As journalism evolves, J-schools must

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Dec. 1 for more on this story, details about the newest COVID-19 variant, accolades for journalists across the state and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Nation Hahn, Director of Growth for EdNC.org

Hello, everyone.

NationHahnNation Hahn here. For those I haven’t met, I am the director of growth for EdNC.org — a nonprofit newsroom focused on the entire educational continuum from birth to career. I participated in EdNC from the beginning as a consultant, joining the organization full-time in 2015. I also serve the journalism industry as a coach in the American Press Institute’s Mid-Major Table Stakes program, among other roles. In the past, I co-founded EdNC’s Reach NC Voices engagement platform, consulted on engaged journalism efforts across the country, and participated in the 2019 Media Transformation Challenge.

I also did not attend journalism school. This fact may, or may not, surprise you given that I would like to spend a moment considering the future of journalism school.

Part of the search for a new dean for the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media includes key stakeholders having conversations around who might be the choice. That topic is beyond my pay grade, but I am deeply interested in the future of the school — and other journalism schools across North Carolina and the country. 

Read moreAs journalism evolves, J-schools must

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. 

Read moreDeep community engagement: A chat with Lyndsey Gilpin of Southerly

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.)

Read moreThe resilience edition

‘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.

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

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.

Read moreThe TIL edition

A hire to boost WNC opportunities

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Oct. 20 to see kudos for North Carolina journalists, check out recent news about the news industry, explore the latest job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Shannan Bowen, Executive Director

Greetings, NC Local readers!

Shannan Bowen
Shannan Bowen

I’m writing today from our state’s beautiful mountains, where I’m visiting with journalists and community members in Asheville, the Qualla Boundary, Boone and areas in between. I’m here to listen to media leaders and communities about local news challenges and opportunities in their region. My visit is also timed with the announcement of an important effort to better understand our Western North Carolina communities, which I’m sharing with you today.

As I mentioned in a recent newsletter, the NC Local News Workshop will focus on community listening and engagement across our state so that we can create programs that help our news and information organizations continue to serve their communities as well as reach new and underserved communities. We’re starting this statewide effort by focusing first on North Carolina’s mountain region, comprising two dozen counties and many diverse communities. With support from the NC Local News Lab Fund and Dogwood Health Trust, we are hiring our first Research and Community Listening Fellow, who will lead efforts in communities of all types in this region—geographically and demographically—to understand residents’ needs for news and information, valued products and services, gaps in services, challenges in accessing information, topics of interest and news consumption habits, among many other insights.

Read moreA hire to boost WNC opportunities

A crisis in Blue Heaven

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Oct. 13 for more on this story and to see accolades for journalists throughout the state, explore recent news about the news industry, discover the latest job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Screenshot of Twitter post about UNC Chapel HillAs I’m sure you know, there have been four suicide attempts, three ending in death, at UNC-Chapel Hill in five weeks. Two of those attempts came last weekend.

As on campuses everywhere, the usual pressures for young adults — a new environment, the stress of sudden independence and a lack of structure, the end of relationships, academic missteps, financial worries, changes in sleep and diet, substance challenges — have been compounded by a pandemic, remote learning, reckonings around race and identity, and more. There’s a mental health crisis in Blue Heaven.  

UNC canceled Tuesday classes and called for a wellness day. 

And the students on the staff of The Daily Tar Heel, in addition to living all of those stresses every day, have had to report on their sometimes tragic effects. On Sunday, the DTH announced it would operate on a reduced schedule this week “to allow our staff time to rest and to prioritize their mental health.”

For that very reason, I didn’t want to intrude — but I did reach out to Editor-In-Chief Praveena Somasundaram and General Manager Courtney Mitchell to express support, and I asked about the core principles in the DTH coverage of the human tragedies. I’m beyond grateful for the grace they showed me. Here’s what Somasundaram told me, by email:

Read moreA crisis in Blue Heaven

‘Climate change is a local story’

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Oct. 6 for more on this story and also explore recent news about the news industry throughout the state, join us in recognizing North Carolina journalists, discover the latest job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

David Boraks“I’m realizing that climate change stories are not separate,” David Boraks told me this week. “Everything is a climate story. Everything we do that affects the environment is a climate story.”

North Carolina newsrooms are also realizing that covering climate now means dedicating real resources to the task.

Boraks, at WFAE in Charlotte, is one of three reporters at legacy news organizations in North Carolina who now have a full-time climate beat funded by philanthropy. (There were none a year ago; there will be four soon when the Winston-Salem Journal hires one.)

Boraks was already reporting on environmental issues when he assumed the full-time climate beat this summer, funded by the Salamander and 1Earth funds. Adam Wagner reports on climate change and the environment for the state’s McClatchy newsrooms, financed by 1Earth Fund in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners. Gareth McGrath, based in Wilmington, covers the same topics for the Star News and the USA TODAY network in the state, in a position financed by ​​1Earth Fund and The Prentice Foundation. The Journal position, which will support all of the Lee newsrooms in the state, will be funded through an agreement with JFP, as I reported here last week. In each case, the newsrooms have full editorial control over the reporting.

Read more‘Climate change is a local story’

To explain redistricting: A sound idea

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Sept. 29 for more on this story, to learn more about NC Local News Workshop happenings, to explore headlines about the new industry throughout the state, to join us in recognizing journalists from throughout the state and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Blessed are the state political reporters, for North Carolina may soon actually have a two-year budget. Then comes an even bigger task for the legislature, one that could determine the outlines of state spending (and policy) for a decade to come: Redistricting.

Tyler Dukes
Tyler Dukes

It’s obviously a crucial process, but as WUNC Capitol bureau chief Jeff Tiberii said, it “remains pretty wonky.” The challenge for news providers is to explain it so people understand how it works, and all the ways it affects their lives.

One way is the spoken word.

That comes naturally to a radio reporter like Tiberii, but others around the state also are finding that audio storytelling can help folks decipher the process. One is investigative reporter Tyler Dukes at The News & Observer. Last week Dukes dropped the first episode of a special, scripted presentation of The N&O’s Under the Dome podcast, called Monster: Maps, Math & Power in North Carolina.

(The title is, of course, a reference to the Gerrymander, a mythical beast that was born in Massachusetts in 1812 but has spawned many generations of offspring with tar on their amphibian heels.)

Being a data guy, Dukes opens by painting a mental picture of a truly astronomical number. Then he walks us through some surprising history featuring several voices familiar and not, and illustrates how technology has changed the process through the eyes of a high school kid. A couple of minutes in, I was hooked.

Read moreTo explain redistricting: A sound idea

We’re listening…

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Sept. 22 for more on this story, to learn about good news for Mountain Xpress in Asheville, to join us in recognizing student journalism throughout the state and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

Greetings, NC Local readers!

Shannan Bowen

“Wow, there are so many great people working in North Carolina!” I keep thinking about this comment from an out-of-state colleague during a conversation about my first few months as executive director of the NC Local News Workshop. I was describing to my colleague the new projects, businesses, roles and collaborations in news across our state.

I hear comments like this often. People outside North Carolina are truly impressed with the network of talented journalists and information providers and their dedication to informing their communities. Their work is being recognized nationally, too:

(More on the latter two from Eric, below.)

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do to strengthen the local news ecosystem in North Carolina.

Read moreWe’re listening…