by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Over the summer The News & Observer announced it was partnering with Innovate Raleigh to provide reporting that aims “to enhance news and feature coverage of the region’s technology, innovation and entrepreneurship sectors.” It resulted in a new position of “innovation and technology reporter.” OK, that sounds like a focus on innovation and technology.
The paper announced:
The reporter will focus on coverage of people, companies, key issues and trends in Raleigh and across the Triangle. Topics will include technology startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.
The News & Observer will maintain full control over all reporting, writing and hiring.
“We’re thrilled that Innovate Raleigh’s partners believe in the value of independent, local journalism and are willing to support storytelling about the growing community of innovators and entrepreneurs by funding this staff position,” said Robyn Tomlin, executive editor of the N&O and regional editor for McClatchy’s newsrooms in North Carolina and South Carolina. …
Bridget Harrington, executive director of Innovate Raleigh, said, “Great journalism is a powerful resource for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect to their community’s talent and support. …”
According to the note at the end of the piece, there’s an Innovate Raleigh–funded story in today’s N&O. Does it cover “innovation and technology,” i.e., “people, companies, key issues and trends in Raleigh and across the Triangle”? Is it journalism, let alone “great journalism”?
Here’s the article, “Gov. Cooper asks businesses to choose investments in education over more tax cuts.” Here’s how it is structured:
Paragraphs 1-4: Quotes and discusses Cooper’s comments from “the annual North Carolina CEO Forum — a gathering of some of the state’s most influential corporate executives at the Raleigh Convention Center.” Cooper asked them to support “investments” in teacher salaries over “further cuts in corporate taxes.”
Paragraph 5: Provides some context. Here is the paragraph:
Last week, the N.C. General Assembly approved average raises of 3.9% for teachers and 2% for non-instructional staff over the next two years. But Democrats have opposed to the bill, saying it is not a big enough raise for teachers. Cooper reiterated his party’s stance on Tuesday. Cooper offered a budget compromise in July that included 8.5% average raises for teachers.
Paragraph 6: Quotes Cooper.
Paragraph 7: Provides context that the state’s corporate income tax rate is the lowest in the country among states that have a corporate income tax.
Paragraphs 8-16 (end): Quotes and discusses Cooper.
It’s hard to distinguish this reporting, such as it is, from a release from the governor’s press office. The article takes at face value terms and assumptions used by the governor that ought to be challenged. It also misses several opportunities to provide additional context.
A few examples:
In short, readers are not fully informed of the issues at hand. As for that matter, the issues at hand seem afield of the stated purpose of the reporting.