One year ago, Lake Norman News was born.
The goal: provide you with news about your local community and your neighbors.
We've enjoyed every minute of that first year, and we hope you have too.
Senior regional editor Tom Tozer launched the sections as part of a growing commitment to local news.
In March and April, he moved on to start two sections for South Charlotte, and I came aboard, along with Sergio Tovar, preps writer and web expert, and Tracy Yochum, copy editor and designer.
We've had fun.
During the past year, our staffers and a great crew of freelance writers have covered all kinds of exclusive stories: stories about your neighbors, your children and your pets. Those stories often captured hope but occasionally reflected sadness.
Staff writer Lukas Johnson profiled TV anchorman Doug Mayes, a resident of Westport and the dean of WBTV and later, WSOC-TV. Mayes, now 88, told Lukas that lucky breaks helped him become a respected local TV journalist.
"You gotta be at the right place. So, if I had enough sense - and sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't - to recognize a story, I'd jump on it," he said.
Our staffers and freelancers try to do the same.
Staffer Sergio Tovar covered the East Lincoln cross-country team as they earned the state title, and he also followed the North Mecklenburg girls soccer team as they grabbed the state title in their sport. He also wrote about Dominic Parisi, a wrestle at Jay M. Robinson High who led his team to the state championship.
Lukas told stories of traffic and new traditions at a new school, Hough High.
The "Craaazzy Kayak Trip Water Basin Tour" gave him another great story to tell, about a team that traveled from the headwaters of the Catawba River down to Blythe Landing to raise awareness about the river and to raise money for the Catawba River Keeper Foundation.
He wrote about growing pains at a Cornelius shelter as volunteers and staff figured out how to deal with too many unwanted animals.
And about those unwanted animals: We're proud to do our part to try to give some of them homes, by running their photos every week, along with information about how you can adopt them. Almost all of the animals we feature in the paper find homes.
Freelancer Erica Batten wrote about sardines for pregnant women, hang gliding, ice cream, home schooling, coupons and growing up on a tobacco farm, among other topics.
Freelancer Kelly Miller, a mother and employee of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, introduced everyone to James T. Garvin, the new principal of Cornelius Elementary School. Freelancer Bruce Dunbridge introduced us to the people behind the Dry Pond Jot 'Em Down Store near Denver.
And many other freelancers - your neighbors - helped us cover the stories that matter in your communities.
As we enter our second year, we'll continue to look for your help telling your stories. We're always looking to talk with people interested in being freelancers. And The Charlotte Observer is seeking people who want to help shape coverage of their communities through the Public Insight Journalism project. Participants answer questions and contribute ideas that only will be shared with journalists, for projects that affect you.
And this Saturday, The Observer is holding a community workshop to share information about how to publish local news online, through your own blog or website. The seminar is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at The Observer building, 600 S. Tryon St. Cost is $10 to help cover lunch. Register here: bit.ly/oregister and read more details here: bit.ly/hyperdetail.
Most of all, those of us on the community news team would like to take the occasion of our section's birthday to say thank you. Please keep reading, and e-mail or pick up the phone. We get better with your feedback.
The TV anchor Doug Mayes told Lukas that he succeeded by putting people on the air and by trying to be fair. We hope we live up to his example, and we hope you tell us if we fall short.
As he said: "When you're doing the news, you're dealing with people's lives."
Help us do it right.