We Get All Kinds

Last week I wrote about a disturbing trend in modern journalism: cuts in newsroom staff have made it increasingly impossible for news departments to conduct investigative reporting or send reporters out to cover events firsthand. What this means, among other things, is that we have to rely on what we’re told.

But there’s still some skill involved, even there. For instance: at WCHL we get literally dozens of press releases a day, from a wide variety of organizations both local and national, telling us about this or that incredible event or stunning development and insisting it’s important enough to merit our attention and our coverage.

Among our other responsibilities, it’s our job to sift through that stack and identify what’s actually worthwhile—to separate the wheat from the chaff.

And we get some fascinating chaff.

Here are my favorites.



Guest Opportunity: Michael Lohan, Hollywood Celebrity and Recovery Expert and Spokesperson for AIR ( Aid In Recovery).

It has been reported that “Michael Lohan says Lindsay Lohan’s friends shouldn’t drink alcohol when in her presence.”
Also in the tabloid news is that he and ex-wife Dina are banned from daughter Lindsay Lohan’s reality show with Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.
How much truth is there to these stories? Michael Lohan will discuss this and more.

Michael Lohan can discuss this by answering the following questions:
•    Are Lindsay and her reality show being “monitored closely by an intimidating Oprah” as reported by TMZ? Have you and Dina been “banned” from the show?
•    Are you concerned about Lindsay’s friends drinking in her presence and dragging her back down to that dangerous lifestyle?
•    Michael Lohan will discuss any other burning questions you might have and confirm or deny tabloid rumors.

Michael Lohan is available for interviews...

(I almost went ahead and booked this, just to see what Ron Stutts would do with it.)


The Lubrizol Corporation
News Release


GMP implementation is underway at Lubrizol Advanced Materials’ Wilmington, MA plant…

(Well, it’s about frigging time, Lubrizol. We’ve been asking for excipient-grade thermoplastic polyurethane for YEARS now.)



Says the Color Indicates Singer Has A Serious Case of Halitosis

Singer Miley Cyrus is drawing lots of attention for her provocative performance on Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards, which included lots of twerking and tongue action.

“I can’t comment on the dance moves, but after viewing stills of Miley’s tongue, I would certainly advise her to keep it indoors,” says dentist and national oral health care expert Dr. Harold Katz, (www.therabreath.com.)

“One of the best ways to diagnose bad breath is by the color of the tongue and, judging from the photos, Miley’s breath is a FAIL.”

Discussion Questions
• What do you see that indicates Miley Cyrus has bad breath?
• Is there anything she can do about that?
• Are there other colors or signs you look for on the tongue that help you determine the source of bad breath?
• What do you recommend for those people?
• Besides checking tongue color, what’s the best way for a person to determine whether he or she has bad breath?
• For fresh breath in general, what do you advise?

Dr. Harold Katz is available for interview so please let me know if you would be interested in speaking with him…

(Yep, we actually received this press release.)



(Los Angeles, CA) On February 2, 2013 Michael Ian Vargo won Playboy TV’s newest reality show “The Man” Tournament of Champions Finale! A Playboy TV provocative reality dating show: The Man, where self-proclaimed “Casanovas” who are convinced they are God’s gift to even the most insatiable women, are put to the real test to prove that they, indeed, should be crowned, ‘The Man.’ The show consist of three rounds: An introduction kiss, stimulating game, and spending alone time in the bedroom with two gorgeous female judges. After the intimate and final round in the bedroom “the close”, the judges would discuss and crown ‘The Man’ for that episode. It gets exciting when Playboy TV had ‘The Man of Men’ Tournament of Champions’ finale where one winner from each episode went head-to-head and was crowned ‘The Man of Men.’

Vargo used charm, patience, and persistence to win ‘The Man’ Finale being the very first man to be given two trophies that look like Iron Man. His newest project that just released is a Harlem Shake with the Centennial Hills Senior Citizens. Now in the works is a reality show based off of the storage units and pawn shops, but on a grander scale. Vargo is looking to endorse the proper company that he can help take to a new level.

For Interview with ‘The Man’ contact…

(I almost set up an interview with “The Man,” but for some reason I felt inadequate.)



Gives New Meaning to “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Desiree Holt, 76, could be the world’s most sex-crazed senior citizen. An award-winning author, Holt writes erotic romance, which combines the conventions of traditional romance writing with more frequent sex scenes and common vernacular in place of outdated euphemisms. Holt has more than 130 titles under her belt and is known fondly as the “porn queen of Texas hill country.”

In an unforgettable interview, Holt can discuss…

(We might have booked her, but we couldn’t decide if it was a better fit for Who’s Talking or the Good Sports.)


(And perhaps my personal favorite…)


Happy hour has officially gone to hell! Prepare for tales of fall fashion, lakes of fragrant aftershave, vodka riots, and Betabrand.com.

HADES UPON STYX, October 4 — Moments ago, Mighty Satan blew smoke rings from all the world’s volcanoes to herald the start of Reversible Smoking Jacket Season!  Yes, delighted demons throughout the Nine Circles of Hell are puffing brimstone stogies and tossing back tequila-lava shooters to celebrate the first crisp days of autumn.

Here’s why: After many anxious months, gentlemen can once again comfortably don their incredible chameleon coats from Betabrand.com — and turn innocent happy hours and ho-hum social gatherings into decadent dances of unmitigated debauchery!

(Unlike the rest, this one actually was tongue-in-cheek. [Not Miley’s tongue, fortunately.] Betabrand is a SF-based company that sends us wacky press releases every so often; they’ve also offered something called “FAUXFU,” which is tofu made out of meat.)


…So, yes, we get all kinds.

And we get some good local ones too. A few weeks ago, just before November, I got an email from a local guy, Dan Pelletier, asking if we’d be interested in helping him conduct a social media experiment: what would happen if someone turned his birthday into a big month-long Facebook promotion, complete with local media coverage and everything?

Well, THAT’s something I can do.

Everyone, visit Dan’s Facebook page and wish him a happy birthday before the month is out! You only have a few more days.

If you don’t, I’ll get on the phone and book that Miley Cyrus guy.



The Crisis Of Modern Journalism (Part II)

A couple days ago I wrote about a disturbing trend in modern journalism: with the economy tight, newsrooms are reducing staff to the bare-bones minimum, making it harder and harder for news departments to conduct investigative reporting (or sometimes even basic fact-checking). As a result, reporters often have to rely on what they’re told. That’s always been true to an extent, but I think it’s even more true now than ever before.

In itself, this isn’t the end of the world—so long as those doing the telling are informed and honest, with no incentive to lie or withhold key details or spin the facts to make themselves look good.

And sometimes that’s actually the case. When police or other government officials want to get vital information out to the public, they use the local media. (I remember getting a call from the Chapel Hill PD earlier this year to ask if we could get the word out about an overnight break-in. As I put it on Facebook later: “Small-town journalism in a nutshell—Chapel Hill Police just called me to report a crime.”) The same is even true—occasionally—with more controversial issues. After the Yates Building incident in November 2011, there was some debate about whether those in charge made the right decision given the information they had, but it was obvious to all that they should have had more information in the first place. I think it was town manager Roger Stancil who called it a “communications breakdown.” So there was an incentive for town leaders to communicate, both with each other and with the public. And though it did take a while (Stancil at one point put a gag order on Town staff), eventually they opened up completely. And positive changes got made.

But when those with access to information do have an incentive to lie, to withhold, or to spin—well, that’s a different story.

Small-scale example: let’s talk about University Mall.

It was in mid-September when the news first broke that Dillard’s was likely going to leave—that was when the store converted to a clearance center and shifted very obviously into everything-must-go mode. But was it leaving? It looked that way, but nobody would say for certain: Dillard’s spokesperson Julie Bull said only that the store was converting to clearance, but insisted that didn’t (necessarily) mean it was on the way out. U-Mall GM Peter DeLeon told us that was as much as he knew as well. “(Bull) stated to us that she has not been given that information that they are closing,” he told WCHL, “(and) at this point we have to respect what Dillard’s is telling us.”

How much of that was true? While all that was going on, I walked into Dillard’s, no press badge, and casually asked a cashier what she’d heard—and although she said she’d heard conflicting reports, she told me they’d been informed Dillard’s was closing within a few months. This turned out to be true, and it was more specific than we (and possibly even U-Mall) were hearing from the company. They knew more than they were letting on. And while it’s possible they were keeping U-Mall in the dark as well, there’s evidence to suggest that Silverspot Cinemas was already in the works too. For one thing, it was already in the rumor mill: someone told us in September that she’d heard U-Mall was bringing in a movie theater, though that information was third-hand and the original source wouldn’t go on record. And then there was last week’s press conference, where mall staff put up several renderings of what the new theater would look like—one of which, someone told me later, was actually dated July.

So it’s fair to say there may have been a disconnect between the reality and the official story.


Well, frankly, in September, neither Dillard’s nor U-Mall had much incentive to confirm the store was closing, even if it was true. For Dillard’s, it’s negative publicity: you’re laying off employees, which never looks good, plus closing a location suggests the company is in trouble. (Even in November they didn’t say much. Here’s the one press release where they announced it: good luck spotting it in there.) Same goes for U-Mall, and there it’s even more crucial: malls depend on strong anchor stores to draw in business, and the nation is already littered with malls that suffered badly because they lost their anchor. So U-Mall had every incentive to hold off announcing that Dillard’s was out until they could tailor the announcement to focus on the nice new thing that was coming in.

And in this case, no harm done. We got the full story in November instead of September. No big deal.

But it’s noteworthy that the media really wasn’t able to crack this nut two months ago—and that’s emblematic of a larger, more troubling issue.

For the problem is double-sided. Lacking the power to investigate, reporters in the shrunken newsroom increasingly have to rely on what they’re told—to depend on the kindness of strangers, as it were. But even in a relatively minor situation like this, those with information usually have at least some incentive to withhold it or spin it to their advantage.

There’s no malice in this, by the way. These are good people doing their jobs.

But while reporters’ power is declining, their power is growing. And that’s changing how news stories get told.

Here’s the second trend: while the news media has declined, the PR industry has taken off—and it’s made a science of figuring out how best to ‘control the message.

Public relations has been around forever. As a profession, though, it’s only about as old as psychology, and it’s advancing at about the same rate. (Think about how bad psychology was in 1950 compared to today—PR’s improved by similar leaps and bounds.) And as companies and organizations grow more aware of the importance of “image,” public relations takes on an increasingly prominent role. (This is heightened all the more because there’s been an explosion of new media outlets in recent decades too—from cable channels to the Internet to social media and beyond. Now, if you’re a company, it’s not enough to craft your image on three or four outlets—you have to craft it on three or four hundred.)

As a result: fifty years ago there was one PR rep for every reporter; now the ratio’s closer to 4:1. No reason to think that’s going to change. Career advisors are now actively encouraging prospective journalism majors to track towards PR instead. (Better long-term prospects.)

And that in turn amplifies and accelerates the consequence of all this: what you hear in the news is often just a rehash of official statements and press releases. “Churnalism,” it’s called. We often blame this on journalistic laziness, but that’s not what it is—it’s all these trends at once, coming together. And this is what you get. Government agencies, organizations, businesses all carefully route inquiries to the press office; everyone else is carefully instructed not to speak. You listen to a newscast talk about some national issue, it’s nothing but a Democratic sound bite followed by a Republican sound bite.

Sometimes this is helpful, especially when the PR reps become aware that it’s up to them to determine what gets reported as news. Catherine Lazorko is the public information officer for the Town of Chapel Hill. A couple years ago at WCHL’s Community Forum, she said something that stuck with me: that she finds herself being more careful now, when crafting press releases, about covering all the bases and angles of a given issue—because she knows that her words will very likely end up being lifted directly and dropped into a story. (I doubt that’s changed in the last two years.)

But we can’t assume that sort of altruistic behavior on a regular basis—especially when the organization in question has every incentive to clam up.

Take UNC.

In the last three years UNC has had to put up with—well, let’s just say they’ve had to put up with a lot. It’s been three very difficult years. And let’s be honest: some of the headache came from their willingness to be good and open and transparent all that time. Other schools have committed violations far worse than UNC’s—but they locked down, zipped their lips, refused to let NCAA investigators on campus, and basically got off scot-free. UNC did it right, played the game, let investigators on campus, threw open their books, and talked at great length about what went wrong and how best to fix it—and ultimately got hit with sanctions far worse than Miami and Auburn and Oklahoma State and all those other schools put together.

Well, lesson learned.

With the transition from Holden Thorp to Carol Folt, UNC has suddenly become a lot more tight-lipped, at least when it comes to the top administrators. Folt has been incommunicado since taking over, aside from public appearances and carefully prepared remarks; you may notice you don’t hear her quoted in the media nearly as often as Thorp was.  (Folt did sit down with us for a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner, but that was really her first extended interview since she first took over—and it’s worth noting that it aired in November. We usually do that annual interview-with-the-chancellor in August.)

And it goes further. Earlier this month UNC named Joel Curran—senior executive at one of the world’s largest PR agencies—to the position of “Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs.” It’s a position they just now created.

Three guesses why.

The point is, organizations like UNC have every reason to want to control the message, as much as possible. The PR industry has enabled them to do that more effectively than ever before—and the media’s inability to dig deeper makes it all the easier too. It’s not because of malice or laziness or any personal flaw—it’s the byproduct of several long-term, large-scale trends, and if we want to reverse it it’s not going to be easy.

But that’s where it stands.

And shoot, now I can’t think of a good ending for this post. Well, add your own pithy conclusion here, and I’ll accept it without question.


The Crisis Of Modern Journalism (Part I)

Three things happened in Chapel Hill last week: University Mall announced that Silverspot Cinemas would be replacing Dillard’s; UNC named Joel Curran the new vice chancellor for communications and public affairs; and it actually snowed for a little while.

Here’s my thesis: all three are connected to a single development—a rather disturbing one—that’s plaguing modern journalism. Read on…

If you’ve ever been to our on-air studio at WCHL, you know it’s a pretty small room, with no view of the outside world, in a building set far away from any actual street.

How do we report on traffic?

Truth is, when I’m on the air, there’s no earthly way for me to know firsthand what’s happening on I-40—or, heck, Weaver Dairy for that matter. Occasionally we send someone out to drive around and report back in, if there’s a flood or a snowstorm or something serious. But those are special days. Beyond that, we have to rely on reports we get from other people: Triangle Traffic on Twitter, for instance, or listeners like you. (That’s why we’re always so insistent about asking for “Road Warriors.”)

Same goes for weather, to a point. It snowed a little bit last week, right in the middle of our afternoon newscast—but where was it snowing, and when? We’d gotten the general Orange County forecast from the National Weather Service, and we were monitoring radar throughout—but when the system came through and it started alternating between rain and snow, we had to rely on firsthand reports from listeners (“snow warriors,” as Rachel Nash put it) to tell us where, specifically, it was snowing at a given moment. (Especially when the radar kept insisting there was nothing but rain.)

I mention this because it’s a good illustration of how journalism works in general, for better or worse. All the events we cover take place outside the newsroom, and those who report the news are almost never the ones who make the news—journalistic ethics, you know—so there’s always an extent to which we’re relying on other people to tell us what’s going on.

That’s always been true.

But nowadays it’s compounded by several potentially disturbing trends.

Especially now in the Internet age, people feel increasingly entitled to get their news for free—which makes it harder for news outlets to generate revenue, which leads in turn to staff cuts. (The recession certainly didn’t help.) Newspapers have been hardest hit by this—especially since they always relied on charging consumers directly, as TV and radio never did—but it’s affected every medium, and news outlets everywhere now make do with the bare minimum in staff. (Our news department’s been lucky—we haven’t had to deal much with staff cuts—but we’ve always operated with a pretty small staff to begin with.)

Several consequences. First: a newsroom with a bare-bones staff becomes even less able to go out and cover newsworthy events firsthand. (We encounter this sometimes at WCHL—on nights when, say, the Central West steering committee is meeting at the same time as a Rosemary Imagined event.)  But second, and even more important: a newsroom that reduces itself to a bare-bones staff loses its ability to engage in investigative journalism. Investigative reporting is an endeavor that requires time and resources and manpower; in the absence of all three, it becomes impossible.

Both of those consequences amount to the same thing: even more than ever before, news departments have to rely on what they’re told—often without digging deeper or probing further.

The existence of Twitter actually compounds this too, because it means that newsworthy events get reported instantaneously—which reduces the amount of time a newsroom has to put together a story. Forget hard-boiled investigation—at that speed, even basic fact-checking goes out the window. Which is how CNN could mistakenly report that the Supreme Court had struck down the Affordable Care Act, when in fact they’d upheld it—or how news outlets across the country could blithely retweet the mistake, since they’d heard it from a ‘credible source’ like CNN. It’s also how a TV station in California could end up falling for a prank and reporting that the pilot in July’s Asiana Airlines crash was named “Sum Ting Wong.” (In that case the station actually did do some fact-checking: they called the National Transportation Safety Board, where the name was confirmed by an intern who wasn’t really paying attention.) It’s true that news outlets get criticized for rushing on-air with “information” that turns out to be false—but at least the critics will keep tuning in. If you don’t rush on the air with something, people will simply stop listening to you.

All of which adds up to the same thing: forced to operate with a bare-bones staff, under increasingly tight time constraints, news departments are less and less capable of doing the deep digging on their own. More and more, they have to depend on what they’re told. (This is partly why CNN, for instance, is relying more on “I-reporters,” regular folks who send in videos of events. It also explains the rise of “churnalism,” news stories that are either partly or entirely cut-and-pasted from some organization’s press release.)

That’s trend number one.

But trend number two makes it even worse…

Part II to follow tomorrow. Stay tuned.


UNC’s Next World Media Symposium Encourages Journalism Students to be Creative

Chapel Hill –  UNC-Chapel Hill journalism students were encouraged to be creative storytellers, when they got a glance at what the future of advertising might look like at the Next World Media Symposium on Friday.

***Listen to the Story***

Professor JoAnn Sciarrino says the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a long tradition of greatness.

“We need to continue to create great storytellers, which is something we’ve always done; from Charles Kuralt, to any number of individuals who have passed through the J school,” Sciarrino says.

Professors Gary Kayye, John Sweeney, and Sciarrino hosted the Next World Media Symposium on Friday, in an effort to continue that tradition.

Kayye says people heard their message.

“I just got word that our Twitter hashtag is trending all over the Triangle, so that’s a good sign that other people are paying attention,” Kayye says.

The symposium brought executives from well-established advertising and marketing companies onto campus to talk to students.

AT&T Vice President Daryl Evans was the keynote speaker at the conference. He and a few other speakers are UNC alumni who got their start at UNC. Evans says the symposium was a great start to a homecoming weekend.

“This is fun,” Evans says: “I love coming back up to Chapel Hill. I’m here for a ballgame, and I’m also on the Board of Visitors here. It’s a good place to come back to.”

The speakers came to give students advice on becoming successful advertisers in a fast-paced world that continually introduces new media outlets and platforms.

Jonathan Salem Baskin is a respected management consultant, and a regular Forbes contributor. He talked about where Journalism has been in the past, using the print newspaper as an example of what he thinks is a disappearing news medium.

“I still get a print version of the Chicago tribune… I just can’t give it up,” Baskin says, “But I will eventually die, and I don’t think I will be replaced by a subscriber.”

The speakers talked about the boom of new media. With Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, Instagram, Vine, Youtube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Snapchat, Reddit, and the hundreds of thousands of online news mediums, how do advertisers and marketers choose the best outlet to reach consumers? How do they sort through all the madness?

Greg Johnson, president of the BooneOakley Agency, says the more tech-savvy we become, the more human we must be.  He says technology works best when it’s reflective of who we are as people.

As sophisticated and advanced as technology is becoming, it’s still about really simple, basic human truths. It’s about touching people’s hearts, and their heads, because that’s where decisions are made.

Evans agreed with Johnson in his presentation saying the connective tissue of all the emerging media is storytelling. He says advertising is about making something that’s engaging.

Journalism students at the event were fully engaged in the speakers’ messages. Tricia Cleppe says she hopes the journalism school uses the speakers’ ideas in the classroom.

“I thought it was very interesting to get a perspective from people who do this in their real lives, and from real brands with real money behind them,” Cleppe says.

“You can learn all of these things in the journalism school but you don’t really understand it until you see the tangible benefits of it. I think the journalism school should try to head in the same direction,” Cleppe says.

Professor Sciarrino says she plans to push her classes in that direction.

“I think we heard some consistent themes about storytelling, and content marketing, and creativity, and big data and analytics,” Sciarrino says, “Those are going to be the touchstones for me to carry through to my classes.”

Other Speakers at the event included BooneOakley CCO David Oakley, Capstrat Agency President Karen Albritton, and rAVe Publications Founder Gary Kayye.

The video featuring the entire conference will be available on the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication website by November 10.


UNC to Host Next World Media Symposium Friday

Journalism Professors at UNC-Chapel Hill are hosting an event this week that they hope will help shake things up in journalism schools across the country.

***Listen to the Story***

UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and mass Communication prides itself on being one of the top journalism schools in the country.

But professors like Gary Kayye say they’re noticing changes in the industry, changes that any innovative journalism school should acknowledge.

“We’ve seen everything from the implosion of the newspaper and magazine, to the explosion of social media,” Kayye says, “The way both news and entertainment content is watched and absorbed by most people has changed more in the last two years, than it has in the last two decades.”

Kayye and a handful of professors believe the school should dive into the future, and leave the last two decades behind.

Kayye says things don’t have to be done a certain way in the future, simply because that’s how they were done in the past.

“What would be better for journalism schools, especially ours being a top 5 school in the country, would be to help drive the future, and to make sure our students are steering the future,” Kayye says.

Professors Gary Kayye, JoAnn Sciarrino, and John Sweeney are starting a conversation. And it begins Friday at the Next World Media Symposium.

The Next World Media Symposium is a first time event at UNC. Industry experts are coming to UNC-Chapel Hill to talk about where the world of new media is headed in the future.

These experts include senior executives of companies such as AT&T, the Capstrat Agency, rAVe Publications and more.

They’re coming to speak to students, faculty, and interested peers about the directions in which advertising, marketing, and PR are going; and where they believe prosperity will be found in the years ahead.

But advice from these significant leaders doesn’t usually come cheap. Kayye says some of the speakers are worthy of up to $15,000 in speaking fees.

But they’re doing it all for free, on their own time. And Kayye says it’s because they see the new media revolution first-hand every day, and they’re eager to tell students about it.

“We’re the first journalism school to step up and say look we know things are changing very rapidly, we have to change with it,” Kayye says, “And they realized that this is an opportunity to build the curriculum from the ground up.”

JoAnn Sciarrino is the Knight Chair Professor in Digital Marketing and Advertising for the journalism school. She says it may be beneficial to dive head first into the future, even if you’re uncertain of what you’re diving into.

“The motivation for the symposium is because the definition of advertising has never been more unclear, but we think that it’s more of an opportunity than a crisis,” Sciarrino says.

“I think that as advertising is being redefined, those that are willing to take a bit of a risk and redefine it, those individuals will be most successful.”

The event has generated so much attention it had to switch to a larger venue. And Sciarrino says she’s not surprised there are only a couple dozen seats left.

“I think that young people today are so incredibly engaged in digital, and in the next frontier of media,” Sciarrino says,  “So they’re very interested in what these luminaries may say, and how it can affect their future careers.”

Paige Sferrazza is one of Kayye’s students who will be attending the event. She says she is excited to hear more about what she learns each week in Kayye’s new media class.

“Every single time we have class every one of the students walks out with their mind blown because we’re all so excited about what there is to come,” Sferrazza says.

Sferrazza says she expects the same experience at the symposium.

“We’ll be listening to a lot of speakers who have real time experience in the field, and who really know what the future is going to look like,” Sferrazza says.

The Next World Media Symposium will be held Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m in Murphey Hall. Admission is free. You can get your ticket here.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can follow the conversation live by following @NextWorldUNC and #NextWorldUNC on Twitter.


Dirt Bags We Know

Gregg Doyel first got my attention when he was a punk sports writer for the Charlotte Observer, obviously trying to make a name for himself.

At the time, he wrote a story claiming the problems surrounding UNC’s basketball program in the early 2000s were all Dean Smith’s fault. Smith had been retired for five years but Doyel insisted Smith was still behind the scenes pulling the strings like some puppeteer.

As with numerous columns he has written since as the loosest cannon at CBSSports.com, Doyel was dead wrong. In fact, Smith had just about wiped his hands of his former program after Chancellor James Moeser foolishly vetoed the hiring of Larry Brown in 2000.

Carolina’s brief basketball swoon was on Matt Doherty, the coach Moeser did approve, who of course lasted three years before getting fired, which allowed Roy Williams a second chance to come back and return the Tar Heels to national prominence.

When the UNC football scandal broke in the summer of 2010, Doyel jumped in with both feet, calling Butch Davis something like the “turd in the punch bowl.” His opinion that Davis had to go, if not his characterization, turned out to be true after UNC decided its reputation was more important than keeping Davis. As you know, I agreed with that move.

Doyel (who went to Florida) says he is hesitant to talk trash about Carolina because his sister went here and lives near here. And he likes Roy Williams, one of the few coaches left who gives Doyel the time of day. Yet, after admitting that he only got interested in the academic side of the case upon seeing the alleged Julius Peppers transcript, Doyel did what he often does – take the easy way out with lazy, inflammatory journalism.

Even for his standards, Doyel’s latest tirade is pretty unconscionable and fits what he was hired to do during the Wild West days of the Internet – just throw stuff out there and see if it sticks. He took the Peppers transcript story, jumped to a mile-wide conclusion and predicted both Carolina football and basketball are “going down.” Doyel backs up little of what he says, using the News & Observer reports to form his own absurd opinions.

Who at CBS Sports allows such irresponsible writing?

Doyel then went on a Charlotte radio show Wednesday morning and said he thinks the only two schools in the country offering African Studies majors are Kansas and Carolina and the common thread is Williams. Ah, wrong again, Greggie. The number is 93, including Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard and Yale, Cal-Berkeley, Michigan and Virginia 

I’ve seen the supposed Peppers transcript. If it is indeed his, all it shows is that Peppers did poorly during his (red-shirt) freshman year (1998-99), which is hardly unique for under-qualified athletes. Obviously, he had to get his grades up in summer school to play in 1999, but there is no evidence that Peppers did it by cheating or being given grades in any course.

Other than that, a copy of Peppers’ transcript at one moment in time means nothing, for these reasons:

  • So what that Peppers was an AFAM major or took AFAM courses – what does that prove?
  • Afro-African American Studies has been taught at UNC for more than 15 years, with no improprieties uncovered before 2007.
  • Athletes have been taking the same courses at UNC (and other schools) forever. In fact, most students look for easier or “crip” courses and sign up for them with their friends. Didn’t you?

Despite what else comes out from a period when Carolina earned an NCAA probation, vacated 16 victories, lost 15 scholarships plus a bowl game and changed football coaches twice, most of the athletes who haven’t been implicated do the work, finish the class and get a grade. There is nothing to suggest otherwise.

If you don’t like the fact that some of them are admitted as academic exceptions, are steered toward easier courses and need help from tutors and sympathetic professors, blame the escalation of big-time college athletics into a money-driven enterprise. It is not exclusive to Carolina, not by a long shot.

Reluctant to respond, hiding behind privacy laws, or whatever, UNC needs to stand up and set the record straight about what Tar Heel athletes are supposed to be doing, and what most of them do. Or this is going to spin out of control to the point where more dirt bags like Doyel can claim on national websites that this is “maybe the ugliest academic scandal in NCAA history.”

Puh-lease. Worse than the Minnesota and Georgia basketball scandals and the Florida State football final exam scandal?

It’s the job of media like the News & Observer to investigate such stories, publish the facts they find and ask further questions. It’s not Gregg Doyel’s job to defame an entire athletic department over a few guilty parties for a nebulous period of time without any substantiation whatsoever.

“UNC football — and probably basketball — is going down,” Doyel wrote in his column. “For starters, there are some banners at the Smith Center that need to come down.”

Don’t think so. In fact, if his editors at CBSSports.com ever wise up, Doyel is the one who needs to go down for writing such drivel.


Save The Carrboro Citizen

After almost five years and over 280 consecutive weekly issues, publisher Robert Dickson has decided to sell The Carrboro Citizen. I find this sad news in a market already saturated with local news reporting, including the outstanding news and information presented on WCHL and chapelboro.com.  Of course, other papers cover Carrboro stories, but nobody has actually based a  major publication in The Paris of the Piedmont since Nyle Frank’s Invisible University with its Centipede rag in 1970, and Jim Heavner’s Village Advocate published from upstairs at 103 West Weaver over 30 years ago.
In 2007, Dickson took a chance and launched a new Carrboro-based community newspaper, geared to primarily covering Carrboro, while reporting Chapel Hill, Orange and Chatham stories as well. Dickson’s family has also owned and published The News Journal in Raeford since 1928. Digital distribution of news has hurt most, if not all, print publications, but community journalism still thrives nationwide, with most locally-based weekly papers doing well, according to legendary local photojournalist, Carrboro Citizen columinist and senior UNC Journalism lecturer, Jock Lauterer.
Lauterer teaches community journalism at Carolina and regularly helps his students get published in The Citizen, as well as in the J-school’s on-line publication, Carrboro Commons. Nowadays, websites regularly mirror and expand news coverage traditionally available only in primary publications. Readers can easily search previous issues and articles from the comfort of their Internet connection without being resigned to physical trips to search library microfilm. 


Two Carrboro icons: Graffiti and The Carrboro Citizen

One of my regular Thursday-evening rituals involves stopping on NC 54 West on the way home and picking up my copy of The Citizen at White Cross Citgo. Local advertising in The Citizen continues strong compared to other papers, despite the recession. It’s a place where Carrboro business can preach to their own, even though most of the paper’s 7300 copy weekly distrubution (at more than 200 urban and rural locations) is, ironically, in Chapel Hill. Add web readers, and The Citizen’s reach totals over 15,000 eyes consistently enjoying what the paper’s outstanding staff and citizen contributors have to say each week. The Citizen has helped make Carrboro news stories equal in stature to those in Chapel Hill, while only a couple of decades ago, these stories were routinely placed “below the fold” or relegated to inside pages.
Besides its outstanding coverage of local news, The Citizen also excels in printing special sections, such as its monthly Mill insert and extra “tabs” for community events such as Carrboro Day, the Carrboro Music Festival and the “awesome” (Dickson’s words) Carrboro Resource Guide.
Dickson says he’s just become tired from the stress and financial pressures of running a small business since 1977, adding “the time has come for me to pass the baton.” He now runs an unusual house ad pleading “Buy This Newspaper.” Let’s hope that ad doesn’t run long. I certainly feel some forward-thinking citizen will soon come forward and rescue this print/web gem.
Dickson explains his public “highly non-traditional method of seeking new ownership” by saying the paper belongs mostly to its readers. Therefore, he feels readers “should have first crack at continuing what we’ve begun.”
Dickson has no interest in selling his paper to anyone “who would change its focus from nuanced, community-focused journalism.” He wants to find a buyer with the energy and resources to take The Citizen to the next level of community involvement, circulation and sales without messing too much with the product he has molded into such a fine example of locally-owned and -operated community-based print and web journalism over the last five years.
Support messages already grace The Citizen’s Web site. One reader posted “I don’t know how I’ll get through the week without The Citizen.” Someone pondered purchase and operating options, while another simply exclaimed “NOOoooooooooooooo. Please say it isn’t so!” Obviously, the community supports the paper.
So if you’ve ever wanted to venture into long-form local journalism and ad sales, call Robert and start negotiating before this highly professional, award-winning, free-circulation publication folds this fall. After all, we wouldn’t want WCHL Commentator Chuck Morton to lose his distribution job. Dickson says he’s already had “some interest” from potential buyers. Surely, someone will step up. Whatever the price, this crucial hyper-local resource is too important to lose.

Listen to Richard Taylor’s piece as it aired on WCHL: