Today I broke down and subscribed to the Greensboro News & Record. Or, at least, I tried to. The online form wouldn’t take my info, bouncing me to a customer-service email account which has yet to reply to my inquiry.

Since BH Media bought the N&R from Landmark in 2013, and then subsequently sold it to Lee Enterprises in 2020, editorial staff at the daily newspaper for the third-largest city in North Carolina has dwindled to four full-time reporters. They’re using a lot of wire content, pasting stories from press releases and missing big scoops. Their nightly press time is so early — before sister paper the Journal gets printed — that they can’t get sports scores from the evening games into the morning paper. And its former downtown building, once the nerve center of the entire city, has submitted to graffiti, squatters, rodents and other forms of urban decay.

The N&R hasn’t broken a big story in… months? A year? There hasn’t been any serious investigative work in a good long while, and very little enterprise reporting. A glance at today’s home page shows a slew of spot news pieces compiled from the very same city and police press releases I get myself every morning, along with stories from the AP, the Fayetteville Observer, High Point Enterprise, Raleigh News & Observer and Winston-Salem Journal, which is still doing a pretty good job.

In my time in Triad media, which goes back 20 years, the Journal has never been this much better than the N&R. It used to be the other way around.

This is not the fault of the N&R newsroom, which is about the same size as mine except they’re a large-city daily media outlet, charged with being the newspaper of record. They have to cover everything — cops and courts, city business, county shenanigans, the schools, the neighborhoods, arts and entertainment, local sports and even the freakin’ weather. Which is impossible. Not with four reporters.

And then there’s Alden Capital, a hedge fund with a reputation for crippling newspapers, circling the Lee Enterprises properties like a patient but determined shark.

But I’m pulling for the N&R. And you should be, too.

Greensboro needs a strong daily newspaper. Cities without them lose transparency and voter participation. Taxes have gone up in cities that have lost their daily papers. And so I’m subscribing, if I can get anyone to email me back.

In the meantime, the N&R needs a win. I’m talking a big scoop, seismic, talk-of-the-town kind of stuff. Corruption. A sex scandal. Massive fraud. Something big enough to get people fired or tender their resignations, to change the outcome of an election, to bring some justice to an unjust world.

More reporting just might do it this time.

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