Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

18 Nov

In the Digital age, we know our readers have many questions. We at the News & Observer wanted to anticipate at least some of these questions and answer them. We know you may still have more. Please do not hesitate to ask. Our aim is to make this website and all our digital platforms as easy to navigate as possible. Thank you.

News & Observer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the most common access points for the News & Observer Online?

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My questions were not covered but I need direction and assistance. What can I do?

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North Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District: Blue and getting bluer

12 Nov

Questions: I asked questions mostly at first generally about thoughts on District, then opinions on future of District with redistricting. Also, focused on questions regarding demographics and trends politically in District and North Carolina.

Facts: Checked facts with official sources and news reports on District which were plentiful. The timeliness of article aided in fact/data collection. Found that few of the facts mostly supported source statements.

Sources: In addition to sources quoted, I attempted to contact political science profressors at Elon; Larry Sabato, University of Virginia professor and political pundit and made some in-roads into contacting Price himself. I believe timeliness worked against me around election week in reaching all of them.

Audience: Article would best be suited for a national political outlet like The Washington Post, New York Times or any other seeking local view on national political trends.

CHAPEL HILL – Here the preferred blue is a light one. A few miles north and it’s a darker shade that is the favorite.

North Carolina and Duke sports fans can debate which shade reigns supreme. If the conversation, shifts to politics and the Fourth Congressional District they share, blue (Democrat) is the consensus. The shade does not matter.

Red (Republican)? That’s for N.C. State and Raleigh or perhaps anywhere else in the Old North State.

“Let’s be honest. Chapel Hill and Durham are the epicenters for liberalism in North Carolina,” said Bill Cobey, a former University of North Carolina athletic director and North Carolina Republican Party chairman who is one of two Republicans to represent the District over the last 30 years. “When you go to other parts of North Carolina – the more conservative parts especially – you get some looks when you tell them you’re from Chapel Hill.”

Democratic Dominance

On Tuesday, the District that encompasses Chapel Hill, Durham and other portions of the Triangle, re-elected Democrat David Price to his 13th term and ninth consecutive term. He won with 74.4% of the vote over Republican challenger Tim D’Annunzio. Price has now averaged over 65% of the vote in his last several elections.

Price, a political science and public policy professor at Duke prior to his legislative career, defeated Cobey in the 1986 election. He has only been displaced once since. That was during the Republican wave of 1994 which swept in former Raleigh police chief Fred Heineman.

It was a short respite, however, as Price defeated Heineman in the 1996 rematch and he has been there ever since.

D’Annunzio, like several Republican candidates before him, was more of a sacrificial lamb than formidable candidate. According to North Carolina official election results, few Republican challengers have even crested over 35% of the vote against Price.

“I’m just not sure that anyone can beat him,” Cobey said. “I’d tell most of the Republicans that run against him not to quit their day jobs.”

District Demographics

Outside of North Carolina, such Democrat dominance and “blue-ness” of a Congressional District in a perceived red state might raise eyebrows.

And when you look at vitals of the District (before the 2011 redistricting) it might be more puzzling to a non-North Carolina political demographer.

North Carolina Fourth Congressional District Key Facts

  • Current representative: David Price (D)
  • Where: Portions of Durham, Orange, Wake, Chatham and Harnett counties
  • Demographics: 65% White-Non Hispanic, 20% African-American (Non-Hispanic),  8% Hispanic
  • Median Income: $63,000
  • Voter Registration: 54% Democrat, 18% Republican, 28% Independent/Unaffiliated.  
    Sources: U.S. Census data, N.C. State Board of Elections,

U.S. Census data and that of (which creates demographic profiles of congressional districts), the district was over 65% White-Non Hispanic with nearly 20% African-American (Non-Hispanic) and about 8% Hispanic. The median household income of the district is nearly $63,000, easily the highest of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional districts.

Those figures were reduced by the redistricting based on the 2010 census, but GOP strategists usually like those kind of numbers. Instead they run from the District.

The reason? The combination of a strong African-American center in Durham and an academic, liberal-leaning contingent in Chapel Hill create that “epicenter of liberalism in North Carolina” as Cobey mentioned earlier.

But it’s not just Cobey who makes that assessment. National political pollster Charlie Cook does too. His Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) ranks Districts on how strong they lean Democrat or Republican. The Fourth District has a PVI D+17 which makes it easily one of the strongest Democrat leaning districts in the South.

“The district definitely clusters together some traditional Democratic neighborhoods,” said Rob Christensen, a longtime political columnist and report for the News & Observer.

Added Cobey: “It’s just a very Democratic district. It was a Democrat district when I won it too but more so now. We had a few more Republican counties, like Randolph County, when I was in the District but that’s not true anymore.”

All politics are local and North Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District is no different. In a state that passed – by a 61% margin – a measure to define marriage as solely between a man and woman, the counties clustered around the Fourth Congressional District (Orange, Durham) voted against the measure.

Accordingly, Orange and Durham counties rejected the measure by nearly identical margins as the rest of the state passed it.

That evidence coupled with the dated perceptions about North Carolina politically, might lead some to think of the Fourth as some liberal haven. And many would not disagree. But when talking politics where everything is spun, there is another point of view.

The Fourth probably sways more Democratic regardless, but North Carolina itself is at least purpler than it once was. The state voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney barely eked out a victory here last week.

Those who monitor this District and the political pulse of the state, however, are not shy away from “microcosm” analogy.

“It has generally been a Triangle district, including a high-tech, fast growing area overall,” Christensen said. “I would say that issues like federal funding for education, research and science would be more important in the Fourth than other places.”


There is a saying in this area to never miss the forest through the trees. While Republicans have minimal influence here in the Fourth, they do have significant influence in Raleigh. And it is in Raleigh where the maps of congressional districts are drawn.

In 2010, the Republicans gained control of the State Assembly in North Carolina for the first time in over 100 years. Their takeover coincided with the U.S. Census release, which triggered the once-a-decade redistricting process.

For the North Carolina Republicans, the redistricting process was focused on creating favorable districts. Often, the byproduct of redistricting is intentionally making already strong opposition districts stronger.

The reason? If you can “fence” strong opposition constituencies and margins in one district, you limit the influence in other districts.

In the Fourth, that meant =lacing more Democratic-leaning areas into the District so more favorable Republican districts could be created elsewhere. The result is an even heavier Democratic lean to Fourth and an interesting map visually.

“The North Carolina Republican legislature, in an effort to make surrounding districts more Republican, took away GOP-leaning suburbs in Cary and moved predominately black Southeast Raleigh into the district,” Christensen said. “To accomplish that, they created a narrow line, so that at one point, the 4th district follows the Cape Fear River. You literally cannot drive or walk across the new 4th district, although you could swim or kayak across it.”

Christensen’s response is tongue-in-cheek.  This kind of redistricting or gerrymandering, however, is the norm and not the exception.

University of North Carolina political science professor James Stimson explains the process that confounds at cartographer but makes perfect sense to a politician.

“When you do a gerrymander an obvious starting point is that you cannot influence the total vote. The best you can do is re-arranging it so that many votes for the other party are wasted,” Stimson said. “That means that if you are going to create more districts where the Republican is a likely winner, the obvious goal of the NC legislature, the way to do it is to find one or more districts that you are willing to write off and dump as many Democrats into those districts as you can.”

And thus under this philosophy, the Republicans have essentially conceded the Fourth for quite some time.

“The GOP made him [Price] more secure than he had been by taking Democrats out of surrounding districts and putting them in the Fourth,” Stimson said. “They figured that he would win anyhow, so they gave him an even bigger margin so that they could draw neighboring districts that Republicans could win. So Price is very secure in a year in which everyone expects the Republicans to gain seats in NC. The fact that he is so secure is no accident.”

It was also no accident that last Tuesday’s results produced at least a 9-4 Republican margin in North Carolina’s 13 Congressional Districts. That could even grow to 10-3 pending an ongoing recount in the Seventh District.

Cobey, as the former state GOP chairman, is acutely aware of the redistricting and knows that he’ll continue to be the last living Republican to represent the Fourth for a long time (Heineman passed away in 2010).

Cobey, who still lives in Chapel Hill, knows he’s something of a footnote and almost laughs at the thought.

“I just don’t see it,” said Cobey of a fellow Republican joining him among those representing the District. “Voting patterns are voting patterns and they don’t change much and they’ll likely not change here anytime soon.”

News & Observer Seeking a Vice President of Digital Content

28 Oct

(This is an assignment for a class; the content may be intended to be fictional)

The News & Observer is seeking a vice president of content with a focus on social media. The qualified applicant will have a bachelor’s degree or higher with at least 5-10 years in experience in journalism and implementation of social media platforms. This new position will report directly to chief digital officer and will work in conjunction with the newspapers other heads of editorial content.

In addition, the qualified applicant must submit the following for consideration:

  • Five Microsoft PowerPoint slides depicting five best-in-class uses of social media by current media outlets
  • Three case studies of the applicant’s successful social media platforms
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Links to the applicant’s professional Facebook and/or Twitter pages or feeds
  • A one-page Microsoft Word Document that outlines the applicant’s views on the future of social media
  • A list of the applicant’s thoughts on top 10 Twitter follows and why
  • A one-page Microsoft Word Document that shares the applicant’s thoughts on the positives and negatives of the News & Observer’s current social media platform
  • A final one-page Microsoft Word Document that outlines the applicant’s thoughts on best methods to monetize social media content

The News & Observer offers competitive benefits and salaries and is an equal opportunity employer. Please submit your materials to Andrew Joyner,

Crowdsourced and User Generated Content

28 Oct

(This is an assignment for a class; the content may be intended to be fictional)

As the Ombudsman of the News & Observer, I wanted to outline a few notes, guidelines and policies in regard to how we will handle content generated from readers, observers or crowds. We certainly encourage our readers and followers to send us their original content. At the same time we strive to maintain the highest levels of factual integrity and validity. We cannot compromise those ideals to simply integrate more user generated content. We are trying to be honest and transparent with our users and hope you will respect us for that stance.

  • The News & Observer will verify all user or crowdsourced content that it uses
  • No content will be used without the consent of the individual that produce and submitted it
  • The News & Observer will source all content by the individual or individual(s) by name including photographs, multimedia, social media exchanges, etc.
  • The News & Observer will NOT source any content anonymously (i.e., if the user opts not to consent to it being used and cited, we will simply not use it all)
  • When appropriate we will implement crowdsourced or user generated content into our original content in order to supplement coverage.
  • If the News & Observer receives inquiries from local, state or federal officials in regard to the content it will cooperate based with the user information submitted.
  • As with any content it publishes, the News & Observer reserves editorial judgment on how it is or is not used.
  • The News & Observer compiled this list in consultation with its in-house legal counsel and we suggest following this link to read further and more precise legal discussion of user and crowdsourced content.

A Note from Our Ombudsman

28 Oct

(This content is for classwork and may be fictional)

Online Content Guidelines

Given the changing nature of news the in the 21st century, I wanted to give a synopsis of our guidelines and policies regarding online content.

                    I.            Corrections

                                 i.            All necessary corrections[1] to online content will be noted and time-stamped at the top of articles, blogs, photos or multimedia.

                               ii.            In terms of social media, The News & Observer will acknowledge either via the same medium or in a companion article online errors (i.e., if one of our reporters incorrectly tweets or retweets information, an apology and correction will be issued via that twitter/Facebook feed or in a separate item on

                              iii.            In addition, I will maintain a daily blog and twitter feed to monitor our online content. I will provide real time analysis of our coverage and note corrections in real time

                  II.            Clarifications

                                 i.            The Ombudsman receives right to clarify any news items from our reporters in real time

                               ii.            Our reporters or photographers will clarify any questionable aspects to an article, blog or tweet within 15 minutes of an article or blog or tweet’s submission

                              iii.            The ombudsman’s, online editor’s and reporter’s email address and twitter handle will be available on every webpage and our readers are encourage to contact them

                III.            Our Promise

                                 i.            The News & Observer promises its readers to provide the best, most accurate and most timely coverage possible. That encompasses a dedication to correct, clarify and corroborate all online content.


[1] Corrections in our definition is factual inaccuracies that had previously been published “live.” Corrections in this instance does not reference any editorial or grammatical changes made in the course of publishing the article

VP Debate Live Blog

11 Oct

(This is for a class work assignment; some references are fictitious)

10:33: And that’s it. Initial thoughts were a win for Biden, but it was much closer than it began. Biden let his lead slip away a little. Now come the pundits who, depending on the network, will agree with me or disagree. Ryan did not perform badly. He’s just not as pronounced, for better or worse.

10:27: Pretty effective statement by Ryan on the “hope and change” bit. Obama/Biden had preached a different path but at best they are slinging the mud the same as their opponents if not worse.

10:25: Boom. There it is. Another effective crack by Biden on the 47%.

10:23: Interesting exchange. I will say that it is apparent both are men of strong faith.

10:18: Not sure I want to give a commentary on the answers here on faith. I’m a believer that this is a personal issue.

10:17: Very interesting question here about abortion and religion and faith. Kudos to the moderator for positioning in the way she has. Honestly to me the most fascinating portion of the evening.

10:14: As blustery as he is, Biden seems to have a tinge of arrogance actually. He reminds me of a guy I work with who is always right. He positions you as always wrong. Listening to Biden you wouldn’t think we have any problems in the country right now and clearly we do. 

10:07: Biden just used a word that I’m not sure what it was “conflating?”

10:05: Biden now bullying the moderator. You almost need to wind him down. I’m sensing that he’s about to do something to step in it and squander this large lead he’s built. And I that was not a true sports analogy there.

10:01: How fascinating would it be to gauge the reaction of someone who could only read the responses from both candidates. I think we all think Biden is winning because of his infliction and reactions. Ryan is making some good points but is just less emotional. It comes down to personal preference but in the visual/audio medium, clear wins for Biden so far.

9:56: Biden is a bit like a bull in a china shop or debates as such. He just runs around and interjects on anything at anytime. My guess if this was a bar setting, an opponent would probably want to punch him or tell him to zip it.

9:54: Some decent laughter there for Biden on the Jack Kennedy line, but her sort of fumbled it away. Big surprise.

9:50: Ryan making a lot of sense to me right now, but I think he’s still not reaching the right audiences right now. Again, the math is relatively simple to me, but not sure it connects with all the voters. It sounds like tricky math.

9:45: I think why Biden is doing so well now is that he makes it very personal and relates it to people in manner they can understand. Ryan is down in the weeds in a little with too many numbers and figures. Ryan is probably right though that Biden/Obama just trying to scare folks. That’s probably true.

9:42: Boom. Snarkiness and banter has arrived in the debate hall. I like it when the guys get a little snippy. Let’s face it, these guys don’t like each other. Ryan battling back but Biden still with lead on points at this juncture.

9:38: I could have predicted this. I’ve broken my own vow on the sports analogies because this is similar to a boxing match. Ryan hitting back and is clearly well-versed on Medicare. Making points that make sense to many … most of us under 65 at least.

9:35: Biden again hitting Ryan hard, especially about the stimulus funds going to Wisconsin. Biden making great points and Ryan is reeling a tad. Looks a little rattled.

9:33: Good zinger there by Ryan about misspeaking. It gets a big laugh in the hall. Biden basically gaffes on the gaffe by saying he always means what he says. I actually don’t that is what he meant to say.

9:29: First real counter-punching by Ryan here and it’s working. Of course, it’s the economy so perhaps a little more in his comfort zone. I think it’s a tough response for Biden when Ryan says “they inherited a bad situation [sic] but now it is worse.”

9:26: Good start by Biden on economy and hammering away. There it is, the 47% line. We all knew it was coming. A real populist soliloquy here by Biden.

9:25: On to the economy, cannot tell if Biden still wants to talk about security more. Biden is jumping on every question and it’s a tad annoying but working to his advantage I think. 

9:22: Bunch of “stuff” and Bebe? Not sure if most Americans know who Bebe is. I do know that Bobo is a friend of Yogi Bear. Blustery Biden has swept into the debate. A little too fired up, needs to pull back. Seems a little over-the-top again. But maybe Biden just being Biden.

9:18: This debate is already better moderated than last week. Perhaps Raddatz is the real winner so far.

9:15: No smirks but some visible smiling/laughing by Biden. I’m not a huge body language guy but Biden clearly checked-in whereas Obama was checked-out last week.

9:12: Okay, I’m going to soak in and then blog. This isn’t Twitter and I’m to old or more my fingers are.

9:10: Great counterpoint by Biden and old-schoolers have to love the use of mularkey. This round to Biden so far. Sort of dad teaching a son about foreign policy.

9:08: Measured response by Ryan, no frills really. Did make point of why did Obama wait and youtube. Sort of brings it home for people.

9:05: First question to Biden about Libya and love that moderator Martha Raddatz gets right into it. Good answer so far by Biden, saying it was a tragedy and basically accepting some accountablity. Now turning it into comparison on security/terrorism between Romney and Obama perhaps almost to quick a transition to that. A tad over-the-top maybe.

9:02: Both men in dark suits. Red-stripped tie for Biden, blue-ish tie with red for Ryan. Striking difference in age but not much in height both I’d guess about 6-foot-2.

9:01: Ready for Bedlam in the Bluegrass?

8:58: Thoughts on most uttered words tonight in debate and media spin? My guesses are Momentum, Libya, Taxes, Obamacare, Truth, Gaffes, 47%

8:54: Last thought, I think table-style format actually enhances possibility for good back-and-forth. How many of us have discussions with are wives/partners/boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others will standing? 

8:50: Very red state, very red rug/carpet on the debate floor.

8:45: Now just 15 minutes to go. Any thoughts on first questions? My guess is something about eastern or western-style North Carolina BBQ. Just kidding. My guess is question to Ryan about past policy differences between him and Romney that apparently have been reconciled (re: Romney’s healthcare in Mass.)

8:33: And just as I write that, our desk alerts me to this article about Romney maintaining same lead in our state post-debate last week.

8:28: About a half hour to go now. According to one of our stories, new polls show President Obama holding slight leads in key swing states. We have not heard any new numbers from here in N.C. recently.

8:16: Just about 45 minutes away now. What is more fascinating these days are the pre-debate narratives and expectations setting. Tonight, ask a Democrat and they’ll set low expectations and proclaim the Ryan is the favorite going in. Republicans will counter by propping up Biden actually and saying that he’s a lot better debater then he’s given credit for and his gaffes are almost a political rope-a-dope. Why don’t we just see how they perform before the spin cycle hits. Btw, I’m finished with the sports analogies … I think.

8:07: Centre College has about 16,000 students and its athletic teams are nicknamed the Colonels. A famous alumnus with a tad of a local tie? How about Cawood Lewdord (’49), who was the voice of the Kentucky Wildcats for nearly30 years. His last game? It was Duke’s thrilling last second overtime victory over Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA East Regional Finals.

8:01: Many pundits in DC probably were tuned into this during much of the pre-debate hours. Apparently, DC is in full-blown #Natitude mode at the moment.

7:56: Terrorism and national security was a very secondary topic during the 2000 debate here. Of course, world would change drastically eleven monts later on Sept. 11, 2001. Interesting how often that gets mentioned tonight. Biden obviously well-versed on security issues/foreign affairs given last four years and previous time in Senate. Ryan is tagged more as domestic/economy wonk. Should be interesting.

7:45 p.m.: We will be providing live updates and commentary tonight from the Vice Presidential debate tonight at Centre College in Danville, Ky. Want to clarify that “Ky” for our N&O readers as it is not our nearby Danville, Virginia. Speaking of Danville, Va., VP Biden made this speech there in August that brought attention to his gaffe-prone nature. But back to Centre College. Previously, Centre College hosted a VP debate between then candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman in 2000.

Week 7 Assignment

7 Oct

(Note: This is for class assignment. It is fiction)

Joyner joins News & Observer
Columnist to focus on humor, local

Andrew Joyner, an award-winning journalist and sports writer, will join The  News & Observer as a daily columnist. His column begins Nov. 1 in the print version of the News & Observer. Additionally, Joyner will write specialized content for

Joyner comes to the The News & Observer from The Washington Post where he was a columnist and freelance writer for the past 15 years, the past four while based here in North Carolina. While at the Post, Joyner was a three-time winner of the Lewis Grizzard Award which honors newspaper columnists who merge humor and local insights into their writing.

News & Observer publisher and executive editor John A. Smith said he feels Joyner can fill a valuable void at the paper.

“We have been looking to return to our roots to some extent,” Smith said. “We’ve had a long tradition of columnists who could make us laugh while also putting flavor on local issues and we think Andrew will help us revitalize this area after it had been dormant for a few years.”

According to Smith, the idea to join The News & Observer was one hatched by Joyner.

“The amazing thing is that Andrew actually came to us with this idea. It was all quite unique. We’ve known each other for several years and he stopped by my office with three mock columns and told me just to read them,” Smith said. “It’s cliché but the rest really was history.”

Joyner, who generated record digital readership during his time at the Post, is excited to begin his new assignment.

Andrew Joyner Quick Facts
o New columnist at The News and Observer
o Previous columnist, staff writer at The Washington Post
o Three-time Lewis Grizzard Award winner
o Focuses on humor, life, local flavor

 “I’m looking forward to this opportunity and this really is a dream come true for me,” Joyner said. “I love and adore this area and getting the chance to chronicle it daily will be fascinating. I promise to anger some, annoy several but hopefully make all laugh a little.”

Joyner’s arrival at The News & Observer coincides with the release of his first book, Here’s What I Think, which is a collection of columns over the past 15 years. The book is published by the Washington Post Company. Joyner recently announced that a portion of the proceeds from the book will go to the Get Heeled Foundation. Joyner and his family have been involved in the charity for several years.

“I try to make people laugh and think. I cannot claim more than that. These people really help people and I wanted to do something for them,” Joyner said. “Since I have no other discernible talents, I thought this could help.”

Joyner began his career at The Cavalier Daily while a student at the University of Virginia, where he graduated in 1982. After the stint as columnist and sports editor of The Cavalier Daily, Joynerjoined the The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress. Joyner earned four Virginia Press Association Awards while at the Progress, where he served primarily as a sports writer covering the University of Virginia.

Joyner then moved to the Post. His initial coverage areas were on the sports side but he eventually transitioned to the Metro, Style and Opinion sections. Joyner ultimately became the Post’s national columnist and a freelance specialist after moving to North Carolina four years ago.

While Joyner has lived in North Carolina the past four years, his knowledge of the state and area extend beyond that. The majority of Joyner’s ancestors hail from the state and his own parents have lived in Chapel Hill for the past 25 years. Additionally, Joyner’s sister, Holly, was an All-American gymnast at the University of North Carolina and earned three degrees from the school.

Joyner lives in Chapel Hill with his wife, Elizabeth, who was recently named the Director of the Carolina Performing Arts, and their children. Joyner enjoys eating his wife’s food, listening to his wife’s singing , cheering on the Washington Nationals and Virginia Cavaliers and listening to Jimmy Buffett. He used to enjoy rooting for the Washington Redskins.    

Joyner prefers and encourages direct interaction so please feel free to reach him at:


Andrew William Joyner

Andrew Joyner


For questions or media inquiries, please contact @newsobservermedia or Melissa McClatchey.