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."  


5:13 pm
Tue July 21, 2015

Atlanta Homeless Youth Count Just One Part Of GSU Initiative

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 it's often hard to hear youths' stories about how they became homeless.
Credit 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.  

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12:21 pm
Fri July 10, 2015

One Year Later, CDC Reflects On Ebola Response

Part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's early response to Ebola included training health workers on how to protect themselves. Here, Alfredmy Chessor, a health worker from Liberia, is taught how to remove her protective gear without touching her face.
Credit 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. 

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A Closer Look
11:56 am
Wed July 8, 2015

Georgia's New Hotel Tax Creates Confusion, Concern

The Budgetel Inn on Fulton Industrial Boulevard 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 remain confused.
Credit 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.

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1:12 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

Georgia No Longer Ranks No. 1 For Business, CNBC Says

Georgia’s best category in CNBC's annual Top States for Business was infrastructure, which included having the world’s busiest airport, home to its top private employer, Delta Airlines.
Credit 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.”

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10:39 am
Wed June 24, 2015

Atlanta Police Carry Life-Saving Drug, But Not Citywide

Naloxone is safe, quick and effective at reversing heroin overdoses. Although available for injection, Atlanta police use a nasal spray version. APD spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy says minimal officer training is needed.
Credit 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.

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9:26 am
Tue June 23, 2015

Fulton County Vows To Slash Red Tape, Speed Up Bureaucracy

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 by the end of the year.
Credit 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. 

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11:09 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Fulton Commission Orders Audit Over Unspent Millions For HIV Prevention

The CDC has taken back millions of dollars in HIV prevention money the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness failed to spend. Now, the Fulton Commission has ordered a full audit of the department.
Credit 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.

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A Closer Look
12:00 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

Atlanta Conference Focuses On LGBT Inclusion In The Church

Matthew Vines, author of the book “God and the Gay Christian,” talks to WABE’s Jim Burress for Thursday’s “A Closer Look.” Vines is behind a conference at the Sheraton Atlanta geared toward fostering LGBT inclusiveness in the church.
Credit 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.”

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7:06 am
Mon June 8, 2015

Fulton County Doesn't Spend, Loses HIV Prevention Money

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocates millions of dollars to cities to help prevent HIV and encourage testing.
Credit 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.

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12:26 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

Atlanta's Violet Chachki Wins 'RuPaul’s Drag Race'

Violet Chachki, “RuPaul's Drag Race” Season 7 winner, performs at Mary’s bar in East Atlanta.
Credit 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.

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4:24 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

Ga. Official: Atlantans Need To Prepare For Hurricane Season

Tornadoes are just one threat a hurricane could pose to metro Atlanta. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Georgia saw 18 tornadoes, according to GEMA.
Credit 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.

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12:15 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

Cellphone Companies Work To Prepare For Natural Disasters

In a disaster, the same conditions that destroy homes and buildings can take out vital cellular communications. The nation's largest mobile phone service providers say they're already making plans to work around storm damage.
Credit Danny Johnston / AP Photo

Hurricane season officially begins today.

And when disaster hits — be it a hurricane or something else — few things become more critical than our wireless phones. They keep us connected to loved ones, often serve as lifelines and can provide access to essential information.

But even as far inland as Atlanta, sustained, tropical-force winds and rain can cause flooding and knock out cell towers.  

In a situation like that, how confident can we be that our smartphones will connect?

Mike House is almost certain the call will go through. 

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11:40 am
Fri May 29, 2015

Home Depot Hosts Hurricane Prep Workshops Along Ga. Coast

None of the Home Depot's 700 hurricane preparedness workshops are planned for Atlanta-area stores, although locations along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts will participate.
Credit Evan Jang / WABE

Hurricane season begins next week.

To get folks along the Gulf and East coasts ready, the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Atlanta-based Home Depot are holding preparedness workshops at 700 stores this weekend.

But do those workshops … work?

Tim Downey of the American Red Cross thinks so. He says the workshops reach a lot of people who may not know how to prepare.

Apparently, that's most of us. 

Recently, Downey gave a preparedness quiz at one of Atlanta’s biggest companies.

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A Closer Look
3:35 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Costa Rican President Looks To Strengthen Ties With Atlanta

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis sits down with Jim Burress to talk about the relationship between Atlanta and the Central American country. Pres. Solis says strengthening partnerships with high-tech centers, like those found in Atlanta, is key to the country's future success.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

The president of Costa Rica is in the U.S. this week visiting several key “tech hub” cities.

That includes Atlanta.

President Luis Guillermo Solis said building on existing relationships between the Central American country and cities like Atlanta is key to his country’s success.

"That's why I'm here, seeking more investments," Solis said. "When the U.S. economy grows, the Costa Rican economy thrives. That's the overall lesson we've learned." 

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Eagle Raid
4:48 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Atlanta Held In Contempt Over Eagle Raid Settlement

After a botched 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a Midtown gay bar, the city was forced to change how it trained officers. A federal judge on Tuesday found the Atlanta Police Department was not complying with its order.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

For the city of Atlanta, the clock starts now.

A federal court found the city of Atlanta in contempt on Tuesday and ordered it to retrain all 2,000 of the city's police officers within 90 days.

The case goes back to the botched 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a Midtown gay bar.

Part of a settlement in the case included an agreement that the Atlanta Police Department would change certain policies and training.

But years later, the court found those changes weren't happening.

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Smoking Lounges
5:18 pm
Mon May 18, 2015

Surgeon General Calls Out Atlanta Airport’s Smoking Lounges

The U.S. Surgeon General is not a supporter of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport's smoking lounges.
Credit Twitter


(Note: Story/audio updated to include comments from U.S. Surgeon General and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta spokesman.)

The U.S. Surgeon General has called on the city of Atlanta to make Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport completely smoke-free.

Currently, smoking is allowed in designated smoking lounges in each of the airport's terminals. 

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A Closer Look
2:27 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

High Deductibles, Co-Pays Mean Many Insured Skip The Doctor

Renee Mitchell, 63, is thankful to have health insurance, but the silver-level plan she purchased through Georgia's federally-run insurance marketplace carries a high deductible and steep co-pays. In the past, Mitchell has put off medical procedures, but says she can't risk losing her eyesight.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

The main purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to provide affordable health insurance to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.   

But getting a health policy is just the start.

For many, high deductibles and co-pays that come with the most popular plans still leave medical care out of reach.

That's what happened to Renee Mitchell, 63, of Stone Mountain. She previously put off a medical procedure because of cost. But with the threat of losing part of her vision a real possibility, she came to Emory to see a specialist.  

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6:48 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Possible Ebola Cure May Be Found In Native African Plants

At Wednesday's two-hour Ebola press conference and round table discussion, organizers used the opportunity to both tout their findings and appeal for more funding.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE


Some of Atlanta’s top minds believe the cure for Ebola could be hidden in five native African plants.

Among those touting the natural cure at a two-hour press conference and round-table discussion on Wednesday was former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young. He said the idea of a natural Ebola treatment stemmed from a conversation he had with a doctor from Senegal.

Young asked the doctor how Africans dealt with Ebola in previous generations.

“I said ‘Don’t think in your French medicine capacity. Think in the capacity of your grandfather’s medicine,'" Young said. 

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3:25 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Andrew Young Says He's Doing 'Fine' Following Wreck

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young said Wednesday he's doing "fine" following a wreck on Monday. Young made the comments following an unrelated press conference.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

Former U.N. Ambassador, Atlanta mayor and civil rights icon Andrew Young says he’s doing "just fine."

The statement comes just two days after a cement truck overturned onto the car in which he was a passenger.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, Young was asked what it meant to have such an outpouring of support. 

"It was worrisome. Because if you’re sick, you don’t want to be bothered," Young joked.

He said it seemed like everyone was getting excited at the opportunity to attend his funeral.

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4:19 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

Rushdie Urges Emory Graduates To Be 'Larger Than Life'

Graduates of Emory University look toward the main stage Monday as the private school held its 170th commencement.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE

Author Salman Rushdie on Monday advised Emory University’s new 4,572 graduates to "try not to be small. Try to be larger than life.”

That's just one highlight from his 14-minute commencement speech, which vacillated from the standard to the controversial.

Rushdie, who is an atheist, also called on graduates to look beyond religion. 

”It’s shocking how many Americans swallow that old story," he said.  "Maybe you’ll be the generation that moves past the ancient fictions.”

And the famed 67-year-old author also apologized for the actions of his generation. 

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Atlanta Eagle Raid
5:52 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

Atlanta Police Failed To Follow Reforms After Eagle Raid

On Sept. 10, 2009, Atlanta police stormed the Atlanta Eagle without a warrant. Two years later, the city settled a federal lawsuit related to the raid, promising to change how it trains police officers. On Tuesday, a city official admitted APD hadn't fully implemented several of those requirements.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

For the second time in less than a week, an attorney for the City of Atlanta admitted to a federal judge the Atlanta Police Department hasn’t fully followed the court's order.

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1:26 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

DaVita Settles Atlanta Whistleblower Lawsuit For $495M

The 2011 lawsuit involves claims that DaVita tossed out medicine, but then billed Medicaid and Medicare for the drugs.
Credit Charles W. Jones / WABE

DaVita HealthCare Partners, Inc. ─ a dialysis provider with nearly 2,200 U.S. locations ─ will pay $495 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit.

The 2011 lawsuit involves claims that the Denver-based company tossed out medicine, but then billed Medicaid and Medicare for the drugs.

Dr. Alon Vainer and nurse Daniel Barbir, both DaVita employees in Atlanta, filed the suit. They could share in more than $130 million of the settlement.

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Atlanta Eagle Raid
5:31 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

Judge To Hear Contempt Case On Atlanta Eagle Raid Reforms

Nearly six years after Atlanta police botched a raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a Midtown gay bar, the city finds itself back in court. On Tuesday, Judge Timothy Batten will hear allegations the city is violating his settlement order.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

Lawyers for the City of Atlanta on Tuesday will again find themselves answering to contempt charges before a federal judge.

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7:12 pm
Thu April 30, 2015

Atlanta Admits To Not Following Police Recording Order

After the Atlanta Police Department arrested journalists last November who were covering local demonstrations related to the Ferguson, Missouri, protests, attorneys believed the APD wasn’t following a court order.
Credit Ryan Nabulsi / twinlensatl.com

Attorneys for the city of Atlanta admitted Thursday the Atlanta Police Department didn’t follow a federal court order related to training its officers and asked a judge for mercy.   

The case, Felicia Anderson v. City of Atlanta, dates back to 2012 when Atlanta’s district court ordered the city to make two changes.

First, APD had to revise its standard operating procedures, or SOPs, related to the videotaping of officers. As part of the change, APD also had to train officers to not interfere with someone lawfully recording them or take or destroy the recording.

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Airlines & Aviation
1:42 pm
Thu April 30, 2015

Frontier Adds 6 New Flights From Atlanta, Fares Start At $19

Frontier will now fly non-stop to major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas from Atlanta.
Credit Daniel Betts / flickr.com/Daniel Betts

Frontier Airlines announced Thursday it’s adding six new non-stop flights from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

That makes the Denver-based carrier the third largest airline serving Atlanta.

Frontier will now fly non-stop to major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Also in the mix are New Orleans, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Delta-stronghold Cincinnati. 

But don't look for Frontier to steal much business from Delta. That's not the airline's purpose, says Frontier's Senior VP Daniel Shurz. 

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Airlines & Aviation
4:29 pm
Wed April 29, 2015

Airlines Quickly Adapting To Apple Watch's Technology

Airlines are already embracing the Apple Watch technology.
Credit Yasunobu Ikeda / flickr.com/clockmaker-jp

The Apple Watch has been on the market for less than a week. While many companies are still developing apps for it, airlines are already embracing the technology. 

That includes Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, which five years ago was among the first airline to introduce an iPhone app.

Spokesman Paul Skrbec says customers quickly adopted the technology.

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5:52 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Georgia Peanut Farmers See New Opportunity, Profit In China

Peanuts are China's biggest crop. But peanut growers there can't keep up with the demand. That means Georgia peanut producers could fill the gap, and in the process bring hundreds of millions of dollars back to the state.
Credit Clint Thompson / flickr.com/ugacommunications

What's the main thing the Georgia Peanut Commission's Don Koehler took away from his recent trip to China?

“We’re gonna realize that we have a lot more in common than we have that separates us.”

That includes a love of the 花生. Uh, make that the peanut.

Koehler says a growing demand in China means Georgia could soon grow more peanuts and export a half-million tons there each year.

That’s a big deal.

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Same-Sex Marriage
5:50 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Atlantans Watching Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Arguments

The Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage bans is expected sometime in June.
Credit Wally Gobetz / flickr.com/wallyg

In Washington on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case that likely will settle the same-sex marriage question in all 50 states. Many here in metro Atlanta will be watching and listening. 

Because of the high profile nature of the arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court will release audio of the proceedings faster than usual. But two men challenging Georgia’s same-sex marriage ban won’t be awaiting the 2 p.m. release. 

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6:30 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Justin Chapman Murder Case's Prosecutor Unsure About Retrial

The prosecutor responsible for re-trying Justin Chapman for the 2006 death of Alice Jackson says he’s not sure whether there will be a new trial.

That assertion comes after the Georgia Supreme Court Monday found prosecutors knowingly withheld evidence that could’ve led to Chapman’s acquittal.

Now, it’s up to Jack Browning whether to seek a new trial. As the current district attorney for the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit, he’s new to the case.

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5:04 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Georgia Supreme Court Throws Out Murder, Arson Convictions

The Georgia Supreme Court has thrown out the 2007 murder and arson conviction of Justin Chapman.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

The Georgia Supreme Court has thrown out the 2007 murder and arson conviction of Justin Chapman.

In a unanimous decision announced Monday, the state's top court found state prosecutors withheld evidence that could’ve led to Chapman’s acquittal. That violates a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known as the Brady case.

Chapman is now eligible for a new trial. 

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