Opinion: Daily Journal

Keep Your Journal Handy

RALEIGH – Every now and then, I take a break from commenting on North Carolina government and politics to comment on matters closer to home. Today’s topic is the ongoing expansion of Carolina Journal.

The fact that you’re reading this column today suggests that you know at least a bit about CJ. But it’s a safe bet that there are things about us you don’t know. I’m going to take a crack at filling in the blanks for you.

CJ began life in 1991 as a glossy, bimonthly magazine serving up analysis and commentary to a limited number of subscribers in and around the state capital. In 1996, we changed the publication’s focus to include news reporting and investigative journalism. By 2000, we had ditched the magazine format entirely in favor of a monthly newspaper, featuring sections devoted to state government, local government, education, and arts & culture.

During the ensuing decade, we expanded the audience for Carolina Journal’s content in several directions. In 2001 we created a separate web product, CarolinaJournal.com, to provide exclusive stories, columns, and a daily guide to the best reporting on North Carolina government and politics from the state’s mainstream and alternative media. In 2003, Carolina Journal Radio made its debut. Now hosted by veteran journalists Mitch Kokai and Donna Martinez, the hourlong newsmagazine reaches thousands of North Carolina listeners each week through nearly 20 commercial radio affiliates across the state.

Also in 2003, we began relationships with several weekly newspapers to distribute zoned editions of CJ as inserts in their publications. We currently maintain significant zoned circulation in the Triad and Western regions in North Carolina, and are looking at potential circulation partnerships in other parts of the state.

Last year, the latest iteration of our nonprofit-journalism project arrived: CarolinaJournal.tv. The site is updated daily with original video news stories, timely interviews, and excerpts from recent press conferences, legislative hearings, campus events, and public-policy events around the capital city. The video content can be found not just on Carolina Journal TV but also on a dedicated YouTube channel.

In one form or another, CJ reaches about 200,000 North Carolinians each month. Thanks to some big news stories and aggressive promotion of our site, the online edition saw a huge jump in traffic during the first quarter of 2010 – up 76 percent in average monthly visitors and more than doubling the average count of pages viewed.

During the past year, we’ve added several new CJ staffers to help drive and sustain our growth. The managing editor, Rick Henderson, is a North Carolina native returning home after a lengthy magazine and newspaper career that most recently had him at the Las Vegas Review Journal and Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. Associate Editor Sara Burrows came to us by way of the New Bern Sun Journal and Cybercast News Service, while Video News Editor Anthony Greco most recently worked as a news producer at WBTV in Charlotte.

They joined a CJ team that already included Publisher Jon Ham, formerly the managing editor of the Durham Herald-Sun; Executive Editor Don Carrington, our lead investigative reporter; Associate Editor Mitch Kokai, formerly the news director at WPTF-AM; Associate Editor Donna Martinez, formerly of the Arizona Republic and WUNC-TV; Associate Editor Michael Lowrey, who edits the daily CarolinaJournal.com; Associate Editor David Bass, who also writes regularly for The American Spectator; and more than a dozen excellent freelance reporters and contributors who add a lot to CJ‘s news coverage and opinion pages.

In the coming months, one thing you’ll see a lot of from CJ will be coverage of North Carolina’s legislative races. Bass has a roundup of top Senate and House races in this month’s print edition (read it online here) and Greco has already produced video pieces on several key primary matchups.

CJ may have blazed some trails for nonprofit-sponsored daily journalism in North Carolina, but we’re hardly alone in the field. There are several national projects underway, as well, plus several new state and local outlets of varying political ideologies and online platforms. Stateline just posted a story on the phenomenon that features CJ prominently.

Thanks for reading, listening to, or watching Carolina Journal. As always, if you have any comments or suggestions, send them right along. If they are full of praise, I’ll take them. If they aren’t, I’m sure Jon Ham or Rick Henderson would be happy to assist you.

Hey, prerogatives of the chair and all.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation