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Recognizing journalism: EdNC wins NC Press Association awards

When I made the career move from law to journalism, more than a few people questioned the wisdom of my decision. “Why would you shift to a dying industry?” they asked. The concern was not without factual support; the decline of newspapers has its own Wikipedia entry. While a place in the modern-day encyclopedia does not a fact make, the shifting ecosystem of journalism and the challenges media face are undeniable. But this week’s gathering of the North Carolina Press Association (NCPA) signaled something different.

At a community engagement panel, journalists from the mountains to the coast shared ways they are seeking to redefine their work, connect with their audiences, and continue to serve the public interest. The room buzzed with an enthusiasm for finding creative ways to engage people using technology and a renewed fervor for the vital roles media has traditionally played in communities. I had the opportunity to share about the ways we use our Reach NC Voices tools to understand our audience, engage with sources, and hear from voices across the state. In an era where distrust and decline of media is popular cocktail hour conversation, it was heartening to see the passion of our state’s journalists — from small towns to big cities — for understanding their communities and providing space for their stories to be shared.

EdNC is not the traditional NCPA member; we do not have a print publication, and we have existed for only three years. Many of our colleagues in newspapers work for institutions that originated and thrived in a form that predates our nation. While we differ in size, subject, medium — and sometimes even in approach — the gathering reminded us of our commonalities: a commitment to informing the public and a desire to be key part of the communities we serve.

The conference culminated in an awards banquet where EdNC was honored to receive five awards. Three reporters received individual honors, highlighted below, but our entire staff took the stage to receive them — a visual reminder of our dedication to the concept of teamwork and our belief that each member is crucial to our collective success. 


We are proud of the recognition of our accomplishments, and we are grateful for the support that allows us to do this work. We are also appreciative of the individuals across the state who allowed us in their lives and gave us the chance to tell their stories.

The Awards 

Liz Bell took home first place in the online “Video” category for the film, “Seven months later, Edgecombe residents cope with Matthew aftermath.”

Bell also received third place in “Education Reporting” for her work on the effects of Hurricane Matthew on schools and students.

Alex Granados received second place in “Election/Political Reporting” for a series on the proposed legislative expansion of teacher preparation programs.

Adam Rhew won first place for “News enterprise reporting” for a series examining youth suicide in North Carolina.

EdNC won second place in the online category for “Appearance and Design.”

Laura Lee

Laura Lee is the former content director and managing editor for EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Born and raised in Union County, North Carolina, Laura attended Benton Heights Elementary School, Unionville Elementary School, Charlotte Latin Middle School, and Piedmont High School. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies. After graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as an educator with a civic education organization and then as a program administrator for two Fulbright grant programs.

She received her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007. In law school, she served as president of the Student Bar Association and was a Davis Society inductee. She also holds a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Laura briefly strayed from her Tar Heel allegiance in 2011 to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland where she was an Eleanor Merrill Fellow. She then worked at NPR producing content for the Washington desk, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation

From 2013 to 2017, Laura oversaw daily production of North Carolina Public Radio WUNC’s The State of Things, first as assistant news director for talk programming and then as managing editor.