This is why we need newspapers

I didn’t get to spend a ton of time with the Sunday Observer today, but two stories on the front page blew me away, and offered yet another reminder as to why newspapers are so valuable.

First, the story on the ridulously overpaid nonproft execs was an excellent piece of grunt-work investigative journalism. It takes hours of poring over tax forms, cultivating sources, and, yes, the occasional anonymous tip to uncover information like that. This is not sexy, United Way stuff. These are largely unknown charities, some not even in Charlote proper. But the salaries these people are making is a clear abuse of power, not to mention donor or taxpayer dollars. And you may think, well, yeah, but these are minor charity players. But you can bet every nonprofit exec in town read that story, and every nonprofit board member did too. As well as most donors. And a lot of them are looking at the numbers now. Excellent stuff by Ames Alexander, who is an excellent reporter.

Second, of course, the almost unbelievable story on former WBTV anchor Jon Robinson. Honestly, as I was reading the story, I wondered briefly if it was true, if Robinson wasn’t actually some sort of pathological liar who took a small drug problem and ran with it. But Mark Washburn clearly did his homework. You can debate Robinson’s true motivation for telling his story–and the online commenters predictably are doing that as I type–but to imagine this once rising star on skid row simply boggles the mind.

In 1997-98, I used to work out at the Uptown Y, and Robinson was there most nights I was, shooting hoops, often alone. Based on the timeline in the story, this was when he was mostly clean. He was good, and he always looked intense, focused. A few years later, I recall a local TV news director mentioning him as a rising star. Now the guy is broke, an addict, and almost homeless. These aren’t the kinds of stories we’re used to seeing in Charlotte. I hope Robinson can turn it around.

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