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Answering the community’s call for local nonpartisan journalism toward strengthening accountability and democracy, Carolina Public Press (CPP) has launched two new regional reporting efforts in North Carolina – each focused on public-service reporting in both Western and Eastern North Carolina.

Shelby Harris is the newsroom’s Western North Carolina reporter. She’ll report on how local governments are deciding priorities and investments of COVID relief funds, among other issues. Her focus is on the 18 westernmost counties, with particular emphasis on rural areas. She will work out of the organization’s headquarters in Asheville.

Ben Sessoms, based in Fayetteville, is responsible for reporting on Fayetteville and Cumberland County government, among other issues, and the surrounding region. His focus is not only insightful meeting coverage, but also accountability reporting on how local government impacts residents. Ben is the first reporter to join the new CPP East bureau, which is based in Fayetteville.

“I’m delighted to welcome Shelby and Ben to Carolina Public Press,” Carolina Public Press Executive Director Angie Newsome said. “As we work to be the go-to sustainable independent, in-depth and investigative news arm for North Carolina, we are assembling the biggest team of nonpartisan investigative reporters who work for you, no matter where you live in North Carolina. Ben’s role is a major step to provide Cumberland County with trustworthy journalism on overlooked issues such as local government, military, the environment, economy and more. Shelby’s addition gives us our first full-time journalist dedicated to Western North Carolina reporting that focuses on public service and accountability reporting.” 

Harris has worked as a reporter for the (Asheville) Citizen Times where she covered breaking news and education. At The Daily Times in Maryville, Tenn., she reported on local government. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and strategic media from the University of Memphis and a bachelor’s in English from Mississippi College. 

Prior to joining Carolina Public Press, Sessoms covered housing and the COVID-19 pandemic for The News & Observer in Raleigh and education for the Statesville Record & Landmark in Iredell County. He is a 2019 alum of the News21 reporting fellowship at Arizona State University, where he covered long-term flood recovery in eastern North Carolina. He is also a 2021 alumnus of Report for America. He holds degrees in journalism and communication studies from Appalachian State University.

“With these new roles Carolina Public Press is firmly headed into our second decade dedicated to nonpartisan, investigative and public-service news for all of North Carolina,” Newsome added.

You may reach Shelby Harris by email or phone at (828) 490-4129, and Ben Sessoms by email or phone at (910) 965-0380.

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