As 2023's GivingTuesday has come and gone, and the Cumberland Community Foundation’s 10-day GivingTuesday project wraps up at 5 p.m. Wednesday, we’re taking time now to talk about the work we do at CityView. And we want to emphasize why your support of our work directly impacts our capacity for providing essential reporting and storytelling to Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
We’re working to expand our reporting team for the audiences we serve; the addition of Paul Woolverton has been a key part of that. Between us, Paul and I have worked in the newspaper industry for more than 70 years. He joined CityView as one of the state’s most experienced journalists, and he recognizes the goal Tony Chavonne and the rest of our team share to provide impactful reporting. I spoke with Paul about his decision to join our team and about what he brings to the table at CityView. Here's what he had to say.
BILL HORNER III: What is it about CityView’s vision and mission that led to you coming on board?
PAUL WOOLVERTON: CityView Today and our partner, The Assembly, want to bring to the people of Fayetteville and Cumberland County more than just “the daily news.” The mission is to get to the real story behind the big story and headlines. At CityView, I am looking forward to doing that.
You’ve been reporting for more than 30 years. What’s your favorite thing about this work?
I like that I can get out into the community and into the places where news is happening and bring it to the people. I’ve covered high-profile murder trials, big festivals, the U.S. Supreme Court, lawmakers and lawbreakers (and sometimes the lawmaker IS the lawbreaker), moments of great celebration and moments of great loss.
What I do means something to people.
Three years ago, when I was working for The Fayetteville Observer, I livestreamed on Facebook the George Floyd protest in downtown Fayetteville and the looting that followed at Cross Creek Mall. Every now and then someone mentions seeing it, and that they were grateful I was out there to bring them that story of what was happening. I was there with fellow Observer reporter Melody Brown-Peyton, and no other news reporters were out there to the level that we were.
We read and hear much about the demise of print journalism and the struggles in the industry we’ve both devoted our careers to. But news, and great journalism, still have value. Why is that?
The Fayetteville Observer used to have a slogan: “Knowledge Changes Everything.” If you don’t know what’s happening in your neighborhood and in your city, not only are you missing out on things that you might have wanted to know, but you will miss things that are important for you to know.
Several years ago, I covered a protest outside the Chemours chemical factory by people who were angry that their drinking water had been contaminated with GenX/PFAS chemicals.
One of the protesters had bought land and built a house in the contamination zone and didn’t learn of the contamination until after she moved in.
Reports of the contamination had been in the newspaper, on the radio and on TV news for several years before she bought her property. But she had not watched or read local news. She wasn’t prepared to consider the GenX factor when she was looking for a place to build her home.
How can impactful reporting make a difference in a community?
“Impactful reporting” probably means different things to different people. For me, it means bringing information to people that they want in order to make their lives and their community better. It can be a lot of things.
A report on the lack of an elevator in a public parking deck — which creates problems for disabled people — could lead to the installation of an elevator. People want to know if a new shopping center is planned for their part of town. Some because they want to shop there, others who want to try to stop the development that they think will ruin the character of their community.
Investigative reporting has uncovered corruption and shady decisions among elected and appointed officials.
You’ve been reporting in and around Fayetteville for 30 years. What have you learned about Cumberland County and about your craft that’ll be most valuable to CityView’s readers?
Some people like to joke that I “know where the bodies are buried.” I know a lot of the backstories and political pushes and pulls, behind a lot of things that have happened in Cumberland County and North Carolina. This brings context and perspective on new things as they develop.
Plus to ferret out news, I know who to call and where to go to find it.
And a lot of times, people call me or text me to tip me off on stories.
What will you bring to the table at CityView that’ll make supporting the mission even more worthwhile?
In addition to my 30 years of institutional knowledge of Fayetteville, Cumberberland County and North Carolina, I have reporting and writing skills that CityView and The Assembly want and need in their newsrooms to bring their readers the deep-dive, “here’s what happened and here’s what it means to you” stories.
In the end, it's about making a genuine difference in the community. It doesn't happen without the work we do to help make our community better.
CityView never charges readers for its stories. But we know it has value to you. Our CityView News Fund was created specifically to provide financial resources to support the work of our news team.
Dean Ridings, the CEO of America's Newspapers, an industry trade group, wrote this week that for generations, "local journalism has been the lifeblood providing citizens the means to acquire the information required for enlightened self-governance."
But disruption — in the form of the collapse of the newspaper business model, the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation on social media platforms, and distrust sown by bad actors who portray the media as "the enemy of the people" — has jeopardized "this proud tradition foundational to our democratic experiment."
Independent, trustworthy local journalism is worth saving.