UNC Media Hub recently featured Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics Penny Abernathy’s research in its story “Threat of ‘news deserts’ in North Carolina is changing the media landscape.”
The article examines North Carolina’s loss of local newspapers through the stories of two community newspapers—Johnston County’s now-defunct Smithfield Herald and Columbus County’s Pulitzer Prize-winning News Reporter, which was a member of the first cohort of the UNC Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. The News-Reporter worked with Professor Abernathy’s leadership class for more than a decade and is featured in her books Saving Community Journalism and Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur.
Leslie High, publisher of the News Reporter, credits the newspaper’s survival, in part, to newsroom innovations such as revamping digital content and social media presence, establishing an in-house digital ad agency and creating several community magazines.
“My family made a decision a long time ago that we were not going to be part of a crappy newspaper, and we didn’t feel like our community deserved a crappy newspaper. So, however people get their news, whatever form that might be, we’re committed to seeing that happen,” said High, whose family has owned the paper for three generations.