The Good: T. Greg Doucette
There are a lot of people who deserve credit for unraveling the UNC Board of Governors’ $2.5 million secret Silent Sam deal with the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which a judge vacated last week: the student journalists at The Daily Tar Heel, whose reporting brought to light all sorts of chicanery; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which intervened on behalf of students and faculty, leading to the settlement being tossed, among others. But it’s possible none of this would have happened without local attorney, former BOG member, and INDY Voices columnist T. Greg Doucette, who first reported the insanity of the day-before-Thanksgiving wham-bam lawsuit-settlement, then acquired sources inside the SCV who leaked him information—including Commander Kevin Stone’s letter to his men bragging that the BOG made a deal even though it knew the SCV didn’t have the standing to sue—that exposed the whole charade for what it was.
The Bad: Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Last week, the CHCCS School Board axed a two-year, $767,000 professional development contract with an organization called Education Elements. The move came two months after the board suspended the contract, which came two weeks after the board says it first learned about it. By that point, the school system had already shelled out $342,000, though it never voted to approve the contract, and the contract never went through the state-required pre-audit process. How did this happen? According to school board chairwoman Mary Ann Wolf, since each monthly payment to Education Elements fell below $90,000—the threshold for getting board approval—administrators just decided they could do it on their own, no big deal.
The Awful: McClatchy Co.
Everyone assumed it was coming at one point or another. McClatchy makes a good amount of revenue, but it’s saddled with too much debt, both from its acquisition of Knight-Ridder and its pension fund. Assuming a judge approves the bankruptcy reorganization the company proposed last week, it will shave down that debt and shift the burden of its pension obligations to the federal government. In the short term, its papers—including The News & Observer and The Durham Herald-Sun—shouldn’t be affected. But longer-term, it’s hard to be optimistic, either for our local papers or for local journalism generally. McClatchy’s new majority owner will be a hedge fund (and a hedge fund that controls The National Enquirer and Us Weekly’s parent company, no less). Hedge funds, as a rule, don’t exist to make public-interest journalism; they exist to make profits.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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