More Charlotte creep

The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer are increasingly sharing stories. The idea is to save money and resources on stories that both McClatchy papers would cover — North Carolina sports teams, state government, etc.

It doesn’t always work, as detailed here. Another example of “Charlotte creep” was in a prominent position in the Raleigh paper last week: the centerpiece of the Friday features section. The story on “shout music” is full of Charlotte-centric quotes and geographic references that mean little to audiences in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. A reader complained (twice) about that in the comments in the online version. But here’s the “tell,” as they say in poker:

Shout music is like NASCAR: They have it all over the country, but we do it right.

In Charlotte, the first-person claim to car racing makes sense. The city has deep connections to the sport and will be the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Raleigh (and the Triangle generally) does not have the background, and NASCAR is not as big in this part of the state. That’s reflected in the N&O’s coverage of car racing. The paper hasn’t had a beat writer on NASCAR in several years, perhaps because it believes other sports are more important to its readership.

So what to do with the “shout” story? Maybe Raleigh editors could use the Charlotte story as a news tip for an entirely different story with the same theme for Triangle readers. Maybe localize the story itself or add a sidebar. And perhaps edit the telling analogy this way:

Shout music is like college basketball: They have it all over the country, but we do it right.

This sharing of content between the Charlotte and Raleigh papers is apparently here to stay. If so, this advice bears repeating: Careful editing — from story selection to word choice — will be essential to ensure that each paper maintains its identity.

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