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.

Bidding Don Patterson adieu

TV promotes itself and its people so much better than newspapers. You can watch WFMY anchor Frank Mickens sing the National Anthem. You can help celebrate WGHP reporter Chad Tucker’s marriage. News? Not on your life, but TV is about personality as much as it is about news, and they know how to sell personality.

So, I’ll take a moment to recognize Donald W. Patterson, who has been a reporter for the News & Record since, like, the Civil War. Don announced his iimpending retirement yesterday. I’m guessing 7,000 is a conservative estimate of the number of times his byline has appeared in the paper, usually on the front page, including this morning.

As soon as I heard the news yesterday, I posted it on Facebook. So far, it has been “liked” by 37 people, near and far. (Sorry, Jeff, if I was the one who spoiled your announcement later, but you should know that newspaper news travels fast in Greensboro.)

Don is a good man. Oh, we would fight over the length of his stories and how long it took him to write them. I once banned him from writing history pieces and stories about gas prices, which lasted about two months. He would lecture me on journalism and I’d lecture him back. For the 27 years I was at the paper, he had one cardinal request: Let reporters work on the very best stories and put them in the paper. It was something I tried to do, although I never acknowledged to Don.

In my mind, he rivals Jim Schlosser among the longtime N&R reporters who had a true impact on the paper and the community. He has a style and personality that is recognizable in the paper and in the newsroom. When he leaves on July 3, he’ll be happy and the readers will miss him.

My guess is that Jeri Rowe will write a column about him. Maybe Jeff will, too. His departure is one in which the readers should be allowed to celebrate and say goodbye.

Greensboro and the national media

To me, it’s unseemly when journalists complain to the public about how they’re being mistreated. The public — many of whom have much tougher jobs — has little sympathy for reporters. And, of course, people have even less sympathy for reporters who think they should get more special treatment that members of the public.

Case in point from Politico at the John Edwards trial: If reporters were expecting Greensboro’s federal court to roll out the welcome mat and perhaps even offer a little Southern hospitality, they came away disappointed Monday. Save for some safety measures taken outside around the TV trucks and the entrance, there appeared to have been no arrangements at all made for the media covering the high-profile case.

They had no assurance they’d get a seat in the courtroom. They couldn’t trade places with someone in line. They couldn’t have people “hold” their place in line so they could go to the bathroom. And the jurors got better treatment than they did!

At the end of his story in the News & Record, Robert Lopez tells of two national reporters who had trouble with the rules in the Greensboro courtroom.

During the morning session (Judge Catherine) Eagles said a reporter had tried to come in wearing “a wire” (cameras and transmitting devices are prohibited). ABC’s Bob Woodruff  stood and said it was him but that he didn’t know it was there.

OK. At least, I hope the visiting journalists are enjoying Elm Streets bars and restaurants.

The marriage amendment: Breaking political stereotypes

We all tend to paint people and positions with a broad brush. It helps us categorize and connect the dots when we label. It also creates false assumptions. For instance, if you need reminders that not all protestant churches believe the same things, not all African-Americans think the same and not all Democrats march in lock step, two stories today provide them.

Both the Charlotte and Greensboro newspapers write about how ministers think about the marriage amendment that is on the May 8 ballot. For people who think the word of God is clear, they must be confused by the different positions the clergy take on the marriage amendment. (Personally, that didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was the timidity with which some ministers approach preaching about the issue.)

The Charlotte story also illustrates the different positions that some black churches and the NAACP take on the marriage amendment. And that black Democrats — which some people believe vote as one — may not be following the party line on the amendment.

Stereotypes, consider yourselves busted.

Predictions: Kansas vs. UNC

When I read that Jeff Mills of the News & Record picked North Carolina to beat Kansas today, I was inspired to check on other prognosticators. I checked the columnists at the News & Observer, the Charlotte Observer and the Winston-Salem Journal, but I couldn’t find any indication pf a prediction on their websites.

Dick Vitale picks Kansas: Roy Williams faces his former team, and the Tar Heels are not the same if Kendall Marshall isn’t in the lineup. Tyler Zeller had a 20-20 game vs. Ohio but it will be a lot tougher against Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey.

So does Stewart Mandel at 68-64.

Dave Carey at goes Kansas, too:  A physical game will favor Kansas, which has won its past two by a combined six points and knows what it takes to thrive in a chaotic, late-game situation.

Josh Schoch at picks Kansas.

Dan Rubenstein of SB Nation picks Kansas.

On the other hand: goes UNC: 77-75.

Patrick Clarke at Carolina, 67-60. I liked North Carolina to win this matchup before the tournament began and I still like their chances even without Marshall at the point. The Jayhawks are struggling mightily on the offensive end and another slow start on Sunday will cost them a shot at the Final Four.

Mike Gminski picks Carolina.

A different kind of sports reporting at the News & Record

The past few years, when it was time to create the budget for the news department at the paper, I would slash expenses with all the surgical precision of Freddy Krueger. (At least that’s the way it felt.) Sending reporters and photographers with UNC and Duke through the NCAA tournament? Whack!. (It never occurred to me that N.C. State would make it. My bad.)

My thinking was that scores of journalists are there, all reporting basically the same story. Why add a few more to the mix? The paper subscribes to wire services that are sending dispatches from the games. Besides, perhaps staying away from the madding crowd might inspire our reporters to write something different.

It wasn’t a popular choice among the staff.

So, I was surprised and delighted when I read the story by Jeff Mills of the UNC-Ohio game in Saturday’s paper. The only way I knew he wasn’t sitting courtside was that the story didn’t have a dateline. I had watched the game on television and listened to the post-game interviews on the radio, as, apparently, had he. Unlike me, he had taken his experience of covering ACC basketball this season and written an on-the-mark expert analysis of why Carolina won, complete with player and coach quotes.

It was, as sports editor Eddie Wooten later told me, as if Jeff were the News & Record’s version of Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis sitting back in the studio commenting on the game. We had always assumed that 99 percent of the readers who cared about a basketball game watched the game on television. The value of the reporter wasn’t recapping the game itself, it was in using their knowledge of the players and coaches to tell people why and how a team won or lost. Jeff did that from 750 miles away. I asked Eddie to elaborate.

We like to offer readers analysis of the big ACC games. What is the big takeaway from this game? The only way to get that out of the NCAA regionals, without being there ourselves, was for our writers to produce that content from home. We could have printed stories from the wire services, but those stories are more often game rehash with a few quotes.

Yes, we miss things when we’re not there. We miss things the camera won’t pick up during a live broadcast: Discussion between coach and player, or official and coach, or among players. It’s hard to get the feel for the game from the den. We have access to quotes from locker room, but we don’t see the body language or sense the emotion.

So it’s not perfect. But just as a suit in a studio can deliver analysis on a game played far away, so can we. And at this point in the season, our writers know our teams better than the writers assigned to cover NCAA tournament games.

It was a smart and creative use of Jeff’s skills.


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.


Godspeed, Mark Binker

Mark Binker, one of the best political reporters in the state, is leaving the News & Record after 12 years to join WRAL in Raleigh. He joins Laura Leslie to give WRAL one helluva capital reporting team. Mark will be a multimedia investigative reporter there.

Fiona Morgan and I were speaking to Andy Bechtel ‘s Advanced Editing class at UNC a few weeks ago, and we started talking about state government coverage. “Mark Binker is a rock star,” Andy or Fiona said. Maybe it was both of them.

Mark is a truth-telling rabble rouser. He doesn’t care if he’s talking to the governor, the senator or his editor. He’s going to ask the questions he wants to ask and point out the inconsistencies and contradictions until he gets what he wants. I know; I’ve been on the receiving end. He’s exactly the kind of journalist every reporter should aspire to be.


North Carolina journalists do well in the APSE contest

Congratulations to the newspapers across the state that won Associated Press Sports Editors recognition. It’s the nation’s most prestigious sportswriting contest.

Margaret Banks, Gerald Witt and Jason Wolf of the News & Record. (Wolf also had an individual mention in this category.) — Breaking news

Jason Wolf and Jeff Mills of the News & Record — Beat reporting

Gerald Witt of the News & Record — Investigative

The News & Observer, honorable mention — Sunday section

The Charlotte Observer — Daily section

Tommy Tomlinson of the Charlotte Observer — Features

Despite what many people think, most papers I’m familiar with don’t do journalism to win awards. They are much more focused on doing good journalism for their readers. Congratulations to Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro for doing just that.

Sunday sampler

Should have included the other front pages on the previous post at Whitney Houston. The point is that I like to be surprised and delighted with the content on my Sunday front page. Tell me something I don’t know. There are several good ones this morning:

From the Wilmington Star News: A nice little story about the N.C. State Ports Authority Board of Directors dining at Fleming’s in Charlotte — $1,900. (The cost to the Ports Authority was only $1,500 because the $400 worth of alcohol was covered by the attendees. I’m sure there were designated drivers.)

From the Charlotte Observer: When a political party holds its national convention in your city, things don’t go quite as planned. The Observer takes a look at what has happened in other convention cities in the past and gauges how safe Charlotte will be.

From the News & Record: Two stories, actually. One about the number of state legislators with licenses to carry concealed weapons. It surprised me to think that state legislators fear for their lives more than you and me, but they are many many times more likely to have guns on their person than you and me. The second is a package on the same-sex marriage ban amendment coming up. Revealing and I hope everyone who votes reads it.

From the News & Observer: I don’t drive on I-95 in North Carolina much but making it a toll road interests me. The N&O describes the whys behind it and the hows in collecting money from users.