One of the five affiliated blogs brought some embarrassment to the Carolina Journal and Locke Foundation recently, when Charlotte blogger Tara Servatius of The Meck Deck posted a photo illustration of President Barack Obama in high heels and chains, with a bucket of fried chicken. The image remained on the site for 48 hours before being taken down after complaints surfaced on blogs and in social media. Servatius resigned, and John Hood, president and chairman of the Locke Foundation, apologized. “The political discourse in our state and nation has grown increasingly coarse, unnecessarily personal, and destructively vitriolic,” he wrote. “This is the kind of episode that can only make the situation worse. We should be able to disagree about controversial issues without it coming to this.”
The incident spurred the organization to evaluate its methods of oversight of contributors. In a recent email exchange, Hood said, “We have initially decided to ensure more timely and intensive oversight of blog posts and may well institute prior editing of posts for freelancers with access to the system.”
Civitas Institute: Another organization funded by Pope, this site provides research, information, and training to “facilitate the implementation of conservative policy solutions to improve the lives of all North Carolinians.” It produces a weekly newsletter, plus Civitas Review magazine, a blog, and election analysis. Civitas also conducts polls and offers low-priced training in free-enterprise principles and policy manuals for legislators and citizens. An affiliated website, Carolina Transparency, produces some gorgeous data visualizations about voter registration and other political information. The site has received $8 million from Pope during the last decade, according to the Institute for Southern Studies.
Carolina Public Press: A relative newcomer, this online-only site serves 17 counties in western North Carolina, along the spine of the Appalachians in some of the more sparsely populated parts of the state. CPP’s mission includes sharing information about open records laws with its community, and it recently held two seminars on federal Freedom of Information Act procedures and state open records laws. It is “dedicated to in-depth, investigative and independent reporting,” but as a young site, it seems focused on raising the funds to carry out its mission more fully in the future. Special reports have focused on subjects like food policy, autism, and the environment. It often publishes press releases as is, but labels them as such, and CPP’s curation of news from other sources—along with those press releases—provide it with a stream of updates despite a small staff.
CPP is studiously nonpartisan and publishes clear editorial policies. It’s a sponsored project of the Institute for Southern Studies and has received funding from the McCormick Foundation’s New Media Women Entrepreneurs program through J-Lab at American University.
North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation: This group employs a research director, Jonathan Kappler, who keeps track of candidates filing for state elections, collects candidate questionnaires, aggregates news about state candidates from other sources, and provides brief updates on political advertising campaigns. Kappler’s work reads like straight, objective reporting, though the organization represents North Carolina businesses including Pope’s Variety Wholesalers, Inc., and the staff provides in-person political briefings for a nominal fee across the state.
PlanCharlotte: This site is a project of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, an applied research and community outreach organization. (Full disclosure: I’m doing some contract work for the site.) It’s brand new, in beta, and focuses on regional growth and planning issues around the Charlotte area. The site goes in-depth on issues such as the changing demographics of Charlotte and how those changes affect the national politics of 2012 and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. With its connections to the Urban Institute, it has a wealth of data about Charlotte communities from which to draw. It also has a fledgling opinion page, where it encourages civil discourse. The director is Mary Newsom, former editorial board member at The Charlotte Observer. Funding comes from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.