Ask and Receive: Growing ‘Carrboro Citizen’ Gets Loan from Town

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A weekly newspaper asked for a loan and received a $50,000 from a North Carolina town so it can print more copies, hire more staff and expand its office.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen approved the loan Tuesday night for the Carrboro Citizen, a two-year-old publication. The money comes from a fund used to spark local business development, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

Alderman Dan Coleman said the town is lucky to have a growing newspaper in an age when other papers are cutting staff as revenue declines.

“I’m very excited that the town is in a position to support that expansion,” Coleman said. “I think it’s a great thing for Carrboro and a great thing for newspapers.”

Publisher Robert Dickson says his paper will use the money to increase its press run from 6,000 copies to 10,000 in the small town next to Chapel Hill. The newspaper had asked for $100,000 but a citizen committee that reviews loan requests suggested cutting it in half.

Dickson said the money won’t affect his impartiality when covering the town government because of the loan.

“Newspapers do business with people they have to report on,” he said, pointing to advertising from sports teams and politicians. “It’s a fact of life.”

Mayor Mark Chilton supported Dickson’s opinion.

“There’s no opportunity for the town to use the relationship to get an outcome they might want in the media,” the mayor said.

Across the country, newspapers are cutting press runs because circulation and ad revenues are declining.

An industry analyst said the loan could present problems.

“It is problematic that a news organization would ask a government agency for a loan,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for professional journalists.

“It throws a monkey wrench into the whole watchdog role. Journalism organizations in general believe that, as bad as things are now, they would not take a public bailout. Independence is a key, core value of journalism.”

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