What good local journalism looks like

I want to highlight efforts by the News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer, the state’s two largest papers and sister papers in the McClatchy group.

Yesterday, the two papers published “Journey Across the 100,” a massive undertaking in which they sent their journalists to visit each county in the state to watch and listen.

“Logging more than 20,000 miles over six months, this team of roving journalists traveled interstates and Main Streets, parkways and unpaved roads to talk with people of different ages, races, ethnicities and sexual/gender identities. They connected with recent transplants and those who have lived here their whole lives; conservatives and liberals; business owners, minimum-wage workers, people out of work and ones who have retired.”

“The result is “Journey Across the 100,” a Murphy-to-Manteo-style interactive video listening tour that focuses on regular people and what’s on their minds as the 2020 election approaches. Collectively, these 101 videos create a detailed political portrait of a complex state in a time of transition.”

101 videos, including one from each county in the state.

It’s ambitious and impressive. I haven’t watched all the videos, but what I’ve seen remind me what good local journalism looks like. They remind me that people are inherently good and smart and funny. And I need to be reminded of that because I spend too much time watching and listening to our greedy Washington and Raleigh politicians who care only about themselves.

From the story: “For all the differences they found, the interviews also uncovered a deep communion between residents of the state. No matter where they lived, whether they were registered as Republican, Democrat or unaffiliated, nearly everyone who sat down for an interview seems to have similar goals. They want North Carolina to be a place where people can find a safe and decent place to live, do work that sustains them and their families, educate their children and enjoy the beauty the state has to offer.”

The N&O’s editor, Robyn Tomlin, says on Twitter that this is only the beginning. “This kicks off our NC 2020 Priorities Project, which focuses on critical issues NC voters say are key to the future. We’ll report on and host conversations on topics like health care, education and immigration.”


I don’t know if this story – also published yesterday – about the high death rate of African America babies is related to NC 2020 Priorities Project, but it shows the N&O’s continued committment to insightful, investigative and explanatory journalism.

I’ve said for a while, even when I was editor of the News & Record, that the N&O is the best newspaper in the state, precisely because it of its ambition. It doesn’t shy away from hard stories or journalism that takes a long time. It’s staff size isn’t what it once was and it can’t cover what it once did. But it still tackles tough stories and shines light in dark places. Places politicians want to hide and at things maybe some people don’t even want to look at.

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenthiel wrote, “The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”

That’s the N&O. I’m a proud alum and a proud subscriber. North Carolina is better for the journalism it and all the papers in the state do.



2 thoughts on “What good local journalism looks like

  1. Good article, John. I don’t see much “good journalism” anymore, mostly opinions.

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