Conservatives, the media, and trust

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from August 19 for an update on the UNC Public Records Project, insights related to census reporting, news briefs about the news industry across the state, a list of who’s hiring among job postings on the Bulletin Board and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

You probably know that Trusting News and the Center for Media Engagement partnered this year with 27 newsrooms, including Carolina Public Press, to learn more about how right-leaning Americans perceive local news, and how media can bridge a trust gap there.

Jordan WilkieThe newsrooms surveyed about 3,400 people. Designated newsroom staffers, including CPP’s Jordan Wilkie, did almost 100 follow-up interviews. The research, reported Monday, found that, yes, people on the political right believe journalists are biased against conservatives. Read the full report.

To better connect with those audiences, the report recommends that newsrooms:
  1. Build relationships with people who have conservative and right-leaning viewpoints in your community and listen to them.
  2. Include a variety of voices from people with conservative and right-leaning views in stories. Journalists should be cautious of using “conservative” or other terms as catch-all labels for people who may have very different beliefs.
  3. Consider diversity of political beliefs and backgrounds when hiring for the newsroom.
  4. Focus on story facts, not interpretation.
  5. Correct mistakes promptly to demonstrate trustworthiness.
  6. Don’t criticize only one side of an issue.

I asked Wilkie for his thoughts about the process. While he’s not as sanguine about the effort as its organizers are, he said he and his CPP colleagues want to keep working with Trusting News.

“While I found this initial report a bit underwhelming, it is a step in the right direction,” he told me, “and building on this work is how we get to more meaningful answers and analysis of how newsrooms can build trust across widely divergent audiences. That’s important for our bottom lines and for democracy.”

Read moreConservatives, the media, and trust

Census and redistricting: Help is here 

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from August 11, which includes a last call to sign up for our free, one-hour Diversifying Your Sources workshop on Aug. 12 via Zoom with Melba Newsome, details about open positions at the News & Observer, more job postings on the Bulletin Board and information about available research funding from The Knight Foundation and other opportunities. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

On Thursday at 1 p.m., local data from the 2020 Census will be released, which means we’ll be able to start deeply analyzing, understanding and reporting how the demographics of our state and our communities have changed since 2010.

It also means the legislature can officially start drawing up the state’s 14 U.S. House districts (one more than we have now), 50 state Senate districts and 120 state House districts. Legislators this week are settling on the rules for doing that.

Lots of resources are available to help journalists cover the rollout of the population numbers and the redistricting process, or simply to help people understand it.

Read moreCensus and redistricting: Help is here 

The beginning of an era

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from August 4, which explains how Elon’s School of Communications‘ is starting a free initiative to inspire high school students to explore careers in journalism, how you can sign up to attend our free, one-hour Diversifying Your Sources workshop on Aug. 12 via Zoom with Melba Newsome and how to determine the best source for the latest COVID-19 news. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

When The News Reporter hit the streets in Whiteville last Friday, the Thompson-High family had owned the paper for 83 years. On Tuesday, the masthead had a new name on top. But it’s still in the family, so to speak.

image of a newspaper front page
Justin Smith, who has been editor of The News Reporter since 2018, is now the owner and publisher.

Justin Smith, who has been editor of The News Reporter since 2018, is now the owner and publisher, having bought the 125-year-old Columbus County institution from siblings Les High and Stuart High Rogers and keeping it in local hands — something that Les High, who had been the publisher, calls “critical.”

The News Reporter, of course, is best known outside the region for winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1953 along with the Tabor City Tribune for their stalwart reporting on the Klan. That was 15 years after the paper was bought by High and Rogers’ grandfather, Leslie S. Thompson, who passed the publisher’s role to his son-in-law, Jim High, in 1959. Jim High’s son, Les, succeeded him, and Rogers has been the director of special projects. Their family just won the Tom and Pat Gish Award for Courage, Tenacity and Integrity in Rural Journalism, as I reported last week.

Les High this year founded the Border Belt Reporting Center and in May launched the Border Belt Independent with a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The Independent does in-depth coverage of key issues in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties.

Read moreThe beginning of an era

Partners — with perks

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from July 28, which includes related reporting on the impact of rising U.S. Postal Service rates, updates about Sherry Chisenhall’s departure from The Charlotte Observer, the latest job postings and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

Bag of The Chatham Brew Coffee
The Chatham Brew Coffee

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

“When we bought The Chatham News and The Chatham Record two and a half years ago,” publisher/editor Bill Horner III told me the other day, “the very first thing we did was to combine them to make it The Chatham News + Record. And that created some confusion. One of the things I heard was confusion about the new name … and the other thing I heard was, ‘I didn’t know Chatham County had a newspaper.’

“So obviously, you want to try to leverage anything you can to create brand awareness.

“And I’m not a coffee geek at all, but … Chatham County has a pretty cool coffee culture. A lot of neat, eclectic coffee shops. We did a really nice two-page photo essay and story about the coffee culture, and one of the things that I learned in that story was that Aromatic Roasters (in Pittsboro) was the only roaster of coffee in Chatham County. So, at that point the light bulb went off, and it took me about five seconds to connect the dots: ‘This is a place that we need to approach.’”

With support from one of his business partners, Kirk Bradley, who’s a coffee aficionado and an Aromatic Roasters fan, Horner reached out to Erin Munson, managing partner at Aromatic, and made the pitch for a co-branded breakfast blend, which was perfected after several experiments and taste tests.

Read morePartners — with perks

Join the UNC public records project

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from July 21, which includes related news about McClathcy’s promotion of Robyn Tomlin, details about the latest podcast episodes from North Carolina journalists, reporting from throughout the state and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Late last month, the NC Open Government Coalition at Elon, working with the NC Local News Workshop, launched a project to “educate the public about the inner workings of UNC’s public records system and to spur collaboration among journalists covering the state’s flagship university.” 

The Coalition began by joining with a group of journalists, professors, and nonprofit organizations to file eight initial requests with UNC for public records related to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ recruitment to UNC. UNC has responded in some fashion to three of those requests, and project leaders are “working through an impasse” on one of those, Coalition director Brooks Fuller told me Tuesday. You can see the requests and track their progress on the project page on MuckRock, which also has a link to view and download the responsive documents. 

Read moreJoin the UNC public records project

Joe Killian of NC Policy Watch talks about Nikole Hannah-Jones, UNC, the art of reporting, fairness and the faults of journalism

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from July 14, which includes related reporting on this UNC story, details about courtroom access issues impacting journalists across the state, the inspiring story of a mother and daughter who became community health workers and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Joe KillianI caught up late last week with investigative reporter Joe Killian of NC Policy Watch, who broke the biggest stories in the saga of UNC and Nikole Hannah-Jones, to talk about that story, about his philosophy of reporting and about the triumphs, challenges and faults of local journalism.

Killian came to Policy Watch five years ago after a decade at the News & Record in Greensboro, where he reported on police, courts, higher education, politics and government. His work now “takes a closer look at government, politics and policy in North Carolina and their impact on the lives of everyday people,” his Policy Watch bio says. 

Here’s our interview, edited for length and clarity:

Read moreJoe Killian of NC Policy Watch talks about Nikole Hannah-Jones, UNC, the art of reporting, fairness and the faults of journalism

What comes next for supporting NC local news to fuel democracy

This post is featured in the NC Local newsletter for June 9, which also includes links to a handout and video recording of last week’s Census coverage prep session, and information on a campaign finance tool and training via the NC Open Government Coalition and the Open Raleigh Brigade of Code for America. Sign up to get NC Local delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Melanie Sill

The newsletter called NC Local launched three years ago with a simple aim: I wanted others to hear about the experiments, successes, and amazingly committed people I was encountering all over North Carolina as a journalism adviser for a foundation called Democracy Fund.

I figured I’d wind the newsletter down if there weren’t enough readers or when I ran out of things to write about. Neither happened: NC Local keeps adding subscribers and has blossomed as Ryan Tuck took it over in 2019 and Eric Frederick came on as its editor in 2020. 

My role shifted, too, and in June 2020 I came on as the interim leader of a new entity called the NC Local News Workshop, housed at the Elon University School of Communications, which took a major step forward last week when Shannan Bowen arrived as executive director. Our state is lucky to have her in this job: More on Shannan in a minute, but first I want to tell a little more of that story of local news transformation in North Carolina, and why it both excites me and leaves me worried.

North Carolina is home to groundbreaking research on the local news crisis (really a civic crisis), and we’ve drawn national notice for the collaboration, scholarship, new voices, and new approaches taking root here. As a NC Local reader, you’re in on this storyline and read about the players, their problems and successes each week.

Yet you also read here about the big challenges for local news everywhere as a sustainable enterprise: How to find and reach readers and viewers (who have so many choices); how to represent and serve people and communities (Black, Latino, blue collar) who have been poorly served by news in the past; what funding model is right, and how to find revenue in any model; how to deal with anti-press hostility and support journalists; how to counter misinformation and disinformation; how to earn credibility in a cynical media environment.

These are wicked problems, and I’ve been encouraged when people and organizations come together to take them on, in partnerships or more broadly. That’s part of the Workshop’s mission: To bring people together, and to provide resources that serve more than one entity.

Read moreWhat comes next for supporting NC local news to fuel democracy

John Drescher on Hussman and Hannah-Jones, and on objectivity: ‘Eventually I stopped using the word’

By Eric Frederick, NC Local newsletter editor

John Drescher
Drescher

John Drescher stoked a lot of conversations among journalists and educators nationwide last week when he broke the story for The Assembly that Walter Hussman, the top donor and namesake of the school of journalism and media at UNC-Chapel Hill, had expressed his concerns to university administrators and at least one trustee about the school’s potential hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Drescher has had a long and distinguished career in journalism in these parts, including stints as a reporter at The News & Observer, a reporter and editor at The Charlotte Observer and managing editor of The State in Columbia. Starting in 2002, he served for five years as the managing editor and a decade as executive editor of The N&O. (I seem to remember that he was also the interim publisher there for a minute.)

He recently spent two years as an editor on the politics, investigations and enterprise team at The Washington Post. Back home now, he’s helping The Assembly, the statewide digital magazine that launched this year, as a contributing editor.

Drescher was my direct boss for more than a decade at The News & Observer. I caught up with him Tuesday to talk about the Hussman story, the state of play at UNC now, what “objectivity” in journalism really means, his new work and the future of local journalism in North Carolina.

What can you tell us about how you got the story?

You know, I just got a tip. I had not heard anything about Walter Hussman’s involvement with the Nikole Hannah-Jones matter, and I just got a tip that said he indeed had been involved. And here’s the challenge … everybody these days is kind of not saying much, you know — it’s become perhaps the culture wars story of the moment. You can find people with strong opinions, but the people who actually are on the inside weren’t saying much.

Read moreJohn Drescher on Hussman and Hannah-Jones, and on objectivity: ‘Eventually I stopped using the word’

We’re missing a lot in covering NC’s AAPI communities: Hear how that can change

News has a short attention span, but a recent panel turned into a forward-looking, insight-rich session showing the way for North Carolina media to build better long-term coverage of Asian American and Pacific Islander people — and support AAPI journalists — to make and deepen connections in our increasingly diverse state.

That was the NC Local News Workshop’s aim in bringing together five journalists and a community leader on May 14: To look beyond the immediate. We wanted to learn from the journalism discussion that followed the murders of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, amid new attention to the reality of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric as an ongoing reality.

I hope you will watch it for yourself, because no summary is as good as hearing these panelists’ insights in their own voices and words, led by WUNC host Anita Rao. We were joined by Chavi Khanna Koneru, cofounder and executive director of NC Asian Americans Together; WRAL-TV anchor Renee Chou; News & Observer reporters Julian Shen-Berro and Ashad Hajela; and Waliya Lari, a former WRAL executive producer who now is head of programs and partnership for the Asian American Journalists Association, our cosponsor.

In North Carolina, where the diverse population of AAPI people represents one of the state’s fastest-growing groups, our panelists pointed out opportunities for better journalism that also helps newsrooms build relationships and audiences. Yet many newsrooms lack key resources for being able to cover these communities — language skills, relationships and sources — and don’t realize the gaps till they’re in the midst of a breaking news story.

Some takeaways:

Words and language matter

AAJA responded to the events of spring by publishing updated guidance for covering AAPI people and issues, an an audio pronunciation guide to the Atlanta victims’ name, and additional resources for understanding and reporting accurately.

Waliya Lari AAJA
Waliya Lari

Yet mistakes often happen at that basic level, Lari noted: Mentioning a detail that is ordinary in one culture as noteworthy, for instance. She referred to a 2016 piece she wrote for RTDNA, “The Words of Journalists Have Power,” that offered descriptions of two men — one a suspected terrorist, and one her husband — with details such as having recently grown a beard, having emigrated from Afghanistan, and other elements often used in descriptions of terror suspects.

Read moreWe’re missing a lot in covering NC’s AAPI communities: Hear how that can change

NC Local for May 19: Making impossible funding possible

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from May 19, including how key players from North Carolina (“the state of collaboration”) will show up at the Collaborative Journalism Summit from the Center for Cooperative Media, updates on state and federal legislation affecting the NC press, and a boatload of kudos and wards for NC journalism. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday. 

By Eric Frederick, NC Local newsletter editor

Read Local/ Support Local pitchIf you’re on a newsroom’s email list, you may have seen an invitation to support strong local journalism with a donation — like the one shown here, from Executive Editor Robyn Tomlin of The News & Observer. 

This one mentions an organization called Journalism Funding Partners — and the link will take you to a donation page that describes The N&O’s spring 2021 community giving campaign, organized by JFP.

Such community campaigns are the latest initiative by JFP, a 501(c)(3) launched to support local journalism by bridging the gap between funders and newsrooms in three key ways:

  • Enabling major gifts from large funders that might otherwise be impossible.
  • Enabling broad campaigns of donations from individuals, including those who want to make only deductible gifts.
  • Guiding and training newsrooms in effective fundraising.

Its board members include chair Orage Quarles III, former publisher of The N&O; Sharif Durhams, managing editor of The N&O and The Herald-Sun; and Anders Gyllenhaal, a former N&O executive editor and former news VP at McClatchy. Sean Malone, first president and CEO of Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy in Raleigh, is its interim executive director.

Malone calls JFP an “elegant solution to a pretty meaningful need.”

Read moreNC Local for May 19: Making impossible funding possible