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

Today’s front pages have some wonderful stories that have nothing to do with the presidential election. It’s a good day.

Raleigh— The N&O continues its exceptional work examining how the athletic/academic scandal at one of the nation’s best public universities could have occurred. It is not a pretty picture.






Greensboro — In the back of their minds, many parents fear that their young children might get inappropriate contact by authority figures. The News & Record tells just such a story and what one father did about it. It gets messy and the costs on both sides are high.No Lifetime movie pat ending on this one.





Charlotte — One night on The Daily Show, NBC’s Brian Williams said that there were not 10 battleground states; there were 10 battleground counties. A few weeks later, I met an NBC political analyst and I asked him whether one of those was in North Carolina. He said that they considered the Triangle as one. (I know, it’s three counties.) Anyway, the Observer identifies Watauga County as  bellwether, and it explains why.





Gaston — Last week I criticized the Gazette for its front page ad promotion. This week I praise it for a story about a returning Marine, who survived a vicious bomb explosion while on duty in Afghanistan. The first paragraph of the story drove me to read the whole thing: “The words written in ink on U.S. Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Kessler’s arm read like something from a vacationing tourist’s T-shirt: ‘I had a blast in Afghanistan.’”

Front pages 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

Most of the state’s newspaper front pages I saw continued with stories about either the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte or the presidential race in general. (The Observer, which did a wonderful job covering the convention, can be forgiven with one more front-page centerpiece on how the city dealt with the influx of Democrats. The Statesville Record & Landmark, maybe, but the Winston-Salem Journal? Not sure about that call.)  But there was room for other good enterprising journalism.

Raleigh — Many parents depend on the school bus to get their children to school. Safety is first, of course, but reliability is a close second. And when the bus doesn’t come? The N&O explores what it calls the nightmare of missed routes, no buses or overfilled ones.

Fayetteville — The Observer examines what’s being done — not much — about concussions among high school football players. “They’re missing them,” said Dr. Josh Bloom, a former college football player and team physician for the Carolina Hurricanes and USA Baseball. “. I would expect virtually any decent-sized high school team to have likely multiple concussions in a season.”

Sunday sampler, campaign edition

Virtually every front page in the state features a post-Republican National Convention story or a preview of the Democratic National Convention. Some, such as Wilmington, have them both. Those stories have effectively sucked everything else out of the news agenda this Sunday. Evidence of A1 enterprise outside of politics is slim. So today will be the campaign edition.

Charlotte — The newspaper of the DNC host city is filled with stories about the convention and is doing its usual bang-up job.

Asheville — The Citizen-Times puts some local faces on part of the Republican Party platform.

Winston-Salem — The Journal puts some faces on the local delegates to the DNC. So does the Star News in Wilmington.

Raleigh — The N&O discusses issues before the middle class.

Gaston — The Gazette provides a DNC guide for dummies, although I don’t think it means to call its readers that.

Sunday sampler

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There aren’t many front pages of N.C. newspapers today that demand I pick them up and read them. Neil Armstrong has died. Knew it. Hurricane Isaac is still bearing down on Tampa. Knew it on Friday. So, I offer up Joe Jackson’s “Sunday Papers.”

Raleigh— The N&O has an interesting piece on Bain Capital’s connection to North Carolina and its mixed record. If Romney’s business background is important to you as you consider how you’ll vote, this is worth reading. Over a 10-year period, the firm pumped huge sums into at least five companies based in the state and many other corporations with significant operations here. Bain’s investments in just the North Carolina-based companies totaled about $1 billion and affected roughly 5,000 employees in the state and thousands more elsewhere.

Greensboro — The News & Record looks at the campaign platforms of the two N.C. gubernatorial candidates and discovers, lo and behold, that they are short on details and specifics. That’s what happens when candidates are afraid of offending any possible voting segment.

Charlotte — Not on the front page, but teased from there is editor Rick Thames column about the Observer’s planned coverage of the DNC. More reporters planned to cover the thing than delegates. EIghty-five of them will be from the Observer, which is reasonable, given the impact all those visitors will have on the city. If you’re interested in how a news organization covers a national event, Rick describes it well.


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

I was surprised this morning by the number of newspapers that published previews of Tuesday’s runoff election on their front pages. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s predictable and I’m looking for unpredictable and interesting here.

Fayetteville — The Observer consistently nails it on Sunday, and this week is no exception. The paper digs deeper into a murder-suicide involving a lieutenant colonel and an enlisted man facing court martial. It’s a sad case and writers Greg Barnes and Drew Brooks do one helluva job telling it.

Greenville — Continuing on today’s mini-theme of death, the Daily Reflector has a strong second-day package on a family murder-attempted suicide. I include it here because writer pulled together two stories on the incident on deadline, both helpful in understanding what happened.

Charlotte — The Observer has been running a series of stories by Elizabeth Leland in its runup to the Democratic National Convention called Tales of the South. In them she examines some of our quirks, fancies and traditions. They’re all delightful, as they are being told by one of the best storytellers in the newspaper business.

Raleigh — I just like the lead photo on the front page of the News & Observer.

As always, if you see something on a front page that deserves attention, shoot me a message or add it in the comments.


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.