WHQR's RTDNAC 'Outstanding News Operation' application letter and montage
A letter to RTDNAC judges and an 18-minute montage of WHQR's news reporting and analysis from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.
Over the last year, we’ve worked at getting back to the reporting basics: holding local government to account, staying on top of evolving environmental threats, and providing in-depth political and election coverage, including live town halls. That’s not a sly way of suggesting the pandemic is done with — it’s not, and we remain ready to cover new variants and new challenges, including the complicated economic situation that now looks increasingly like a severe downturn or recession on the horizon.
This 20-minute audio compilation highlights the news coverage of WHQR News – which is Rachel Keith, Kelly Kenoyer, and Camille Mojica, who all serve double duty as reporters and All Things Considered hosts, Ken Campbell, our Morning Edition host, Ashley Brown, our outgoing Community Fellow, and News Director Ben Schachtman, who also reports and hosts. Included are examples of election coverage — including live town halls — environmental concerns, the increasing politicization of school issues, public transportation, affordable housing, the human cost of chronic mismanagement in our housing authority system, and allegations of corruption and hostile workplace issues at our community college.
WHQR Public Media’s news department is relatively small and we’re tasked with covering a geographically broad and culturally diverse area — the Cape Fear region of southeastern North Carolina, one of the fastest growing in the nation, which includes Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties. We focus in particular on the greater Wilmington area.
It’s a challenge, and it’s also fairly competitive, with three television news networks, and a legacy paper now owned by Gannett. But despite being a crowded market, each individual outlet is suffering from the same problem — increasing demand for local reporting and decreasing resources.
We realize that head-to-head competition, the old-school approach, just won’t work for anyone, so we’ve pursued a much more collaborative method. For example, when we broke the story on over a hundred families displaced by the mold crisis in the Wilmington Housing Authority, we shared our work with local TV outlet WECT. And when we tackled the issues at Cape Fear Community College, we brought in the WECT reporter who had reported on concerns several years ago and shared our new reporting, including exclusive interviews and previously unseen documents, with WECT.
In addition to our burgeoning media partnership with WECT (we also produce Port City Politics, a bi-weekly podcast, with them), we also spearheaded a joint-media approach to election coverage, producing and hosting town halls for local elections with WECT and Port City Daily, a local online daily. We’re already planning another, expanded round of these town hall events in the runup-to the general election this November.
We hope to include StarNews, the region’s legacy paper, in future projects like this and we recently brought in three of the paper’s journalists for an hour-long conversation about their investigative work into school segregation on our radio and podcast program The Newsroom.
Lastly, over the last year, we created a Community Fellow position, a donor-funded program that has a few related aims: (1) diversifying our newsroom, (2) improving coverage of marginalized communities, and (3) creating a mentorship opportunity for young journalists to help develop their skill sets as the head out for bigger and better things. Ashley Brown, who you’ll hear in this montage, was our first fellow, and recently accepted a position at Houston Public Radio. We’re currently wrapping up the hiring process for our second year.
With news budgets under pressure everywhere, we've made it our mission to do more with less, and to provide major-market quality coverage as our region grows into that category. Our ambitions have to come up against the real-world challenges of fundraising in uncertain economic times, but so far we’ve been successful, and we’re proud of the work our staff has done — and of the community that has supported it.
Thank you for your consideration,
Ben Schachtman, News Director, WHQR
Audio content rundown with timestamps: