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Posts published by “Asheville Watchdog”

Opinion | Looking a gift horse in the mouth? The Asheville Citizen Times drops a nonprofit’s investigative work

The paper says its focus on growing paid digital subscriptions is at odds with running the Asheville Watchdog's stories for free

Bob Gremillion, publisher of the the Asheville Watchdog, wrote a piece questioning the Citizen Times’ decision to stop publishing its stories. (Poynter illustration)

[Editor’s Note: This column appeared Aug. 17 on poynter.org, the website for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit media institute and newsroom in St. Petersburg, FL that provides fact-checking, media literacy and journalism ethics training to citizens and journalists. It is reprinted here with permission. Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years.]

By: Rick Edmonds

August 17, 2022

The Asheville Watchdog has been a much-celebrated hit among digital news nonprofits. Founded two years ago by Pulitzer-winning retirees living in the gateway to the North Carolina mountains,

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Watchdog Reporter Sally Kestin Wins National Journalism Award

Asheville Watchdog won a National Headliner Award honoring the best journalism in the United States in 2021.

Sally Kestin

Equity Erased, a five-part investigative series by reporter Sally Kestin, won third place in investigative reporting for online news sites. First place went to The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions use technology to change society. The Better Government Association, an Illinois-based watchdog, won second place.

Equity Erased documented how Buncombe County homeowners, many of them elderly and/or Black, lost years and sometimes generations of equity to real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II. An associate, Lisa K. Roberts, was charged in February with nine felony counts of notarizing an action by fraud or forgery. Her case is pending.

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A Letter From the Publisher

Dear Friends,

As the publisher of the nonprofit Asheville Watchdog, I have been amazed at what our all-volunteer reporting staff has accomplished in our first year and a half. Of course, my expectations were high based solely on their credentials – three Pulitzer Prizes and impressive careers at some of the country’s leading media organizations. But their hard work and attention to detail is unmatched, especially for a group of retirees! 

Through their meticulous reporting, The Watchdog has revealed the underpinnings and consequences of the sale of Mission Hospital, the misinformation and lies told in the critically important NC 11 Congressional race, and we are preparing to publish a major investigation, the result of a year-long effort, detailing how mostly elderly and Black homeowners have signed over their properties to a local investor and forfeited years if not generations of equity.

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Alex Comfort Joins Asheville Watchdog Staff

Alex Comfort

Alex Comfort, a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), is joining Asheville Watchdog as director of fundraising programs for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit news organization. A fundraising professional for 35 years, Comfort was formerly Associate Vice Chancellor for Development at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and has twice been named “Outstanding Fund Raising Executive” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, first by the AFP chapter of Greater New Orleans in 1995, and then for the western North Carolina AFP chapter in 2010. 

He has also been a capital campaign field director for Ward, Dreshman & Reinhardt; Director of Development for Covenant House New Orleans; Vice President of the LSU Medical Center Foundation in New Orleans; and Executive Director of the Cradle of Forestry Interpretation Association in Brevard, North Carolina.

A consultant in fundraising since 2011, Comfort is a popular public speaker and has taught a “Fundraising Boot Camp” course in regional universities since 2013. He is the author of “Even a Blind Squirrel Finds an Occasional Acorn: Fundraising Tales from the Front Lines.”

Comfort graduated in history from Sewanee: The University of the South,

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Becky Tin Joins Board of Asheville Watchdog

Becky Tin

Becky Tin, a lawyer and former district court judge, has joined Asheville Watchdog’s Board of Directors. 

Tin, who divides her time between Asheville and Charlotte, was a Mecklenburg County District Court judge for 16 years, presiding over domestic violence cases, high-conflict divorces, landlord-tenant and other civil and criminal matters. 

She received the 2013 Women of Justice Award for Public Service from North Carolina Lawyers Weekly; was recognized as 2018 Judge of the Year by the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys; and received the 2019 John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award for exemplary service to the legal profession from the North Carolina State Bar. She also served on the North Carolina District Court Judges’ Education Committee with faculty from the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill, helping to design curriculum and lecturing at statewide judicial conferences.

Before her legal career,

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Trish Jones Joins Asheville Watchdog’s Board of Directors

Trish Jones

Trish Jones, a former senior executive at Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta, has joined Asheville Watchdog’s Board of Directors. As director she will help oversee overall direction and strategy of the year-old nonprofit news organization.

Jones, a resident of Asheville, was senior director of business planning at the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta before joining Turner. At Turner she held roles as executive vice president and general counsel of Turner Broadcasting International and deputy general counsel of the Turner organization. She went on to become senior vice president and chief emerging technologies officer.

A graduate of Spring Hill College and the University of Richmond School of Law, she earned a master’s degree in international law at Georgetown University Law Center. She is a member of the Virginia and Georgia state bar associations.

Jones is also a director of the National Center for Women &

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‘We’ve proved that we can’
Pandemic speeds criminal justice reforms

Coronavirus has led to dramatic changes in crime and justice in Asheville from the courtroom to the cop on the street.

Reported crimes are down, police are making fewer arrests and inmates are being sprung from jail.

Criminal cases filed in Buncombe court have declined sharply since mid-March.
Source: North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts 

And the criminal justice system of the future may bear little resemblance to pre-Covid-19 with lawyers in masks, social distancing in the courtroom and an excuse to get out of jury duty that could apply to a sizable portion of the population. Pre-existing conditions and even age could be a legitimate reason not to serve.

The impact may last well past the pandemic and could finally achieve a long-heralded reform: converting the county jail from a holding pen for the poor to a lockup reserved for serious offenders.

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‘We’ve proved that we can’ Pandemic speeds criminal justice reforms

Coronavirus has led to dramatic changes in crime and justice in Asheville from the courtroom to the cop on the street.

Reported crimes are down, police are making fewer arrests and inmates are being sprung from jail.

Criminal cases filed in Buncombe court have declined sharply since mid-March.
Source: North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts 

And the criminal justice system of the future may bear little resemblance to pre-Covid-19 with lawyers in masks, social distancing in the courtroom and an excuse to get out of jury duty that could apply to a sizable portion of the population. Pre-existing conditions and even age could be a legitimate reason not to serve.

The impact may last well past the pandemic and could finally achieve a long-heralded reform: converting the county jail from a holding pen for the poor to a lockup reserved for serious offenders.

READ MORE

Mark Meadows’ political protégé calls for reopening state’s economy despite health risks

The Maggie Valley businesswoman's hopes to inherit the congressional seat held by Mark Meadows may be jeopardized by the upstart newcomer Madison Cawthorn.

Republican congressional-candidate Lynda Bennett, who hopes to win the District 11 seat recently vacated by her political patron Mark Meadows, is calling for an immediate end to North Carolina’s stay-home order, calling pandemic restrictions an infringement “on our rights and freedom.”

GOP congressional candidate Lynda Bennett is calling for an immediate end to North Carolina’s Covid-19 restrictions

In a radio interview with ultra-conservative Breitbart News last weekend and infrequent follow-up comments on her Twitter and Facebook feeds, Bennett has sharply criticized Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to extend the restrictions through May 8, referring to them as “politics.”   Yet the governor’s policy is in alignment with guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and President Trump’s coronavirus task force, which set benchmarks to be met indicating the contagion is slowing and deaths are trending downward before lifting the restrictions. 

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The COVID-19 campaign: Political candidates are staying home, too

Morris “Moe” Davis had hoped to spend this spring roaming Western North Carolina, meeting voters one on one and building a campaign organization able to flip to the Democratic Party the congressional seat recently vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows.

Retired Air Force colonel Moe Davis is the Democratic nominee for Congress in District 11.

Instead, the Democratic nominee in the 11th Congressional District is stuck tweeting regularly and spending some time conversing with mountain residents on Facebook, plus keeping track of the bears he often sees near his home in Asheville’s Chunns Cove neighborhood.

“Not a replacement for traditional campaigning,” Davis readily admitted in a telephone interview, “but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.”

With baby kissing, hand shaking and door knocking out of the question, candidates in key races from Congress to the County Commission are sidelined and struggling to connect —

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