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As you stay at your post: A salute


While the election process isn’t over, we should recognize and thank the journalists, advocates and others in our state’s information community who have demystified democracy, helped voters express their will and kept the process transparent — often by doing the tedious work that most people don’t see, such as overseeing the vote count.

And a special thanks is due to the poll workers and election administrators, whose work is always hard but is especially so this year, with the pandemic procedures, worries about their safety and sometimes slanders on their integrity.

The work's not over, of course. North Carolina is still counting absentee and provisional ballots. Audits. Maybe recounts. County elections boards will canvass at the end of this week, and the state board will certify the results Nov. 24. We'll need eyeballs on all of that.

And then what? 

There will be the usual introspection. And if we’re honest with ourselves: We still don’t listen enough to our communities. We don’t report enough about policies and issues, and we pay too much attention to the controversy of the day, to words rather than actions. We talk too much about polls and the horse race. We still try to define supposedly monolithic “voting blocs” that don’t exist — the “Black vote,” the “Latinx vote.” And we still administer too much oxygen to disinformation, even as we debunk it.

I asked a few folks this week two questions about going forward. The first: What’s the most important thing the North Carolina political news media need to do in the next few weeks (or months)?

Here are their answers, edited for length:
Anoa Changa, attorney, electoral justice reporter for Prism, host of the podcast "The Way with Anoa" and host of Scalawag's "As the South Votes" video series:

Media outlets need to shift the approach to political news that recognizes the power and importance of local organizing. Continue to report on the election and upcoming legislative cycle in a manner that prioritizes informing the public and furthering democracy.

Far too often reporters get trapped into thinking that fair and balanced coverage requires covering "both sides" without any consideration to factual accuracy and democracy. Right now Republicans at multiple levels of office, including senior members of the current administration, are trying to invalidate the election. North Carolina had some great coverage of the shifts with vote-by-mail and making sure people understood about using an absentee ballot. But now more than ever all reporters and outlets need to choose democracy over clicks and over giving both sides the same consideration. 

Tazeen Dhanani, communications director, speaking for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice:

The media should avoid amplifying disinformation over the next few weeks/months, and focus on moving forward by emphasizing the need for a peaceful transition of power and focusing on the next administration's policies, particularly by tackling the challenges that remain – especially that of COVID
 
Another key issue to amplify is how this election and the Census numbers will affect redistricting over the next decade: The people we elect to represent us locally this year will be responsible for the redistricting process next year. This election cycle is not about the next two or four years, but voting this year will impact the next 10 years: Our policies, allocation of resources and budgets reflect our values, and redistricting will impact all of these areas and more. 
 
Cory Vaillancourt, reporter, Smoky Mountain News: 

Since the year began, it seems as though we’ve experienced an earth-shattering, once-in-a-lifetime calamity every three months. First, it was the pandemic, which was alleged to be fake but was also somehow supposedly engineered by the Chinese to discredit our president. Then, the killing of George Floyd and the resultant BLM protest scene, during which it was repeatedly stated that busloads of liberal, inner-city terrorists were being shipped to small-town USA to tear up your grandpa’s favorite Main Street hardware store. Finally, the tumultuous election which President Trump claims is rigged, but which he also claims he won by “a lot.”

The most important thing NC political news media can do in the next 12 weeks is continue to combat the spread of misinformation. 

Lynn Bernstein, founder, Transparent Elections NC:

The media should be asking for transparency and can do this without giving credence to unfounded claims of "voter fraud." Transparency is a non-partisan issue — it really comes down to pulling back the curtain to reveal the truth, whatever that may be.

While voting is private, counting votes should not be something that the public is shut out from observing or seeing documentation of — especially since the law allows for it. The media should help promote evidence-based elections — the premise being that elections officials are not only responsible for finding the true winners, but proving to the electorate that they did. There are many public records that the media and public could see to help provide assurances that the results are accurate. 
 
Jordan Wilkie, elections integrity/open government reporter, Carolina Public Press:

In the next few days: Stress that the election process is proceeding normally. The complaints that are coming largely from Republicans have little to no basis and should not be amplified. 

In the next few weeks/months: Stress that the election was legitimate, that the results were legitimate, and that the complaints to the contrary are there to serve a political purpose. That purpose will be to justify changes to election law that will favor one political party over another (Republicans are far more guilty of this in the last decade with massive voter suppression efforts, but Democrats are not blameless currently, or in history). Those efforts are being made on the back of lies about the November election and are a cover for efforts to preserve political power where honest democracy would have them out. 

Also, get your local representatives, state reps, senators, anyone your readers could have voted into federal office on the record about the presidential transition. If they give you bullshit, put it in print, thoroughly encased in a fact check. 

Dawn B. Vaughn, government and politics reporter, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun:

Take a breath. We've been going nonstop all year, with coronavirus coverage rolling into election coverage. We've worked hard and need well-earned breaks. That also gives reporters and editors a chance to take a fresh look at what to do next.

Also, now that (or once our final count is in) the national attention on North Carolina is fading, we can focus on what we do best that national media can't: holding accountable our state lawmakers and other elected officials.
   ➵ Next week: Any lessons learned from this year’s coverage? What should the NC media have done better?
Resources

🗳️ There's an excellent collection of sources (and tips) to help North Carolina reporters cover election uncertainty in the coming days in this NC Local News Workshop blog post.

🗳️ Editors can republish high-quality North Carolina election journalism from three newsrooms for free to supplement their own local reporting. [Find out more.]
 
🗳️ Newsrooms and journalists (including freelancers) with financial needs related to elections coverage can apply for grants of $500 to $10,000 from the Election SOS Rapid Response Fund.
On the subject of unfinished business ...
 
"The seemingly bottomless well of patience that journalists of color — Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian and multiracial — have exhibited has run dry. We want meaningful changes, and we need them to happen now. We are tired of constantly trying to put bandages on the gaping wounds of newsroom hierarchies that perpetuate inequity."

That’s from Doris Truong’s must-read for Poynter: Election Day compounded an already trying year for journalists of color.

🗳️ There's also this story of a local hero: Robin Kemp lost her news job in Clayton County, Ga. — but she kept reporting the news. It paid off on election week. Reis Thebault, The Washington Post.
 

Sunday front pages










   ➵ Left to right, top to bottom: Statesville Record & Landmark; The New Bern Sun Journal (the basic design was also used by other Gannett/GateHouse papers in Jacksonville, Kinston, Burlington and Fayetteville); The High Point Enterprise; The News & Record of Greensboro (its Lee Enterprises partner, the Winston-Salem Journal, also used the design); The Charlotte Observer (McClatchy papers in Raleigh and Durham also used the design); Mooresville Tribune; The News Herald of Morganton; the Citizen TImes of Asheville.
'The State of Things' will end

WUNC announced Tuesday evening that "The State of Things," the iconic live interview show hosted by Frank Stasio weekdays at noon, will halt at the end of the year after almost two decades on North Carolina Public Radio. "The Takeaway," a national show hosted by Tanzina Vega that originates at WNYC in New York, will move to noon weekdays from its current 9 p.m. slot.

Stasio announced in September that he would retire after 14 years hosting the show, and WUNC had said then that it would look for a new host.

On Tuesday, WUNC confirmed that Stasio's last show, as I reported here on Sept. 30, will air two weeks from today — Nov. 25. After that until the end of the year, Anita Rao, the show's managing editor and its other host, will be at the mic, with repeats of some of Stasio's favorite episodes airing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"Frank’s wit and intellectual astuteness will certainly be missed," WUNC president and general manager Connie Walker said in the station's statement. "His retirement has opened a door for WUNC to re-think and re-imagine the station’s efforts, particularly when it comes to our coverage of North Carolina issues.”

The show's staff "will be re-directed to new WUNC projects that will enhance our service to the community," the station said in a tweet.

ICYMI, here's my interview with Stasio in September.
An advisory board for the Workshop

The NC Local News Workshop, home of this newsletter, has a First-Year Advisory Board — 26 people from journalism, communications, education, libraries, history and public affairs who care about local news in North Carolina as a civic asset. The board will help the Workshop understand community information needs, develop opportunities to help meet them, and build support across the state's news ecosystem.

Learn more about the members and about their first virtual gathering. You can always email Melanie Sill with questions and ideas, and follow the Workshop on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Well done


👏 Love this story, from Chrissy Murphy of The News Herald in Morganton: Tamara Strickley, who was born in South Korea, votes for the very first time — and talks about her 43-year journey to citizenship, and to that moment.
 
“(Once) I literally got rejected because I paid too much money for my filing fee.”


👏“This is what we need from politics so that in the future, incidents like Yusor and Razan don’t happen.” Jesse James DeConto in Cardinal & Pine tells us how a triple murder in Chapel Hill in 2015 put Nida Allam on the road to becoming the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina.

👏 “(The) working man suffers. And it’s not good out here. It’s not good at all.” Andrew Carter of The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun takes us on a tour of the two North Carolinas.

👏 "It heals their hearts for a minute.” Sarah Delia of WFAE tells us how a VA nurse in Salisbury and the music and friendship of an 11-year-old guitar prodigy in Australia eased the loneliness of some North Carolina veterans fighting COVID-19.
Listen up

Tuesday was the 122nd anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. StarNews Media’s Cape Fear Unearthed podcast, which looks weekly at the history of southeastern North Carolina, has produced a three-part series called “Unearthing 1898” about the coup, which killed scores of Black citizens and installed an unelected white supremacist government in the city.

Six historians, researchers and authors, including David Zucchino, author of “Wilmington’s Lie,” talk with host Hunter Ingram about what happened before, during and after the bloody coup.

Ingram, the local history reporter for the Wilmington StarNews, has written more about the podcast and about community awareness of the massacre.
Bulletin board
 
News about the news

📌 The Knight Foundation will invest $3 million in four projects to help journalists fight disinformation, including $700,000 for Duke University to help the Reporters Lab develop tools to provide instant notifications of fact-checks during live events and to monitor telecast election coverage by transcribing spoken words and other elements into text. ... The Local Media Foundation has new Knight Foundation funding to help publishers of color use the latest digital publishing technologies.

Job posting

Opportunities

📌 Borealis Philanthropy’s Racial Equity in Journalism Fund and the American Press Institute are joining to offer the yearlong Listening & Sustainability Lab, a pilot project that will support four publishers of color who want to explore how methods of listening and deep engagement with audience segments can boost journalism and revenue.
[Learn more.]

📌 The Solutions Journalism Network is looking for journalism entrepreneurs who want to lead a project based on solutions journalism in their community, for the second cohort of the LEDE Fellowship. The fellowship provides up to $3,500, professional development and mutual support. [Learn more.]
 
📌 Reynolds Journalism Institute is offering a virtual event, "Deciphering Data Privacy," on Nov. 18 at noon ET, to assist journalists in helping the public understand data privacy issues. [Learn more and register.]
 
Free help
 
📌 You can still apply to the Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund, started by Sonia Weiser and supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation to help pay for mental health care and therapy support. [Learn more and apply.]
That's all for now. Thanks for being here, and I'll see you next week. Take care. 
Eric

 
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