Carrboro Commons

A sentimental journey back to The Wake Weekly

Posted on June 11th, 2009 in Uncategorized by jock

In this, the 9th summer of the Community Journalism Roadshow, our latter-day Johnny Appleseed is targeting indy and semi-indy non-daily newspapers, which are clearly weathering The Great Recession far better than their corporate-owned big-city daily bretheren. This week our rambles take us to the Wake Weekly, a paper we’ve been following for 40 years. Forty years, y’all!

by Jock Lauterer
Director
The Carolina Community Media Project

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The Wake Weekly staff gathers for a team portrait in front of their charming downtown offices in Wake Forest.
Jock Lauterer photo

Q: What kind of a weekly can support a staff of 17?

A: A very good one.

There has always been something special about the Wake Weekly. I first heard about the paper 40 years ago when I was myself in the community newspaper biz, having just started THIS WEEK, an innovative weekly in Forest City (with partners Ron Paris and Bill Blair) that leaned heavily on my large black-and-white photographs.

After we pretty much swept our first NCPA competition, I got this call from this total stranger in Wake Forest named Bob Allen wanting to know how I managed to capture high school football action photos without using flash.

“I’m not about to tell you,” I responded impolitely, ”because then you’d know my secret and you’d try to beat us next year in the photo competition.”

Bob has long since forgiven me for my youthful arrogance, but I still wince at the memory.

JUST ANOTHER ALLEN BOY

Because 15 years later, when I was a freshman “perfesser” at UNC and in need of a summer job, who made a spot for me? Yes, Bob (and Peggy) Allen of the Wake Weekly. And I don’t think they really needed me, so much as they just realized I was needy. That summer of ’84 I slept on a chaise lounge on their screened in porch by the swimming pool, and I pretty much became just another Allen boy.

Speaking of kids, if Bob and Peggy hadn’t had four sons, they wouldn’t have had much of a staff back then. But I mustn’t forget Production Manager and Fixer of All Things Al Merritt, who, though he is not an Allen, might as well be.

The Garner Citizen: “Put on your seat belts!”

Posted on June 4th, 2009 in Uncategorized by jock

by Jock Lauterer
Director, the Carolina Community Media Project

Over the last nine summers, I’ve led community journalism workshops at over 130 Tar Heel newspapers. This summer, I’ve decided to focus on the independent (or semi-independent) community papers, particularly the so-called “non-dailies,” which are clearly weathering The Great Recession far better than their big-city daily cousins. Last month I went to one of the state’s most “dug-in” pair of weeklies, the Clemmons Courier and the Davie County Enterprise Record of Mocksville where the average tenure of the staffers was in the double digits (including 85-year-old Sara Campbell, who’s been there 63 years!) This week, by contrast, I wanted to find out about a daring start-up over in Garner, just southeast of Raleigh. What I found there should restore your faith in the future of journalism.

WHAT KIND OF A FOOL…?

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Garner Citizen staffers proudly hold up fresh copies of their paper, hot off the presses. The paper’s owners are Barry Moore, second from left, and Debbie Moore Rodwell, far right.
Jock Lauterer photo

Newsprint, the office cat, had left her gray catnip mouse on the newsroom floor of the Garner Citizen, bearing silent witness to the old saying: You can tell it’s a community newspaper if there are kids and animals in the newsroom.

But the Garner Citizen (News & Times) isn’t just another 2k paid circulation weekly, of which there are literally thousands across the country. The bold newcomer to the Wake County newspaper wars, an almost 2-year-old indie, gives the lie to a snarky blog post I read recently: “What sort of FOOL starts a newspaper in 2007?!”

Answer: Adventurous entrepreneurs, who love journalism and their communities and who, in these times of newspaper churn, see and seize the opportunity.

In Garner’s case, that would be the sister-brother team of Debbie Moore Rodwell and Barry E. Moore, whose Vol. 1, No. 1, hit the streets of this “great little all-American blue collar town” (Debbie’s words) on July 24, 2007, out of a sense that Garner needed a “great hyper-local newspaper.”