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

It’s always fun to be surprised by the interesting journalism on the front pages of the state’s newspapers. Today wasn’t bad.

Raleigh — The News & Observer gives us two stories, which isn’t that unusual for the N&O. One is on Faith Hedgepeth, the 19-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill student found dead in her apartment last month. It’s a write-through on her and the crime. Whenever a college student is killed, it’s a big story on campus. This is no different.

The second N&O story is about the decline in juvenile crime in the state.”The state is now locking up far fewer teens than it did a decade ago, finding treatment alternatives to its former system of training schools.” Of course, the laws that addressed this were passed 15 years ago, when the state legislature worked together to solve problems.


Winston-Salem — The Journal revisits the gay marriage debate by focusing on a gay couple — married in Vermont — that wants to keep its marriage intact. One partner is awaiting a green card so that he can remain in the United States. A Supreme Court ruling could resolve the issue.






Gastonia — The Gazette focuses on the bureaucratic nightmare that is apparently the Gaston County DSS when it comes to foster children. It is powerful stuff. “The Buchanans are highly regarded foster parents who began fostering a newborn child through DSS in November 2010. They were on a path to adoption when the 21-month-old was suddenly taken from them and placed in a different foster home with no valid explanation Aug. 31….During ensuing discussions, it was revealed that the child had been removed from the Buchanans’ home in part because they are white, and the child is biracial. After Aug. 31, the child was moved to the home of a biracial foster couple, according to the Gaston County official.”

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.

What to do at UNC…

Another day, another story about the scandals that have engulfed the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for going on three years. How is it possible this hasn’t been cleaned up yet?

It’s gotten to be more than embarrassing. It’s shameful. Shameful that it happened. Shameful that it continues. It started with the athletic department, spread to academics and has moved into fund-raising. It’s as if the school began investigating some rotten timber in the den and has discovered roaches in the kitchen and bats in the attic. What infestation will they find next?

It’s past time for transparency, but doesn’t UNC seem to continue to be opaque? From today’s story in the News & Observer about the resignation of Matt Kupec and his relationship with Tami Hansbrough, mother of Tyler Hansbrough. The News & Observer sought to obtain a copy of the dental foundation audit and related expense records four weeks ago, but the foundation’s new director, Paul Gardner, said they were not public record because the foundation is a nonprofit and not a public agency. He forwarded The N&O’s request to UNC-CH’s legal department, which so far has not provided information.

Here’s my unsolicited advice to the top brass at the university and the university system: Once the News & Observer gets onto a story, the paper isn’t going to let go. (I would think it is something UNC leadership has learned by now.) That tenacity means several things, and it certainly means this: You can’t control the story, the release of the information or how it is going to look. Stop trying. When the reporter calls, it’s likely he or she already knows what you wish you could handle quietly. Quiet will no longer work on this story.
I don’t know how this will end — not well, I suspect — but, for the sake of the university, the wisest course is to be as open as possible — more open than the university seems to be.
Update: On Facebook, Philip Meyer passed on some PR strategy 101: “Trapped administrators need to follow a counter-intuitive strategy: get the bad news out, get it all out, and get it out fast. Letting it dribble out a little at a time just makes the damage worse. Machiavelli advised that, and so did my former colleague Clarence Jones.”
Wednesday update: And the bad news continues to dribble out.

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.


Betting on the future of print

This is an evolutionary time for media but an era rich with opportunity. We want to find new ways to deliver quality journalism.

Those are the words of John Drescher, executive editor of the News & Observer. He is writing about a new monthly magazine in Raleigh called Walter, named after Sir Walter Raleigh. It is being produced by the N&O and filled with stories and photography from some of the state’s leading writers and shooters.
It follows O. Henry magazine, a bi-monthly started a year ago about the people and places in Greensboro. It is produced by the Pilot in Southern Pines.
It’s tough times for newspapers, but print isn’t close to being dead. The number of regional magazine titles is growing, and it seems as if their is money and interest there. Those who dare to produce great journalism whiile expanding their horizons are to be admired. I hope other newspapers will follow their lead and make some bets on the future.

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.)