Kirk Ross is no stranger to these pages, or to rock 'n' roll fans around the Triangle. He's lived here for 23 years, and until last May was managing editor of the Independent. Before that, he spent 10 years (off and on) as a layout artist, reporter, editor and columnist at The Chapel Hill News. Now, he's editor of The Carrboro Citizen, a weekly that debuts on March 21, closely aimed at the town known as the Paris of the Piedmont. And for 17 years he's played guitar in the band Lud.
Why does Carrboro need a newspaper?
Carrboro is an entity of 17,000 people and growing. It has a handful of schools that are among the state's best, it has its own distinct community feel, and there's nothing that says just because two towns are next to each other, the smaller one can't have its own newspaper. And Carrboro sort of leans west; culturally this area is very connected to North Chatham and Saxapahaw. It's a distinct region.
With newspapers in trouble these days, why not just do it on the Web?
When we first talked about this with a class at UNC, they did a survey to see if people in Carrboro wanted or would support a newspaper, and 99 out of 100 said they wanted a paper they could hold in their hands. For me that was a pretty stunning response, because I was prepared just to do something online. There're an awful lot of people in this town, as wired as it is, that aren't going to read a paper any other way.... You'll see integration between the web and print, multimedia that takes off from our stories.
So, how'd you manage to find the only person in Carrboro who happens to own an offset web press?
He's the only one I know. He started the ball rolling when he suggested to the [UNC] kids that they look into a newspaper for Carrboro. He's Robert Dixon. Everyone knows him as "Bubba." He and his sister own The News-Journal in Raeford, in Hoke County. About four years ago he moved to Carrboro—his wife is from Chapel Hill and his kids live here.
Who are these kids at UNC? What about when they're not around?
It's Jock Lauterer's community journalism class. They're putting out an online, mostly feature Web publication about Carrboro (www.carrborocommons.org). There's also Andy Bechtel's news editing class that's editing their stories. They're independently producing their stuff and we have an agreement to look it over. We've got two reporters, one of whom is an old Indy hand, Taylor Sisk. We have an ad sales person, a design person and an office person. Bubba, me, the office person and the ad person are full-time, the rest are part-time. And we're going to get a lot from the community.
Aren't there already two papers covering the town?
The papers that cover Carrboro are trying to cover a lot larger region than just Carrboro. And they're not writing for the town. We don't have to explain Carrboro to Carrboro. Other papers write about the cute Paris of the Piedmont and stuff like that, and we're getting beyond that. This is a town with serious issues, and it's a vibrant community, and we want to reflect that. We do have foreign correspondents who'll be doing dispatches from the big city of Chapel Hill, especially as it affects Carrboro, such as Carolina North [UNC-CH's planned expansion] and transportation.
How many are you printing?
Five thousand. We didn't want to follow that model of throwing one in everybody's driveway. They can e-mail us, sign up, and we'll deliver it to their house. It's free, in-town home delivery.
Is there going to be time for band practice?
It's part of being a part of this community.