Editor’s note: Another legislative session in the North Carolina General Assembly has begun, and the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer are planning their coverage. To meet our transparency requirements for politicians, we are sharing details of our processes and which journalism policies define our approach to politics.
In 1969, the News & Observer’s nationally acclaimed editor and eventual Pulitzer Prize winner, Claude Sitton, wrote an op-ed stating the paper’s core beliefs:
While some news sources “shaped their accounts of events into the mold of partisan and economic self-interest,” Seaton wrote, “…no respectable newspaper permits this practice.”
Our commitment to unbiased journalism hasn’t wavered since leaders like Sitton helped transform The N&O from a Southern Democratic bastion into one of the state’s leading sources of independent news.
But what does this mean for our day-to-day activities? In the mission statement of our parent company, McClatchy, our newspaper pledges to “report the truth every day … comprehensively, while remaining independent from political, social, financial or other special interests.”
Every reporter, photographer and editor must uphold the integrity of the newspaper. We do not wear campaign merchandise, nor donate to or support political candidates. Our social media activity must not imply political allegiance. Journalists are free to vote to uphold their rights as citizens, but that is only the limit of their support for politicians.
The only exception—and one that often confuses readers—is the Opinion Team. Opinion writers report to different bosses and their decisions have nothing to do with our news coverage.
Journalists, like everyone else, have personal opinions. But as journalists, we work hard to identify internal biases and remove them from our reporting. That’s why journalists collaborate on complex issues, and why editorial networks work behind the scenes to ensure that N&O and Observer’s news content abides by their strict guidelines of neutrality.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, a political reporter and current chairman of the North Carolina Congressional Press Corps, said as much as sports coverage, “There You shouldn’t be in the press box cheering on your team’s wins and losses. People shouldn’t take it lightly just to gain access. We’re on a team that holds those in power accountable, asks questions that people might not want answered, and tells readers not just the final score, but how it happened and what it means for you. “
“It doesn’t matter what you think personally,” Vaughn said, “and no one who reads your story should say what you think. The important thing is to do your best to tell readers what they need to know, regardless of who is doing the wrong thing.” , speak out, hold everyone accountable, find the truth, and light a light in the darkness.”
Vaughan is part of a seven-person team responsible for North Carolina politics and government affairs full time. Its coverage appears in complementary products: The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and NC Insider, a state government news service that reports more detailed information on day-to-day legislative activity.
Many of our other journalists also dabble in political coverage, covering a variety of fields. During the most active months of the Legislature, the freelance roster furthers the breadth of N&O and observers, helping us provide comprehensive coverage of committee meetings and live sessions.
When writing about national politics, our goals are twofold: to make people aware of what their government is doing, and to hold the powerful to account.
In pursuing these goals, we are not foolproof. Journalists make mistakes. But we analyze and improve.
“Newspapers report more comprehensively and in-depth news today than they did a decade ago,” Seaton wrote in the op-ed quoted above. “Also, whether successful or not, they’re trying to tell readers what the message means.”
Five years later, we are still refining and expanding our coverage and remain committed to providing our community with trusted, independent journalism.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan’s representation on political teams includes the Governor, the General Assembly, how the Legislature interacts with the Governor, the state budget, state employees and the Council of State. She is also the main host of The N&O’s Under the Dome politics podcast. She previously covered Durham, where she became a fan at Duke and NCCU. However, as a graduate of Virginia Tech, she will always be Hokie Nation. Dawn also loves parades, history, holidays, and Raleigh stuff more than you do.
Danielle Battaglia is based in Washington, D.C., and covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation — and sometimes the White House. She grew up in Northern Virginia but until recently spent her entire adult life in North Carolina, where she first moved at age 18 to attend Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory.
She began her career in 2011 and is responsible for all aspects of Rockingham County from local government to the school board to the judicial system. In 2014, she was promoted to News & Records in Greensboro, where she spent most of her time covering crime, courtrooms and working as a digital content editor.
She joined the News and Observer in December 2019, covering state government.
Luciana Perez Uribe Ginassi
Luciana, 25, from Lima, Peru, joined the state political team in July. She has covered health care, including mental health and Medicaid expansion; higher education; hurricane recovery efforts and lobbying.
Luciana was previously a Roy W. Howard Fellow at the investigative journalism organization Searchlight New Mexico. She has opportunities with the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Philip Merrill School of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park, where Luciana earned her master’s degree.
In her free time, Luciana enjoys hiking with her dog, painting, and trying new foods with friends.
Avi covers social and cultural issues shaping North Carolina politics, including abortion, guns, immigration, LGBTQ rights, religion, and the state’s changing demographics. He also covers criminal justice issues, the state prison system, and North Carolina’s response to the opioid epidemic. Avi loves meeting new people and learning about what issues and experiences shape their politics and shape how they vote.
Avi, a native New Yorker, joined The News & Observer in August 2021.
Jordan Schrader is the Political Editor. He worked for state government for 16 years, mostly in North Carolina.
A native of Michigan, he covered politics for the Asheville Citizen Times and the News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, before moving back to North Carolina with his family in 2016 to join the state political team. He is a fan of the Michigan Wolverines, National Parks and Eastern BBQ.
Lars is the NC Insider editor for The News & Observer. He writes and coordinates convention coverage and oversees the Legislature’s Liberty Team. Before joining N&O’s State Department, Lars was a business reporter covering retail, technology and innovation. A native of Connecticut, he graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in mathematics that he rarely used.
For more North Carolina government and politics news, subscribe under the dome political newsletter From The News & Observer and NC Insider, follow our weekly Under the Dome podcast at campsite.bio/underthedome Or wherever you get podcasts.