Carrboro Commons

Greater than good: The State Port Pilot

Posted on June 27th, 2008 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer


State Port Pilot staffers assemble for a group portrait in their skylighted entrance atrium: clockwise, from front and lower step, Colin Campbell, writing intern from UNC-CH; Lisa Stites, staff writer; Jonathan Spiers, staff writer; Lee Hinnant, news editor; Ben Brown, staff writer; Suzi Drake, features editor; Ed Harper, editor and Hilary Snow, staff writer. Not pictured, Bret McCormick, sports editor, Jim Harper, photographer and Terry Pope, associate editor.
Jock Lauterer photo

Director, the Carolina Community Media Project
June 24, 2008

In a day and age when we hear so much doom and gloom about the newspaper industry, it’s a pure pleasure for this old newsie to hit the road each summer to lead workshops at quality, thriving community newspapers.

Maybe you’ve been reading about the buyouts, layoffs and shrinking news hole at McClatchy-owned papers and could use a dose of optimism.

To do that, you might want to take to the “blue highways,” where all-local community papers, including small dailies but especially independently owned weeklies, are holding their own, and then some.

For starters, I wish I could pack the whole glum bunch of professional media funeral mourners into my car and take them to the State Port Pilot of Southport.

The gold standard.

That’s what I call The State Port Pilot. This profitable, innovative, growing, family-owned broadsheet weekly consistently wins annual state press awards for news and advertising by the boatloads.

It’s no accident. The Pilot is a zesty, vital, all-local, visually striking example of what a community newspaper can and should be.


Their understated motto, “A good newspaper in a good community,” could be more accurate with a couple of greats substituted for those goods.

I give long-time editor Ed Harper much of the credit for crafting this paper into a legendary winner, though Ed will tell you he simply stewards the work of his parents, the late James M. Harper Jr. and the redoubtable Margaret Harper, 91. After years of 70-80 hour work weeks and a heart attack, Ed has wisely begun taking more time for his personal life, yet he still “pilots” the ship with a sure hand.

The challenge of covering McCity

Posted on June 7th, 2008 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer
Director, the Carolina Community Media Project

If you want to know how much Mooresville, N.C., has changed in a mere decade, just ask Bill Kiser, editor of the Lake Norman Times.


You can go home again — and get fries with that! Lake Norman Times Editor Bill Kiser, left, is joined by, left to right, LNT staffer Dru Willis, News of Orange Editor Steve Stiner and LNT staff Lacey Hampton outside “Indigo Joe’s,” a sports bar located exactly where Bill’s childhood home once stood in Mooresville.
Jock Lauterer photo

We are having lunch at “Indigo Joe’s,” a hip new sports bar with enough wall-mounted TV sets to keep any sports junkie glassy-eyed.

“My parents’ house was sitting right here,” Bill says matter-of-factly. My bedroom was…about right over there,” he says, turning and motioning towards an adjoining room.

Surrounding our lunch spot, (AKA, Bill’s old homeplace) sprawls Mooresville, revered by NASCAR fans as “Race City, USA.” We are surrounded by malls, fast-food places, shopping centers, apartments, condos, gated communities with generic names, office parks and the sameness of the predictable franchises you see lining four-lanes of Anywhere, USA.

And what is so striking about all this growth, is how NEW it all appears.

“It is new,” Bill agrees, pointing out the window. “That used to be woods. That used to be pasture. None of this was here 10 years ago.”

A native of this burgeoning southern Iredell County region, Bill says his parents watched the economic building boom happening and waited until they got an offer they couldn’t refuse. Then his mom and dad, like many others, moved somewhere else more rural. The way southern Iredell used to be. Before the lake and before the interstate changed everything forever. “It’s hard to find a real native (of Mooresville). They’re selling and moving to Rowan County,” he says.

The “engine” as it were, that drove and continues to drive the regional building boom is Lake Norman, built only in 1961 when the dam was built on the Catawba River, forming an immense body of water that straddles the borders of Catawba, Mecklenburg, Lincoln and Iredell counties, and located equidistant between Hickory to the northwest, Statesville to the north, Salisbury to the east and Charlotte due south.