Sunday sampler

The holiday season is certainly upon us, with Christmas and Hanukkah stories on the front pages of the papers in Charlotte, Greenville and Elizabeth City, among others. That is a Sunday sampler another week. This week, it’s news.

Fayetteville— The Racial Justice Act interests me, mainly because I’m interested in the death penalty but also because of the number of convicted criminals trying to use it to change their sentences. The Observer examines both the death penalty and the Racial Justice Act in a well-done package of stories that, by the way, is difficult to find on the front page of its website. “Now, the Racial Justice Act, other changes to death penalty law and a decline in jurors’ willingness to sentence inmates to death are raising questions about the future of executions in the state. It’s unclear when the state will resume administering its ultimate punishment.”

Greensboro — Making donations to police fraternal organizations has always been dicey. For years, it’s been known that most of the money donated doesn’t actually go to the cause. Still, at this time of year, it’s good to remind people and that’s what the News & Record has done. For instance, the Greensboro Police Officers Association only gets 30 percent of the donations raised by the fundraising company it hired.

Wilmington — UNCW is one of the most popular and faster-growing state schools. The Star-News tries to answer the question, “what’s next?” (And thank goodness, it goes beyond the school’s new rebranding slogan, “Dare to soar.”

Winston-Salem — The Journal does something similar with Wake Forest, which is examining ways to commercialize its research. The story’s lead: “A new kind of light bulb that could eventually bring $400 million to $500 million a year to Wake Forest University is just one of the research results that hold promise for replacing the royalties from a wound repair system whose valuable revenue is stuck in legal limbo.” Yeah, I’d read the next paragraph.

Shelby appears to have an interesting story on the possibility of the legalization of marijuana in N.C. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be posted on the website. (The answer: not very likely with the current makeup of the General Assembly.) This appears to be happening more frequently on some of the state’s newspaper websites.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.


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. (I fully expect to see tomorrow’s front pages dominated by an event we all know about — the Super Bowl. Is it worth it? But I digress.) Today:

From the N&O: More work for less pay? An legislative effort that will save jobs? Who knows, but Sen. Kay Hagan has introduced a bill “to expand the kind of technology workers who currently are not automatically entitled to overtime.” High-tech workers across North Carolina could see smaller paychecks under an industry-led campaign to revise labor laws to limit overtime benefits.

From the Winston-Salem Journal: In 20 years, there will be more Latinos in Forsyth County than African Americans. That’s hardly news. But the story countered my stereotype of Mexicans sneaking over the U.S. border. One big reason for the influx — according to the Journal — are calamities in other parts of the world. Just as the Great Famine pushed a large wave of Irish immigrants to the U.S., natural and man-made disasters in Latin America have been one of the drivers of Hispanic migration.

From the Fayetteville Observer: Some veterans returning home come back with emotional problems. Again, no big surprise. But in Fayetteville and elsewhere, it remains a big deal. During a speech Thursday to members of the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters who returned to Fort Bragg after concluding the mission in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick cited concerns. He said that six Fort Bragg soldiers had committed suicide in the past six weeks, and that there were at least 25 cases of spousal abuse at the installation in the past 30 days.