Roy buys a Rhino

by YES! Staff

As one might imagine, since news of the resurrection of defunct Greensboro weekly paper the Rhinoceros Times broke last week, all of us on the YES! Weekly staff have been asked about what we think on the matter.

And our official position is this: Rhino Times? Never heard of it. Kidding! Everyone even remotely connected to the city’s chattering class knows about the conservative weekly that served this market for two decades before its well-publicized shuttering in the spring after accruing a seemingly insurmountable debt.

And to be frank, we had heard whispers about a bailout since the paper went under, and we figured the Rhino’s eventual white knight would be Roy Carroll, the downtown developer best known for converting the Wachovia building on South Elm Street into the luxury condominium complex now known as Center Pointe, for clandestinely fueling the drive for a downtown noise ordinance via repeated complaints to the Greensboro police and direct e-mails to Chief Miller and also for asking the city and county to help bankroll some of his real estate developments.

To be even more frank, we were amazed it took so long. It’s a natural for a guy like Roy Carroll — a man who perhaps feels he’s been treated unfairly by the local press and is old enough to remember the old adage about picking fights with guys who buy ink by the barrel — to want to own a newspaper. And in our experience, the desire to control the message is deeply ingrained within the culture of companies like the one Carroll sits atop of, one that includes homebuilders, property management services, construction, land development, campus development and, now, a weekly newspaper.

We know enough about Carroll to believe that he probably does not see a lack of experience in the industry as a major obstacle. He’s seen enormous success in the real estate industry, and he likely believes that the sound business principles he’s practiced his entire professional career will roughly apply to our little corner of the media business.

And he may be right — we’ll save the discussion of newspapers as widgets for another day.

We wonder, though, about this new partnership between longtime Rhino icon John Hammer and his new publisher. Hammer notoriously avoided investigation into and analysis of the city’s real-estate industry in the old version of the Rhino aside from a well-populated real estate section, so there may not be potential for conflict there.

But we wonder what will happen the next time Carroll comes to the city or the county for incentive money — like he did for Center Pointe in 2006 and his airport development in 2007. It’s hard not to imagine Hammer, who has argued against government spending from just about every conceivable angle, keeping silent about that kind of thing, and it’s possible, we think, that his head may actually explode.

Again, kidding! We kid with our friends at the Rhino Times, and despite conventional wisdom, we welcome them back to the trenches of the newspaper business, in whatever form the paper takes. We hope they continue their tradition of pugnacious watchdog journalism. And we look forward to competing with them for scoops, readers and advertisers to support our respective work.

The fact remains: We need more, not fewer, newspapers, more reporters following local beats and asking tough questions of our elected officials. We need more stories that someone, somewhere, doesn’t want to go to print. Everything else, as an old reporter who wrote under the name George Orwell once quipped, is just PR.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .