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

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

As would be expected, many of the state’s papers displayed stories about the Aurora shootings on their front pages. But many also featured interesting stories about their communities and the state that only newspapers can do well.

Burlington — Law enforcement officers find “$842,710 in cash, 9390 rounds of assorted ammunition, one 100-round AR15/M16 magazine, six 9 mm magazines, six Colt .38 super magazines, seven AR15/M16 magazines, one pad lock, one Food Saver sealer, one digital scale, one expandable file folder with paper contents and one Coleman cooler” in a storage unit. Wanna claim it?

Raleigh — The News & Observer has a write-through on the scandal involving how a District Court dealt with DWI cases. “’This has been going on for years,’ said Debbie Jones, an assistant secretary with the state Division of Motor Vehicles. ‘It’s statewide.’” Sounds to me like an invitation to other newspapers to check the courts in their areas.

Raleigh — The N&O isn’t finished, either. The paper gives a detailed account of the political manueverings around where the state’s economy is going and whose fault it is that it’s not going better. It also answers my question about how the state can be rated as business friendly by national surveys at the same time that Republicans and business leaders complain about business-stifling regulations.

Greensboro — The News & Record examines a 10-year-old arson/murder case in which four people died and one is serving a life sentence in prison. It’s a powerful story of crime, punishment, retribution and redemption.

Fayetteville — The Observer tells the story of Jubilee House, a shelter for homeless women veterans that was opened with much acclaim from “Extreme Makeover” and Michelle Obama. Not smooth sailing, though. It failed a Veterans Affairs inspection and has struggled ever since.

Did I miss any others? (I’m sure I did.) Leave suggestions in the comments.

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

Some great journalism on the front pages of the state’s newspapers this morning.

The News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer begins what promises to be a compelling — and shocking — five-part series on how much money hospitals are making. Here are just two of the bullet points:

* They’ve made their money largely from employer-sponsored health insurance, often inflating prices on drugs and procedures – sometimes to three, four or 10 times over costs. North Carolina hospital costs are more than 10 percent higher than the national average for Aetna, said Jarvis Leigh, a network vice president.

* They’ve hiked their fees each year, leaving many patients with crippling debt. Some hospitals have sued thousands of patients, while others have turned to collection agencies to pursue debtors.

Fayetteville Observer — The paper always pays close attention to the No. 1 industry in town — the military. Right now, it is paying close attention to complaints that the Army isn’t taking care of its own. Good stuff.

Burlington Times-News and the Hickory Daily Record – Stories focusing on the pros and cons of the marriage amendment — plus a FAQs — dominate the front pages. It’s the hottest issue on the primary ballot and deserving of such coverage.


When coaches and refs cuss: what he said

Did referee Brian Dorsey curse at N.C. State Coach Mark Gottfried in yesterday’s ACC semi-final match between Carolina and State? Apparently so.

During the game, Adam Smith of the Burlington Times-News tweeted: Gottfried: “That’s a charge!” Ref Brian Dorsey: “Shut your #$%^&& ass up!” He went on to tweet that the word preceding ass started with an f.

State fans erupted. Already incensed at the officiating, the exchange heightened things.

For decades, all but two of the Atlantic Coast Conference institutions have almost uniformly acknowledged that the conference has a major problem with officiating incompetence and double standards. Maybe some of the ‘good’ news about yet ANOTHER public implosion of John Swofford and John Clougherty’s officiating cabal will be some change is on the way.

That’s from statefansnation. I won’t quote from any of the comment boards.

Ed Hardin of the News & Record tells a slightly different story in his column for the newspaper (in the e-edition):

“That’s (expletive)!” Mark Gottfried, the N.C. State coach screamed at referee Brian Dorsey in the chaotic closing seconds of the game. “That’s a (expletive) charge!”

Dorsey cussed right back at Gottfried.

Then later:

Gottfired was told to “back up” more than once, and his red-faced glare was ignored throughout the game. He could have been teed up any number of times.

In the end, Gottfried was pounding his fist into his hands and screaming vulgarities at the top of his lungs at Dorsey.

I couldn’t find any other reference to the exchange in other papers. Perhaps sportwriters are simply used to the cursing on the sidelines. What fan hasn’t been able to read the lips of coaches and players cussing at officials, at each other and to themselves? Say what you will about the wholesome educational atmosphere engendered at our state institutions.

I looked at the Burlington Times-News this morning to see how Adam Smith described the incident for his non-Twitter readers, but see no reference to the Gottfried-Dorsey conversation. (I looked online; I could have missed it.) I’ve messaged editor Madison Taylor about it. I will post his response when I get it.

Update: Actually, Madison wrote about it on his blog. (I should have known. He’s the best blogging editor in the state.)

Because I was monitoring the game on Twitter and watching on TV, I saw Adam’s post when he sent it. I knew right away it could be radioactive. I follow a lot of sports writers and fans. I already knew the N.C. State crowd was seething — and with decent reason. Not long after the game, State Fans Nation, a blog that covers Wolfpack athletics for fans picked up on Adam’s observation. By then, it had a life of its own.

“I’m a little uncomfortable about it to tell you the truth,” Adam told me. “It’s not like this never happens.”

Adam went on to explain that language among coaches is frequently of the &##^#& variety, especially when dealing with officials — Gottfried included. He didn’t see any reason not to report this exchange.

It goes on. Read the whole thing.


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.

Sunday sampler

When I look at newspaper front pages, I’m seeking a surprise — something that tells me something I don’t know and that I want to know. So stories about the S.C. primary results, which I knew at dinnertime last night and which ran non-stop on news channels all night, aren’t going to catch my attention. (Stories about it dominate many of the state’s front pages.)

But these did:

From the News & Observer: A state prison doctor gets $201,000 a year treating patients, and then double dips with another state job, getting $50,000 more. And the reader is pretty much left with the idea that he can’t possibly do both jobs. He declines to comment and his boss at the state doesn’t address the issue. Your government at work. Sweet.

From the Statesville Record & Landmark: A piece about an Iredell County commissioner who would have been on the wrecked cruise ship off Italy except for a county commissioners meeting. He’d have been on the size that’s now underwater, too.

From the News & Record: A hero story about a guy who went to the aid of some people in a traffic accident and ended up getting hurt himself. The writing of the tale is as compelling as the act itself.

From the Burlington Times-News:  The paper updates the status of 637 registered voters who may or may not be citizens. Along the way, it gives some insight into how the investigation took place and whether voter fraud is truly a serious issue worth pursuing.

Madison Taylor, blogging editor

I live in Winston-Salem. I have the Winston-Salem Journal delivered every morning.  But I don’t feel like I know anyone there.  The paper doesn’t have a “voice”,  at least not one that I can hear.  The closest thing to its voice is the editor’s column in the op-ed section.

In fairness to the Journal I think that the “voice” issue is the same for the vast majority of newspapers.  But unfortunately for the Journal they happen to be juxtaposed with the Greensboro News & Record. The N&R is making national (maybe even international) headlines, at least in the publishing sector and the nascent blogosphere, because it is embracing the newest in publishing paradigms: the blog….

Anyway, it would probably pain the editor at the Journal (I have no idea what his/her name is) to know that I feel like I’m on a first name basis with the editor of the Greensboro News & Record (Hi John!).  If I happen across a hot story or issue, who do you think I’m going to ping with it?

Jon Lowder wrote that on his blog in January 2005. We had never met, but he felt he knew me because he read my blog, and I his.

For me, now, that role is filled by Madison Taylor, editor of the Times-News in Burlington. I don’t get that paper, and have never met Taylor. But I read his blog and am a friend of his on Facebook. He writes about the paper, about visiting politicos, about Times-News alums, and about issues in Alamance County and N.C. I feel like I know him and feel affiliated with the paper. He does a tremendous job demystifying the paper and connecting with people. Plus, he’s engaging and funny — perfect for social media.

North Carolina has a number of blogging editors, but too many of them post infrequently or only promote the paper. If you have favorite editors in the state who blog or are on Facebook or Twitter, let me know. I’d like to follow them.

Putting public interest second

Yesterday, I was puzzled that more newspapers didn’t see the late-night early morning session of the General Assembly as front-page news. (I know it happened past most deadlines, but the AP had a story available.)

More newspapers got on board this morning, thanks to strong statements by the governor and NCAE yesterday. Stories about the furtive session made the front pages of Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston, Fayetteville, Burlington, Asheville, Salisbury and Greenville, among others. Editorials in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington condemned the action.

Good politics and good government are not contradictory. You just need legislators who put the public interest first.