will see more passengers this Thanksgiving holiday season than it did last year, airport officials said Friday.

An estimated 7.5 million fliers will pass through Atlanta's airport between Nov. 21 and Nov. 30.  That's up two percent from the same period in 2013.

Nine out of 10 will land here and hop on another plane to get to their destinations. But that still leaves 750,000 origination and destination, or "O&D," travelers who must undergo security screening at Hartsfield-Jackson.

TGPRN Georgia Center for Nonprofits

The first Georgia Gives Day in 2012 pulled in about $800,000 – a tad short of expectations.  

Last year, giving almost doubled.  

When the clock struck midnight, nearly $2.3 million had rolled in to support Georgia’s nonprofits. That easily shattered last year’s record.

“We are seeing such incredible momentum year-over-year in the growth of this movement," said Betsy Reid, a Georgia Gives Day spokeswoman. “And it is such an outpouring of love and caring.”

Not to mention, cash.

Michael Lappin looks over health policies offered on Georgia's federally-run insurance exchange.  He says the policies are more comprehensive and drastically cheaper than what he now pays.
Jim Burress / WABE

A year ago, Michael Lappin and husband John West were among the first to sign up for coverage through Georgia’s federally-run insurance marketplace. And they’re pretty happy.

“We’ve both been to the doctor. We’ve both used our dental. We’ve both used our prescription coverage," said Lappin. "We’ve had absolutely no issues with it at all."

But Lappin said they’re again shopping on the Healthcare.gov website after premiums for their platinum-level Humana plan went up by about 19%. 

homeless meter Downtown Atlanta
Central Atlanta Progress

When Marti Blackstock started her job in downtown Atlanta as manager at Peachtree Center nine years ago, panhandlers hit her up daily. Some refused to take “no” for an answer. She says the requests became more “aggressive.”

“That’s a very descriptive word for it – aggressive," she says. "It was folks that would chase visitors, tenants, guests.”

Her company was among the first to place the so-called “giving meters” downtown. And she says they’re effective.

Passengers wait for their planes during the big Thanksgiving travel season at LaGuardia Airport in New York last year.
Seth Wenig / Associated Press

  If you’re flying home to grandma’s house this Thanksgiving, expect more company in the skies and more people at the airport.

The nine major U.S. airlines (including Atlanta-based Delta) expect to carry nearly 25-million passengers this holiday period. That’s a percent-and-a-half increase compared to last year, according to industry trade group Airlines for America.

To accommodate the added demand, airlines are adding seats and flights. 

A Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter supporter on election night, Nov. 4, 2014 in Atlanta.
Katie King / for WABE

Sen. Jason Carter’s campaign hoped a surge of Democratic votes from metro Atlanta might be enough to keep him in the game.  As results continued coming in Tuesday night, it became clear that would not happen. 

In fact, Jason Carter never saw a lead.  By 11 p.m., he conceded the race and called to congratulate Republican Gov. Nathan Deal on his reelection.

Deal achieved 53% of the vote compared to Carter's 45%.

“I was going to come out and tell you not to feel bad," Jason Carter told supporters amid their applause. "But you don’t, so that’s exciting.”

David Goldman / AP

With the release of Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, Emory University Hospital has now helped four patients recover from the Ebola virus.  

Vinson left Emory less than two weeks after her arrival. When she was discharged, Emory said the 29-year-old had shown no Ebola virus for at least a week.                                                    

As Vinson left a news conference Tuesday to head back to Texas, she hugged and thanked each of the hospital’s Ebola treatment team.

Dr. Kent Brantly stands with his wife at a press conference at Emory University Hospital Thursday. Brantly says he is going away for a while to reconnect with his family.
Jim Burress / WABE

Three weeks after arriving in Atlanta for treatment for Ebola, American missionaries Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly were been released from Emory University Hospital.

Writebol asked for privacy, and did not speak to media after her discharge on Tuesday.  But Brantly did speak briefly to reporters before his release Thursday.

With his wife by his side and a tear in his eye, a waifish Kent Brantly thanked God for his recovery.  He also praised the Emory team of five doctors and 21 nurses who worked to restore him to good health.

Jim Burress / WABE

What follows is a first-person account of WABE report Jim Burress’ experiences at a Liberian hospital where the country’s first Ebola patients sought treatment:

Emory University Hospital sign
Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

A second Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola while treating a patient from Liberia will leave the hospital today.

Amber Vinson was flown to Atlanta and admitted to Emory University Hospital on Oct. 15, just a day after her diagnosis.

Last week, Vinson’s family issued a statement saying doctors could no longer detect the Ebola virus in her system. 

Emory now confirms Vinson is Ebola-free, and will be discharged today.  The 29-year-old is expected to speak at a news conference this afternoon .   

Jason Parker / WABE

Northeast Atlanta's iconic Krog Street Tunnel is looking a bit less colorful today.

That's after about 100 protesters spent Wednesday night covering with concrete-grey paint the constantly-changing piece of Atlanta's graffiti culture.

“I think artists were upset that their work was being used to promote and sell tickets to this party without any compensation to them,” said local artist Peter Ferarri, who was among those repainting the tunnel Wednesday night. 

Emory University Hospital sign
Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

Earlier this summer, Emory University Hospital was given just three days’ notice to get ready for two U.S. missionaries stricken with Ebola.

Despite the short notice, Emory had a good handle on how to do it. But the Ebola team didn’t see everything coming.

Dr. Bruce Ribner, the head of Emory’s Ebola treatment efforts, shared some of those lessons last week at an Infectious Disease conference in Philadelphia.

As Ribner told it, even the basics raised questions. Like, “Where do you do laboratory testing?”

Krog Tunnel
Evan Jang / WABE

Northeast Atlanta’s Krog Street Tunnel is an ever-changing tapestry of graffiti — as much urban art installment as traffic and pedestrian thoroughfare.

In a few weeks, the iconic tunnel will close for part of the weekend to host for the first time what promoters call a European-like masquerade.

Renyoldstown resident Greg Frayser said the closure is inconvenient, but he’s more concerned with how promoters approached the Oct. 25th masquerade.

“The event was sold as having the full support of the community, and that clearly is not the case,” he said.

Courtesy: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

Starting next week, travelers arriving at Atlanta’s airport from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will face heightened health screenings.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the plan Wednesday afternoon.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Freiden said health officials hope to minimize the potential of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

The screenings will capture about 150 arriving passengers a day, and serve to bolster existing pre-screening efforts at the West African airports.