Expect the unexpected

Journalist transforms web hobby into credible website

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Growing up in small town Alabama, Dan Whisenhunt never imagined his project would become a trusted source for local news.

Whisenhunt dreamed of being an actor. He attempted the field in college but had to withdraw due to unfortunate events.

“I was a musical theater major in college and flunked out,” Whisenhunt said.

His plan B turned out to be a great one.

“Most of the credits from the theater program transferred over to broadcast journalism,” he said. “I transferred to that program so I could finish my degree and in the process discovered that I liked being a journalist.”

After graduating, Whisenhunt landed his first job at The Anniston Star in Anniston, Alabama.

“Anniston was a great place to learn the fundamentals of being a journalist,” Whisenhunt said. “I covered everything, from City Council meetings to business and education.”

Whisenhunt moved to Atlanta five years ago because of his wife’s job opportunity.

His first Atlanta job was a writer at the Sandy Springs Reporter. The smaller company exposed Whisenhunt to new experiences.

Decaturish Creator Dan Whisenhunt creates district polls on election night.
Decaturish Creator Dan Whisenhunt creates district polls on election night.

“I learned a lot about how the business side of the news business functions,” he said. “As a small company, I was closer to the business side of things than I had been at other papers.”

It was while at the Sandy Springs Reporter when Whisenhunt created Decaturish.

Decaturish was originally a publicity website.

“I created Decaturish to showcase a diversity of writing styles and clips so I could be considered at other kinds of publications.”

After a while, the site started to interfere with his daytime job.

“I was spending so much time on it that I worried it would conflict with my work at the Sandy Springs Reporter. I decided I liked doing Decaturish more and so I stuck with that.”

In 2014 Decaturish was relaunched as a full time business.

Now, the site has seven employees.

Atlanta native Nicki Salcedo is one of them.

“I always wanted to have Lewis Grizzard’s job,” Salcedo said. ” He wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper when I was growing up. I never wanted to be a journalist of news, but of life. Life is funny.”

“Decatur is a funny town. It has an interesting history in Atlanta’s story, and it has changed several different times over the years. Writing for Decaturish as a columnist means I get to ponder how living here impacts me and my life. Also how my perspective is partially framed by living here and looking to the broader world.”

Salcedo writes a weekly column about her life experiences.

“My column on Decaturish is called Intersections,” Salcedo said. “I want people to gain a different perspective. Many of my readers aren’t like me in any way. We spend our lives separating ourselves from other people because of exterior labels. Race, gender, religion. These things are important, but we really are all the same. That’s what I hope my column shows.”

The column became so popular that Salcedo got a book deal.

The book of the same name features essays about living in Decatur, life in the south, and understanding different perspectives.

The book has Decaturish creator Dan Whisenhunt as its editor.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to write for Decaturish and work with Dan Whisenhunt,” Salcedo said. “As an editor he really challenges me. Sometimes I want to write about happy things and take the easy way out. He pushes me to write outside of my comfort zone. Any good editor should do that.”

Salcedo appreciates Whisenhunt’s editing methods.

“I recently wrote a piece for a national magazine,” she said. “They edited what I wrote to the point where it didn’t seem like I’d written it. That’s big. I don’t mind revision. I’ve gotten feedback from Dan and had to go back to the drawing board with my column. But he doesn’t change my style or tone. Some publications want consistency of content, style, and voice. They pay well, but they suck the life out of your writing. Anything you’ve seen in Decaturish written by me, was really written by me.”

“People think that what I do is easy,” Whisenhunt said. “Running a business is always expensive. There’s a lot to it that people just don’t appreciate or see.”

Whisenhunt has to be flexible to be successful.

“The challenges are constant. I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do,” he said. “I’ve had to try and balance my role as a journalist with my need to handle the administrative challenges of running my company.”

In the future, Whisenhunt would like to “hire a few full time reporters.”

“I’m overwhelmed and can’t do all the things i have on my plate.” he said.

Decaturish has impacted Decatur media forever.

“Our readers are more knowledgeable about their local government than they otherwise would have been. We are covering stories and investigating things other local papers aren’t interested in. I feel good about that.”

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