We’ve made a hire for our new City Beat position — big news around here, as it doubles the size of our full-time news staff and exponentially increases our coverage of city government.
You’ll meet them soon.
In the meantime, we need to get them up to speed on both the Greensboro and Winston-Salem city councils, their differences and similarities, and the labyrinthine processes of city business.
Some of that falls to me.
I’m not the longest-serving journalist currently working in the Triad, but I’m up there — I’ve been writing and editing council stories for almost 20 years. I go back five mayors in Greensboro; in Winston-Salem, just one. I’ve watched district and at-large reps get elected, re-elected and un-elected. I remember when a young Derwin Montgomery worked the Early Voting System to take out longtime incumbent East Ward Joycelyn Johnson in 2013. I saw Bill Knight upset Yvonne Johnson in 2009 — the only two years since 1993 she had not served on council. And I watched current Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan move from her at-large seat to take out well-funded political heavyweight Robbie Perkins in 2013, and then Justin Outling this year.
I sat through the Greensboro Police scandal of the late aughts, the birth of the Innovation Quarter, the downtown parking wars, the White Street Landfill debacle, the confederate monument, the rise and fall of Trudy Wade, a Greensboro redistricting plan submitted to Greensboro City Council by Mary Rakestraw that she claimed to have found on her doorstep the night before.
And so much more.
Though my own is somewhat affected by years of abuse, institutional memory is perhaps the most important asset a news organization possesses. It’s the old farts in the newsroom who remember Zack Matheny’s first council race (2007) or Allen Joines’ job before he became mayor of Winston-Salem in 2001 (deputy city manager, which never happens).
The young reporters need this context, and I’m at the point where they all look like young reporters.
This is the first thing that came to mind when I learned that the News & Record had laid off Managing Editor Jennifer Fernandez last week. She had been there since 2012, the most senior voice on the news staff, and out the door with her went the accumulated knowledge of her and everyone who came before that graced her with their wisdom.
Nowhere are events of very recent history more important than in a newsroom. It’s here where we reveal the narrative of a city, help discern its character by recording its successes and failures, keep the fires of public record burning for now and future generations.
Anyone who cannot understand that does not belong in the news business.
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