Inside Story

Observer changes will highlight our journalists

Our courts are open to the public so you can see for yourself that justice is served. For most of you, that’s impractical. So Mike Gordon goes on your behalf every day.

Gordon is the Charlotte Observer’s legal affairs reporter. He monitors the legal system. Checks legal filings. Sits through hearings. Talks to judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys. Interviews victims and defendants.

People who understand our courts appreciate Gordon’s work.

“Folks notice when you sit on both sides of the courtroom,” Gordon says. “Judges do, too, and I’ve been able to forge relationships that allow me to make sure I get something right.”

Observer journalists stand out as authorities on the subjects they report on. And Wednesday when we debut a redesigned Charlotte Observer, you will find it easier to identify our journalists with their areas of expertise.

Each time a reporter writes in-depth from an assigned beat, you’ll see the reporter’s photo along with the name. We’ll also list an email address, phone number and social media accounts.

This is part of a broader commitment to report more than just the headlines of what happened. We want to also bring you the “how” and the “why” of a story. Here are more changes you’ll see Wednesday in print and in our digital products:

  • A new section, called Insight, will drill deeper into the news and issues of our day. Readers tell us that this kind of reporting distinguishes the Observer from other media. They rely on it to fully understand news developments. We’ll provide it through stories that investigate and explain, as well as columns focusing on education, health care, politics and even pop culture. You will also find opinion that informs and stimulates discussion.
  • Beat reporters will write columns with context that can only come from journalists who stay near a topic day after day. In print, the columns will appear on 2A. Our lineup includes transportation, banking, law enforcement, media, the courts and local government.
  • In sports, we’ll take you beyond yesterday’s scores and game stories to provide more analysis and insights behind the scenes. Exclusive interviews with players and coaches. Commentary from award-winning columnists and beat reporters. This, too, will be content that you won’t find anywhere else.

Readers who prefer to keep up with breaking news as it unfolds will see welcome changes to our digital editions for phone, tablet and desktop. The new design makes pages load faster and helps you decide quickly which stories to scan and which to read entirely. We’ve also aligned staffing to post more breaking news, as well as more updates to developing stories.

Again, we can do this because our staff of more than 40 reporters is plugged in to the people and institutions who regularly make the news. Among those reporters is Ann Doss Helms, who has covered education for the Observer for 12 years. Helms returns to that beat now after completing a one-year assignment focused exclusively on the Affordable Care Act.

Educators and parents, alike, trust Helms’ reporting. Fellow journalists commend it.

In 2012 and 2013, the N.C. Press Association awarded Helms first place in education reporting. In 2014, the Associated Press gave her its Senator Sam Open Government Award for stories that won the release of salaries and other public records about the state’s charter school system.

“I think what I've done best is understand the data that drives public education,” Helms says, “and pair it with the human stories that show what the numbers mean.”

That’s how we get to the bottom of things that matter in your life: Sort through the records and numbers, then talk to people about what it means.

We hope you’ll continue to follow Gordon, Helms and our other fine journalists as they extend the Observer’s proud tradition of doing that for Charlotte and the surrounding region.

Reach Thames at, 704-358-5001 or @rthames on Twitter.

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