The Guilford County commissioners are feeling a chill from the News & Record and several commissioners say they are disturbed by the fact that the largest daily newspaper in Guilford County does not cover them anymore, does not send a reporter to meetings or work sessions and does not have a reporter assigned to the county beat.
When the Board of Commissioners adopted a $600 million plus budget earlier this year – the most important thing the board does annually – there was no one from the News & Record in the building and the same has been true for almost every meeting since.
The High Point Enterprise does send a reporter to meetings to write about High Point issues but that still leaves the readers of the News & Record in the dark when it comes to their commissioners. In the modern era, the Rhino Times has had a reporter at every county commissioners meeting and work session.
Commissioner Jeff Phillips recently asked for a meeting with Alton Brown, the regional vice president for BH Media Group, which owns the News & Record. Brown is also the publisher of the News & Record and Phillips said he wanted to discuss the possibility of the paper once again assigning a reporter to cover the commissioners. The two met at the Cheesecake Factory in Greensboro.
Phillips said he didn’t know if he would be successful in getting coverage restored, but he added that, in the future, he may write as a guest columnist for the paper and relay to readers some of the things the commissioners are doing.
Some commissioners stated this week that they believe the News & Record stopped covering the county because the commissioners voted to allow public notices to be put on the county’s website to meet the legal requirements that those notices are subject to. That cost the N&R a great deal of revenue and the paper – along with three other area newspapers – sued Guilford County over the matter. At the meeting following the move by the commissioners, the News & Record, which had a habit of coming to every commissioners meeting, stopped coming.
One commissioner who asked not to be named said that obviously the move by the board cost the paper a lot of money and therefore the paper had its “panties in a wad” – and, in retaliation, stopped covering the county.
Commissioner Hank Henning said that the News & Record ceased covering the county right after the county voted that public notices did not have to be published in a print newspaper. Henning said that timing sure was interesting.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Alan Branson said he thinks it may be financial realities closing in on the paper.
“I think it’s just they are understaffed and just hanging on,” Branson said.
He added that he did have to admit it was interesting that a couple of months ago the News & Record even refused to run a paid ad from the county.