“Charlotte creep,” as first noted here and again here, is the unfortunate result of the common ownership of the Raleigh and Charlotte newspapers. As the Observer and The News & Observer share stories and join forces in some areas of their coverage, the two papers must figure out how to balance this cost-cutting, cooperative effort against the needs of their readers.
It isn’t always working. An Observer article about Facebook and some Charlotte-area teachers appeared on page 2B of the N&O on Saturday, several days after this “news” happened. (More on the merits of the story itself at Headsup: The Blog.) Here is the story’s lead:
A Thomasboro Elementary teacher faces firing for posting derogatory comments about students on Facebook, while four other Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers have been disciplined for posts involving “poor judgment and bad taste,” spokeswoman Nora Carr said Tuesday.
The lead may be OK in Charlotte — but in Raleigh, not so much. Readers in the Triangle are unlikely to have knowledge of specific schools 150 miles away in Mecklenburg County. The reference to Thomasboro Elementary makes as much sense to Raleigh readers as a mention of Fred Olds Elementary would be to Charlotte readers. Let’s edit that lead for a Triangle audience:
An elementary school teacher may be fired for posting derogatory comments about students on Facebook, and four other Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers have been disciplined for posts involving “poor judgment and bad taste,” the school system said.
The specific schools can be mentioned deeper in the story. The time element works better later so the story isn’t so obviously stale, and the name of the spokeswoman doesn’t need to be in the lead either.
The song remains the same: If the sharing of content between the Charlotte and Raleigh papers is here to stay, careful editing — from story selection to word choice — will be essential to ensure that each paper maintains its identity.