Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Opinion: Nimbleness allows media entities to continue


A few days after this magazine is distributed monthly, I often get a call from my journalist friend Marion Ellis. He helped the Charlotte Observer win a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 by exposing the health dangers looming in textile mills. He later found a more lucrative niche, authoring histories of famous North Carolina businesses, families and politicians. He’s a classic old-time journalist with a crusty exterior and big-hearted interior.

“How do you get so much into the magazine with such a small staff?” Marion asks. Then he goes on to praise a story or a photo. Big surprise: It’s become one of my favorite moments of the month.

After five years here, I’ve learned the answer is simple: I work with very talented people in sales and editorial roles who believe in the mission of providing a statewide perspective on business. We also know the local and regional media world is in a precarious state, requiring more smarts and nimbleness than in the ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s, when media profit margins often approached those of cigarettes and soft drinks. Now, Google and Facebook are taking much ad spending, which is why more than a fifth of U.S. newspapers have closed in the last 15 years, says Penelope Muse Abernathy, a UNC journalism professor and an expert on media economics.

Nimble, of course, is code for doing more work in the same amount of time. That’s true for virtually everyone I know working at Bank of America and other giant concerns, but their margin for error is greater.

For us, it’s meant adding events such as manufacturing expos and CEO summits that my colleagues Ben Kinney and Norwood Teague have organized with support from great sponsors.

Nimbleness also refers to producing a Daily Digest newsletter of key N.C. business news and adding more online stories and commentary — the sharpies call it “digital content.” And it’s meant adding a weekly podcast on what’s happening across the state, led by Assistant Editor Taylor Wanbaugh. Sales managers Sue Graf and Melanie Weaver Lynch have a bigger palette of options these days. A lot more innovation awaits.

We also benefit from outstanding talents of freelance writers and photographers willing to tolerate picky editors. Senior Contributing Editor Ed Martin is a rock star, as we’ve noted many times. First-time contributor Michael Abramowitz is a veteran Greenville journalist whose institutional knowledge is obvious in his East Carolina University story.

Most important, our owners at Southern Pines-based Old North State Magazines LLC remain devoted to print journalism while others desert. That was reflected in the March purchase of SouthPark magazine from McClatchy Co. The publication promotes arts, culture and entertainment in thriving southeast Charlotte, joining Old North State’s magazines in Greensboro, Southern Pines and Wilmington.

BNC’s managing editor, Cathy Martin, will lead SouthPark while staying involved with this magazine. She has done a terrific job limiting bad grammar, misspellings and other miscues, while conceiving great story ideas and enforcing our deadlines, among other tasks.

That’s my answer, Marion, and thanks for the call.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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