Opinion: Daily Journal

Welcome to the Journal

RALEIGH – It’s a new year in North Carolina politics.

I’m not just talking about the calendar. I’m talking about the historic Republican takeover of the North Carolina General Assembly in the November elections. Later this month, GOP leaders will convene a legislative session for the first time since the 19th century. The ceremonial trappings may look the same, but don’t be fooled. There will likely be significant changes in both the process and the product of legislation on Jones Street.

If you want to follow the ins and outs of the 2011 legislative session, I recommend that you consume a balanced diet of state government reporting from newspapers, broadcast outlets, and websites. You are currently reading an indispensable element of that diet: Carolina Journal.

CJ began life in 1991 as a small-circulation political magazine, akin to National Review or The New Republic but devotedly solely to North Carolina politics and public policy issues. It delivered mostly opinion pieces to a few thousand readers.

In 1997, Don Carrington and other CJ writers began adding investigative reporting to the mix. Early scoops included the exposure of a secret slush fund controlled by legislative leaders and Gov. Jim Hunt, reporting on problems in the state personnel system, and the disclosure of rampant misuse of state transportation funds. We continued to add news reporting to the original mix of opinion articles.

By 2000, we had decided that CJ should be redesigned. Instead of publishing an opinion magazine with some news articles, we would publish a newspaper with some opinion articles. Converting to newsprint also allowed us to vastly expand circulation, through direct mail as well as distribution agreements with several local newspapers around the state.

Meanwhile, in the mid-1990s we had added some other services to the CJ brand. These included targeted newsletters covering particular issues, such as health care and education, and a faxed newsletter called Carolina Journal Weekly Report. As the Internet became broadly available, these activities began to move to the web.

By 1997, we had created Carolina Journal Online. It was rudimentary. We realized we needed a more comprehensive online product. By 2001, a redesigned CarolinaJournal.com made its debut. It delivers exclusive news stories and columns every weekday morning, along with a handy compilation of the best print, broadcast, and online stories on North Carolina politics and government from other media outlets. That latter service requires hard work in the wee hours of the morning by longtime CJ Associate Editor Michael Lowrey, an economist by vocation and a night owl by avocation.

In 2003, we added another service: Carolina Journal Radio. An hourlong newsmagazine broadcast each weekend on nearly 20 commercial radio stations across North Carolina, CJ Radio is hosted by Mitch Kokai, a former TV and radio reporter, and Donna Martinez, a CJ associate editor who formerly worked at media outlets in Arizona and North Carolina.

Finally, in 2009 our video site, CarolinaJournal.tv, made its debut. Kokai and CJ Associate Editor Anthony Greco carry their cameras to the General Assembly, other state agencies, press conferences, and other events around the capital city to provide timely coverage of North Carolina politics and public policy issues. CJTV also offers compilations of recent broadcast appearances by John Locke Foundation analysts and speeches at JLF events.

Today, about 200,000 North Carolinians get Carolina Journal through its print, radio, and online editions. Another 700,000 state residents read CJ news and opinion articles reprinted in their local newspapers.

JLF Vice President Jon Ham, a former managing editor of the Durham Herald-Sun, acts as publisher of CJ. The managing editor is Rick Henderson, a career journalist and North Carolina native whose newspaper and magazine jobs have taken him to Washington, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Denver. He’s happy to be back home. The reporting staff includes associate editors David Bass and Sara Burrows as well as a number of freelance journalists across the state.

If you are only reading the news and opinion articles here at CJ Online, you are missing some important content. Go here to obtain a free subscription to the monthly print newspaper and join the email list for CJ Weekly Report and daily CJ Updates. Go here to listen to or download each weekly edition of CJ Radio. And go here to watch CJTV.

It is indeed a new year in North Carolina politics. You can count on CJ to tell you all about it.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.