The investigative reporters and staff of Carolina Public Press on Sept. 7 gathered for a virtual discussion of the nonprofit statewide newsroom’s reporting, projects and the organization’s future.
Angie Newsome, founder and executive director of Carolina Public Press, moderated the event. She was joined by Ellen Acconcia, director of audience and engagement; Shelby Harris, government reporter, Western North Carolina; Lisa Lopez, director of development; Kate Martin, lead investigative reporter; Ben Sessoms, government reporter, Eastern North Carolina and Lindsey Wilson, rural engagement manager. Carolina Public Press board of directors president Scott Barnwell also spoke at the event.
Newsome, who in April announced plans to step away from the executive director role, said she will stay on to lead the organization for at least one more year to ensure stable leadership, staffing and processes are in place to keep Carolina Public Press “sustainable [so] that it lasts well beyond me.”
Answering questions from participants about news access and needs, both Acconcia and Wilson shared updates on the ongoing NC Connection project that is currently exploring how North Carolina residents in rural communities are getting important news—or not—and how they would like to receive news and information that would help them be better informed citizens and part of the democratic process.
Wilson noted that the project is shining a light on “the digital divide and news deserts, issues that are conflating to make it harder and harder for folks to access reliable news.” The NC Connection project’s goal is to allow the organization to figure out what it can do to help address those issues.
Reporter Shelby Harris spoke to the group about getting into the “nitty-gritty” to talk to people in N.C.’s mountain communities about the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) and reporting on how individual communities are using those funds to improve community services and resources. Harris said that she often refers back to a piece of early advice she received as a journalist: “We’re supposed to tell people what to think about, not what to think.”
Lead Investigative Reporter Kate Martin said she is currently at work on a project related to the state’s efforts to clear the backlog of rape kits that, in many cases, have languished for years in evidence rooms but now are helping to close cases that may have been unsolvable. She is hoping to locate people who are survivors of sexual assault who had a rape kit that had not been tested and learn what it looks like from somebody who’s had to go through this incredibly traumatic experience.
Reporter Ben Sessoms, on the front lines of Carolina Public Press Eastern Bureau, explained that he feels his work is important because, “knowing what’s going on locally—what your local city council is doing, what your board of commissioners is doing—is what really has an impact on our readers.”
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Learn more about Carolina Public Press and its 10-year history in North Carolina. Watch a short video celebrating CPP’s anniversary.