Carrboro Commons

Gene Roberts never got too big for his britches

Posted on July 20th, 2008 in Uncategorized by jock

by Jock Lauterer
Carolina Community Media Project

Everyone needs a hero. Gene Roberts is mine.

Arguably the most decorated living Tar Heel journalist, the 75-year-old Roberts started small before becoming a national figure.

But even when he reached the top, he never turned into what my mama used to call “Mr. Big Britches,” — never forgetting or denigrating his humble Eastern North Carolina journalism origins; and that’s one of the many reasons why I honor him so.


Gene Roberts, left, accepts the North Carolinian of the Year award from NCPA President Tim Dearman of Statesville Friday in Asheville.
Jock Lauterer photo

To my great delight, I’m not the only one. The North Carolina Press Association named Roberts its 2008 “North Carolinian of the Year” at their annual summer convention in Asheville on Friday.

Introducing Roberts, NCPA President Tim Dearman, publisher of the Statesville Record and Landmark, saluted Roberts as “a native son of North Carolina who never forgot the lessons he learned here.”

Roberts, a Pulitzer-Prize winning former managing editor of the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer (17 Pulitzers from the latter) and co-author of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Race Beat,” got his start at a small community daily,the Goldsboro News-Argus in Wayne County, where he was the farm reporter.

There, the UNC-CH grad made a name for himself with the well-read feature titled “Rambling Through Rural Wayne,” which contained, in Roberts’ own words, “family reunions, recipes for sage sausage, sweet potatoes who looked like Gen. Charles de Gaulle…so the world could be exploding, but the Rambling in Rural Wayne had to come out.”

Let me share two emblematic Roberts stories that he allowed me to print in the third edition of my textbook and field guide, “Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local” (UNC Press, 2006.)

According to the next governor…

Posted on July 18th, 2008 in Uncategorized by jock

by Jock Lauterer
Carolina Community Media Project

Here at the annual summer convention of the North Carolina Press Association in Asheville, the assembled members of the Fourth Estate are hearing this morning from gubernatorial candidates Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue.

As Tabor-Loris Tribune editor Deuce Niven said, “One of ‘em will be the next governor!”


Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory calling for a change in the culture of the state government during his speech today to the North Carolina Press Association in Asheville.
Jock Lauterer photo

Charlotte Observer Editor Rick Thames introduced the seven-time Charlotte mayor by saying, “I should know better than most that there is a long list of things that Charlotteans don’t agree on. But it’s clear that they do agree on this: Pat McCrory is the right choice
for Charlotte.”

(Thames later stressed to me that this intro was in no way an endorsement by the Observer for McCrory.)

In his opening remarks, McCrory stressed open access to the public and press.”I believe this is an interview with the public,” he said. “People do prefer positive campaigns.”

“Here is what I’ve heard people saying: The current culture of state government is unacceptable.” He called the Easley administration, “inaccessible,” citing secret meetings and corruption and what he called “a culture of arrogance among the power elite…We need to change this culture.”

“There ought to be outrage among the leaders, because there is outrage among the people.”

He also expressed concern about the growth of gangs, saying, “The criminal justice system has been broken for a long time.”

Speaking of the economy, he said, “People are worried about their jobs and the economy. Gas prices are putting a strain on everybody…The family budget is busted because of $4 a gallon gas.”

“The state should take the lead on a comprehensive energy plan, and the governor should be at the head of that.”

He called his plan the McCrory Energy Initiative. He castigated both Democrats and Republicans for not taking action, and said it is time for the two parties to unite behind a common cause.

Conservation comes first, he said, followed by mass transit, including buses and light rail. He urged an expansion of rural bus service. He also called for the incorporation of a 50-year land-use policy— including mass transit corridors, HOV lanes, using “brown fields” as park-and-ride sites. And he said he plans to implement stay-at-home employment options for state workers. He also said he’d implement tax incentives for green practices and building.