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

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

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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.”

Romney in High Point, for the win

There’s this saying — which I know isn’t entirely true or false — that morning television news has to await for the morning paper to get its news.

This morning at 6 a.m. I went out to pick up the paper. In the house, I had the Good Morning Show on. I stood and listened to the program’s two-minute news update in which the announcer said that Mitt Romney was going to visit North Carolina on his bus tour this weekend. But, she added, the specific cities on his itinerary hadn’t been announced yet.

I unrolled the paper and the lead story on the front page was the announcement that Romney will be in High Point on Sunday.

As a friend noted on Twitter, the TV news folks’ paper must have gotten wet in the morning rain.

Of course, the information about the cities Romney will visit wasn’t part of an announcement from the campaign. It came from old-school reporting so good on the newspaper.

By the way, the information about Romney’s visit was posted on the paper’s website at 5:30 p.m. Monday. It apparently didn’t go up on any of the television websites until this morning. News Channel 14 still says there are no details on where the buses will visit, and I can’t find it at all on WFMY’s website. That should put to rest the fear in some newspaper newsrooms that TV competitors scour the paper’s website for new news “to steal.”

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

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’m pleased that today’s front pages aren’t filled with “beat the heat” photos and stories! (I and thousands of other readers knew it was hot yesterday.) And that absence provided room for these good stories from some of the state’s front pages.

Winston-Salem — The Journal revisits resegregation and its effects in Forsyth County schools, reminding me how sad it is that we’re still having this discussion 40 years later. It’s a good study for every paper to do. (The paper determined that Winston is the state’s most segregated major population center.)

Shelby — I can’t get the Star’s site to load, but the paper’s front page has an interesting piece on teen drug use in Cleveland County. It’s well above the national average. Seems as if people, including kids, think marijuana use is no big deal.

Greensboro — The N&R has a tragic tale of the death of an Eden 5-month-old who was apparently hit in the head hard enough to kill him. Now the investigation is on to figure out who did it.

Raleigh — The N&O updates us on Scotty McCreery. Yes, the American Idol. It’s a good, fun piece about Garner’s latest star and how he’s making it. Singing star, yes. But he’s N.C. State freshman in two months.

Now, go outside and see how hot it is so you’ll know it first hand.