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WHITE NOISE: News and information from inside the media bubble

by Brian Clarey and Jordan Green

Our industry in… recovery?

Notable among last week’s journalism death knells was the layoff of Ed Bumgardner, who edited and wrote features for the Winston-Salem Journal for more than 20 years, and the conspicuus absence of News of the Weird in the Rhinoceros Times. It’s hardly news anymore when a paper lays off good people or cuts popular features to save money, and it’s been happening in enough North Carolina publications lately to be considered an epidemic. But out of the ashes of last week’s news comes this unexpected phoenix: The Kernersville News, a tri-weekly community paper right here in the heart of the Triad, is hiring! According to the classified ad published in local newspapers, publisher John Owensby is looking for a reporter. Or at least he was. “We got quite a bit of a response,” Owensby says. “More of those were younger folks, but we typically get that in our industry. It tends to gravitate towards the younger grads. But we looked at everyone and anyone, and we feel we got a responsible person to fill that spot.” Owensby says he is not naive about current economic conditions, but “Kernersville has always been, relatively speaking, a stable market and we have always been rather entrepreneurial in the way we pursue business. Scrounging is nothing new for us — that’s the way we work.” So count one journalism job against the hundreds our state has lost in the last year. And chalk one up for the Kernersville News. — BC

Raw Southern justice

The case of the Jena 6 went from a smalltown saga of racially tinged uneven justice to a national story in a matter of months because a core group of activists peppered everyone they knew with the facts and people around the country took offense at the outrage. This is how it happens: an e-mail from an activist group circulated to social-change networks and journalists. Headlined “Tell Mississippi officials we’re watching,” the Feb. 6 e-mail from ColorOfChange.org, a black media website, details the shooting death of Billey Joe Johnson, a star football player at George County High School who was being recruited to play at the college level. The basic outlines of the story appear to be that Johnson, who is black, had been visiting his former girlfriend, who is white, and who had recently broken up with Johnson under pressure from her parents. Johnson was pulled over in a traffic stop and died of a gunshot wound. The police have called it a suicide; Johnson’s family is dubious, to say the least. “A true investigation would sort out fact from rumor,” the e-mail reads. “But we can’t be sure that Johnson’s family will get the investigation it deserves. In the case of the Jena 6 we saw a district attorney and a judge incapable of carrying out justice in a racially charged environment. In the recent case of the murder of Oscar Grant by police (and many like it), we see how unlikely it is for district attorneys to do their job when the suspect is an officer of the law. But in both these cases, public pressure has made all the difference by shining a spotlight on local authorities.” JG

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