CHAPEL HILL—Friends of Local Journalism Inc. (FLJ), the nonprofit publisher of The Local Reporter (TLR), has selected Carl Blankenship as the next editor of the news organization. He begins his work in the position this month.
A native of Forsyth County, Blankenship attended Appalachian State University, where he was the editor of a National Pacemaker Award-winning edition of The Appalachian, the university’s student newspaper. Before completing his undergraduate degree in journalism, he interned with The Appalachian Voice, the news arm of the Boone-based environmental organization Appalachian Voices.
After graduating in spring of 2017, he worked briefly for his hometown Kernersville News in a temporary role before returning to the Blue Ridge as a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times, a part of Mountain Times Publications.
Among the more-than 1,000 stories Blankenship wrote in Avery County was the long-term coverage of an effort to fund a major renovation to the county’s single high school. The series on the tumultuous path to greenlighting the project won a first-place education reporting award from the North Carolina Press Association.
His interest in education reporting drew him to Rowan County in late 2019 to take over the education beat for the Salisbury Post. Rowan-Salisbury Schools is the sole public school district in the state with a special “renewal” status that gives it freedoms normally reserved for charter schools.
In Salisbury, he covered the district’s struggle to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and embrace its special status as it faced gradually declining enrollment. One of his final stories for the Post revealed the district’s finance department had mishandled employee tax withholding for more than a year and left some with multi-thousand dollar tax bills. He won awards for reporting and photography while working for the Post.
Most recently he served as assistant editor at Port City Daily. He edited and produced stories for the Wilmington-based investigative outlet on topics ranging from fox trapping to political infighting and the removal of books from public school libraries. Blankenship recently completed a series on the impact of commercial land clearing and development in Cape Fear.
“The board is very pleased to have Carl joining TLR,” FLJ board member Rudy Juliano said. “We believe that he will provide dynamic new leadership for our organization.”
Blankenship’s top priority is building a consistent news program covering local government, business and community issues with a focus on accountability and real-world impact.
“Local news is all about helping people understand where they live and how the actions of people in power affect them,” Blankenship said. “Keeping those ideals and the pursuit of truth in mind will help us evolve as an organization.”
Blankenship also hopes to generate a strong social media presence for the publication and expand its base of contributing writers. Blankenship is relocating to the Triangle and his first day is March 20.