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Fractured Democracy: Rural News & Representation in North Carolina Media

Local news is in a state of crisis. For over a decade, there has been a steady succession of local outlets closing down, reporters being laid off, production schedules cut, and resources tightened. As a result, thousands of communities across the country have less access to critical information on governance, elections, education, health, and numerous issues specific to their cities, towns, and neighborhoods. This crisis both exacerbates and is exacerbated by systemic inequities in the U.S. media landscape. Many of the communities that have traditionally been underserved by local media are those most affected by its decline.

In partnership with Free Press, and inspired by PEN America’s recent report on the state of local news in the United States and a case study written by Jeremy Borden, join us on Thursday, January 9 at 7pm at the NorthStar Church of the Arts for a conversation about the media ecosystem in North Carolina and the relationship between local news, community, and class. The event, moderated by Southerly’s Lyndsey Gilpin, will feature Jeremy Borden, Free Press’s Alicia Bell, community advocate Crystal Cavalier, and journalist Antionette Kerr. 

The event is free and open to the public.



Alicia Bell (pronouns: they/she) was born and raised in Charlotte and lives and works there now trying to re-imagine a future where everyone thrives and the culture it takes to get us there. Alicia is the News Voices Organizing Manager at Free Press, working to build, strengthen, and transform the relationships between journalists and community members. With News Voices, they co-create opportunities for all kinds of people to envision and move together, towards a journalism that serves all people. Alicia learned community building and changemaking through electoral organizing in North Carolina, parent, student and youth organizing in New York, and housing, health and police-accountability organizing in Oakland. They hold a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in educational leadership, politics and advocacy from New York University. Outside of work, Alicia finds joy in raising their three children, laughing with their family, and spending time outdoors.

Jeremy Borden is an independent researcher and journalist based in Durham, North Carolina. A UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, he began his career as an intern at the Charlotte Observer and has since been a local reporter for The Washington Post and (Charleston, SC) Post and Courier and a team leader at City Bureau in Chicago, among others. He hopes to play a role, however small, in pushing forward a healthier media future and writes about those efforts at untoldstory.substack.com.

Lyndsey Gilpin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Southerly, a nonprofit media organization that covers ecology, justice, and culture in the American South. She is also a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Harper’s, High Country News, CJR, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Outside, and more. She’s based in Durham, North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter.

Antionette Kerr is a nonprofit leader, journalist, author and publisher of Modern Media Relations for Nonprofits. Over the past 20 plus years, the writer turned “staffer” has served as an Executive Director of two nonprofits and combined her passion for writing and service to develop Bold & Bright Media book publishing. Antionette studied journalism and African American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she began researching and reporting on areas of social justice through The Daily Tar Heel, The Triangle Tribune and The Black Ink. Her research led to the Earnest H. Abernathy Chancellor’s Award in publication excellence. Kerr is a former producer for the Public News Service a freelance media correspondent for more than a dozen state, regional and local publications including The Lexington Dispatch. She is currently working on a series of investigative stories in Eastern North Carolina.

Crystal Cavalier is a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation from NC. She is an expert in her field of Strategic Intelligence, Political Campaigns, and Tribal Management, Public Administration. She has conducted training around the East Coast on Coordinated Tribal/Community Response for emergency management through disasters (natural or man-made). She currently volunteers teaching youth through healing in the Native American community. Currently, Crystal is working on her Doctorate at the University of Dayton and dissertation on Social Justice of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Gas/Oil Pipelines in front line communities.