The TIL edition

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Oct. 27 for more on this story and to learn about a valuable redistricting resource, what’s new with journalists and news organizations throughout the state, explore the latest job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

I think we all try to be just a little bit smarter, just a little bit better, at the end of each day than we were when it began. And we do that by learning.

Much of that happens in human interaction, but in our case, a lot also comes from the shared work and wisdom of North Carolina’s vibrant news and information community, along with a nationwide network of supporters, advocates, thought leaders and change agents. Some of it is practical — the stuff that helps us live our lives better, make smarter decisions. Some of it is more motivational — the stuff that helps us think and act for the greater good.

It can be a profound exercise to actually take stock of it all. So, today I learned: 

“In many cases, doctors and even practice managers don’t know the prices their offices’ charge” for a medical procedure.

That’s because there are so many variables, and the process isn’t very transparent. And the process is why one man got a bill for nearly $10,000 after getting a $1,500 quote for a colonoscopy. Michelle Crouch, for The Charlotte Ledger, offers one of the best overviews I’ve seen of how medical pricing works, and some great tips for navigating it.

Smartphones, smart home devices, trackers, shared logins and social media are quickly growing as tools for digital abuse of intimate partners.

There are some frightening stories of such abuse in the latest episode of Anita Rao’s Embodied podcast on WUNC — but also some helpful advice. And you’ll learn a lot about keeping yourself safe and secure, no matter who you are.

In North Carolina, when local officials need an assessment of their jail needs, they ask architects — who may stand to profit from the ultimate decision. And the recommendation, nearly always, is to build.

There are many other revelations in a four-part series on North Carolina jails, why they’re built, and how they’re used, by Jordan Wilkie and a solid cast at Carolina Public Press. One interesting bit is that urban reforms in how and why people are jailed mean that rural facilities now jail more people than urban ones do. Another is that the practice of filling empty jail beds by housing inmates from elsewhere, for payment, is not always profitable. You can read the first three parts now; the fourth, on some reforms being tested, will drop on Thursday.

(As part of its “10 for NC” series, CPP will host a free virtual discussion of the issues in the series on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at noon ET. Register here.) 

Seventeen percent of Black women are involved in running or planning a new business; 10 percent of white women are. But only 3 percent of Black women are running “mature businesses.”

Those data come from journalist and media entrepreneur Farai Chideya in an essay for CJR, and they point to systemic issues — including the reluctance of advertisers and funders to support Black businesses.

Most BIPOC creators have to fund their own ventures, Chideya tells us, but few have the means. The consequences? “Underserving people of color not only leaves money on the table but lives on the line,” Chideya says while making the case, in the wake of the Ozy meltdown, for investment in diverse media.

Meanwhile, from the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, here’s an overview of the status of news media that are led by, and are in service of, people of color. 

An idea: We should consider fostering a “lateral entry” pathway into journalism for subject matter experts and experienced and talented professionals in other fields — like the pathway for teachers. 

Such an initiative would be one way to address the woeful shortcomings of diversity in newsrooms, Joshua Benton writes for Nieman Lab. Journalism degrees can be very expensive, and not feasible for many who want to switch careers — but institutions of higher learning could create a “low-cost credential that can open up possibilities for a lot of the people for whom traditional paths don’t work.”

Benton holds up Harvard’s online business school credential as one model.

(Cole Goins at Journalism + Design reports that a less intensive pilot model, based in community colleges and meant to teach core journalism skills, is under way. Some North Carolina community colleges offer journalism-related programs, mostly used by students who wish to earn an associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year school for a bachelor’s degree.)

Election coverage is evolving faster than ever.

OK, that’s not exactly a revelation. But as coverage plans are drawn for 2022, there’s a lot to ponder from the experiences, mistakes and lessons learned by reporters and editors who covered last year’s voting. I got some good insights from these two pieces:

Some other work that told me things I didn’t know…

◼️ It’s not just the uninsured — it’s the employed and under-insured and financially stressed who are keeping free health clinics busy in WNC (Jessica Wakeman, Mountain Xpress).

◼️ There’s a lot of information in this report on the six months since Andrew Brown Jr. was killed by officers in Elizabeth City, including developments in the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and the fact that continuing efforts have failed to secure the release of the full body camera video. The story is reported by Laura Pellicer and Jason deBruyn for North Carolina Public Radio.

◼️ As if moving 140,000 collection items weren’t enough, there’s a lot more for the staff to handle when a library is demolished to make way for a new one (Jodie Valade, WFAE). 

◼️ Content warning: ‘It’s happening again’: A UNC student shares her struggles with mental health on campus. By Maddie Ellis for The Charlotte Observer.