Failure is good

“In my freshman year of college, John Robinson taught me failure is good. I got a 15 percent on his first assignment, and it was the lowest grade I’ve ever received.”

What a legacy!

That’s from this post by Brynn Walker, one of my former students in “Writing and Reporting” at UNC-Chapel Hill. The headline of the post is “Teachers Beyond the Classroom.” It was a recognition of teachers whose lessons have stayed with her as she enters the real world. I’m honored to be in there. It appears I’m in good company.

The rest of her paragraph about my class: “It was in the winter, and I remember saying to my friend the temperature is higher than my grade right now. It was only 54 degrees outside. I lost 50 points for spelling someone’s name wrong TWICE. And what did that teach me? People are most important.”

Honestly, I doubt I taught her about failure. She played golf at Carolina and athletes know to grow through failure. As Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.”

Brynn is now a pro golfer. Look for her on the tour.

Sunday sampler, Trump acquitted

Observations of N.C. front pages when they could have done something special with the acquittal of President Trump for the second time. (Thanks to for the images below.)

The state’s largest papers – Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston and Greensboro – featured the story, with interesting twists. Raleigh and Winston featured the Senator Burr vote to convict, which was the big surprise of the day. Charlotte had a national story with no mention of the Burr vote. Burlington, Jacksonville and New Bern also had various versions of the impeachment story.

As is their wont, many smaller papers didn’t publish anything about impeachment on their front pages. That’s Morganton, Mooresville, Carteret County, McDowell, Kannapolis and Hendersonville. Notably, two larger papers – Asheville and Fayettevile – didn’t feature the story on their front pages.

I’m not sure if I prefer the reason that Asheville and Fayetteville ignored the story on their front pages because of deadlines or community interest. The vote happened about 4 p.m. so it doesn’t seem as if deadlines would be the cause. You could argue that the vote for acquittal was pre-ordained and not “new news,” but Burr’s vote wasn’t. That was and is news.

Sunday sampler

Raleigh: Andrew Carter is one of the premier journalists in the state these days, finding and writing the hell out of stories. He does it again with this piece on Warren County high school being told through its basketball team. (And South Granville’s basketball coach should be ashamed of himself.) I can’t encapsule it; just read it.

Charlotte: The hastag Everything Trump Touches Dies really is true. This time it pertains to Mark Martin, once respected N.C. Supreme Court chief justice. The Charlotte Observer writes of his connection as legal adviser to Donald Trump during his two-month fight to remain as president. “According to the Times, Martin advocated a “radical” constitutional interpretation giving Vice President Mike Pence the authority to reject any state election returns he deemed fraudulent — a theory that legal scholars across the political spectrum dismissed as nonsensical and which even Pence, one of Trump’s most loyal allies, refused to embrace.”

New Bern: The Sun Journal has a fascinating look at the racial disparities of housing in New Bern. Yes, how Black residents were moved out of their homes to make way for “revitalization.” “Since 1980, homes in New Bern’s white neighborhoods have increased in value nearly four times faster than homes in the city’s predominately Black neighborhoods. In the starkest case, a two-bedroom home of about 1,000 square feet in the historic district recently sold for $500,000. That same census tract includes homes of the same size that have been bought this year for $6,000 or even less.”



Going viral, every 4 years

Posting this here so that it doesn’t get lost to me. (I don’t go viral very often so….) The one other time (below) came four years ago on inauguration day.

Sunday sampler, no vaccine edition

Full disclosure: My wife and I were two of the 11,000 people whose vaccine appointments were cancelled because Cone Health didn’t get the vaccines it said the state pledged. A reporter with N.C. Health News asked who I blamed: I said Trump for his administration’s ineptitude for the past year; the state for mixing its messages to local health providers. Fortunately, some of the state’s front pages covered this outrageous mess. Honestly, it’s confusing as officials point fingers, math doesn’t add up and opacity takes the place of transparency.

Greensboro: The News & Record has a pair of stories about the screwup in the state’s vaccination plan. “State officials said Saturday they’re in the difficult position of balancing broad distribution with an urgent need to clear their shelves of vaccine or face the threat that the federal government won’t supply more doses. Cone Health CEO Terry Akin said Saturday night that he still doesn’t have a “cogent” explanation for why the state canceled the health care system’s allocation, especially in light of the Charlotte event.”

High Point: The Enterprise has what I assume is a similar story. I can’t read it because of its paywall.

Hickory: “We’ve had a mass vaccination plan in place for 15 to 20 years, which we exercise, but if you don’t have the vaccine to give people, it doesn’t work the way it should,” she said. “Has it made people lose trust in us and has it made people mad at us? Yes, and I’m sorry.”

Morganton: “We apologize for the long holds, the dropped calls, and, at times, not being able to speak to a live person,” said Kathy Bailey, president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge. “And we’ve all experienced this kind of frustration, but not with something as important as a life-saving vaccination.”

Charlotte and Raleigh both have stories about the efforts to get vaccinated from people who wrote in. tl;dr version: It’s a mess.

On the eve of Trump’s departure….

I wish I had added, “The best president ever!’

Personally, I think it is going to be his mishandling of the pandemic.

I posted that tweet on Facebook and got these suggestions:

From Michele McLellan: Try “The worst president ever.”

From Mark Sutter: I’m reserving “something(s) we found out about after he left office” as a possibility

Sunday sampler

As so much political coverage is horserace driven, I’ll put this sampler in those terms: N.C. newspapers gave readers a dueling perspective of looking forward or looking backward.

Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Morganton, Statesville, Mooresville and Hickory presented an Associated Press package of stories on Trump’s legacy. Headline:
“Examining a legacy.” (I don’t know about the others, but the News & Record published four pages inside.)

Countering that, New Bern, Kinston, Jacksonville, Henderson and Burlington published an Associated Press story looking forward to Biden’s term. Headline: “After Trump, Biden aims to reshape the presidency itself.”

Random thought: So much for local papers going intensely local and avoiding wire copy.

There were other notable stories, though:

Greensboro: The News & Record, beneath the Trump legacy story, has a piece on Greensboro’s mayor’s proposal to require bars and restaurants to be more involved in addressing crimes that occur on their property. This is an effort to reduce the rate of homicides in the city. I can’t find that story on the website, but right now this one leads the page: “Man dies in one of two shootings that injured two other people in Greensboro overnight.”

Charlotte: For those of us who have shopped Belk for our entire lives, this is significant. Belk, the 133-year-old Charlotte-based department store chain, has been pushed to the edge of solvency by a pandemic and the financial vulnerability of private equity ownership, industry experts and financial analysts say. Standard & Poor’s said in an October report that it’s likely the business will run out of cash within a calendar year.”

Raleigh:  The N&O and Pro Publica show how the law, however well-intentioned, can protect businesses that should not be protected. “Signed into law in early May, just days after being proposed, North Carolina’s protections went further than many states, precluding even claims that don’t involve COVID-19 treatment or that stem from staffing shortages that could otherwise be evidence of gross negligence….In a state that has cast itself as a friend to industry, the breadth of North Carolina’s protections spoke to the power of Republicans over the economic agenda and the influence of the health care lobby.”

Impeachment? Really, no big deal

The president was impeached for a second time yesterday, and to some N.C. newspapers, it was about as important as a school board meeting. Small headlines or it’s not the lead story of the day. Or it’s not on the front page at all.

I shoudn’t be surprised. Last year, the first time Trump was impeached, many papers performed the same way. At the time, I wrote this: Most of the smaller, community-oriented newspapers did not mention impeachment on their front pages. This trend still surprises me because it is an important moment in history. By almost any definition, it’s a front page story. It is certainly the story people everywhere are talking about today.

And, of course, by any definition, the impeachment of a president is big news — the big story of the day, regardless of the size of the publication. Once upon a time, a story like this would be blasted on the front page everywhere because it represents a piece of history, and people would save it. No longer apparently.

Of course, most of the larger papers treated the story as a big deal. (You can see them all here.)



Sunday sampler

If you pick up the local paper in Winston-Salem, Statesville, New Bern, Morganton, Jacksonville, Marion, High Point or Hickory, the insurrection at the nation’s capitol isn’t front page news. COVID is. And, in some places, snow and Gov. Cooper’s goals. Also, a new town manager here, a man turning 100 years old there.

But nothing on the assault on democracy.

Should there be? These are newspapers focused on local, community news. Do they have anything to offer the discussion that deserves the front page on Sunday, the day most newspapers emphasize the most?

Yes, of course, they do. What happened in Washington is a local story. It’s the story most people are talking about, as evidenced by this piece by Andrew Carter in the N&O, focusing on the discussion at a rural barbershop. North Carolinians were involved in the insurrection. Congressmen representing many of the communities voted to oppose to the certification of Biden’s victory in Arizona and/or Pennsylvania. Trump could be removed from office. There are plenty of stories still to be told.

Maybe the editors decided readers didn’t need more. Maybe they decided they had better stories. Normally, I would say they don’t want wire stories on the front page, but plenty publish wire stories there.

But you might think that an assault on democracy — upholding democratic values is something most journalists feel deeply — is front page news four days later. Particularly when journalists are singled out.

Based on the Newseum’s front pages site, the state’s larger newspapers — Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Asheville, Fayetteville, Burlington, and even little Carteret County — feature at least one story about the assault on their front pages.

On the other hand:

Sunday sampler

No sampler last week because virtually every front page feature long pieces on “looking back on the news of 2020.” Blah. Who wants that. This week is better.

Greensboro: How would you feel if you hadn’t had a pay raise since 2009? (I mean, excluding those in the newspaper business.) Bad, I suspect. That’s what’s happened to people making minimum wage. $7.25 an hour, the News & Record reports. The state legislature could increase it, as nearly a dozen have, but Republicans don’t think it’s necessary. “Key Republican legislative leaders continue to say that the free-market system should dictate wages for private-sector employers.” Maybe if we paid legislators the minimum wage — about what they’re worth, tbh — then they’d see the light.

Charlotte: The Observer — in what could be longtime political reporter Jim Morrill’s final piece — speculates what will happen with N.C. politics with Trump no longer in office. (Morrill retired last month.) “Conservative strategist Carter Wrenn says Trump tapped into a populist wave that for many Republicans began with the tea party movement a decade ago. ‘The simple thing about the 1970s and 1980s is it was a pretty clear ideological divide,’ he says. ‘This isn’t. There’s three to four different factors that just complicate it. . . . We could be looking at a lot of infighting between your hard Trump core, your traditional conservatives and populists.’”

Raleigh: The N&O has a big piece on what college students thought of last semester’s remote learning. (Spoiler: they didn’t like it.) I’m interested because I teach college students and the more insight I have into their motivations and challenges, the better. “The most difficult thing is keeping the same motivation to do things from home that she had with the accountability of going to campus and sitting through classes, she said. That, and ‘maintaining a sort of a sense of purpose … when things are kind of really difficult all around us,’ she said.”