Sunday sampler

Maybe it’s the threat of snow. Maybe it was losing an hour of sleep. Whatever, it’s a good day for journalism from the front pages of N.C. newspapers.

Fayetteville: The Observer has two good ones. First, it continues keeping a watchful eye over the victims of Hurricane Matthew. It’s been five months. “Many others, including state and local governments, are still rebuilding. FEMA extended its deadline for people to seek assistance several times. It ended registration on Jan. 23 with 14,794 people from Cumberland County registered for assistance. Statewide, 774 families are being housed in hotels because they can’t return to the damaged homes or apartments.”

Its second story is yet another about an immigrant facing deportation for reasons that are unclear. I write “yet another” because since President Trump’s immigration order there have been numerous stories about people who are not “bad hombres” caught in the net. “She came to the United States legally, as a teenager, leaving the violence of her native Guatemala. She got a work permit and has been employed for years. She is married, raised four children in Harnett County and is expecting a fifth in May. She has no criminal record.In less than a week, at age 33, Cardona-Perez could be deported back to a land that, in her words, she hardly remembers.”

Greensboro: The News & Record, which some readers have accused of being in the bag for the $78 million performing arts center, tells a damning inside story about delays and justifications by the center’s planners. And as is usually the case, there is more smoke than light in the explanations.

Raleigh: I told a friend on Friday that I wasn’t going to read the N&O’s story on Woody Durham’s declining health. I knew that reading about the longtime Tar Heel announcer’s silenced voice would make me sad. But he told me how good it is so I read it and don’t regret it. “In the 13 months since his diagnosis, changes arrived large and small. Woody didn’t want to play golf anymore. He didn’t want to slow his friends down. He reduced his driving, only short trips around town, and then decided in February to surrender his license, which made Jean proud. For a while she noticed something different almost every day. Every morning she asked herself: How is Woody today? Is he different than the day before? It’s the first story in a series.

Asheville: Being an artist anywhere means you’re going to have a hard time making ends meet. Asheville is known as an art-welcoming city. Is that culture endangering artists? It’s a great question for a newspaper to ask. “Amorastreya spent eight years in Austin, Texas, and 10 years in San Francisco. And sadly, she said, ‘I watched the same pattern happen: The artisans who create the culture of a place make it desirable. Wealthy people move in … and, too often, rents rise and the artists get pushed out, leaving yet another yuppy town — Anywhere, America — full of the same old corporate chains.'”

Wilmington: Some people like the idea of building a wall 2,000 miles away. Others wish those billions could be spent on infrastructure closer to home, like repairing and replacing the 2,000 endangered dams across the state. “A high-hazard potential dam is defined by North Carolina as one that, in the event of a breach, would cause the probable loss of at least one life, lead to at least $200,000 of economic damage, and re-route more than 250 vehicles daily. Should an intermediate-hazard dam fail, models indicate it would cause between $30,000 and $200,000 of damage and result in the interruption of service for between 25 and 250 vehicles per day.”

Forest City: I had wondered what the Daily Courier would do with the outrageous story of the Word of Faith Fellowship treatment of its parishioners. It has a story on the front page today, but I can’t find it online, which probably doesn’t matter as the paper has a paywall. The story is about the departure of the assistant DA’s who are accused of helping the church.

 

Sunday sampler

When President Trump goes loony, it’s a shame that newspaper headline writers follow him right off the cliff. Trump tweets about Obama and wiretapping and compares it to Watergate and McCarthyism without any evidence. Newspaper headlines written without skepticism, add credence to the claim. Sad! Still, there’s good stuff there, too.

Asheville and Winston-Salem have stories about HB2 and its impact on basketball tournaments on their fronts. The Citizen-Times notes that, unlike the ACC, the Southern Conference will play its tournament in North Carolina (in Asheville). “Here in this mountain city, where the Register of Deeds Office stayed open late just to be one of the first places in the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many begged the Southern Conference to keep its annual March basketball tournament in Asheville. Don’t punish the diverse and inclusive people of this city for action taken in Charlotte and Raleigh, they said.” It’s a good piece.

Winston, meanwhile, takes a broader look, attempting to peer into the future of HB2 and the NCAA. “Dupree projects the state taking an economic hit of at least $250 million if the NCAA eliminates North Carolina venues for the next four-year cycle. The town of Cary has said its 27 baseball, soccer and tennis bids for the next cycle have a potential $12.5 million economic impact.” The pressure is on the legislature to repeal the “bathroom bill,” but I’m betting intransigence has set in.

Raleigh: You know how confusing medical insurance is? You know how confusing hospital bills are? The two meet in astronomically confusing ways, the N&O reports. “Those who are healthy prefer the higher deductibles to sky-high premiums because they’re not paying for services they’re not using. But when they do get sick or injured, they may experience sticker shock.”

Charlotte: The Observer has an excellent story on the regulations inhibiting craft brewery expansion…and how big money contributions from wholesale distributors to state politicians may influence legislation. “McGrady introduced a bill in 2015 to relax beverage laws, including the 25,000-barrel limit. Initially he had three GOP co-sponsors. He remembers them coming into his office, sitting on his beige couch, and telling him they could no longer support the bill because of pressure from distributors.”

Sunday sampler

I didn’t post a Sampler last week because I wasn’t particularly inspired by what I read on the front pages of the Sunday papers. Today is a different story.

Asheville: President Trump has said so many things that it’s difficult to keep track of them. The Citizen-Times circled back to his pledge to support legislation allowing churches to endorse political candidates without fear of the IRS coming calling, Changing the law would have unintended consequences that are not good. “Churches do not have to tell the government who their donors are. Promises of anonymity and the tax deduction for gifts ‘would result in glorified money laundering from a legal standpoint,’ said the Rev. Todd Donatelli of the Cathedral of All Souls, an Episcopal congregation in Biltmore Village.

Charlotte: The Observer raises and attempts to answer a question I have always wondered about: Does it make sense for governments to use tax incentives to lure companies that bring low-paying jobs? “Josh Goodman, who studies tax incentives for the Pew Charitable Trust, said subsidizing jobs may encourage more people to move to Charlotte. ‘You could have people moving up the economic ladder,’ Goodman said. ‘But if people already have jobs, you may be attracting people to your city to fill the new ones.’ In some cases, Mecklenburg County studies show the people holding the new jobs would pay less in taxes than they use in services like schools and hospitals.”

Greensboro: Guilford County was all ready to land a high-tech manufacturing plant — likely Adidas — until the legislature smacked the state with HB2. Guten tag, Adidas. That’s the lead anecdote in a News & Record story about how HB2 has and continues to hurt the state’s economy and people.
Fayetteville: The Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP, has been a powerful advocate for change. The Observer has a good profile of him. “Over the past 11 years, he has become the charismatic – and polarizing – face and voice of North Carolina’s progressive movement and its collision with the conservatives who hold power. His work today is a culmination of a lifetime of fighting for justice, but his at-times confrontational style has drawn detractors and the pointed criticism that the people he is fighting are still holding the reins of power.”

Sunday sampler

Man, that President Trump sure know how to get people up and marching, doesn’t he? An estimated — by whom, I don’t know — 80,000 showed up in Raleigh to protest his policies. I’m not focusing on any of that here, though. Instead…

Raleigh: The N&O updates us on the condition of former Sen. Kay Hagan, who is a friend of mine. There isn’t a whole lot new — she’s still hospitalized in Atlanta — except they think they know how she contracted the virus which caused the encephalitis. The family continues to handle this privately, which is certainly their right. But news about her is welcome — she’s contributed so much to so many in this state.

Asheville: The Citizen-Times tracks the astonishing story that ought to make everyone on social media straighten up (but won’t). “A false remark on a Facebook posting that implied a woman got drunk and caused the death of her child has resulted in a $500,000 defamation lawsuit settlement, which one law professor describes as a ‘stunning’ amount.” I won’t repeat the remark, but I’ve seen much worse on Facebook and Twitter.

Greensboro: Need a job? Train to become a jailer, or, as it;s called, a detention officer. County jails are chronically understaffed, according to the News & Record. “There are currently 60 vacant detention officer positions in Guilford County. The sheriff’s office recruits constantly to fill them, attending job fairs and advertising positions online, on TV and in print. Even with those efforts, applications have dwindled. In 2012, 695 people applied for jobs as detention officers. Last year, the number was 227.”

Sunday sampler

From the front pages of the state’s newspapers.

Raleigh: All you need is the lead: “In 50 or so counties that were power-washed by the waters of Hurricane Matthew, as many as 2,000 families with North Carolina addresses are living in the state of limbo. “We can’t live in our house, and we can’t sell it,” said Latisha Beatty.” The N&O updates us on the flood victims and it’s not pretty.

Raleigh: Steve Bannon gets all the publicity for being President Trump’s evil whisperer. The other Steve is Miller, who is a Duke grad and also senior policy adviser to Trump. The N&O revisits his time at Duke. He didn’t talk with the N&O, but others did. “He’s the most sanctimonious student I think I ever encountered,” said John Burness, Duke’s former senior vice president of public affairs and government relations. “He seemed to be absolutely sure of his own views and the correctness of them, and seemed to assume that if you were in disagreement with him, there was something malevolent or stupid about your thinking. Incredibly intolerant.”

Charlotte: Some Republicans in Charlotte want Charlotte to follow President Trump’s order on “sanctuary cities.” And, according to the Observer, it’s unclear exactly what the city is or isn’t doing when it comes to immigrants.

Greensboro and Fayetteville both have stories on the immigration ban. Greensboro’s is about a Syrian family that just beat by a week the Trump executive order banning immigration from Syria (and six other countries). The story also rounds up efforts to help refugees in Greensboro. The Observer’s story is more general, localizing the issues involved with refugees and immigrants.

Sunday sampler, the march

The Washington Post has a story this morning about how yesterday’s marches were organized outside of the mainstream media. Streets flooded with marchers across the nation, and many newspapers giving their readers little coverage of them in advance.

Well, if that’s true in North Carolina, the papers caught up today. (Front page images courtesy of the Newseum. My home paper, the News & Record is not included because its front page isn’t listed today.)

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Sunday sampler

In case you hadn’t looked outside, it snowed yesterday. But never fear, if you haven’t looked outside, the front pages of the state’s papers told you. And I’m not going to link to any of them. I’ll put the spotlight on these instead:

Carteret County News-Times: The Obama administration denied permits to tests for oil and gas off the East Coast. As a lover of the N.C. coast, this is big news to me. Towns and counties up and down the coast passed resolutions against seismic testing so it is big news for them, too. Of course, it’s an order that Donald Trump can overturn. (That isn’t a link to a story, but is a link to the front page — thank you Newseum — and the front page will be replaced on Monday. I can’t find the story on the News-Times’ website. Here is an AP story about the decision.)

Asheville and Raleigh: Both papers have front-page stories on the new Gov. Cooper administration. The Citizen-Times evaluates how much power the Democratic governor will really have, given the Republican legislature’s actions. Answer: a vague “some.”

The N&O has two stories. One is a straight-up inauguration address story. The other looks at the tone set by Cooper’s first week in office. Money quote: “That’s always been his reputation – cautious,” Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic strategist and former aide to Gov. Jim Hunt, said Saturday. “But he came out swinging before he was even sworn in.”

 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article125177524.html#storylink=cpy

 

Sunday sampler, transparency edition

Today begins a few weeks of slim pickings as newspapers — reporting staff already depleted gears up for two weeks of vacations and little news. It sort of shows on today’s front pages, too.

Asheville: I’m used to politicians talking about the importance of transparency in government and then ignoring it whenever they truly need to be transparent. That’s why this story about the DA in Buncombe County caught my attention. The man is walking the walk. And good for him and good government. “Todd Williams also made an unprecedented move during his press conference, in which he walked through the state’s investigation with great detail, giving the media a summary of the facts of the investigation, reading testimonies from key witnesses and displaying a series of a dozen images that support his decision. SBI reports, or even basic facts provided in them, have rarely been released to the public, as sole discretion lies with the district attorneys to make those records public.”

Winston-Salem: Here, for example, is the new head of the State Department of Public Instruction claiming that a law passed by the General Assembly last week “will help usher in an era of greater transparency at DPI by eliminating the more confusing aspects of the relationship between the N.C. superintendent and the N.C. Board of Education.” The best thing you can say about that is, well, we’ll see. What it most assuredly would do — the governor hasn’t signed it yet — is give the new state superintendent more power. He doesn’t mention that.

Raleigh: Then, of course, you have the state legislature, a place where transparency isn’t in the lexicon. The News & Observer looks back on the week in which the General Assembly decided to change the rules when it didn’t like the outcome of the election. The paper examines the strength of a court case challenging the legislators’ actions. “But Cooper could have a hard time making the case that the legislature has improperly intruded on his turf, constitutional experts said. Former state Supreme Court Justice Burley Mitchell said Cooper would have trouble claiming that reducing his appointments is unconstitutional, because those were written into state law, not the constitution.”

 

 

Sunday sampler

Raleigh: Both the News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer contributed to this story about what the political future holds next for Gov.-elect Roy Cooper. Essentially, he has the power to appoint lots of people; the Republican legislature has the power to override his veto. Nothing is certain, but this is a good, broad look at the possibilities when it comes to voting rights, teacher pay and education, HB2, the environment, Medicaid, jobs and abortion.

Greensboro: The News & Record has a similar story that deals primarily with the political headwinds Cooper will face, rather than the issues.

Winston-Salem: That North Carolina rivals West Virginia for having the nation’s lowest average school principal salary should be embarrassing to everyone, and likely is, except for the state legislature. But members of the General Assembly want to give responsibility to determining principals’ pay to local districts. “While this would give districts more flexibility in how they pay principals in various settings — for example, offering more to principals at struggling schools instead of always paying the most to principals at the largest schools — the proposal wouldn’t improve average principal pay unless the state also threw more money into the pot.”

Fayetteville: It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew flooded much of Eastern North Carolina. It’s been two months since hundreds of people escaped their homes amid the flooding. Many are still homeless. The Observer hasn’t left the story, either. “Housing is one of several issues that local, state and federal officials are facing in the hurricane’s aftermath. Cleaning up the debris is an immediate problem. Repairing the damaged roads is ongoing and expected to last well into next year. Erosion that damaged land along creeks and streams that flooded in the storm will require long-term research.”

Related: The New York Times has a good video on the travails of Princeville.

Sunday sampler

Burlington: The Times-News has an exceptional piece citing the ambiguous — if not hypocritical, clueless or purposely ignorant — position of people in Alamance County who want to go back to an earlier time. That time is apparently one in which the Confederate flag was a symbol of goodness. The reporter gently but clearly points out the absurdity of what the organization says and stands for. Read it.

Charlotte: The cynic in me wants to say, “how cute! Trump voters actually believed him when he said he will bring the manufacturing jobs back from overseas!” But that would be mean. Yes, the Observer tracks the North Carolinians who expect Trump to deliver on that promise, although people should know that he won’t because he can’t. (It isn’t how capitalism or present-day needs work.) But those interviewed in Kannapolis say the town lacks the bustle and the job opportunities it had in its heyday, when they worked in the mills or had family members who did…“The mill fed my family,” said Bringle, now 54. “They used to have summer help for the high school kids. I worked there two summers – 1979-80. It was a thriving business here. And it’s gone. China’s got it.

Greensboro: I graduated from an exceptional small college that had terrible budget problems and is fighting its way back. So this piece about Greensboro College’s return interested me. (GC is not my alma mater.) It seems as if the school’s leadership did it right.