Sunday sampler

Charlotte: The Observer has a fascinating story about out-of-state corporations buying houses in the Charlotte area — 10,000 — and making them rentals. What’s the big deal? It’s sort of like StubHub buying all the available tickets to a game and then charging you double and triple the listed seat price. “And their buying activity over the last few years comes as affordable housing has emerged as a major issue in Charlotte, with increases in both rent and home prices outstripping wage growth.” And that leads to multiple other problems.

Greensboro: The hypocrisy of politicians knows no bounds. Republicans used to rail at Democrats over gerrymandering. Now that they have the power to change things, they say, “The Democrats did it, too.” For me, it’s a real issue because I have little representation in Raleigh or Washington. So, the News & Record’s write-thru on the new state redistricting maps is helpful in understanding whose ox is being gored, particularly in my home county. It’s not pretty. (My real opinion, as voiced by Susan Ladd.)

Raleigh: The UNC Board of Governors has its sights set on banning the UNC Center for Civil Rights from filing litigating lawsuits. Somehow, board members think that giving law students practical experience isn’t central to the law school’s mission. I suspect all of the board members deny that politics have anything to do with it. The N&O does a good job telling the story of the people affected by actions undertaken by the Center. And, of course, the primary losers of a ban would be the poor and minorities.

Elizabeth City: In case you wonder if the controversies over the removal of Confederate monuments have gone too far consider a story by the Daily Advance. A student art piece of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis has been taken down from a wall at Camden County High School. “And while the removal came amid the controversy over monuments to the Confederacy, Berry insisted the picture at the high school ‘was in no way designed to promote the confederacy’ but rather was ‘simply a historical representation of the President of the United States and the Confederacy during the Civil War.’” There had been no complaints.

The power of the social network

Updated below

I don’t know Lindsay Carbonell personally, in real life. She graduated from the School of Media and Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill in May, which is where I teach, but I hadn’t heard of her. Don’t read anything into that; it’s a big school.

At some point, she started following me on Twitter and I followed her back because she seemed interesting. She calls herself a data journalist and web developer. When she graduated, she was looking for work and wrote a Twitter thread that impressed me.  It starts:

The thread told me three things: First, she understands journalism’s needs better than most of the journalists I know and many of the teachers. Second, journalism needs her. She and people like her are its future. Third, I needed to help her find work.

I retweeted her thread. I can’t remember exactly what I said about it — this was in June and I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night — but I suspect it was something along the lines of “This is the future of journalism. Someone hire her.” Or maybe it was a simple RT.

Today is her first day working with EducationNC. I claim no credit or role in Lindsay’s hiring. That’s all her talent and EducationNC’s smarts. I have no idea whether my RT got any attention other than from Lindsay. What I do know is that her initial Twitter thread got the attention of the editors at EducationNC, who liked what they saw and contacted her.

Last night, Lindsay started another thread. It began:

I make students in my Reporting and Writing class tweet. I stress the importance of networking on social media. I tell personal stories of connecting – and getting responses from famous novelists. I talk about engaging with interesting people all over the world, and particularly some in my fields of interest. I show them how they can discover new information, how they can find sources and how they can learn interesting stuff. I tell them about students who’ve gotten jobs because of what they’ve seen and done on Twitter. (I’m one of many of the late Steve Buttry’s disciples.)

I’m clearly not effective at it, though, because most of them abandon Twitter as soon as the semester is over. They tend to think of it in their high school terms, rather than as a place where professionals gather. But some get it, and perhaps others will see her last post in that Twitter thread.

For now, I am going to invited Lindsay to speak to my classes about both journalism skills and social networks. For one thing, I’ll finally get to meet her in real life.

Saturday update: Laura Lee, managing editor at EducationNC, told me that my RT of Lindsay’s tweet thread led them to her. More important:

Sunday sampler, back-to-school edition

I’m not featuring any back-to-school stories today because they’re all the same and I don’t care about them. But there is still good stuff on today’s front pages.

Asheville: Asheville is on pace to near a 10-year-high in murders, the Citizen-Times reports. And while the number for the first seven months of the year is six deaths, every one impacts more than the victim. “‘People are shooting in the morning, noon, evening, middle of the night. They don’t care. They are ruthless,'” said Jackson, who runs to her children’s beds and pulls them onto the floor when she hears gunshots at night.”

Charlotte: The journalist in me like stories that give voice to the voiceless. The Charlotte Observer does that with its damning story today about a dilapidated hotel that the city might finally be ready to demolish. “Inspectors found rooms with no heat or air conditioning, piles of garbage, bedbugs and broken windows among other problems at the Airport Parkway Inn and Suites. Former tenants and a neighboring business complain the building on Wilkinson Boulevard is a magnet for drugs and crime…. Advocates for the poor say the businesses can thrive financially because Charlotte doesn’t have enough affordable housing, homeless shelters are almost always full and some hotel owners are not held accountable for substandard conditions.”

Raleigh: Courts have always been political, but it’s been a long time since they’ve become as overtly politicized as they are now. And it’s not just McConnell-Trump and Merrick Garland. The News & Observer explains what happened when the N.C. Republican Party tried to get one of the state’s appellate court judges to retire early so the seat would remain in Republican hands. “That was when I realized, it wasn’t keeping a Republican in the seat that they were interested in,” McCullough said. “It was getting their Republican in the seat.”

Lenior: The News-Topic has what appears to be a fascinating story about a hazardous waste incinerator plant that was closed down 25 years ago…and problems with groundwater even now. Even worse a governmental study that was supposed to have been done years ago never got started. The story is behind a paywall so I couldn’t read it all.

Sunday sampler, eclipse edition

Most N.C. front pages feature stories about the eclipse coming Monday. Great. I’m not going focus on them because that’s boring. (Sylva, where thousands are expected to visit to view a total eclipse, to Raleigh, where the N&O tries to dampen the enthusiasm for seeing much.)

The other “big” story on front pages is about Confederate monuments. And there is plenty of “heritage not hate” justification.

Asheville: “The downtown has two obvious Confederate monuments, a small Robert E. Lee stone with a plaque in Pack Square, and a small statue by the Buncombe County Courthouse dedicated to Confederate war dead in the Battle of Chickamauga. The biggest memorial is the 75-foot tall Zebulon Baird Vance Monument, dedicated to the Buncombe County native, Civil War-era governor and U.S. senator and representative.”

Durham: “The new president of Duke University has ordered the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee after it was vandalized earlier this week. ‘I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university,’ President Vincent Price said in a statement released Saturday morning.”

Charlotte: “Gastonia’s 105-year-old Confederate soldier occupies one of the most serene posts in a race-roiled America. The unnamed granite Rebel literally rises above the hubbub of trials and lawsuits at the Gaston County Courthouse. From his pedestal some 30 feet high, he looks out on rain-lush August trees and a street recently renamed to honor Martin Luther King Jr.”

Greensboro: “The obelisk monument to dead Confederate soldier at Oakwood Municipal Cemetery in High Point was erected in 1899 by the Guilford Council Junior Order of United American Mechanics, a fraternity founded by white nativists in 1853 in Philadelphia, with a focus on protecting American jobs from immigrants.”

Monroe: The Enquirer-Journal has a two-story package, but it’s not online.

Meanwhile, in other news:

Hickory: Just in time for high school football, the Daily Record has a good three-part series on concussions among athletes. “Student athletes in five area high schools and one area college will undergo special testing this academic year to monitor the effects of mild traumatic brain injuries- or concussions.”

Wilmington: The Star-News continues its excellent coverage of GenX, a toxic compound in area drinking water. Today’s story goes back before GenX to the chemical it replaced. Good stuff.

Sunday sampler

I’m watching the News & Observer’s digital initiative with great interest, and anyone interested in the future of newspapers should, too. Last Monday, the N&O began its outstanding five-part series on jail deaths. I read it online throughout the week. And that gave me and other online visitors a six-day headstart on readers of the print edition.

The series started in the print edition today. And to get to the first story on the website, you have to search. But it’s worth the search. You can also find every report of every bad jail death. My guess is that the traffic the series generated is sizable. And I assume the paper is banking on readers of the print edition to either see it for the first time or not be bothered by the sense of “wait, I read this online last week.” (Me, it annoyed me that there is nothing on the front page of today’s paper to read because I’d read the jail story and I knew about the Charlottesville story already. But there are other things in the paper worth its newstand price.)

I hope the N&O is successful. It’s an important institution for all of N.C.

By the way, reporter Dan Kane, who has taken the slings and arrows of UNC fans for his excellent work writing about the athletic/academic scandal at the school, has done excellent work here, too.

Greensboro: How would you like it if a company wanted to put a rock quarry next to you? That’s what is facing some residents of rural Pleasant Garden in Guilford County. The News & Record looks at both sides — yes, there are pretty much just two sides. Interesting to see what the planning board does.

Wilmington: Something N.C. Democrats should be concerned about: Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats now in New Hanover County. “I think it’s more of an ideological trend and telling people they should register how they plan to vote and not just how they originally signed up,” (the chairman of the county Republican Party) said. “We also have a lot of volunteers out there knocking on doors and stopping people on the street.”

Sunday sampler

I skipped the past two weeks because I was out of the country. I could have been like our esteemed president, who is in N.J. for a 17-day vacation, which he insists is not a vacation. Mine was a vacation.

Charlotte: For five years, public officials have been told that the texts they send are public records.Not surprisingly, public officials either don’t care or weren’t paying attention. The Observer found that many local governments aren’t following the law. Meanwhile, making the Observer’s point, the Enquirer-Journal in Monroe reports that the Union County sheriff says that the text messages requested in a suit filed by WBTV no longer exist.

Greensboro: The News & Record has a wonderful story that is hard to start — about a woman whose dog bite her face, slashing it up and tearing off her nose. And then you get to this section: “After not saying a word for hours, and nearly choking on her blood in the emergency room, Alexis grabbed the arm of the person moving her to an operating room. “’Can I,’” she said matter-of-factly, “’order a Jennifer Aniston nose?’”

Lenoir: The News-Topic outlines the problems with drugs in Lenior, and it’s not pretty. While the full story is behind a paywall, what’s on the front page is compelling enough. It’s not just coke, meth of heroin. It’s fentanyl, too.

Morganton: The headline of the News Herald says it all: “Woman arrested twice in 24 hours among three caught trafficking meth.” I post this not to make fun — although, c’mon — but to point to the addictive powers of meth. She made bond at 9:50 p.m. and was back dealing almost immediately because she was arrested again less than four hours later, according to police.


Sunday sampler

Several front pages of N.C. newspapers featured stories about the opioid crisis. Including:

Charlotte: The Observer tells the story of a 25-year-old heroin addict who was basically stored for two days in a hospital emergency department because all the treatment centers were full. “A growing opioid and heroin epidemic has escalated a problem that health care professionals have been raising concerns about for years: North Carolina has inadequate services for people with mental and behavioral health diseases.”

Greensboro: Staying in the medical field, the News & Record tells the story of a small town hospital and what happens when it gets so financially strapped it has to file for bankruptcy protection. (And it goes beyond blaming Medicaid or Obamacare.) “The possibility of the hospital going under hangs over a blue-collar community that’s already struggling to rebound from the loss of textile jobs that allowed many families to buy a house and send children to college. Eden, like the hospital, is struggling to exist in a world that’s changing around it.”


Sunday sampler

Charlotte: Ever since I watched my parents’ health decline, I’ve thought that America treats its dying pets better than its dying people. So the Observer’s story about a man who killed his ill wife and now charged with murder fascinated me. They apparently loved each other. He has dementia; she had cancer. He has been charged with murder. And, as the Observer asks, was it murder or a mercy killing?

Raleigh: It is a shame that the people who want Mexicans to leave the country don’t show more mercy to those here working in the fields so that Americans have food to eat and cigarettes to smoke. The News & Observer takes a look at the children — children! — working the fields, often illegally. “But despite the adjustments, advocacy groups and farmworkers say few changes have trickled down and underage children are still working. Anti-child labor organizations say that working in agriculture poses health and safety risks for children, but many farmers grew up working on their parents’ farmers and argue that farming ingrains the value of hard work from an early age. “’Thousands of people grew up working on farms. My children did it,’” said Larry Wooten, president of the N.C. Farm Bureau. “’Farm work is hard, it’s hot, it’s nasty and it’s outside. They (immigrant workers) come here knowing that it is work.’”

Asheville: Many Airbnb’s in Asheville are illegal? “Currently, Asheville law only permits residents to rent two rooms in their homes at a time. The property being rented must also be in a residential zoning district. Potential renters must also be present at the home during the rental and obtain a permit from the city. The city refers to these types of rentals as homestays.”

Greensboro: If you want to know how cold-hearted our elected officials can be when it comes to the state’s most vulnerable, read the News & Record’s story about the state budget wiping out some funding for Legal Aid. (Of course, no one seems to know how it was inserted into the budget because darkness nurtures evil.) “That means several hundred people per year who need legal assistance won’t be getting it,” said Southern Piedmont director Kenneth Schorr. “People who are in danger of losing their safety and security.”

Sunday sampler

Asheville: Do you know where in your city the most violent crime occurs? My guess is that you’re wrong. The Citizen-Times did its readers a favor by pointing in a few directions.  “But according to a neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis of police data by the Citizen-Times, crime isn’t a problem only downtown, with surrounding neighborhoods experiencing higher rates of the two most serious types of violent crime — rapes and homicides — than the city center.” The story itself is intensely local to Asheville — I used to live there — but it would be an interesting story for other publications to mimic.

Wilmington: GenX, a toxic chemical used in Teflon and made by DuPont, has been found in the Cape Fear River and the area’s water supply. The Star-News has been all over this story for a few weeks, explaining and exploring the ins and outs of the chemical, which cannot be filtered out of the water supply. The linked story isn’t the one on today’s front page because I couldn’t find that one — about high school athletes in summer training drinking the water. This link is to a Q&A about the chemical.

Raleigh: The idea that letting just about anyone carry a concealed gun is crazy to me, yet it makes great sense to the people the state’s voters send to Raleigh. “The state House passed a bill this month that pits gun owners against each other. It would nearly eliminate concealed handgun permits and the training that goes with them, and would set the minimum age at 18 to carry a concealed gun.” Let me point out it eliminates most of the training. The justification for it makes little sense to me, either.

Greensboro: Because I’m a Democrat in a blue city that was gerrymandered to dilute our voting power and Greensboro is now represented by two Republicans, including one who lives two counties away, this story on gerrymandering interested me. No surprise that its point is that people like me have little voice in Washington. “Yet the data suggest that even if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering. ‘The outcome was already cooked in, if you will, because of the way the districts were drawn,’ said John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in the 1980s.”

Charlotte: I had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham several times and interviewing him at length once. I liked him. I can’t say the same for his son, Franklin. The Observer has an outstanding piece examining the role Ruth Graham played in her husband’s and son’s lives. “Instead of changing with age, Franklin, now 64, has dug in. He has said and done a lot that’s proven controversial, including questioning President Barack Obama’s Christianity and pulling his ministry’s money out of Wells Fargo when the bank ran commercials featuring a lesbian couple. ‘Like his mother, Franklin is unusually driven,’ Wacker said. ‘Driven by ideas and also by a sense that it’s his job to promulgate his views and save the culture.’”

Sunday sampler, Father’s Day edition

Unlike Mother’s Day, not that many newspapers have Father’s Day stories on their front pages. Suits me because there are several other interesting stories.

Greensboro: The News & Record identifies the most influential 20 people in Greensboro. As are all lists like this, it’s subjective, which the paper acknowledges. But it states its criteria, and it makes sense. It’s a solid list with some regulars — people who would have been on such a list 25 years ago — and some surprises. I like stories like this. The names don’t have be the same you or I would select, but they do tell readers about the city in a way most daily news stories don’t.

Charlotte: Driving drunk and causing a wreck that kills a woman is terrible. Having three drunken driving charges and two convictions before that and still keeping your driving license? The Observer examines how that happened. You probably won’t like the explanations.

Raleigh: The state legislature has let it be known for three or four years that it doesn’t care for protesters in the capital building. After namecalling — “Moron Monday” — and mass arrests, now come the bans. “Asked why the bans are needed, (General Assembly Police Chief Martin) Brock said, ‘If someone has been arrested two or three times, would it be reasonable to expect that they would be arrested again? That would be my observation.’ Unconstitutional? Seems like it.

Lenoir: The News-Topic has a neat story about a man researching his family history and who decided to check out a family rumor. He ended up believing that his grandfather killed a man and got away with it. Sadly for me, there’s a paywall so I couldn’t read the entire story.