Deep community engagement: A chat with Lyndsey Gilpin of Southerly

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Lyndsey Gilpin is the founder and EIC of Southerly, a Durham-based, regional independent media organization reporting on ecology, justice and culture in the South. She’s also a Senior Community Impact Fellow in the John S. Knight program at Stanford University, with a focus on information access in rural Southern communities of color, continuing the work she began in an initial JSK fellowship starting in 2020.

Image of Lyndsey Gilpin
Lyndsey Gilpin

Gilpin has moved back to her hometown — Louisville, Kentucky — with her husband, who’s working a remote job based in Appalachia. It can be a challenge getting on her busy calendar, but she was gracious to share a half-hour on the phone with me this week to talk about what she’s learning through the fellowship and her work with Southerly. Here’s our chat, lightly edited for length and clarity:

Tell me about your initial JSK fellowship and the newsletter project you launched.

I wanted to focus on better ways to reach rural communities of color in the South, around environmental justice issues. And in our cohort there were people from all over the country doing similar work in urban areas and rural areas. Most of them were hyperlocal or state-based. And so we really dug in and collaborated with each other, giving feedback and kind of learning how to design systems that can help us create space for people to tell us what they need, and also learn from them and design projects that are centered on what community members need, and want, and would serve them better than how journalism traditionally serves them. 

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The resilience edition

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Nov. 10 for more on this story and to learn about the proposed Local Journalism Sustainability Act, cybersecurity concerns for journalists, NC Local News Lab Fund grants, updates about journalists and news organizations throughout the state, the latest job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Lots of developments this week in the realms of sustainability, security, recovery and trust. First, on the news about McClatchy and Report for America: 

You’ve probably heard that McClatchy, which owns The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Herald-Sun in Durham, will not participate in the next round of the Report for America program. Feven Merid reported that news last week in Columbia Journalism Review, adding that newsrooms’ application deadline for the 2022-23 cycle has now expired.

RFA places early-career journalists in newsrooms to help fill critical coverage gaps and pays part of their salaries — half in the first year, and less in the second. The newsrooms, with RFA help, raise what they can of the rest of the cost, and sometimes must pay the balance out of their budgets.

There has been a little confusion about what McClatchy’s decision means. The reasons also may be a little more nuanced than RFA President Steven Waldman’s public opposition to hedge fund ownership of news companies. The CJR story, citing unidentified sources, said McClatchy’s decision was in response to Waldman’s criticism of hedge funds. (McClatchy has been owned since last summer by Chatham Asset Management.)

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‘Well, you comin’ to the house, ain’t ya?’ A chat about ‘The Vote Collectors.’

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Nov. 3 for more on this story and to learn about the nonprofit Diversity Pledge Institute, North Carolina health news, updates about journalists and news organizations throughout the state, the latest job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Charlotte journalists Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner
Charlotte journalists Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner

I had the privilege of talking with Charlotte journalists Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner about their new book The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud. It’s the story behind the voting corruption in Bladen County that invalidated the 9th District congressional election of 2018, and political operative McCrae Dowless, who was at the center of it all.

But the book goes much deeper — into the history of how race, voting rights and electioneering have intertwined for well more than a century there, and into the political dysfunction and real threats to democracy in the rural areas and small towns of the South.

Graff is the editor and newsletter author at Axios Charlotte. Ochsner is the chief investigative reporter at WBTV

The hardcover book drops on Nov. 16 (you can pre-order it here), but the e-book is already available (look for the “Buy This Book” box on this page). 

Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

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