roles and responsibilities of media organizations in covering news
and serving their communities were discussed by a trio of North
Carolina publishing legends in a Pulitzer panel Sept. 5 in Elon
University's McCrary Theatre. Details...
left, Rolfe Neill, formerly of the Charlotte Observer; Horace Carter
of the Tabor City, N.C., Tribune; and Frank Daniels Jr., formerly
of the Raleigh News & Observer, were led in their discussion
by University of North Carolina president emeritus Dr. William Friday.
The program, enjoyed by a capacity crowd of 650 faculty, students
and community members, was taped for a November broadcast on UNC-TV.
The opening was a four-minute informational video tribute to the
panelists, produced by Communications faculty members Brad Hamm,
Don Grady and Ray Johnson.
is defined by the person who is doing it," said Neill, who served
as publisher of The Charlotte Observer from 1975-1988. The newspaper
received a Pulitzer in 1988 for uncovering the misuse of funds by
the PTL television ministry, which led to the downfall of TV evangelists
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. "One of the oldest suggestions in
journalism is to 'follow the dollar,'" he said. "It really
is the red thread that leads you to the truth ... (they were misappropriating)
the people's dollars - dollars they had faithfully mailed to PTL."
Neill said newspapers have a duty to spotlight areas of injustice,
waste and misconduct if they are to fulfill their obligation of
public service, even in the face of possible lawsuits and community
backlash. "You always are going to incur a certain price,"
he said. "sometimes at the cash register, sometimes in friendships
... If you do your work well and don't fire until you have your
facts, you won't have much problem with lawsuits."
his life in his news crusade, but he said the gains his community
made from his reporting about the Ku Klux Klan's activities in Columbus
County in the 1950s were worth the personal threats and alienation
he suffered because of his coverage. In 1953, the Tribune was the
first weekly paper in the country to win the Pulitzer Prize for
Public Service for its hard-hitting front-page editorials about
"It's amazing how little support we had from the community,"
Carter said. "Merchants were afraid they'd lose business (if
they advertised with the Tribune), and the Grand Dragon came to
see me twice and said they were going to put me out of business."
But this small-town editor remained adamant that maintaining pressure
on the Klan was the right thing to do. "I said at the time, 'This
we've got to fight, because these are a vigilante people, and we
can't have vigilantes running the country.'"
on the state legislature led to the News & Observer's Pulitzer Prize-winning
series on the dangers of hog waste in eastern North Carolina in
1996, said Daniels, who was the N&O publisher from 1971-1996.
Well known for his commitment to civic journalism and the rights
of public access to government meetings and records, Daniels said,
"State government is the story in Raleigh. You have to be there
every day. You have to know all the people. It's basic reporting
you do every day, and it leads to tips. So much gets done that's
out of the light in government. It's up to us to cover it. The state
depends on us to be the first light, the first touch, the first
and a tip picked up by news veteran Pat Stith, Daniels said, led
to the series on hog waste. "The laws were changed in the '80s,"
he said, "which changed the way hog farms were regulated" in
North Carolina. Reporters from the News & Observer found that
the rapid expansion of the hog industry in North Carolina, through
tax breaks and favorable laws, resulted in a growing list of environmental
problems the industry was slow to address.
that newspapers face a series of challenges, including dwindling
subscription numbers. "We are unable, generally, to entice young
people to buy a newspaper," he said, citing the availability of
instant news on the Internet as a primary competitor. He said about
60 percent of the homes in Charlotte receive the Sunday edition
of the Observer, compared with 75 percent as little as 10 years
ago. Still, he said newspapers are indispensible in setting the
political tone for their communities and motivating elected officials
going to see North Carolina - a state that used to be one of the
most homogeneous in the country - becoming a true United Nations,"
he said. "Newspapers have a vital role to play in helping people
The three speakers
The three North
Carolina journalists on the panel each represent a newspaper that
was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Carter's news stories and editorials exposing the Ku Klux Klan
won a share of the 1953 prize. The citation reads "For their
successful campaign against the Ku Klux Klan, waged on their own
doorstep at the risk of economic loss and personal danger, culminating
in the conviction of over one hundred Klansmen and an end to terrorism
in their communities." Carter founded the Tribune in 1946,
and is still writing many of its columns and editorials. "We're
just a little drop in the bucket, a little town with 2,500 people
and 4,000 circulation," he said. Yet he put his life on the
line to illuminate hatred and bring it down. "We all belong
to the church and the Rotary Club," he said. "Our paper
is kind of like a letter from home."
News & Observer, led by Frank Daniels Jr., won the award
in 1996 for the reporting and writing of Pat Stith, Melanie Sill
and Joby Warrick on a series investigating the environmental and
health risks of waste-disposal systems used in North Carolina's
hog industry. He has been chairman of the American Newspaper Publishers
Association Foundation, and president of the North Carolina Press
Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. He
served as chairman of the board of The Associated Press from 1992
until 1997. The News & Observer was owned by his family for
more than 100 years. After the sale of the N&O in 1995, he stayed
on briefly as the new owner, the McClatchy chain, made its transition.
Also at that time, Daniels joined four other men in the purchase
of The Pilot, the newspaper that serves Pinehurst, Southern Pines
and the area of North Carolina's Sand Hills. He has been and is
active on a number of public and/or private boards and is the current
chairman of the Smithsonian Institution National Board.
Observer, led by its publisher Rolfe Neill, won the award
in 1988 for investigating and "revealing the misuse of funds
by the PTL television ministry through persistent coverage conducted
in the face of a massive campaign by PTL to discredit the newspaper."
Under Neill's leadership, the Observer also won the award in 1981
for its series titled "Brown Lung: A Case of Deadly Neglect." Neill
began his journalism career at a weekly paper in Franklin, N.C.
He left a position with the Charlotte Observer in 1961 to work with
suburban papers in Miami. He later became an assistant to the publisher
of the New York Daily News, then became the editor of the Philadelphia
Daily News and served as vice president and director of Philadelphia
Newspapers Inc. before returning to Charlotte and the leadership
of the Observer; he retired from the positions of chairman and publisher
in 1997. He has been and is active on a number of public and/or
private boards, and is a trustee of the John S. and James L. Knight