I’m spending much of 2012 reporting on media in North Carolina for Columbia Journalism Review’s Swing States project. CJR reporters in key states are serving as watchdogs for local press coverage of political rhetoric and money.
North Carolina is one of those swing states, has a governor’s race in play and also has a controversial proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The state has traditionally voted Republican in presidential elections, except in 2008. More locally, (in case you hadn’t heard) Charlotte is hosting the Democratic National Convention in early September.
I’m excited because the work fits with my studies through the University of North Carolina’s master of arts in technology and digital journalism. The program launched in August 2011 with a great group of about 20 students from across the state and beyond. (Learn more.)
The CJR work is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to study high-profile media stories in class and in real life, in my hometown and home state. I’ll stay in Charlotte, with road trips when appropriate. Last semester, I worked on a research proposal of how voters really get the information they use for election decisions, and the CJR work will allow me to keep focusing on that key part of our civic society. Pew research provides tons of information; I want still more.
Lots of people helped me make this move. In particular, thanks go to Fiona Morgan, research associate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Fiona has written a groundbreaking case study on the information ecosystem in the Triangle, and she continues to lead thinking on news ecosystems. She invited media leaders from around North Carolina to meet each other and Tom Glaisyer of the New America Foundation recently in Durham, signaling the growth of some interesting conversations.
Since starting the master’s work, I’ve also juggled a day job in the new production hub for McClatchy at the Charlotte Observer. Essentially, I’m used to a job and a half. The CJR work is a contract gig, so I’m talking with some people about other projects that fit well with my class and CJR focus without creating ethical conflicts. (The McClatchy hub is hiring. Email Hope Paasch.)
This move also gives me more time to continue work with the Greater Charlotte chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. We’re working on building a chapter that is platform agnostic, reaching out to existing groups with affiliated skills and interests.
In the past, my focus has been on community journalism (“hyperlocal” in some circles) and business models. I’ll always have a passion for those topics. But this year, in this place, politics offers the greatest opportunity for learning. Already, people like Dr. Michael Bitzer of Catawba College have helped me to study up with generous links on Twitter and elsewhere.
So now comes The Ask. I’m counting on y’all to share your thoughts on media coverage of politics in North Carolina. Some folks have started a Twitter tag, #unasked, that can help issues bubble up. What else should I know about? Reach me here, or soon at the Swing States project, or email me.