We have written a number of times about ethical lapses of The Local Reporter, the non-profit newspaper whose board is composed solely of founders and leaders within CHALT and/or its affiliated PAC, Chapel Hill Leadership PAC. In the past, they have omitted bylines, a masthead, relationships between quoted sources and editors, reprinted material directly from the CHALT website, and omitted political coverage of certain candidates in previous election cycles. They have churned through eight editors in four years, including one who ran the paper from Florida and a former elected official.

The latest mishap is a bizarre one: a piece published earlier this week, written by the Charlotte-based freelance writer Kylie Marsh, was substantially reworked—without any mention of such a change taking place. (The only note that something changed was the addition of the line: (Michelle Cassell, Managing Editor, contributed to this article). This goes against The Local Reporter’s stated corrections policy, which notes:

The Local Reporter strives to be accurate in all of its online copy. If you find errors, whether typographical or more substantive, the best way to report them is via email to editor@thelocalreporter.press. TLR will correct the errors as soon as possible. If the mistake is a typo, we’ll just make the change. If the error is substantive, we’ll make the change and annotate the article to describe the change and its purpose.

Substantive changes were made

What happened: Kylie Marsh is a freelance writer based in Charlotte who is assigned topics to cover by The Local Reporter, a publication that covers Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Marsh mainly covers Carrboro Town Council by watching videotapes of council meetings.

Earlier this week, she wrote a lengthy piece about the most recent Carrboro Town Council meeting and discussions around how to fill Barbara Foushee’s now-vacant seat. It was published on Thursday. By Saturday, the piece was completely and drastically reworked, deleting 94.5% of what Marsh had written. Marsh’s byline still remains on the article, though the piece now notes Cassell contributed.

You can see the changes below. (The red and orange text remained in both pieces; the text with a white background was deleted from Marsh’s copy (left) or added to the new piece (right.)

reworked-piece
Kylie Marsh’s original copy on left. The reworked piece on the right. The red text is the same in both pieces.
reworked-piece-2
Kylie Marsh’s original copy on left. The reworked piece on the right. The red text is the same in both pieces.

Notably, the new piece omits several quotes from Terri Buckner, who lives just outside of Carrboro and frequently comments on town affairs. The piece also omits several quotes from council members which contextualize the decision made to hold a special election in November.

Red indicates text was removed. Green indicates text was added.

We have asked The Local Reporter whether Buckner requested that the piece be taken down and reworked and why there’s no editor’s note on this story. We have also asked why the new piece mentions an opinion piece that Buckner wrote without noting that it was an opinion piece or its authorship.

This piece was updated shortly after publication to include another graphical representation of the changes made in the piece between publication on Thursday and yesterday.

Update: The Local Reporter did not respond to our request for comment. They did add an editor’s note at the bottom of the piece on 12/11/23. It reads: “To the readers from the editor: The original article by Kylie Marsh was retracted and revised due to some errors we found a few hours after publication.” This post does not note what those errors are and the piece is still bylined by Marsh. (In the first version, we see 1-2 minor changes that could have been changed by an editor before publication, but nothing egregious that would result in a complete reworking or retraction of the story.) 

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....