Editor’s Desk

What matters to readers?

April 18, 2014 

I trust that most of you read the letter from Bob Ahlert, the former councilman who chastised us for putting too much Johnston County news in the Clayton News-Star.

Since Mr. Ahlert’s short but pointed critique, I have tried to be more thoughtful, and I think I can make a good case for what we publish, even those items born beyond Clayton’s borders.

Clayton is not an island unto itself, so when our Smithfield-based reporter goes to a school board or County Commissioners’ meeting, those stories are likely to be in the News-Star because they are likely to affect Clayton and Archer Lodge residents.

This past week, for example, we published a report of the April County Commissioners’ meeting because it noted that commissioners were opening some recreation dollars to Johnston towns, including Clayton. The report noted also that other towns had joined Clayton in asking the county to take over enforcement of storm-water-runoff rules. We also tried to be thoughtful, cutting from the Clayton story an item about the county moving an ambulance from Selma to Pine Level. That action, while done by a county board, had no impact on Clayton, at least none that I could see.

Beyond the front page, News-Star readers are likely to see outside-of-Clayton items in the arts notes, community notes, faith notes, etc. Certainly with arts notes, I think some Clayton folks might be interested in a concert at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, just like I think some folks outside of Clayton might be interested in a show at The Clayton Center. Ditto for community notes, which is to say some Clayton folks might want to wander over to Kenly on a Saturday for a blacksmithing demonstration at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum.

I’m more cautious with faith notes because I don’t know that revival services at a Benson church hold much appeal for Clayton residents. But what about a church yard sale or barbecue dinner in Smithfield or Selma or even Princeton? In my experience, Johnston County folks love yard sales and barbecues. Are readers of the News-Star any different?

Beyond that, I try to draw a clear line between Clayton and the rest of the county. In school notes, for example, I don’t know that News-Star readers have much stake in a South Johnston student winning a scholarship. (If the scholarship winner’s grandparents happen to live in Clayton or Archer Lodge or on the Clayton side of Wilson’s Mills, I hope someone would let me know that.)

Ideally perhaps, every page of the News-Star, at least every inside page, would have nothing but Clayton news. But for that to happen, we need your help. Clayton, like every other Johnston town, is home to many churches, civic clubs, business groups, schools, etc. But not all send their news and announcements to the paper. If they did, I might be overworked, but I’d also be overjoyed. So do me a favor and email your news and announcements to sbolejack@newsobserver.com. I also welcome your photos, in high-resolution jpeg format, at the same email address.

So long to Samantha, hello to Nash

Speaking of the News-Star, I know some of you were sad when reporter Amanda James left to pursue other interests. But I hope you have enjoyed the work done by Samantha Gilman, a News & Observer intern who came to Clayton while we searched for a permanent replacement for Amanda. Samantha has capably tackled a variety of stories, from the lighthearted to the serious, from the tragic to the touching. And she has certainly been productive. I told her the other day that she would have plenty of clips when she left the News-Star. Samantha said she had done 27 in one month, a little under four an issue.

Samantha has now returned to the News & Observer, so let me introduce you to Nash Dunn, now our full-time reporter in Clayton. Nash comes to Clayton from the Lexington Dispatch in Davidson County, but he’s familiar with the area, having grown up in Knightdale.

Nash is a veteran reporter who’s glad to be in Clayton, and we’re glad to have him here. I’m sure you’ll see him around.

Bolejack: sbolejack@newsobserver.com

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