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June 7, 2012

CHAPEL HiLL, N.C. – The UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Reese Felts Digital News Project launched the mobile-first website,, on June 4. The site covers politics in North Carolina in a year in which the state has drawn national attention as a political battleground and the host of the Democratic National Convention.

“WhichWayNC is filling a void in the conversation,” said Sarah Glen, team captain for the project. “We are crafting stories that encourage engagement among users.”

As the field of journalism adapts to innovations in technology and the emerging trend of two-way communication, WhichWayNC experiments with creating mobile-optimized political content.

“In the age of digital media, it is necessary that the school stays ahead of the emerging trends in journalism and technology,” said Dean Susan King.  “This project exemplifies how our students are eager to take the initiative and push both the school and the industry forward.”

The site explores North Carolina’s political culture, which has been in constant flux. More than covering horserace politics, the project delves into how the state’s changing policies and practices are playing out in the community.

North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment that recognizes only marriages between one man and one woman, showing the state’s socially conservative strength and potential challenge for President Barack Obama’s swing state efforts in November.

While the state already has a ban against same-sex marriage, the amendment means North Carolina will no longer recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships for any couples, and will have an impact on benefits and protections those couples recieve.

With votes still being tallied, the AP called the amendment as passing when it led by about 60/40 at 9:15 p.m.

While the amendment easily passed among socially conservative voters in the state, the vote divide between rural and urban counties was striking. Orange County, where UNC is located, voted against the amendment, 79/21 percent.

Here’s the breakdown of votes on the amendment by county.

Check out our map showing vote tallies by county.

Pollsters had predicted that the amendment would pass by a wide margin, but few expected the margin of passage to be so high.

The amendment earned opposition from urban metro counties, such as Orange (21/79), Wake (43/57), Mecklenburg (45/55), New Hanover (48/52) and Durham (29/71) counties.

However, many rural counties had very few votes in opposition, showing a conservative strength that will prove difficult for Obama to overcome in November.

Obama, who has not come out in support of gay marriage and said his views on the topic are “evolving,” gained criticism this week for refusing to take a stance on the issue. Reporters also expressed suspicion that his refusal to take a strong stance is closely tied to his November re-election efforts.

North Carolina remains an important swing state for Obama. He’s campaigned here several times this year, and will need conservative Southern voters to win re-election in November.

Pro-amendment supporters were ecstatic by the results, calling it an important step toward preserving marriage, and Tweeting photos of a celebratory wedding cake:

Meanwhile, opponents of the ban are decrying North Carolina’s vote, calling it a backwards step more in line with the South’s past of racism than a move forward:

North Carolinians will vote today in the state’s primary election, casting their ballot on Amendment One, the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban all gay marriages and civil unions in the state.

According to the most recent poll from Public Policy Polling, the amendment is likely to pass, by as much as a predicted 15 point margin. More than 500,000 North Carolinians have already voted early in the primary according to the State Board of Elections.

reesenews will be collecting images of North Carolina heading to the voting booth and asking voters their opinion on Amendment One. Our homepage will feature a Google Map displaying photos, quotes, and Tweets featuring voters across the state.

Have a photo or a story to share? Tweet your photos at us at @reesenews, or email them to

Read up on today’s election:

(News and Observer) President Barack Obama planned to visit North Carolina on election day

(FiveThirtyEight) North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage appears likely to pass

(Huffington Post) What would Dr. King say about Amendment One?

(WNCT) Church leaders run the gamut when it comes to Amendment One

(The Guardian) North Carolina: Civil rights groups urge voters to oppose gay marriage ban

(The New York Times) Bigotry on the Ballot

(Religion Dispatches) NC’s Amendment 1: “It’s going to hurt the church”

(Christian Science Monitor) North Carolina ready for constitutional ban on gay marriages, says poll

(POLITICO) North Carolina governor: Gay marriage ban “hurts our brand”

(CNN) Bill Clinton chimes in on NC same-sex marriage ban

An unlikely engineer

Chase Lewis, 12-year-old home-schooled student, first heard about the famine in Somalia while reading news articles with his mother.

“Refugees often had to walk two to three weeks to get to a refugee center with food and water,” Lewis said in an email. “Sometimes the refugees were so weak, and sometimes the parent had so many kids, that they could no longer carry all their malnourished children.”

“So they left the children on the roadside to die.”

After learning of these children’s fate, Lewis decided to act.

The 12-year-old designed a wheeled travois, a triangular cart that attaches to the wearer’s waist, to assist refugees who face the problem of having to leave children behind.

This past week, Lewis built a prototype out of parachute material, two wheels, a padded belt and an aluminum axle bar. His mother, Michelle Lewis, successfully transported his sister Kristin, who weighs around 70 pounds, with the device.

Although 12 seems young for such a feat, Lewis’ parents first noticed his innovative skills when he was just five years old.  His father, Doug Lewis, said that was the age he first started showing interest in both the visible and invisible light spectrum.

“When Chase started reading TIME Magazine on a regular basis and talking to us about events going on in the world, it seemed natural to us,” his father said in an email. “I guess his knowledge, and concern, about what is going on all over the planet is a little unusual for a 12-year-old.”

Lewis attributes part of his abilities and passions to being home-schooled because he has a lot of time to pursue his own projects.

“If I were in school, I would have to spend a lot of time re-learning what I already know,” he said. “As a home-schooled student, I can focus on learning, and trying out, what I don’t know.”

Lewis’ mother agrees.

“I really don’t think they’d have the bandwidth for some of these intense, hands-on projects if they were spending most of their days at a desk in school,” his mother said in an email, referring to Lewis and his nine-year-old sister.

“I plan to put them both into school when they reach 8th grade, but I keep wondering if doing that will squelch their enthusiasm and limit their time for these other types of projects, which end up challenging them in some ways more than school does,” she said.

This year, Chase won first place in Middle School Chemistry at the North Carolina Student Academy of Science’s competition and the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair for his experiment to see whether the tightness of weave of a nitrocellulose strip would affect the burn rate in grams per second.  He also won the Science Award from the U.S. Naval Research Center and has been nominated to advance to nationals.

“These projects are complex enough that he needs not only our advice, but the advice of experts,” Lewis’ mother said. “The Chapel Hill fire marshal gave him advice about his nitrocellulose project. A mechanical engineering professor is giving him advice on his refugee travois.”

Dr. Richard Johnson, a mechanical engineering professor at North Carolina State University, talked to Lewis about his travois. Michelle Lewis said he and his wife came up with alternative applications for the travois including helping remote communities bring their sick or elderly to nearby villages for medical care.

Lewis plans to enter his travois in the 3M/Discovery Challenge for middle school students, which encourages young people to solve everyday problems with science. This year’s theme is related to the way people move, keep themselves healthy and make a difference.

This article was reported as a part of the 253 Reporting course at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

North Carolina football played its 2012 spring football game at 3 p.m. on Sat., April 14.

The final score of the scrimmage was 44-21 in favor of the blue team, including 14 points that were given to the white team at halftime.

Takeaways from the game:

Installment of the new offense

North Carolina will be implementing a spread offense under the direction of new Head Coach Larry Fedora, and the team is still ironing out the kinks.

Head Coach Larry Fedora’s thoughts on the offensive play:

One of the major offensive issues during the spring game was adapting to the tempo of the no-huddle style Fedora hopes to play. Saturday’s scrimmage saw a series of false-start and illegal formation penalties from both the blue and white offensive lineups as the quarterbacks navigated the game with the new style.

Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Blake Anderson‘s thoughts on the offensive play:

Bryn Renner leading the race for starting QB spot

Bryn Renner proved himself to be the front-runner for the starting quarterback position with his performance in the spring game.

With an 82 percent completion rate, Renner navigated the new offense with 23 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns.

This compares to 123 yards from redshirt freshman Marquise Williams who threw 17 completed passes and 45 yards from redshirt freshman Caleb Pressley who threw eight completions.

Head Coach Larry Fedora’s thoughts on Renner’s performance:

While Renner may have outperformed his peers during the scrimmage, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Blake Anderson said Renner needs to continue adapting to the new offense to prepare for the fall.

Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Blake Anderson’s thoughts on Renner’s performance:

Romar Morris’ 21 points

Romar Morris, redshirt freshman runningback, had a stand-out performance for the Tar Heels after starting back Giovani Bernard left the game for a time with an injury.

Head Coach Larry Fedora on Morris’ performance:

With two touchdown receptions from quarterback Bryn Renner and one rushing touchdown, Morris scored the most points during the spring game.

He caught three passes for 35 yards–two of which were scoring plays–and rushed for a total of 40 yards in nine carries.

With the increased tempo of Carolina’s new style of offense, the team will be dependent on a number of backs to share playtime and the redshirt freshman stepping up come fall may be crucial to the team’s success.

Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Blake Anderson’s thoughts on Morris’ performance:


The game was played at Kenan Stadium on the UNC campus. The scrimmage consisted of a four-quarter game with a normal clock during the first half and a running clock during the second half.

On May 8, the hottest items on the N.C. ballot will be picking a candidate in the Republican pimary and voting on Amendment One, which bans all forms of legally recognized marriages other than those between and man and a woman.

Will even one of these two reasons be enough to draw N.C. college students to the polls?

Taking into account that final exams for UNC, Duke University and N.C. State University end May 4, May 5 and May 9 respectively, meaning many will have no structure on May 8 because the semester has ended and their summer job hasn’t started, here are the predictions for who would bother to fill out a ballot in the May primaries.

With an assignment of reporting on voter apathy, I started with asking friends.

“Yes, I am an apathetic voter. Why do you care?” was a common response.

College students might have Tweeted about Rep. Anthony Weiner sending a lewd picture of himself to all his Twitter followers, or shared a campaign video of Rick Perry’s on a friend’s Facebook wall for a good laugh, but they are unlikely to turn out at the polls to vote for or against these politicians.

They, like the rest of America, are suffering from voter apathy.

But one friend caught me off-guard when I asked him if he voted.

“Of course I vote! I have to exercise my civic duty,” said Jack Zapple, and it should be noted that his father is running for county commissioner of New Hanover County. “If anything, it’s because so few in the world can.”

Very true. Let’s compare the U.S.’s voting situation to Afghanistan’s. Afghanistan held its first election in 2004, which had an 83 percent turnout from the registered voters and 67 percent turnout from the voting age population, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Although the voting day was relatively peaceful, nearly 1,000 people, including U.S. troops, election workers and Afghan voters, were reported killed by Associated Press in 2004 before the election. 

Threatened by attacks from the Taliban and other armed opposition groups, Afghans have voted less in subsequent elections. In 2010, possibly plus or minus a few fraud ballots, 45.8 percent of the registered voters and only 29.7 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot.

Now let’s think about voting in the U.S. Those passionate about U.S. citizens exercising their civic duty popped the champagne bottles in 2008 when 5 million more people voted in the presidential election than in 2004, with a total of 49 percent of the registered 18-to-24-year-old  voters and  64 percent turnout for the voting age population, according to the U.S. Census.

In other words, for the two countries’ most popular elections of the past decade, four out of five registered voters cast a ballot in Afghanistan despite insurgent attacks, compared to three out of five registered voters in the U.S.

Some complain that the right to vote is still threatened in the U.S. by states passing laws requiring identification cards at the polls, or adding other steps to the voting process,  but the real problem is that people just don’t care or bother.

On May 8, the North Carolina ballot will include democratic governor nominations, Republican presidential candidate nominations and Amendment One, banning gay marriage and unrecognizing all relationships other than marriage between a man and a woman.

In the May primaries for 2008, Wake County, where N.C. State University is located, saw a 39.2 percent turnout; Orange County, holding UNC, saw a 48.5 percent turnout; and Durham County, containing Duke University, saw at 51.27 percent turnout. There are hot issues on the ballot for both registered Republicans and Democrats, but since none of the Republican candidates have made as trendy campaign posters as Barack Obama did in 2008, it is unclear whether the actual candidates and issues at hand will be enough to get the Triangle Area college students to vote.

Taking into account that final exams for UNC, Duke University and N.C. State University end May 4, May 5 and May 9 respectively, meaning many will have no structure on May 8 because the semester has ended and their summer job hasn’t started, here are the predictions for who would bother to fill out a ballot in the May primaries. What do you think?

Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte and the 2008 Republican nominee for the governorship, is gearing up for a flurry of campaign stops after announcing his candidacy Jan. 31 in Greensboro.

McCrory, the likely favorite for the GOP nomination, is ramping up his public appearances with stops in McDowell, Orange, Wake, Stanly and Mecklenburg counties all scheduled for February.

According to his campaign website, McCrory will host an “Orange County Lincoln/Reagan Day Reception Dinner” Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. at Sunrise Church, located at 1315 New Hope Trace, Chapel Hill.

McCrory followed up his official entry into the race by holding rallies in Hendersonville and New Bern on Feb. 1 before capping the two-day campaign launch by greeting supporters Thursday at a kickoff event in Wilmington.

McCrory’s Upcoming Campaign Events

  • Feb. 10, 2012: McDowell County Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner
  • Feb. 11, 2012Orange County Lincoln/Reagan Day Reception and Dinner
  • Feb. 16, 2012: Wake County GOP Precinct Meeting
  • Feb. 18, 2012: Stanly County Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner
  • Feb. 25, 2012: Mecklenburg Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner Reception and Dinner

Source:; The Pat McCrory Committee

The Republican hopeful, whose bipartisan approach during his record 14-year stretch as mayor of Charlotte earned him widespread popularity, is focusing his campaign message on improving the state’s economy and putting North Carolinians back to work.

Days before McCrory launched his second gubernatorial bid, Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue — who seized the post in 2008 after beating McCrory in a close race — announced she would not seek re-election, effectively making the 2012 election an open-seat race.

McCrory, who is expected to face little competition on the road to the Republican nomination, will likely square off against either Lt. Gov. Walter DaltonState Rep. Bill Faison or former Congressman Bob Etheridge — the only Democrats to launch gubernatorial bids thus far — in November.

Two other Democrats, Congressman Brad Miller and former N.C. Treasurer Richard Moore, are said to be seriously considering bids of their own.

Former UNC-system President Erskine Bowels, who served as the White House chief of staff under President Clinton, announced Feb.2 that he would not run for the office.

Children from low-income families who participated in an early childhood education program were 4.6 times more likely to obtain a college degree than those without early childhood education, according to a study.

The Carolina Abecedarian Project, led by the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, followed a group of more than 100 participants born between 1972 and 1977 from childhood through early adulthood and found that 23 percent of the children who participated in a high-quality early childhood education program in the 1970s ultimately graduated from a four-year college or university.

Of those in the control group, which did not receive early childhood schooling, only 6 percent obtained a four-year degree.

While these findings suggest long-ranging benefits for early education research, funding for North Carolina’s award-winning More at Four pre-kindergarten program has been cut more than $10 million since 2008, and 346 pre-kindergarten teaching jobs have been lost, according to the N.C. State Board of Education.

Michael Tomsic, reporter with reesenews’ affiliate radio program Carolina Connection, sat down with Frances Campbell, senior scientist with the FPG Child Development Institute and principle investigator of the project’s follow-up studies, to talk about the findings:


Less unemployed North Carolinians requiring fewer benefits may be one way early education can save the government money. The odds of being consistently employed were more than twice as high for those in the early-educated individuals, the study said.

The program participants worked full-time 75 percent of the time during the two years preceding the information being taken. Of those without early childhood education, 53 percent of the individuals worked full time, and they were six times more likely to receive public assistance or welfare for more than eight months during a seven-year period.

Unemployment in North Carolina rose to 9.8 percent with 440,022 unemployed in December 2011, according to a Feb. 1 report from the N.C. Department of Commerce. In 2011, North Carolina paid more than $3.7 billion in benefits to jobless citizens.

The state tops the U.S. unemployment rate of 8.5 percent of the workforce during the same month, according to a release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When companies begin hiring they may favor those with a college education.

The Abecedarian Project’s findings were published online with the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Developmental Psychology.


Unemployed and unqualified: Education cuts may leave NC workers without jobs || reesenews

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Carolina Connection airs Saturday at 8:30 a.m. on 1360 AM WCHL.

Erskine Bowles, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina system, owns the rights to 20,000 shares in Facebook Inc. that can be cashed out for what may be a hefty pay-day.

Bowles, who serves on the social media company’s board of directors, was given this stake in the company as compensation in addition to a fee of $66,667, which includes an annual retainer fee, for his services on the board, according to Facebook’s initial public offering filing.

The shares Bowles holds, which are restricted stock that cannot be traded until a specified date, were valued by the company at $601,400, or $30.07 a share, as of the Feb. 2 filing. While the company did not disclose how many shares it plans to sell or at what price, the per-share value may rise–or fall–drastically once the shares hit the public market.

As a comparison, the shares of Facebook’s competitor in web advertising, Google Inc., are selling at more than 5.8 times their initial public offering price of $100 since the company went public in August 2004. Bloomberg News is reporting that Facebook’s valuation may end up being more than five times that of Google’s initial offering.

As the share price fluctuates on the public market, the initial public offering indicates that Bowles’ shares will be available to sell at the share price at the time on the following dates:

  • Oct. 13, 2012:  5,416 and two-sixth shares
  • After Oct. 13, 2012:  1,250 shares every three months for two years and nine months
  • Oct. 15, 2015:  833 and one-third shares

Facebook plans to sell its shares with the ticker “FB.”

Bowles joined the social media company’s board of directors in September 2011, serving alongside Marc Andreessen, Netscape co-founder and venture capitalist; James W. Breyer, president of Accel Management Co. and founder and chief executive officer of investment firm Breyer Capital; Donald E. Graham, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.; Reed Hastings, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Netflix; Peter A. Thiel, former chief executive officer and co-founder of PayPal; and Mark Zuckerberg, chairman of the board, chief executive and creator of Facebook.

“Erskine has held important roles in government, academia and business which have given him insight into how to build organizations and navigate complex issues,” Zuckerberg said in a Sept. 7 statement. “Along with his experience founding companies, this will be very valuable as we continue building new things to help make the world more open and connected.”

Bowles was president of the UNC System from 2006-2011 and the 2011 recipient of the the University Award, the UNC Board of Governors’ highest award.

After being considered as the Democrats’ candidate for N.C. governor when the current Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue announced that she would not try for an additional term, Bowles announced Thursday morning that he will not be running in the state’s gubernatorial race.


FB’s IPO Share may be 5x Google valuation || Bloomberg News

Bowles won’t run for governor || WRAL

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, spoke at UNC-Chapel Hill Wednesday against tuition increases at the state’s universities.

At a press conference outside of South Building, Barber insisted that the General Assembly must find other means to balance the budget without such deep cuts to education funding. In 2011, the legislature cut $414 million in state funding to the 17-institution University of North Carolina system.

Barber’s visit to the campus comes nine days before the UNC Board of Governors is expected to vote on tuition increase proposals from across the University of North Carolina system, including the following proposed increases at UNC-CH:

  • 15.6 percent, or $800 increase, for resident undergraduate students
  • 15.6 percent, or $1,057 increase, for resident graduate tuition
  • 6.5 percent, or $1,622 increase, for non-resident undergraduate tuition
  • 6.5 percent, or $1,555 increase, for non-resident graduate tuition

In October, schools across the 17-institution UNC system were notified that campuses would be allowed to implement a one-time unlimited tuition increase above the state required 6.5, which was put in place by the Board of Governors in 2006 to abet rapidly rising tuition.

The UNC-CH tuition proposal was passed by the University’s Board of Trustees in November when Student Body President Mary Cooper cast the lone vote against the proposal, which is meant to bridge the gap after a $100 million cut in state funding for the University.

The proposal has since met opposition from UNC system President Tom Ross, who has recommended an average 8.8 percent systemwide in-state tuition increase for 2012-2013 and capped the tuition hike at 10 percent, and from former Board of Governors members in the form of a petition against the increases.

The implementation of the tuition increases “will make these institutions inaccessible to many qualified young men and women and breach the moral and constitutional duties of our state to all of our citizens,” the petition said.

In the press conference at the Chapel Hill campus, Barber said he agreed.

The rally

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, students and Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood, Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition Coordinator for the N.C. NAACP, held a rally on the steps of South Building called “Protect Our Education: Voices Raised Against Tuition Increases.”

Students gather as Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood, Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition Coordinator for the N.C. NAACP, speaks out against tuition increases. (Alex Barinka/ reesenews)

Though the students on the steps outnumbered the audience, shouts of “Whose University? Our University?” rang across the lawn.

Gatewood, in a lyrical address to the audience, also spoke out against the legislature’s choices in allocating state dollars and the education funding cuts.

The $414 million in state dollars for the UNC system cut in 2011 was followed by program cuts at campuses across the system to cope with falling revenues. At UNC-CH, more than 500 courses were eliminated in fall 2011 after the $100 million in cuts, and the effects on the classroom may worsen.

The Chapel Hill campus was able to implement a budget reduction of about $80 million after a one-time $20 million transfer in funds from the UNC Health Care System. The proposed tuition increases would raise about $15 million in revenue next year as the school does not have other options for additional fund transfers.

As the Feb. 10 Board of Governors vote nears, the student protesters are planning to march against being charged as the source of additional revenue. Students plan to rally on the day of the meeting beginning at 8 a.m. in The Pit, and Gatewood said he would join them.

On Sat., Feb. 11, the N.C. NAACP and its partners will march on Raleigh at the 6th Annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly to rally its 14-point agenda which includes equitable education.

Complete audio from Barber’s press conference:

By Brian Walker — Carolina Connection


UNC president recommends 8.8 percent tuition increase systemwide || reesenews

Uneducated and unqualified: Education cuts may leave NC workers without jobs || reesenews

UNC Board of Trustees passes 15.6 percent tuition increase || reesenews

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