Yesterday, the Chatham News + Record quietly announced that they had been sold to Pat McCrory’s statewide newspaper network, North State Media. This is terrible news for North Carolina and our news ecosystem.

The Chatham News + Record covers Siler City, Pittsboro, and other towns in Chatham County. Chatham County is one of the fastest-growing places in North Carolina, and tens of thousands of new residents are expected to move in as Chatham Park comes online.

The News + Record has been known for its high quality reporting and its focus on the fast-growing Latinx population in Chatham, publishing some content in Spanish. They’ve hired great reporters, including Ben Rappaport and Taylor Heeden, who cover local beats and dig deep into investigative work. They’ve been invited into some of the most prestigious journalism funding initiatives, including the Google New Initiative’s News Equity Fund. They also recently partnered with a reporter from the New York Times on a story that ran on the first page of the Times.

We imagine their focus will shift now.

About North State Media

North State Media publishes the North State Journal and six regional publications. It is run by former members of Pat McCrory’s staff, and is a deeply partisan publication championing libertarian and right-leaning viewpoints. While claiming to be the “only statewide newspaper in North Carolina,” the North State Journal publishes mostly puff pieces and right-wing political opinion. Imagine the Wall Street Journal, but without any journalists. (Its current editor, Matt Mercer, worked in public relations and as a political operative before taking over the paper in 2020.)

It’s no surprise that North State Media would seek to buy a storied local newspaper–which has been published under various names since 1878, and was locally owned until this month. Local newspapers tend to be among the most trusted sources of news, and the Chatham News + Record has built up a well-earned reputation as a newspaper that puts community interests first, not partisanship.

Soon after the sale was revealed, a user on Wikipedia changed its page, removing the names of the publisher and four staff members, and adding Mercer and Griffin Daughtry, another right-wing ideologue who apparently bristles at being called a “journalist” and is curious about UFOs.

While the Chatham News + Record may continue to be published, it will no longer be the community newspaper it has been for the past 145 years. Instead, it will become just like the other papers owned by the North State News—the Stanly County Journal, the Randolph Record, the Twin City Herald—that reprint columns by Republican party operatives and John Locke Foundation employees and don’t even bother covering town council and school board meetings.

Yesterday we lost another newspaper. We’re sad, and angry, about this. Journalism is important, and having high-quality local journalism in North Carolina especially so.

Martin Johnson helped with this piece.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....