RALEIGH – When Randy Parton and Rick Watson stood before the TV cameras at last Friday’s press conference in Cary and proclaimed themselves victims of a capricious government, it was the height of irony. After wasting millions of state and local tax dollars on a project that never made business sense, a project peddled to desperate local officials in Roanoke Rapids based on flimsy promises and a failure to disclose multiple conflicts of interest, they want to get paid with taxpayers’ money. Again.
Admittedly, the latest twist in the Randy Parton/Rick Watson saga did show that Parton was capable of producing good theater. He’s just not capable of doing it intentionally. Someone should tell him that his show-business future lies in slapstick comedy, not country music.
Last week’s events revealed another truth: the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal has carved out a unique and valuable niche in the North Carolina media market. Without the dogged work of CJ’s team of investigative journalists and editors, conducting extensive investigations of waste and corruption in the state’s economic-development programs over the past half-decade or so, it is unlikely that stories such as the real origins of the Randy Parton Theatre would have seen the light of day.
Carolina Journal has been on the scene far longer than that, of course. Since 1991, JLF’s flagship publication has provided in-depth reporting, incisive analysis, and informed commentary about the workings of state and local government in North Carolina. Beginning its run as a bimonthly magazine with a circulation of just a couple thousand people, mostly in and around the state capital, CJ eventually became a monthly newspaper – really a sort of “magazine on newsprint” – that reaches more than 180,000 readers across the state via mail subscriptions and as inserts in local newspapers.
Over the years, CJ has fought for limited, open, honest, and effective government in North Carolina while giving its readers a compelling mix of stories on the state legislature, the executive branch, the courts, education, local government, health care, transportation, and many other issues. Its columnists, book reviews, news summaries, and parodies make for varied and entertaining reading. And its blockbuster investigations have had a major impact on politics and public policy in North Carolina. For example:
• In the mid-1990s, CJ broke numerous stories on the misappropriation of millions of state dollars by Republican and Democratic legislators. Embarrassed, legislative leaders cut back on slush-fund abuses – at least for a time.
• During the same period, CJ investigations of politicized hiring practices in state government helped set the stage for important reforms of state personnel policies.
• After CJ and other news organizations reported on the illegal and unsafe misuse of state transportation dollars for low-priority projects, key officials of the state Department of Transportation were forced to resign.
• CJ’s diligent reporting on the relationship between state-funded economic-development programs and major state politicians provided one of the critical links in the chain that led to the downfall of corrupt House Speaker Jim Black.
• Former Congressman and State Sen. Frank Ballance spent years steering state taxpayers’ dollars to himself and his family members through a sham foundation – until CJ devoted months of careful research to exposing his activities. Ballance is now serving prison time.
• CJ has garnered national attention with its expose of the Center for Climate Strategies and attempts to use state resources to promote environmental extremism.
Because you are reading this, you know that Carolina Journal isn’t just a statewide print publication. It also delivers news, information, and analysis online and over the airwaves. Carolina Journal Online attracts many thousands of readers each week to its blend of daily headlines, original reporting, and commentary. CJO is a key component of JLF’s suite of 13 web sites, including JohnLocke.org and a range of other sites and blogs devoted to particular issues and regions of the state. Our web sites now average more than 6,000 visits a day, generating an average of nearly 400,000 page views every month.
When you add the 80,000 or so unique monthly Internet visitors to CJ’s print readership and the roughly 50,000 weekly listeners to “Carolina Journal Radio” on affiliates from Asheville to Wilmington, it’s clear that we reach many, many politically active North Carolinians, of all parties and ideologies, who find our work informative, provocative, and perhaps even infuriating on occasion.
Good. We’re making progress.
The growth and success of Carolina Journal will be one of the accomplishments the John Locke Foundation celebrates this coming Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Embassy Suites in Cary. We’re marking our 18th anniversary with an awards ceremony and remarks by Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. If you’re not already signed up to attend this special event, please consider it. We’d love to have you there – just as we already love having you here, at Carolina Journal.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.