Where Will We Get Our News?

I used to get my news in the driveway every morning, from print editions of The News & Observer and The New York Times. Now I scroll through a half-dozen news digests on my iPhone while I digest my cereal.

Even though I’m an old newspaper guy, I like many of the changes in the news business. But will the future bring good news or bad news?

Newspapers are struggling financially. More and more are owned by hedge funds, nonprofit foundations or billionaires. Newsrooms have been decimated and deserted.

I came up in the glory days of state-capital news. When I was Governor Jim Hunt’s press secretary (1977-1984), dozens of reporters came to his weekly news conferences to hurl hardball questions at him. The N&O would send two or three people. There were bureau reporters from papers in Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham, Fayetteville and Asheville. There were reporters from AP and UPI, TV stations across the state and radio stations like WPTF and WKIX in Raleigh and WBT in Charlotte.

With that crew crawling through every nook and cranny in state government, there wasn’t much a Governor, legislator, Cabinet secretary or lowly bureaucrat could get away with.

The news business has fragmented since then. Newspapers today don’t have enough money to throw reporters at state government. There are fewer editors to review stories for clarity, fairness and accuracy. Readers have to be more discerning.

But North Carolina, which has a tradition of great newspapers and great journalism, has a bubbling cauldron of journalistic creativity today that bodes well.

The N&O and The Charlotte Observer – now merged under the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, which bought the McClatchy chain – have deployed a strong team of reporters covering North Carolina politics and government.

(One quibble. The N&O emails me a good morning news summary. But it comes from an “Audience Growth Producer.” Am I a houseplant? Can’t I get my news from an Editor or News Director?)

Here’s the rest of my morning diet: Business North Carolina Daily Digest, Capitol Broadcasting Opinion Newsletter, The Morning from The New York Times, INDY Week Daily, The Economist Espresso and Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American.

There are success stories in North Carolina journalism. There’s The Pilot in Southern Pines, which publishes the paper there as well as Business North Carolina and the magazines Walter, Pine Straw, O. Henry and SouthPark. (Full disclosure: Pilot Publisher David Woronoff is on the board of directors of New Day for NC, which publishes my blog.)

Business North Carolina recently hired Colin Campbell, formerly editor of the N&O’s Insider. Watch that space.

EdNC and North Carolina Health News do a superb job covering their areas. The Assembly publishes great long-form stories. Carolina Public Press focuses on investigative pieces.

You can get state news from the left, Policy Watch and Cardinal & Pine, and from the right, the John Locke Foundation and the North State Journal. Just beware their agendas.

There are blogs, like Carter Wrenn at Talking About Politics and Thomas Mills at PoliticsNC.

There are local websites like Charlotte Axios. Asheville Watchdog is run by veteran journalists who retired to the Blue Ridge. One is Tom Fiedler, a Pulitzer Prize winner famous for breaking the Gary Hart scandal in 1988.

The Daily Tar Heel does an excellent job covering UNC. Duke students cover Durham and state politics in the 9th Street Journal.

You can keep up with the news ferment at the NC Local News Workshop, based at Elon University’s School of Communications.

And you can keep good news coming by subscribing to good news sources.

Leave a Reply