The Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and The Bitter Southerner are joining forces to support great storytelling.
In a pairing of one of the region’s most innovative journalism platforms and the state’s flagship journalism and mass communication program, Bitter Southerner editorial staff will enroll in the college’s low-residency MFA program in Narrative Nonfiction, while undergraduate students will team with Bitter Southerner staff on podcast productions and exclusive internships. Stories from MFA students will be shared in online and print editions of The Bitter Southerner.
“We’re excited to partner with The Bitter Southerner, which has been involved with a whole host of our graduates from the beginning,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “This partnership places our students at the forefront of digital publishing, offering them vital experience at a site that is helping to reinvent the business model for narrative and visual journalism.”
The Bitter Southerner is a platform for regional narrative journalism that enjoys a national reputation. The website generates weekly content showcasing long-form, authentic writing and photography that brings the character of the South to life, and the publication introduced its first print magazine in the spring of this year. In 2017, the New York Times called the Bitter Southerner a “kitchen sink New Yorker,” and in 2013, Forbes magazine referred to it as a “’Vice’ of the South.”
Grady alumni Kyle Tibbs Jones (ABJ ’85) and Eric NeSmith (ABJ ’02) are partners in the publication. Jones co-founded the publication in 2013 and currently serves as its media director. NeSmith has served as the publication’s publisher for the last five years.
“This partnership is an exciting moment for us,” NeSmith said. “We have always likened our work on this publication to that of being in a laboratory. We have to constantly experiment in order to land on a successful storytelling formula in an ever-changing media landscape. The journalism school will be a great partner in this process, and we want this partnership to be as much fun for the students as it will be for us.”
According to Davis, the partnership offers many collaborative opportunities. It particularly aligns with the College’s low-residency Narrative Nonfiction program’s individualized learning approach, and its goal of inspiring and supporting each writer’s emerging craft and voice.
Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at Grady College, directs the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program and serves as a senior consulting editor at The Bitter Southerner.
“Both The Bitter Southerner and the MFA program are committed to the power of storytelling and the power of truth-telling,” Prof. Boyd says. “The MFA program equips our students to research and write deeply reported stories, beautifully told. And those are exactly the kinds of stories The Bitter Southerner seeks out and publishes.”
The Bitter Southerner self-describes its mission as having one single aim: to uncover the American South in all its truth and complexity—and in the process to break stereotypes about the region and its people by pushing out important, difficult, uncomfortable, irreverent, witty, addictive, and always enjoyable stories that turn myths about the South inside out.