Inside Story

Panthers’ hometown fans are top priority for Observer team

Sports Editor Michael Persinger walks through the media area while reporters write stories for Panthers fans back in Charlotte.
Sports Editor Michael Persinger walks through the media area while reporters write stories for Panthers fans back in Charlotte. Courtesy of Mark Washburn

With 5,000 journalists descending on the Super Bowl this week, one might ask why it matters that The Charlotte Observer sent its own staff of a dozen or so.

Well, of course it is our home team. But more important than that, people here are on a very different page from the rest of the world when it comes to these Panthers.

We’ve traveled with the Panthers all season. For that matter, the Observer has staffed every Panthers game in their 21-year history. And many of you have followed them just as closely. You still remember the Observer headline that screamed “Touchdown!” in 1993 when the National Football League awarded the franchise.

For the rest of the world, the Panthers are a little known story. When did players start giving footballs to kids when they score? What’s with the towel on Cam Newton’s head? Where did Jerry Richardson get the money to finance a successful franchise?

As hometown fans, you already know a lot. So the Observer team is going deeper. Sports columnist Scott Fowler explained this week why the team owes a lot of its success to two unsung heroes, defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Panthers beat writer Jonathan Jones told how the team’s defensive backs became the NFL’s best, earning the nickname “Thieves Ave.” And fellow Panthers beat writer Joseph Person took you inside the game with a look at the mental chess match to come between Denver Broncos star quarterback Peyton Manning and Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Great insights about this team. But you won’t find that kind of detail in the national press. And to back up these writers, we’ve also temporarily dispatched NASCAR beat reporter David Scott and Hornets beat reporter Rick Bonnell to be part of the team at Super Bowl 50.

Our audience is also more interested about what happens off the field: the fans, their parties and the parade of celebrities who will identify with the Carolinas’ NFL team. Observer writers Théoden Janes and Katherine Peralta are finding those angles. Peralta reported Wednesday, for example, that fans will be treated to one last round of “Sweet Caroline” in Levi’s Stadium should the Panthers beat the Broncos. Katie Toussaint is also there reporting for Charlotte Five, our website and newsletter for young adults in Charlotte.

We sent columnist Mark Washburn to see how the world’s media portray this team, Charlotte and the Carolinas. And you’ll find hundreds of videos and photos produced by our photo chief, Todd Sumlin, and veteran photojournalists Jeff Siner and David Foster.

This staff, plus more in Charlotte, will now step up our coverage through Monday. Each day, you’ll find continuous reporting online (blogs, video and breaking news), as well as a special Super Bowl 50 section in print (Friday’s includes a cutout collectable of Cam Newton). We hope you’ll also follow us for updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They are free. So is our special Panthers app, as well as a Panthers newsletter that arrives daily in your email.

Veteran Sports Editor Michael Persinger, who is leading our coverage in Santa Clara, Calif., says that other members of the media keep coming to the Observer desk inside the Super Bowl media center, asking about players and defining moments. He’s not surprised.

“Our guys have written hundreds of stories this year about the Panthers, and they know them better than anybody else,” Persinger said. “Anybody who drops in on this game can’t know Cam, for example, as well as Jonathan Jones does.”

The Observer team helps other journalists when it can. But our team’s first priority is still you.