About Us

We Are AVL Watchdog – a free, local and nonprofit news service. 

We’re here because of you, our friends and neighbors, who told us that you want thoughtful and explanatory journalism to stay abreast of the issues and challenges facing Asheville and Buncombe County.  

Our Mission: We are dedicated to providing news and analysis that promotes civic understanding and participation. 

Founded and run by volunteer, national award-winning journalists and media executives who live here, AVL Watchdog will produce stories covering local government, institutions, issues and people that are fair, factual and reliable. 

Why now? Local news is in crisis. One in five American newspapers have closed, and that was before the coronavirus slashed advertising revenue. That means more layoffs and cuts to newsrooms and fewer reporters to keep watch over government and dig deep into the issues.

Big choices require more coverage. Asheville is confronting unprecedented challenges and choices that will change the way we live and work. We take the time to explore important questions and provide you the answers in thorough and insightful stories. 

We do not intend to compete with existing media but rather to complement and expand upon the critical service they provide.

Our content is free and widely accessible. 

We won’t have outside owners determining how much or what we cover.  

And with no pressure to fill a daily newspaper or newscast, we do our best to give you carefully written and edited stories that educate, enlighten and empower.

We have no political or private agenda but simply believe that good journalism is a public service essential to democracy. Local news matters, and a healthy, strong Asheville depends on well-informed citizens.

Our Editorial Staff: As in so many fields, Asheville has attracted some incredibly accomplished journalists who have generously volunteered their experience and time. The editors guiding our story selection and quality reporting include:

Barbara Durr, Former correspondent for The Financial Times of London and a former editor for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”   

Tom Fiedler, Dean emeritus and journalism professor at Boston University’s College of Communication; former executive editor of The Miami Herald; trustee of TheConversation.com/us; co-founder New England Center for Investigative Reporting; former president New England First Amendment Coalition; award-winning investigative and political reporter during three decades at The Miami Herald including a shared Pulitzer Prize in 1991. 

Sally Kestin, Former investigative reporter at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Tampa Tribune and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and recipient of numerous national journalism awards, including the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. She was a 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting.

Peter Lewis, Former senior writer and editor, The New York Times; managing editor of The Bay Citizen in San Francisco; senior editor Fortune magazine; and John S. Knight Fellow and Hearst Visiting Professional in Residence at Stanford University, where he taught journalism.

John Maines, Former database editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. His journalism career spanned more than four decades. He is the recipient of numerous state and national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2013 and 2019.  

Gail Meadows, Former editor and columnist for the Miami Herald.

William Robertson, Former writer and editor at The Miami Herald; as the newspaper’s book editor, he was twice a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his writing on literary subjects.

Our Policies

AVL Watchdog believes that all employees, especially our journalists, should uphold the highest standards of ethics, fairness and honesty. Integrity is the greatest and most precious asset of our organization, and serving the public is the highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism. The Watchdog follows guidelines outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists and its mission of “seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.” Our content must be accurate, thorough, complete and fair, on all platforms.

As an organization, AVL Watchdog is committed to the goal of reflecting the diversity of the communities we serve, through our staff and contributors, and our editorial choices and priorities.

Editorial independence

AVL Watchdog is published by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation Asheville Watchdog , founded in 2020 to serve the public interest by providing independent, nonpartisan reporting and analysis on issues of importance to all the people of AVL, Buncombe County, and surrounding communities. 

In deciding what stories and journalistic enterprise projects to pursue and publish, AVL Watchdog is guided by the best judgment of its editors and reporters, informed by experience and widely agreed-upon standards of professional practice. No outside party determines its choices or has a right of review of its editorial content. In selecting opinion content, Watchdog editors act independently, with the aim of providing a diverse range of viewpoints in essays and opinion blogs that helps further the local policy discourse.

The Watchdog believes that the diversification of its revenue sources — including subscriptions, gifts and donations, sponsorships, events, advertising, and foundation grants — protects independent decision-making across its publishing platforms, as well as being a responsible business strategy that best ensures the long-term sustainability of the organization’s editorial mission and independence. 

However, AVL Watchdog retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.

Adherence to standards of ethical journalism

AVL Watchdog is guided by the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, which encompasses accuracy, fairness, honesty, and courage in reporting; respect for the individuals involved in and affected by reporting; avoidance of favoritism and conflicts of interest; and accountability and transparency in one’s own work. The editor-in-chief, the executive editor, and the managing editor are responsible for upholding clear standards of ethical practice and providing consultation and direction to the supervising editors and their reporters on the application of such standards. 

Independence from donors. 

Foundation grants and gifts from individual donors are the leading sources of revenue for many nonprofit news organizations and are critical to the support of AVL Watchdog’s commitment to journalistic excellence. Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions.

The Watchdog’s editors retain sole control over the content of articles and other editorial work, and no funder is allowed to have prior review of that content. AVL Watchdog will append a credit line (in print and online) to articles underwritten with foundation grants, disclosing the source of the funding and noting the Watchdog’s control of the content. Current major funders of AVL Watchdog will be listed online. Any news article with a substantive mention of an AVL Watchdog funder will include a disclosure of the relationship. 

AVL Watchdog may consider donations and sponsorships to support the coverage of particular topics, but the Watchdog maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content.

We will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place that the expenditure of that donation is made independently by our organization and in compliance with Independent News Network’s  membership standards.

Independence from advertisers

The editors of AVL Watchdog and its online, print, newsletter, video, and audio platforms will make decisions on editorial coverage without regard to any advantage or disadvantage that might accrue to an advertiser or potential advertiser or sponsor. No advertising salesperson or other representative of AVL Watchdog may promise (whether expressly or by implication) any news, feature, or other editorial coverage in exchange for an ad or sponsored content. 

Any print or online advertisement that might reasonably be misperceived by readers as editorial content will be labeled prominently as advertising. Advertisements are subject to review for appropriateness of content and presentation before their inclusion in print or online.

Corrections and updates

AVL Watchdog is committed to being accurate and will respond in a timely fashion to any claim that its publication presents an inaccurate fact.  If a reader or subject of a story believes that some statement is inaccurate, they can request a correction by sending a request to the AVL Watchdog at avlwatchdog@gmail.com.  Our editorial team will carefully review any potential inaccuracy before making changes to a published piece. In the event of a minor factual error, the story will be amended, and the change will be noted at the bottom. Significant corrections will be noted in the headline or at the top of the story.  If new details or clarifications are added to a story after its publication, our practice is to include a note describing the update at the end of the piece.

We encourage any reader who would like to discuss an article with a writer to reach out directly to that reporter. Each article will have contact information at the bottom of the published story. That reporter is contractually obligated to inform AVL Watchdog of any request for a correction.

Pre-publication review

AVL Watchdog believes that reporters and editors should have the freedom to hold the powerful accountable.  However, when an article involves sensitive subjects, AVL Watchdog has a current client relationship with the Vance Center for International Justice’s Lawyers for Reporters program, a pro bono project that provides pre-publication review or refers the matter to a law firm with significant media law experience.  Any article that the editors consider sensitive will be referred to that organization for review.

Questions or complaints?

Readers, users, and viewers of AVL Watchdog are encouraged to contact News Operations Manager Manager Bob Gremillion at bobgremillion@gmail.com, or Managing Editor Sally Kestin, at kestinsally@gmail.com, with any questions, concerns, or comments.