Sunday sampler

The lull in big news during Fourth of July week — yes, I know it’s hot — must have inspired editors because this Sunday’s newspaper front pages are filled with interesting stories that surprised me and demanded that I read them.

Two from Charlotte — Things aren’t great on the attendance and revenue end of NASCAR, and the Observer digs past the anecdotes to show just what’s happening. The Observer also previews the head-shaking embarrassment that has become the Duke-Progress Energy merger. (I hope our state regulators stand tall on this one.)

Fayetteville — The Observer continues its superb coverage of the troubles of troubled soldiers, this time looking closely at what the military is doing about suicides. The paper tells the compelling story of one private who took his own life. The Star-News in Wilmington has a similar story, equally compelling.

Raleigh — The News & Observer continues its superb coverage of the UNC academic scandal in the Afro-American Studies program. Citizens of the state should be pleased that the N&O is keeping the spotlight on the scandal and UNC’s reaction to it. (Wouldn’t you love to get an interview with the man at the center of it, Julius Nyang’oro?)

Two from Asheville — The Citizen-Times writes about crime — fights, actually — in downtown Asheville. I used to work at the Citizen-Times and like to return to Asheville on occasion so this is really my bias coming through. The story isn’t special, but the topic is. I’m glad the paper told me to be careful (and I suspect the Chamber of Commerce is cringing this morning). Not only that, the Citizen updates readers on Ghost Town in the Sky, which was pretty cool back in the day.

Burlington — The Times-News localizes a state story — originally reported by the Winston-Salem Journal — on eugenics. How the actions of the government hurt citizens’ lives are always worth telling readers.

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

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.

Sunday sampler

Sunday is the day newspapers showcase their best work. Here are some from North Carolina papers that are worth reading:

From the Asheville Citizen-Times: A piece about the Henderson County Sheriff spending county money probably in a way taxpayers would prefer he didn’t. It wasn’t a ton of money, but it’s the thought that counts. Henderson — With caramel mochas in Charlotte, a meal at the famed Cheers pub in Boston and bar food at Fat Head’s Saloon in Pittsburgh, Rick Davis made himself comfortable on the road — enjoying perks put on a county credit card.

From the News & Observer: The paper uses the compelling story of a 16-year-old who was the driver in an automobile accident that killed his passenger to take another look at the state’s parole system.

From the Fayetteville Observer: There were 29 homicides in Fayetteville last year, compared with 18 the year before. A typical end of the year story, significant to me because Greensboro also had a jump.

From the Charlotte Observer: The big banks gave the most money to Mitt Romney. Probably no big surprise, but a good analysis showing where the money is coming from and going. And interesting that the banks seem to be punishing Obama.

From the Winston-Salem Journal: Hard to believe but this isn’t against the law. A firm owned by a member of the board that oversees the state’s Golden LEAF Foundation has received more than $129,000 so far for two projects funded largely by the foundation for work in Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin counties, according to local and foundation records.

From the Wilmington Star-News: “If you’re homeless in Wilmington, they’ll throw you in jail.” That’s the attitude of Super Dave, Animal and Lurch, three homeless guys through whom the Star-News discusses the problem of homelessness in New Hanover County.

So many obituaries

In these days right after Christmas, the obituary page is the saddest page of the paper. I think of the families who are mourning a death on Christmas.

The News & Record published 52 obituaries today, taking up nearly four pages in the paper. (The usual is less that two pages.) I don’t know the record number, but I bet 52 competes. Many of the people listed died on Christmas. The paper published 43 obits yesterday and 20 on Dec. 26.

That trend isn’t unusual.

The Charlotte Observer published 98 obits today, 82 yesterday and 32 on Dec. 26.

The News & Observer published 70 obits today, 82 yesterday and 38 on Dec. 26.

The Winston-Salem Journal published 29 obits today, 37 yesterday and 17 on Dec. 26.

There are too many variables for me to attach too much significance to the numbers. The emotional toll on the scores of families simply overwhelmed me when I read the morning paper.