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Earlier this month, nine journalists retired from the Charlotte Observer. Three of those journalists — Ann Doss Helms, Tim Funk and Helen Schwab — worked with Free Press’ News Voices: North Carolina project over the past year to make sure that local residents have a greater voice in the reporting that impacts their communities.

We couldn’t have asked for better partners in the work of transforming local news.

The Charlotte Observer was one of the first newsrooms to get involved and stay involved in News Voices’ work in North Carolina. Here’s how our relationship evolved:

  • September 2017: The Observer sent journalists to “The News Charlotte Needs,” News Voices’ public forum on the local media needed in Charlotte to address economic inequality. And those journalists wrote stories based on the relationships they formed or strengthened at our event.

  • January 2018: News Voices co-hosted an engaged-journalism training with the Oregon-based Agora Journalism Center. Helen Schwab was there building skills.

  • May 2018: News Voices began hosting intimate conversations between community members and the Observer. These became semi-regular discussions that continued through the rest of 2018.

  • February 2019: News Voices and the Observer co-hosted our first public conversation about the news Charlotte needs regarding housing, gentrification and displacement.

But these highlights don’t begin to capture the entirety of the relationship we’ve been building with the Observer. This relationship isn’t transactional — it’s transformational, holistic, built over time and sustainable.

This is a bittersweet moment. We’re sad to lose these journalists and we’re excited about the folks at the Observer who will carry this work forward. We also can’t wait to see what roles the retiring journalists go on to play in the greater Charlotte area.

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