Sunday sampler

By coincidence, many of the state’s front pages featured stories on the congressional races in their areas. Good. Those aren’t going to get much coverage unless they’re featured in the local paper.

Charlotte & Raleigh: The Observer and the News & Observer — which share political reporters — did a splashy takeout on the gubernatorial race. They didn’t play the stories by the individual reporters the same way, though. Charlotte ran separate profiles on each candidate on its front page. Raleigh published the profile on Walter Dalton and is saving the Pat McCrory profile for next Sunday. Assuming that Raleigh is going to publish the McCrory profile the Observer ran — written by an Observer reporter — that’s seems odd to me. But perhaps Raleigh is going to publish a different profile.











Asheville — The Citizen-Times takes on a topic I wish every media would tackle — negative ads. No one likes them except the political campaigns that insist they HAVE to do them because they work. Fine. Expose them for what they are.






Fayetteville — The Observer gives dominant play on its front page to the funeral service for a female Army staff sergeant killed in Afghanistan. The only reason I mention it is because the paper also gave front page prominence to the fact that the deceased’s spouse is also a female. Seems easy enough, but it apparently isn’t. The Observer made the right call.





Greensboro — The News & Record examines whether a local gang leader is a good guy or a bad guy. It’s tough to come to a firm conclusion about Jorge Cornell’s motives. Respectable people stand with and against him. My friend Robert Lopez does a fine write-through on him.

(Images courtesy of the Newseum.)


Sunday sampler

Asheville — Despite its bohemian reputation, Asheville has a large population of retirees. So parsing through the facts, myths and politics of Medicare is worthy journalism for the Citizen-Times. “Whether it’s there for everybody tomorrow depends on who’s talking, including the four candidates wanting to represent Western North Carolina in Congress. And finding the truth amid the rhetoric in a presidential election year can prove daunting.” (As usually happens, the facts get buried by the blather of politicians trying to further their own causes.)



Burlington — Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice said that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office unlawfully targeted Latinos and demanded action. The Times-News follows up with a reminder that taxpayers will foot the bill if the Sheriff’s Office challenges the DOJ, which is likely to happen. That means, of course, that taxpayers will pay lawyers on both sides! Neat, huh.





Charlotte— The Observer and the News & Observer continue their series on hospitals and the cost of medical care, this time looking at what’s called “cost shifting.” “Large nonprofit hospitals in North Carolina are dramatically inflating prices on chemotherapy drugs at a time when they are cornering more of the market on cancer care, an investigation by the Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh has found….Some of the largest markups are made by nonprofit hospital chains that generate millions of dollars of profit each year and have billions in reserves.”


FayettevilleThe Observer continues its indepth examination of mental problems  among returning soldiers and what the military is doing about it. Powerful stuff for anyone who cares about people who have served their country and are now trying to cope.





Raleigh — Of course, it shares the hospital story with Charlotte, as it shares this story about where the gubernatorial candidates stand on taxes. In one graphic on the front page is a clue why Pat McCrory is ahead. He’s promising not to raise taxes; McCrory isn’t.






Wilmington — The Star News writes of a heroin addict’s journey into addiction and her attempts to get out of it. It’s not especially an unusual story, but reporter Brian Freskos tells it in a gripping way.
Thanks to the Newseum for the images.

Sunday sampler

Maybe it is that summer vacation is winding down for newsrooms. Maybe it is that it’s a rainy Sunday morning for me. Maybe it is a burst of creativity. Maybe it is simply serendipity. Whatever the reason, the front pages of N.C. newspapers are filled with interesting, enterprising surprises this morning.

Asheville— I always watch with bemusement as people and politicians demand results but refuse to fund programs to get them. The Citizen-Times details the case overload at the State Crime Lab. “A big increase in evidence submitted for testing, less time to do the analysis and no increase in the number of lab workers has created the longer wait times, Joseph R. John Sr. said in a recent interview….The issues have made their way into Western North Carolina courtrooms, where DWI cases are being continued while prosecutors wait for test results, raising the risk drunken drivers could return to the road before going in front of a judge.

Charlotte — How many times have we heard city leaders and economic developers talk about the millions of dollars that conventions bring to their cities? (If you’re in the newspaper business, a lot.) With the Democratic National Convention coming to town, the Observer takes a look. “The Charlotte Convention Center has cost taxpayers as much as $30 million annually for construction debt, operating losses and incentives worth of hundreds of thousands of dollars to win business. The promised payback from the investment hasn’t materialized. Meanwhile, Charlotte residents pick up much of the tab: Most Convention Center funding comes from a countywide 1 percent tax on restaurant and bar bills – a majority of which is paid by Mecklenburg County residents who dine out.”

Salisbury — Here’s a headline for you: Gangs are in elementary schools, the Post reports. Welcome back class of 2020!
Raleigh — The N&O starts a three-part series on cheating in the business world, although in this case cheating means breaking the law. “Some of the other bidders were subcontracting their labor needs to middlemen who called their workers independent contractors – or treated them like ghosts, paid under the table and never acknowledged….Those in the construction industry say the scheme is now prevalent across the trades. A News & Observer review of state Industrial Commission decisions, in which arbitrators sort through workers’ compensation claims, shows the practice is common and has penetrated other industries. The cost is huge in unpaid medical bills for injured workers, uncollected business and personal taxes, and payments not made to a depleted state unemployment reserve.”
Greensboro — The N&R revisits a story it has been tracking for three years — the economic health of community banks. Short answer: after the dark days of the recession, they are getting better…but at a cost to consumers.
Gastonia — The Gazette has a surprise on its front page, but it’s not a welcome one. Across the top of the front page — running probably three inches deep and including the nameplate of the paper — is an ad for Covergirl lipstick. Actually it’s a promo to Parade, which has an ad for the lipstick, but this may as well be an ad. It reads, “$5 off Covergirl lip products.” I’ve come to terms with advertising on the front page, but across the top including the newspapers name? A little too much for my tastes. (The link is from the Newseum and will be broken by Monday so look quickly.)

Sunday sampler

Americans woke up to the news on Saturday morning that Mitt Romney had selected Paul Ryan as his VP choice. They woke up to that news again Sunday morning when their newspapers led their front pages with it. But there are still some good enterprising surprises on the state’s front pages that make them well worth 75 cents.

Raleigh— As a teenager in Raleigh, I was well aware of the presence of Dorothea Dix Hospital, which treated the mentally ill. It’s closing now, and expert fear the closing opens a hole in the state’s safety net even wider. The N&O explains. The remaining Dix patients are being transferred to Central Regional Hospital in Butner, a new facility that critics say doesn’t have nearly enough beds to treat those with the most severe mental illnesses.

Asheville — The Citizen-Times continues to dig into the case of the former Henderson County sheriff, whose “inappropriate behavior while in office and on the job cost Henderson County’s insurance company $90,000 in a payment to a female deputy who had threatened legal action.”
Wilmington — The Star-News tells a riveting story — it starts slowly but give it a chance — of a man whose own family didn’t know he was a POW in WWII. They knew he was a hero — they had seen his medals — but not that he had been in an enemy prison. “We’re talking about over 60 years this man kept this to himself.”
CharlotteThe Observer has a nice piece on the best and the worst of the Olympics. Make sure you read to the end so you can read about his award for “Best Heart.”
Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh — Just for fun, it is worth noting that the News & Record, the Observer and the N&O all have local reaction stories on the selection of Rep. Ryan. The headlines are interesting in what they say. Greensboro: “Local GOP happy with Ryan.” Raleigh: “Ryan pick energizes Republicans, Democrats in North Carolina.” Charlotte: “Paul Ryan draws mixed reviews in N.C.”

Sunday sampler

For the first time in weeks, the state’s Sunday front pages didn’t have a sameness about them. The consequence? More than usual enterprising and surprising stories.

Asheville — A year ago, the police chief retired after problems appeared in the handling of criminal evidence at the department. Apparently, problems were worse than the appeared. The Citizen-Times describes the problems and remedies as best it can, given that no one wants to be helpful. Thank you, state public records laws.

Burlington — The Times-News revisits a 33-year-old murder case that is still unsolved. What makes this even more compelling is the detail in the telling. Sad story.

Raleigh — The N&O writes about Duke University researchers that are studying blast-induced traumatic brain injuries. As with the Times-News, the writer makes the topic come alive. The beginning, about the execution of deserters in WWI, draws you right in.

Wilmington — In the comments, I’m told to check the Star-News story about yellow fever 150 years ago. Through disease and departure, it decimated the city. One helluva story well-told.

What’d I miss?

Sunday sampler

In case you didn’t know that Michael Phelps lost his first race Saturday — an event that happened early in the day — front pages of Sunday newspapers told you. Fortunately, there were some interesting surprises on the state’s front pages, too.

Greensboro — The News & Record continues its strong reporting on the Janet Danahey clemency request. Danahey set a fire that killed four people 10 years ago. Not surprisingly, the details of the crime described in the request of the governor filed by her attorneys differ from those told by criminal and arson investigators.

Raleigh — The News & Observer continues its strong reporting on the UNC academic scandal. I suppose it says what everyone already knows: there are students and then there are athletes who are students.

Asheville — The Citizen-Times revisits the death of a fire department captain a year later. He died fighting an arson fire, and his killer — arson deaths are considered homicides — hasn’t been caught. His story — and that of his widow — is compelling.

Sunday sampler

The lull in big news during Fourth of July week — yes, I know it’s hot — must have inspired editors because this Sunday’s newspaper front pages are filled with interesting stories that surprised me and demanded that I read them.

Two from Charlotte — Things aren’t great on the attendance and revenue end of NASCAR, and the Observer digs past the anecdotes to show just what’s happening. The Observer also previews the head-shaking embarrassment that has become the Duke-Progress Energy merger. (I hope our state regulators stand tall on this one.)

Fayetteville — The Observer continues its superb coverage of the troubles of troubled soldiers, this time looking closely at what the military is doing about suicides. The paper tells the compelling story of one private who took his own life. The Star-News in Wilmington has a similar story, equally compelling.

Raleigh — The News & Observer continues its superb coverage of the UNC academic scandal in the Afro-American Studies program. Citizens of the state should be pleased that the N&O is keeping the spotlight on the scandal and UNC’s reaction to it. (Wouldn’t you love to get an interview with the man at the center of it, Julius Nyang’oro?)

Two from Asheville — The Citizen-Times writes about crime — fights, actually — in downtown Asheville. I used to work at the Citizen-Times and like to return to Asheville on occasion so this is really my bias coming through. The story isn’t special, but the topic is. I’m glad the paper told me to be careful (and I suspect the Chamber of Commerce is cringing this morning). Not only that, the Citizen updates readers on Ghost Town in the Sky, which was pretty cool back in the day.

Burlington — The Times-News localizes a state story — originally reported by the Winston-Salem Journal — on eugenics. How the actions of the government hurt citizens’ lives are always worth telling readers.

Sunday Sampler

With last week’s all-Father’s-Day-all-the-time front pages, I took a break. They were all fine, but nothing special worth noting. Back at it now with some good stuff from the state’s front pages.

Charlotte — The Observer looked at the salaries at the state’s 50 top publicly traded companies and concluded: Some of North Carolina’s biggest companies gave their CEOs higher pay last year even as their shareholders saw lower returns. (Raleigh ran the same story.) My thought? Ten mugshots of the CEOS on the front — it’s an all-middle-aged-white-male club.

Asheville — The Citizen-Times stripped a good piece on the AIDS epidemic across the top of its front page. In case we have forgotten about the tragedy of AIDS: The truth is that North Carolina is one of about 10 Southern states experiencing a crisis that has earned the Southeast a reputation as “ground zero” for HIV/AIDS rates in the United States.

Winston-Salem & Gastonia — Both the Journal and the Gaston Gazette have reaction stories from the immigrant community to President Obama’s announcement last week. Good timely pieces with plenty of voices.

Fayetteville — The Observer continues its series on the war with its reporter and photographer writing about the country’s efforts in Afghanistan. As I have said before, this is some powerful journalism.

Sunday sampler

High school graduations dominate the front pages of Sunday papers today. But some of the papers had stories of wonderful surprise.

Fayetteville — The Observer has its reporter and photographer in Afghanistan, writing about the ongoing — and barely noticed by many Americans — war.

Asheville — It’s always interesting to me how cities can want to ban a business and have trouble doing it, but that is what’s happening with the video sweepstakes industry.

Raleigh — Can’t read well by the third grade? Repeat the grade. That’s the idea behind a bill making its way through the legislature.

Greensboro — Victory Junction was a great idea and is a great program. But it has troubles, as outlined by Taft Wireback of the News & Record.

Sunday sampler

It’s a good day for interesting, unexpected stories on the front pages of the state’s papers.

Asheville Citizen-Times: When a law enforcement officer shoots someone in the line of duty, it’s important to examine what happened and why. The paper reported that officers are rarely charged with a crime, which may be fine, but it’s hard for the public to tell.  The SBI  typically investigates those shootings. The findings are submitted to local district attorneys and are almost always withheld from the public.

Burlington Times-News: Three years ago, a 39-year-old woman never made it to her expected destination, her mother’s house. She disappeared and investigators are still looking for her. As television seems to select missing women stories to focus on, it’s a wonder they didn’t choose this one.

The Charlotte Observer: Finally, a look at the appeal of Danica Patrick beyond the cliche. To some racing fans, Patrick’s arrival is irritating, based on a perception she doesn’t belong in the sport because she didn’t grow up in it and, perhaps, because she’s female. To others, she’s the perfect package of style, speed and sexiness in a sport that has never been known for its diversity.

The Fayetteville Observer: How well does a program for wounded soldiers care for our vets? Not all that great. The report also uncovered concerns that the battalion’s physically wounded and mentally impaired soldiers were being overmedicated, partly because of a lack of communication and controls. The report quotes one command team member as saying, “half of the warriors are ‘stoned’ on psychotropic drugs.”
The News & Observer: For everyone who believes that lawmakers see themselves as deserving of better treatment than their constituents — I’m one — this will cause you to grit your teeth. A cadre of veteran state lawmakers will retire at the end of the year – and special perks in state law allow them to land with a financial parachute….A North Carolina law that allows the state’s part-time lawmakers to add an expense stipend to their base salary when calculating retirement benefits boosts their pensions by more than 30 percent, according to a News & Observer analysis. The percentage of salary lawmakers receive as an annual payout also is more than double the rate afforded most state workers.