If you’re reading this, you may have come here through a somewhat unhinged and lengthy Facebook thread that can nicely be described as “airing grievances about Triangle Blog Blog, its writers, its content, and its design.”
We’re glad you’re here. Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions from our fans, critics, and spouses:
What in the heck is a Triangle Blog Blog?
We’re a group blog based in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and (sometimes) Durham. You can see all of our biographies here. We generally write about civics, historical context, events around town, transportation, housing, and other issues affecting our communities.
You’re a blog?
Yes, we have the word blog twice in our url just to make that point clear.
But your site looks so good and un-blog-like.
We watched a lot of YouTube videos to learn how to design WordPress websites.
Do you think people will confuse you with the News and Observer?
We hope not.
Do you have a point of view?
Of course we do. We highly recommend you read this interview that we did with Andy Bechtel at UNC’s journalism school, where we outline our approach and point of view.
I’m offended that you have the word haters in the headline of this piece. It’s the same language and behavior used by the right wing at the national level.
It’s from a Taylor Swift song.
Are you funded by developers?
We’re not funded at all. We plan to start raising funds soon to pay for our web hosting and software and to pay people to write for us. More details on this will be coming soon. (Sign up for our biweekly civics newsletter.)
Are you trying to get a job with the town?
No. All of our writers already have day jobs. This is a group blog — they used to be more common in the early 2000s, but many stopped after Facebook took off. But we like the vibe and space to write and think out loud. We serve on town boards, participate in local organizations, and work in many ways to make our communities better. We see TBB as an extension of the things we’re already doing, and a way to make it easier for new people to get involved.
Are you a front for NEXT?
NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro is a group of people advocating for things like community diversity, increasing housing affordability, supporting education, and reducing our environmental footprint. They recently sponsored a Transit Equity Day. They list their mission and priorities here, and routinely host public speakers and events that push us to be a more equitable, integrated, and inclusive community. They also host monthly happy hours.
We think they do excellent work, but no, we are not “a front for” NEXT (though some of our writers also participate in NEXT.)
Why would people criticize those things? That seems pretty rad.
We agree. It saddens us to see so much time and effort spent to fight and undermine changes that will make our towns more equitable and resilient.
I miss having a local newspaper.
So do we! We would love to see someone start a non-profit newspaper in town that doesn’t share membership with a political organization. Running a newspaper, even an online one, is expensive, and we don’t have the resources it would require to start one. We do believe Facebook and NextDoor and neighborhood listservs are flooded with misinformation in part because we don’t have a real and objective local newspaper, and one of our objectives is to counter that misinformation.
Wait a hot minute. How is what you’re doing different than the non-profit newspaper The Local Reporter, which has close overlapping ties to CHALT?
The Local Reporter touts itself as an unbiased non-profit local news organization that was designed to “plug Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s news deserts.” Their current editor lives in Florida.
The entire board of directors of The Local Reporter is made up of former CHALT leaders, including a spokesperson for CHALT, the assistant treasurer of their PAC, and the head of fiscal responsibility for CHALT.
All three board members continue to remain active on the CHALT PAC listserv — where campaign strategy is discussed — and also take an active role in the day-to-day operations of the paper. The President of the Board has written the paper’s newsletter, maintains the social media account, and has access to the editor inbox. She previously sued the town to block a development reported on by the paper. That was not disclosed. (At every other non-profit newsroom we know about, there’s a firm firewall between the Board and the editorial newsroom.)
Former editors with close ties to CHALT have omitted this association from their biographies. The paper has printed material taken directly from the CHALT website. The paper has extensively covered issues that CHALT advocates for or against. A former editor was also a former elected official, and the paper didn’t announce that appointment. A current elected official, Adam Searing, is a former member of their advisory board – which they have denied. (It’s visible in the Wayback Machine.)
This would not be a problem, if they identify these connections between board members, sources, donors, writers, and editors — and make clear their point of view. But they don’t, and they have continued to tout their “unbiased” journalism. They have also received funding in the past from journalism organizations that support non-profit newsrooms without ties to advocacy organizations. The News and Observer details those connections here.
They remain a member of the North Carolina Press Association, but no longer are members of the national news consortium LION Pubs and the Institute of Non-Profit News, largely due to our ongoing reporting.
Shortly after the Facebook thread went up yesterday discussing TBB, the board of the The Local Reporter sent out a fundraising request, stating that they were hoping to receive $4,370/month to continue publishing at its current level.
Almost immediately after the funding announcement went out, The Local Reporter’s former editor posted the following in the Facebook thread about TBB:
Unlike TLR, we a) have not applied to be in or received funding from journalism organizations (because we’re not a journalism organization) b) make very clear what our point of view is and what orgs. our writers are in c) do not pretend to be an unbiased news organization. We’re a blog, which appears twice in our url.
We encourage you to support local news organizations such as the News and Observer, WUNC, the Daily Tar Heel (which has excellent local coverage) and Indyweek. We have a guide to local news and information here.
Ok, blog…blog. What are you working on now?
We’re working on a few things:
- We’re collecting all of Chapel Hill’s neighborhood covenants so we can better understand and catalogue the extent of exclusionary neighborhoods in Chapel Hill.
- We’re collecting all of Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s planning documents from over the years.
- We’re watching town council meetings, advisory board meetings, and other town events and writing them up. Some of the topics we’re interested in are housing, greenways, and our school system. We also love diving into newspaper and historic archives and finding interesting tidbits to share that help shape our understanding of where we live. You can see our complete archives here: https://triangleblogblog.com/articles/
Do you expect this kind of pushback?
Yeah, this is pretty par for the course here.
In 2021, an East Chapel Hill High School student named Caroline Chen wrote a critique of CHALT. It was a pretty mild piece, all things considered — and it appeared in the Chapel Hill East High School newspaper, which has a very small circulation that mainly consists of other high school students.
The response to Chen’s column was weirdly disproportionate. Instead of ignoring it – which we imagine most people would do – CHALT emailed the student’s advisor, the high school newspaper itself, the unrelated local college newspaper, and the alt-weekly in our area. The student’s subsequent response to CHALT’s approach was applauded, both locally and nationally – she was named the North Carolina High School journalist of the year, was a finalist for the national high school journalist of the year, and is now writing for the student newspaper at Stanford.
We can’t help but think of that incident while contemplating recent attempts – by the exact same people – to discredit and discount Triangle Blog Blog. We see this taking place on NextDoor and Facebook and neighborhood listservs, and it all follows the same playbook: deflecting, discounting, and discrediting our work to factcheck and add context to discussions.
But it’s offensive that you point out the demographics of who attends public meetings.
It’s quite clear that the people who provide public comment at local government meetings often do not reflect the beliefs of the majority of the community or represent the community’s diverse views. Understanding who has the ability, time, and space to speak – and who is missing – can help inform our community.
So you’re going to keep blogblogging?
Yes. We’re rapidly growing, enjoy writing, and continue to have people reach out to us to thank us for doing this work. And it’s fun to do.
Many of these comments are long-winded ways of saying ‘I disagree” or “I don’t like your tone.” And that’s fine. People can disagree — but here’s the thing: Ensuring all voices, and not just the loudest, most consistent ones, are heard is important — and that’s what we plan to continue doing.
This post was written by Martin Johnson, Stephen Whitlow, and Melody Kramer.