Public forum to discuss how Charlotte’s news media covers its community

Journalists and community members talk at a small-group conversation hosted by News Voices: North Carolina last month in Charlotte.
Journalists and community members talk at a small-group conversation hosted by News Voices: North Carolina last month in Charlotte.

A nonprofit group will host a public forum Saturday on how Charlotte’s news organizations can better reflect the community they cover.

“The News Charlotte Needs: A Public Forum on the Role of Journalism in Tackling Inequity” will let community members sit down with reporters to talk about the stories they want the media to cover.

It will be hosted by News Voices: North Carolina, and it follows a similar initiative in New Jersey. Both are projects of Free Press, a nonpartisan group that says it aims to help people tell their own stories, hold leaders accountable and take part in democracy.

A 2013 Harvard University study ranked Mecklenburg County last among 50 large metro areas for the odds that poor people can climb out of poverty. That sparked recommendations by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force and a continuing conversation about race, social justice and access to education, healthcare and affordable housing.

Fiona Morgan, director of the North Carolina project, said local media can hold local leaders accountable and help stimulate action on those issues.

“One of the most important things journalists can do is expand the network of people they talk to so the public hears not just from official leaders but also from people living with these issues every day,” Morgan said in a statement.

Alicia Bell, a Charlotte native and organizer for News Voices: North Carolina, said in an interview that the city’s growth makes it harder for journalists to personally know the people they cover.

“There’s a disconnect between media and folks in the community, and I think that comes from not knowing who was going to cover the story and whether that reporting is going to be reflective of what you’ve experienced,” she said.

She views Charlotte and its suburbs as an illustration of the urban-rural social and political divide that has widened in recent decades.

The free event will be Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Grimes Lounge of the Student Union at Johnson C. Smith University, 100 Beatties Ford Rd. Register here for the event.

The Charlotte event will be the first in a series of News Voices forums in North Carolina. Receptions were held in Charlotte and Durham in April and small gatherings were held in Charlotte in July. Following Saturday’s event, Bell said, smaller meetings will be held to discuss specific issues.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender