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Moving the needle: Our ongoing need for “knowledge journalism”

The first time I sat down and read N.C. Insight, the journal of the nonpartisan North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, I was 10 years old. I remember because the issue featured an article about the unelected with power – profiling Gary Pearce, then Governor Hunt’s political advisor – and I was intrigued.

I have read every issue of N.C. Insight since then. I guess that certifies me as a nerd or a wonk or some wonderful combination, but nevertheless it is how I learned our state.

I grew up on a block with Harvey Gantt and Mel Watt and Sue Myrick and Dan Forest. It was clear to me that North Carolina would grow into a purple state, and the value of long-form journalism and publications like N.C. Insight seemed clear to my young mind too. Enough so that I went to law school, hoping to land at the Center, which I did.

I interned there and then served as policy analyst and then editor of N.C. Insight and then director of law and policy (a couple of stellar boys for whom I am ever thankful were born in there somewhere).

I agree with Anita Brown-Graham when she talks about privilege, and the privilege of having jobs that have never seemed like going to work. It was my privilege to work at the Center for much of my career alongside my colleagues Ran Coble, Nancy Rose, Danita Morgan, Aisander Duda, Amy Strecker, Jeff Sossamon, Laurita Ray, Carol Majors, Tammy Bromley, Paige Worsham, Sam Watts, Mike McLaughlin, and many other wonks – all dedicated to a better state.


Better when the state was blue and better when the state was red. Because in my mind, just like writing, public policy can always be better.

As a cohort, the Center staff over the years and the EdNC staff now believe in the value of independent research. We believe in the readability of good journalism. We believe in telling the stories of the public in public policy. We believe in North Carolina.

And so it is with the pride of my 10-year-old self that I share with you that earlier this week, the Center became part of EdNC.

EdNC and the Center

EdNC is pleased – more like thrilled – to announce that the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research has been restructured and is now an integral part of EdNC’s organization and operations. EdNC is expanding its distribution of “knowledge journalism” – illuminating solid reporting with in-depth analysis – and the distinguished 40-year legacy of the Center strongly supports this expansion. This is another step in EdNC’s pioneering work to define the new media landscape in North Carolina and nationally.

Nancy Rose – the former president of the Center and long-term Center employee – is the new COO of EdNC, and the staff and the Board couldn’t be happier. It is possible I might sleep now.

“We are thrilled that the Center’s mission will be carried on by EdNC,” says outgoing Center Board Chair Steve Brechbiel. “Considering EdNC has demonstrated their ability to effectively use various channels and particularly social media to deliver policy-related research and analysis to a broad audience, we are excited that the rich legacy of the Center will continue in their capable hands.”

In an era of transition for legacy news organizations and legacy think-tank organizations, we envision a future where EdNC employs multi-media journalists who tell the story of what is happening in real time using the social tools of today – and tomorrow. Seasoned journalists and policy researchers will create long-form journalism, explainer pieces, and provide in-depth analysis on the news to guide and shape public policy. Facebook recently shifted its algorithm to reward this type of content.

The first meeting I had on behalf of EdNC was with Amy Mitchell, the director of journalism research for the Pew Charitable Trusts. She told me that for an organization like EdNC to thrive it would have to combine the best new media practices – including a robust platform with high-quality multimedia content – with the depth of think-tank research.

Nation Hahn’s work, and recent research, indicates that more and more individuals are consuming information through their social channels. This tracks with the fact that 60+ percent of our audience in a given week is driven through social media. His research indicates that people are not necessarily monitoring the platform from which the news comes; instead, they primarily care that someone they trust shared it.

“This era of digital communication technology has brought about significant shifts in the dissemination of journalism and policy analysis,” says Ferrel Guillory, the vice chair of EdNC. “As the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research becomes part of EdNC, our work will build a stronger base for enriching North Carolina’s public dialogue and decision making, with our school children – the future of our state – at the center of our work.”

I can promise you that EdNC will continue to distribute our independent content – without footnotes – in ways people will access it, read it, and share it.

EdNC looks forward to incorporating the legacy of the Center to serve our students, our schools, and our state.1

My thanks for your ongoing support,

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P.S. Our scrappy staff still needs your support. Please consider a donation today. Invest in our conversation.


Show 1 footnote

  1. This one is for you, Ran.
Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.