A conversation with Antionette Kerr of Davidson Local

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Jan. 26 for more news from the NC Local News Workshop, the latest updates about journalists and news organizations throughout North Carolina, job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

I recently got to chat with Antionette Kerr, co-founder with Kassaundra Lockhart of Davidson Local, a free, ad-supported, hyperlocal digital news site in Davidson County. 

Members of Davidson Local
Some of the Davidson Local crew, celebrating the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Emerging Entrepreneur Small Business Award. Left to right: Business reporter Vikki Broughton Hodges, reporter Brooke Maners, co-founder Antionette Kerr, editor/reporter Ken Lack, and co-founder and Managing Editor Kassaundra Lockhart.

Davidson Local is a subsidiary of Bold & Bright Media, Kerr’s multimedia publishing company. The news site was launched in 2021 in partnership with Magic Mile Media, a Kinston-based marketing firm led by BJ Murphy that had launched another hyperlocal site in 2018, Neuse News, to cover Kinston and Lenoir County. Both sites provide local news and opinion, investigations and coverage of culture, education and health news.

Kerr worked for more than a decade in the nonprofit world before leaving to pursue writing and publishing as a career. She co-wrote a guide titled Modern Media Relations for Nonprofits and worked as The North Carolina/Tennessee producer for radio with The Public News Service. She’s a board member, director and consultant for multiple nonprofit agencies and has provided training through Women AdvaNCe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The National Council of Nonprofits, Nonprofit Marketing Guide and The Nonprofit Academy. 

Read moreA conversation with Antionette Kerr of Davidson Local

Bridging gaps with a podcast

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Jan. 19 for more on this story, news from the NC Local News Workshop, the latest updates about journalists and news organizations throughout North Carolina, job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

I’m an admirer of “Tested,” the news podcast produced since March 2020 by WUNC. In its timeliness, and in the way it gives stories from around the state a second life, it’s a worthy successor to “The State of Things,” the topical interview show that ended late last year after host Frank Stasio decided to hang up the mic.

Dave DeWitt
Dave DeWitt

But “Tested” is also different — and until I was chatting the other day with founding host Dave DeWitt, I didn’t truly appreciate how rare it is.

“We’re one of the few podcasts produced out of the news department on a public radio station,” said DeWitt, WUNC’s feature news editor, who came to the station 19 years ago and started on “The State of Things.”

Read moreBridging gaps with a podcast

An empowering new voice

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Jan. 12 for more on this story, news from the NC Local News Workshop, the latest updates about journalists and news organizations throughout the Tar Heel State, job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Alicia Benjamin had a vision — to give marginalized people the power to enhance their lives and change their communities, by offering them the most effective tool: information.

Alicia Benjamin
Alicia Benjamin

Her idea, which earned a place in the second annual Google News Initiative Startups Boot Camp last fall, now lives and breathes — a news outlet called The Charlotte Voice, which has launched on social media. 

Benjamin is also a mom, a freelance writer and the editor of Pride Magazine, a bimonthly business and lifestyle publication serving the Black community in Charlotte. Her new solo project is more basic, and more transformational.

Read moreAn empowering new voice

‘Take it into the town square’

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Jan. 5 for more on this story, a tribute to Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, the latest updates about journalists and news organizations throughout the state, job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

A few days ago, I asked several leaders and influencers in North Carolina’s news and information community a question:

Where should we focus our energy in 2022?

Here are some of their insights:

Work together

CHRIS RUDISILL, director, Charlotte Journalism Collaborative; project manager, QnotesCarolinas:

Of course, I’d say that collaboration will continue to be key to North Carolina news in 2022, but more importantly, I think we’ll see unexpected collaborations really show what’s possible. How can local news and neighborhood associations tackle problems? How can artists help us tell stories? How can we move news from the social media framework that has disrupted trust and take it into the town square to create opportunities for community news sharing and creation? That’s what I’m excited to see more of in 2022.

Read more‘Take it into the town square’

Let’s meet at the summit

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Dec. 15 for more on this story and the latest updates about journalists and news organizations throughout the state, job opportunities and more. Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

NC News and Information Summit flyer

Greetings NC Local readers:

As you start using your 2022 calendars and planners—and get used to writing ’22 instead of ’21—there’s one date we’d like you to save: March 17, 2022.

Yes, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but it will also be the date of our 2022 NC News & Information Summit at Elon University. The summit will convene news and information leaders, journalists, researchers, educators, community members and others to discuss important issues facing local news in North Carolina, just as the virtual NC Local News Summit did in January. 

Read moreLet’s meet at the summit

The ’Dog is having its day

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from Dec. 8 for more on this story and more from the NC Local News Workshop. Plus, learn why PolitiFact Founder Bill Adair says he has always been “intrigued by liars,” get the latest 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

It’s a season of some joy at Asheville Watchdog, the free, nonprofit news organization founded last year by some lifelong journalists and media executives who can’t quite figure out what it means when they hand you the golf clubs.

AVL Watchdog graphicIn case you missed it, Jim Morrill in The Assembly last month told the story of the Watchdog and its all-volunteer staff of acclaimed journalists who can’t stop digging into the people’s business. But I was curious about what was new since then, and there’s plenty, publisher Bob Gremillion told me.

◼️ A paid reporter: The staff will have its first full-time paid employee next June. Report for America announced this morning that it had approved the Watchdog’s bid to be a host newsroom, and will place an RFA corps member there for two years to report on topics related to Asheville’s and Buncombe County’s plans for reparations to Black communities. (Read on for other NC newsrooms joining Report for America.)

The Watchdog, Gremillion told me, has already raised the money to pay its part of that reporter’s salary — up to half of which is picked up by RFA in the first year.

“It’s feeling very real all of a sudden,” he said.

Read moreThe ’Dog is having its day

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.’