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From fracking to handguns to the health of WNC’s public universities — CarolinaPublicPress.org readers and users found a lot of reporting to read, photographs to view and data and public records to consult, all from Carolina Public Press in 2013. Since launching in March, 2011, we’ve published more than 1,000 posts, including original reporting, analysis, resources and more for and about Western North Carolina. And because we share our reporting, our work also appears on the radio, TV and in print across the state and region — from The Charlotte Observer to Mountain Xpress, from WCQS to WLOS-TV.

At the start of the new year, we spent some time looking at what our readers flocked to. It’s an interesting mix, certainly. And one we’ll keep in mind as we continue to be the region’s only nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization serving the 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina.

But we’d also like to hear from you! If you’d like to help us shape our journalistic efforts this year, here’s a quick (just nine questions) survey to add your opinion, thoughts and insights into the mix.

We’re listening! And thanks for reading, using, sharing and commenting on the journalism created and produced by Carolina Public Press!


Carolina Public Press’s top-read stories from 2013

No. 1: Demand for concealed handgun permits growing across WNC, but by how much?

Carolina Public Press surveyed sheriff’s offices in the 18 westernmost counties and found that, depending on your county, some answers that may surprise you.

Shannon Frasier teaches a gun safety and handling course in Buncombe County. Matt Rose/Carolina Public Press

The 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina have seen a significant increase in demand for concealed carry handgun permits, leading to longer wait times for the issuance of permits in some counties.

Carolina Public Press surveyed the sheriff’s offices in Western North Carolina and found that demand for concealed handgun permits in Henderson County is among the highest in the region.

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No. 2: Fracking study planned for undisclosed site in ‘western NC’

Carolina Public Press breaks the news about the study, first mentioned publicly at a state Environmental Review Commission hearing in November, which came as a surprise to area legislators and environmental activists.

The ‘Update on Energy Issues’ presented in November provided a first mention of a potential fracking study in Western North Carolina.

Truth delivered daily

For the first time, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has said it plans to study a site in Western North Carolina to assess its feasibility for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The exact location of the site has not been disclosed. [Carolina Public Press later learned the location of the proposed study area. Read that story, which was published Nov. 21, here: “State agency gives contradictory accounts on WNC gas exploration but reveals area of interest.”]

The study plan was revealed Nov. 13 in testimony by DENR Assistant Secretary for the Environment Mitch Gillespie, a former state representative from McDowell County who is a major fracking proponent, before the state legislature’s Environmental Review Commission.

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No. 3: Employment inches up across most of WNC

Carolina Public Press offers look at unemployment rates across the region nearly every month, based on data released by the N.C. Division of Employment Security. This story, published in July, was one of the top-read stories of the year on CarolinaPublicPress.org.

May 2013 unemployment figures across Western North Carolina. Map courtesy of the N.C. Division of Employment Security.

While countywide rates reveal that unemployment appears to be declining across most of Western North Carolina compared to last year, most-recent figures show a small growth in joblessness across the region in May.

The N.C. Department of Commerce released its newest monthly unemployment calculations for all 100 North Carolina counties last week. Those numbers show that, of the 18 westernmost counties in the state, 11 saw unemployment rise in May. The statewide unemployment rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, also increased for the month, from 8.5 percent in April to 8.9 percent in May.

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No. 4: Newly released White House tape reveals one of Billy Graham’s toughest talks with Richard Nixon

In a secretly recorded conversation, Graham praises the president’s performance in handling the brewing Watergate scandal.

Photo illustration by Jon Elliston/Carolina Public Press.

“Mr. President, I think this is your finest hour,” the caller said. “I wanted to reach through the TV screen and hug you.”

So began the last recorded conversation between the Rev. Billy Graham, who called from Montreat, N.C., and President Richard Nixon, who was in the Oval Office.

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No. 5: Universities grapple with budget cuts, part 2 — Western Carolina University

After five years of state budget cuts capped by the latest drop in funding, educators throughout North Carolina’s 16-member state university system are prioritizing, consolidating and trimming academic programs. This is the second of three articles in a series on the ramifications for WNC’s universities. The first in the series, on UNC Asheville, can be found here. Read about Appalachian State University here.

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Jack Sholder, professor and director of the film and television production program at Western Carolina University, helps a student in an editing class. Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University.

Faced with a continued decline in state support, Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher has recommended that 10 academic programs be phased out, Carolina Public Press reported on Aug. 22.

“A decision to discontinue a program does not imply a lack of value for the discipline,” Belcher stated in a July 19 announcement of his decisions. “It is, rather, a statement about current program reality.”

That “reality” includes the loss of $32 million in state funding since 2008, when serious cuts began, as well as the likelihood of decreased funding through the 2014-2015 academic year, Belcher stated in a WCU press release. His decisions regarding the effected programs must be approved by University of North Carolina system.

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We want to know

What was the top news story of 2013? What story on CarolinaPublicPress.org did you find most enlightening, infuriating, informative, useful? Tell us in the comments below.

And if you’d like to help us shape our journalistic efforts in 2014, take this short survey here.

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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