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."  


12:35 pm
Fri August 28, 2015

Atlanta Is Home To Over 280 Fast-Food Chicken Restaurants

A restaurant analyst estimates there are 280 fast food chicken restaurants in the Atlanta area. If the market is saturated here, no one seems to notice. Bojangle’s, for example, plans to open several new locations this year.
Credit 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?

Read more
11:46 am
Thu August 27, 2015

Some Seeking Legislative Fix To Controversial Hotel Tax

A $5-per-night state hotel tax that went into effect July 1 hit residents of extended-stay hotels especially hard. A reduction, however, could be in the works for the 2016 legislative session.
Credit 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.

Read more
4:38 pm
Wed August 26, 2015

Atlanta Ranks No. 12 For Traffic Congestion, Report Says

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.
Credit WABE

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.  

Read more
3:08 pm
Fri August 21, 2015

BeltLine Partnership Teams With Faith Communities

The Faith-Based Collaborative starts with a focus on the Westside Trail Corridor, which is now under construction. In this photo, Pilgrim Travelers Baptist Church sits directly on the Westside Trail at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Credit 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.

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Airlines & Aviation
10:39 am
Fri August 21, 2015

Delta: Informing, Not Shaming, Those Who Buy Low-Fare Tickets

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has been accused of shaming certain customers into buying a higher-fare ticket. Delta says it's providing transparency as a way to better inform customers.
Credit 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.

Read more
WABE News Exclusive
3:35 pm
Tue August 18, 2015

Findings: Fulton Health Director Blocked CDC’s Offer To Help

According to findings, the head of Fulton County's Health Department refused the CDC's offer to help fix county bureaucracy partly responsible for millions of unspent dollars.
Credit 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

Read more
2:25 pm
Tue August 18, 2015

Atlanta's Newest Hotels Aren't Your Dad's Marriott

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. 

Read more
10:26 am
Thu August 13, 2015

DeKalb's Lee May Defends Soccer Spending, County Employees

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 labeled DeKalb government as “rotten to the core.”
Credit 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."

Read more
1:10 pm
Wed August 12, 2015

Eradicating Hepatitis C In Georgia An Expensive, Essential Goal

Dr. Gregory Felzien of the Georgia Department of Public Health says treating people with hepatitis C early makes eradicating the virus a possibility. On Tuesday, he told a panel of state lawmakers getting there won't be cheap.
Credit 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.

Read more
3:05 pm
Tue August 11, 2015

Atlanta Police Look To Miami For Bilingual Recruits

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

Read more
Atlanta Public Schools
10:53 am
Tue August 11, 2015

Parents Want APS Board To Take Stand, Oppose Governor’s Plan

Audience members at Monday night's Atlanta Public Schools board meeting hold signs challenging board members to publicly oppose Gov. Nathan Deal's ''Opportunity School District'' plan. That proposal, which appears on the November 2016 ballot, would allow the state to take control of certain underperforming schools.
Credit 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.

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Health & Science
10:44 am
Thu August 6, 2015

Atlanta-Based CDC Gives Georgia Small Part Of Big Grant

Each year, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives all 50 states and some territories/cities money to prevent certain disease outbreaks. Of the $110 million doled out this year, Georgia's cut was less than $1.7 million.
Credit 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.

Read more
11:20 am
Wed August 5, 2015

Crowdfunding Concept Developed In Georgia Slow To Catch On

Shaun Lee, co-founder of Atlanta-based Bohemian Guitars, holds the company's newest product. To fund a launch of its ukulele, Bohemian turned to Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding website.
Credit 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.”

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Health & Science
11:33 am
Tue August 4, 2015

Consumer Reports: Infection Rates High At Atlanta Hospitals

Most Atlanta-area hospitals, including Emory University Hospital, rated low at controlling infections in a just-released study by Consumer Reports.
Credit 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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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. 

Read more
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.

Read more
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. 

Read more
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.

Read more
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.”

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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. 

Read more
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. 

Read more