It was four years ago that our readers saw Volume 1, Issue 1 of the North State Journal. On that first-ever front page of the only statewide newspaper in North Carolina, the headlines of the day still reverberate across our state, nation and world.
The first headline, “New congressional maps face further scrutiny,” was a shout into an echo chamber of politics that have profoundly affected our state and federal governments. Four years on, those maps, and our state legislative maps, are still being challenged.
The second headline, “Charlotte policy sparks controversy,” details the kindling of a fire that still burns in this country over gender and identity politics. Some say the General Assembly’s response — a bill that asserted state law supremacy over local ordinances and forever known as H.B. 2 — was the undoing of the state’s first Republican governor in a generation. (For the record, I don’t think it was). One fact that remains is that the bill’s author, Dan Bishop, is a member of Congress. I also haven’t heard much about H.B. 2 since the last campaign commercials aired in the 2016 gubernatorial race.
A piece on that initial first page might be the foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency. The one-paragraph brief “SCOTUS pick withdraws” ends with “Senate Republicans held firm to their vow not to act on any nominee by President Barack Obama for the job.” Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation as the replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia still sits atop the president’s list of accomplishments.
Another headline, “53 tornadoes hit central N.C.,” is one I could do without. There were only five tornadoes. That was the first typo I found in the North State Journal. There have been some since, but that first one resulted in my permanent response to typos — “I’m glad we get to do it again next week.” I hope we can continue to get better every week of this fifth volume of the North State Journal.
While I have learned more about newspapers — how to make them and how the industry works — I have also learned more about our remarkable state. Since Volume 3, our tradition has been to adopt a tagline for the individual volume beyond our official tagline — “Elevate the conversation” — to help define the new volume. In Volume 3, we sought to become “Your home state newspaper,” and in Volume 4 we toasted “Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine.” In this election year, when readers need truth over spin, we will aim to be, rather than to seem. We will elevate to a standard heralded by Cicero, Aeschylus, Cato and even Plato with our state’s motto: Esse quam videri.
Our goal will remain to bring you the news with truth and beauty. Our writing, photography and design have been lauded since that first issue, and we aim to maintain our foundation. But, Volume 5 will introduce new elements. Firstly, a new voice from our new editor Matt Mercer will be evident in our news reporting. Matt joins the masthead with Cory Lavalette, Lauren Rose, Frank Hill and Emily Roberson, who have all contributed to our success and are the reason we are entering our fifth year of publication.
You will see more variety in our design, more investigative and data-driven journalism, and a conscious effort to touch every county from Murphy to Manteo in this volume. Issue 1 of Volume 5 coincides with Ash Wednesday and unveils a new weekly scripture passage on A2 which harkens back to newspapers of prior eras but will bring ancient wisdom to our pages. Our editorial calendar is still evolving, but we are committed to highlighting stories from our state’s top two industries — agriculture and military — as often as possible. We will also be unveiling unique celebrations of every county in North Carolina, starting with an ambitious “best athlete” feature helmed by award-winning journalists Brett Friedlander and Shawn Krest.
We will also carry our Volume 5 changes onto the web. Soon we will unveil a new website and hopefully (finally) bring the Murphy to Manteo section online.
We will report the news, tell the stories and push for the truth. While every issue won’t be full of happy news, we will strive to be, rather than to seem.
Neal Robbins is publisher of the North State Journal.