Living Here Guide

Want to help shape Charlotte? Your edge could be the Observer

The Charlotte Observer and PNC Bank hosted a forum on teacher pay.
The Charlotte Observer and PNC Bank hosted a forum on teacher pay.

Love Charlotte and want to help make it better place for all? Keep your eye on the Charlotte Observer.

The Observer has championed our city’s advances throughout its 130-year history. Our first public park? The Observer called for it in 1893. The first civic auditorium? The Observer advocated for it in 1910.

In 1939, the city’s public library shut down when a tax referendum to support it failed. Urged on by the Observer, officials scheduled a second vote. The referendum passed.

Name an ideal that Charlotte came to embrace and most likely the Observer was there, explaining what was at stake: Civil rights, equality for women, mass transit, quality health care, access to higher education, and the list goes on.

The Observer was the ideal place for people to explore and debate these ideas. And it still is.

In fact, our audience is at an all-time high, thanks to our conversion to digital publishing. Locally, more than 1.3 million residents a month turn to us for news, information and discussion. Globally, our monthly reach is more than 5.5 million.

What’s more, it has never been easier to get into the conversation. More of our readers do that now through social media posts than a letter to the editor (though we still take those, too). So, please do like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest news and give your opinion.

And yes, we welcome your comments at the bottom of our stories. Other readers do, too. We simply ask that participants follow our comments policy to keep the conversation civil and respectful of others.

We also still value talking face-to-face. That’s why we host forums and seminars on topics taken straight from the headlines. Watch the Observer to learn how you can attend. Each event draws hundreds of readers who get to hear newsmakers and ask their own questions. What is fair pay for teachers? Who will break the gridlock in Washington? How much longer can Charlotte count on its water supply? Is it time to pay college athletes?

Beyond talk, you’ll come across a lot of opportunities to help. Observer readers send hundreds of economically disadvantaged children to camp each summer through our Summer Camp Fund. At Thanksgiving, we lend a hand to dozens of area nonprofits with our annual Giving Guide. And each December since 1920, readers have generously donated to the Empty Stocking Fund to help buy gifts for children in families facing hardships.

Other readers help day-to-day as we report what is unfolding in our communities. This happens so often that I’ve come to call these moments our daily miracles. Here’s a recent example.

In June, the Observer’s Mark Price alerted readers that a local group was $25,000 short of the money it needed to host the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Charlotte. In just days, more than 400 athletes with physical disabilities were due to arrive.

“We’ve contacted some big-name players in the business community and not gotten anything,” said one of the organizers, Doug Youngblood.

One week later, Price had another story. People had read about the need and come forward with the money. Chief among them was basketball legend Michael Jordan and his Charlotte Hornets, which donated $10,000.

“A sporting event such as the Paralympics is a big deal for the city,” said Bernie Washington, executive director of the Hornets Foundation. “We couldn't sit back and not help."

No one who loves this city can afford to sit back. If that’s you, do keep watching here for all the ways you can get involved.

Rick Thames has been editor of the Observer for 12 years. Follow him at and Phone: 704-358-5001.