Have an iPad? You can now read your Charlotte Observer as a tablet edition by downloading our new app. It’s available online at Apple's app store.
We've designed this app to take advantage of iPad features that have made it the nation’s most popular tablet. Navigation is made easier with the touch or swipe of the screen. Full-color photos are bigger, more vibrant. And since the portability of the tablet often leads to more leisurely reading, we’ve added more magazine-length material.
Unlike a magazine, however, our tablet edition updates content throughout the day. So, regardless of when or where you choose to read, the news will be fresh. You can also customize your home page to have it display your favorite sections.
To find this app, go online to the Apple store, select the category for iPad apps and simply search for "Charlotte Observer." That search will turn up two apps for iPad. Choose the app that depicts an iPad screen. (The other, which has the image of a printed newspaper, is for our e-Edition, explained below).
Our tablet edition joins four other versions of The Observer already popular with readers:
The printed newspaper is still our most popular format, with more than 800,000 readers a week. Most copies also include one of nine Observer community newspapers.
Our website, CharlotteObserver.com , draws 2.7 million readers and 44 million page views a month.
Our e-edition is a digital replica of the printed Observer, accessible on a computer, phone or iPad. It is perfect for the reader who prefers the design of a printed newspaper. It also allows the reader to electronically search the paper and get back issues.
The smartphone version of the Observer includes special apps for iPhone and Android.
Why launch yet another format? Because our readers have been very busy buying tablets, and many want to use them to read the news.
At least one out of every four American adults now owns a tablet, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Among people with college degrees, it’s one out of three. And people who use tablets are especially interested in keeping up with the news.
Pew found that more than a third of tablet owners use them to read news daily. That activity was more popular than social networking, gaming and reading books. What’s more, 30 percent of tablet news users spend more time getting news than they did before.
So, tablets join the various formats that our readers will rely on. And we intend to be where our readers need us. Let us know how this app is working for you.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Set aside for a moment the handful of journalists who have published wholesale lists of people with gun permits and the handful of gun enthusiasts who have threatened to kill them.
I’d like to talk to the rest of you, regardless of how you feel about guns.
First, let’s acknowledge what brought us here. Our nation continues to react to a horrific event. A deranged gunman walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., just before Christmas and killed 26 people, including 20 children.
That massacre set off unprecedented demands for new forms of gun control, followed by record sales of guns. Journalists everywhere set out to cover these developments and, in the process, some turned their attention to gun permits.
Gun permits have been public records in North Carolina for decades. They are among hundreds of types of public records that the Charlotte Observer uses to research specific stories.
We were doing research earlier this year when we requested and received two databases from local and state authorities. In response to our public records requests, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department provided a digitized list of all handgun permits it has issued. The State Bureau of Investigation provided a similarly fashioned list of permits issued statewide for carrying a concealed firearm.
We requested these databases to help us explain trends tied to the recent surge in gun sales. We have never considered publishing the complete lists because we’ve found no compelling journalistic reason to do so.
That may disappoint some who think it should be enough that the permits are public record. But the Observer, like the vast majority of newspapers, makes choices like this every day. We constantly balance the public’s right to know against the potential harm that could result from disclosure.
We draw hard lines when safety and well being are in question. For instance, the names of rape victims are public record, but we withhold them. We withhold names of children accused of juvenile crimes. We use public records to provide you reports of crime in your neighborhood, but we withhold home addresses.
Does widespread knowledge of the identities and addresses of gun owners encourage break-ins, as some suggest? It’s a debatable question. A veteran burglary detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police told me Friday that he has never seen anyone break into a home solely to steal weapons.
But many people with permits obviously are worried about their security. I’ve also read of serious concerns for permit holders who are battered spouses. Consider people who victims of stalkers. The point is, people have many reasons to arm themselves legally, and in some cases widely publicizing identities and addresses potentially could lead to harm.
But there is also real danger in closing these records to the public, as is now proposed in the state legislature.
Your sheriff has the sensitive task of determining who deserves a permit and who doesn’t. To close the records is to eliminate all oversight for that process. No agency checks behind the sheriff to see that permits are issued fairly or responsibly. The Cherokee Scout newspaper said it sought permit records because of a tip questioning the fairness applied to permitting in Cherokee County. The sheriff refused to release the information. (Read more about this on Page 1A today.)
In 2011, The New York Times obtained the same database we recently received from the SBI. It checked those names against five years of crime data and found that more than 2,300 people issued concealed weapons permits in North Carolina had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors (excluding traffic-related crimes). More than 200 of those crimes were gun-related, and at least 10 involved murder or manslaughter.
“In about half of the felony convictions, the authorities failed to revoke or suspend the holder’s permit, including for cases of murder, rape and kidnapping,” wrote New York Times reporter Michael Luo.
This included a man jailed for terrorizing his estranged wife and daughter with a pair of guns, and then shooting at their house while they and a sheriff’s deputy were inside.
“That’s crazy, absolutely crazy,” the man’s wife said when told her husband was most likely still qualified to buy a gun at any store in the state.
His permit was revoked after the newspaper notified the Sheriff’s Office of his actions.
We are a nation of self-governing people. But we can only govern as far as we can see. The permitting of firearms is too important a process to all citizens to now be placed in a blind trust.
Reach Rick Thames at firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/rthames and www.facebook.com/rthames.obs. Phone: 704-358-5001.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick, Charlotte athlete and legend, takes his rightful place in civil rights history
It’s rare to think of history as front page news. But that is exactly where history belongs when, in its own right, it is an untold story.
Today, you can expect to read many things about Charlotte’s history that are news to you as we begin a special three-part series called “Breaking Through."
I’ll start with the obvious. Nearly 50 years later, the identity of an African-American who became one of the greatest high school football player's in the history of Charlotte remains unknown to even some of the city’s most ardent sports fans.
He made a courageous decision to break through racial barriers, hoping that college scouts would notice him at a predominantly white high school. We have never connected that choice to one of the most racially violent chapters in our city’s history.
Today, you can read that story. Today, Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick takes his rightful place in history.
Observer Senior Sports Editor Gary Schwab stumbled onto a reference to Kirkpatrick in November. Schwab was searching online for information about Charlotte’s annual Shrine Bowl, which features the high school all-star teams of North and South Carolina.
“I didn’t know who Kirkpatrick was, even though I have worked at the Observer for almost 30 years, mostly as sports editor,” Schwab said. “No one I asked knew, either.”
Observer researcher Maria David found a phone number for Kirkpatrick in Portland, Ore. Schwab and reporter David Scott made the call.
“I’m humbled that you want to tell my story,” Kirkpatrick said on the other end of the line.
It turns out that Kirkpatrick had been telling it for years in Oregon during Black History Month. But he had never had the opportunity to tell it in Charlotte, where his brush with history unfolded.
In 1964 and 1965, when Kirkpatrick was in high school, the Observer did notice him, but only in breathless bouts of breaking news. Kirkpatrick, the unstoppable running back for all-black Second Ward High School. Kirkpatrick, the black athlete who created a buzz by transferring to mostly white Myers Park High. Kirkpatrick, the first black player to make the Observer’s all-star high school football team.
Even the appearance of those stories was unusual. And though there were episodic reports of Kirkpatrick in a civil rights battle, it is only this week's stories that acknowledge the price he paid on his journey.
“Mainstream newspapers rarely covered black athletes in the 1960s, or earlier during segregated times,” Schwab said. “There are dozens of great athletes whose stories went untold or are long forgotten, dozens more whose potential was never realized because of lack of opportunity.”
The Observer has doubled back to report some of those stories in recent years, writing about people like Paul Grier who went to West Charlotte High School in the mid-1950s and is considered by some to be the city’s best-ever high school basketball player.
When we first interviewed Grier, he paused before answering a question. Tears ran down his face.
“Stan Olson, the reporter, asked if he was OK,” Schwab recalled. “’Yes,’ Grier said. ‘It's just that no reporter has ever talked with me before.’”
David Scott wrote about Willie Cooper. While Charlie Scott is remembered as the North Carolina Tar Heels' first black basketball player, Cooper played briefly as a freshman two years earlier, in 1964. In response, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front yard of his family’s home in Elm City, about 80 miles east of Chapel Hill.
“I have always been struck by the fact that there is a history here that has gone untold for decades,” Schwab said.
Many people helped us reassemble the history surrounding Kirkpatrick. His former Myers Park quarterback, Neb Hayden, still has the school's film from most of the games of the 1965 season, on 16mm reel-to-reel tape. Hayden let us convert to a digital format some of that film, plus other footage previously transferred to VHS tapes.
As a result, you can see for yourself at CharlotteObserver.com/MyersPark why fans found it necessary to rise to their feet nearly every time Kirkpatrick had the football.
We also interviewed former teammates and opposing players. Some now meet as alumni of two of Charlotte’s former all-black high schools, Second Ward and West Charlotte. Once bitter rivals, they work together to support the community and call themselves the Thursday Morning Breakfast Club.
Kirkpatrick spent hours with Schwab and Scott, recounting his childhood in Charlotte’s Grier Heights community and his fateful decision to leave Second Ward High for Myers Park High. He then traveled to Charlotte to reunite with teammates from both teams, black and white.
Most had not seen him since their days as teenagers.
“This became a chance to talk to his old teammates,” Schwab said, “to see if what happened mattered to them as much as it mattered to him.”
And now it becomes history that matters to all of us.
Reach Rick Thames at email@example.com, twitter.com/rthames and www.facebook.com/rthames.obs. Phone: 704-358-5001.
Monday, November 26, 2012
The election is over. The Thanksgiving table’s been cleared. But, believe me, this is no time to nap.
Your government has worked itself into a national crisis. Call it a fiscal cliff. Call it a wall of fire. Or simply call it a train wreck.
Just know that it is coming on Jan. 1 if the president and Congress do not find some way to defuse a time-bomb that would again derail the economy.
“A recession would begin in the first half of 2013, reducing economic growth by about 0.5%,” predicts Forbes magazine. “Unemployment would increase. The jobless rate would rise to 9.1% by Dec. 2013.”
If that’s so, why are we here? The short answer is government gridlock. And it doesn’t end with this crisis. Congress is gridlocked on the next moves for Medicare. Immigration. Social Security. Even passage of a farm bill.
On Sunday, Observer reporter Tim Funk explained the root causes of this paralysis and, just as important, what can be done about it.
Now, you are invited to a public forum on Friday, Nov. 30, at UNC Charlotte. Come hear current and former members of Congress suggest ways the nation can move forward
For this special report, Tim talked to people who should know: retired Senate Majority leader Bob Dole and his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole; Erskine Bowles, chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and co-chair of the Bowles-Simpson Commission on shrinking the federal deficit; members of Congress who now represent our region; congressional scholars; and journalists who cover Capitol Hill.
Nearly all agree that Congress is in a ditch.
“It’s the most dysfunctional in our lifetime,” says Norm Ornstein, author of “Congress Inside Out,” a column for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “Maybe not quite as bad as during the Civil War, the War of 1812 or the 1890s. But these are not great periods to compare yourself to.”
These interviews also unearthed potential solutions to the problem. Some can help right away. Others will take time.
All of them ultimately will require the support of the American people. If you want to be part of that, I urge you to join us for the forum at 7 p.m. on Friday in the auditorium of UNCC’s uptown campus building at 320 E. 9th St.
Expected participants include at least three current members of Congress from our region: Rep. Patrick McHenry, Rep. Mel Watt, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney. They will be joined by two former members, Jim Martin and John Spratt, as well as Kimrey Rhinehart, a former top aide to Sen. Richard Burr.
The Observer is presenting the forum in partnership with PNC Bank, the event’s underwriter. The evening’s moderator will be WCNC-TV’s Sonja Gantt. UNC Charlotte is the forum’s host and venue sponsor.
Admission is free, but seating is limited. Here is the link to register in advance.
Moving America forward will not be easy. But it won’t be possible at all unless its people make clear that this is their No. 1 priority.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Because the presidential election went very late, some of you missed the most up to date version of today's newspaper. This was particularly disappointing for many, since a printed newspaper can be a prized keepsake on historic days.
So here are two ways we want to help.
In the A-section of all of Thursday's print editions, we will reprint the final front page as it appeared in today's paper.
And through Thursday, we are offering free access to that final edition in an electronic form. It's our E-edition and it is a replica of the printed paper.
Here is the front page that rolled off our presses between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. today. About a third of our readers got this version.
Here is how to read and save this edition in electronic form today at no charge.
If you are using a PC, link here.
If you are using a tablet other than an iPad, link here:
If you are an iPad user, simply download the app for our E-edition in the Apple store at no charge and it will give you free access today.
To print a copy of your E-edition, go to the upper-right-hand corner of the page of the electronic paper and click on the icon depicting a printer.
To create a copy of the E-edition that you can store on your computer, again go to the upper-right-hand corner and look for the "application link" icon just to the right of the printer icon. Pull down the menu for that icon and click on "Download newspaper PDF."
Once you have your PDF on your computer, it's yours to keep in whatever form you'd like.
Presidential elections are an important part of our history. Even amid the toughest of deadlines, we want your printed Observer to capture that for you.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
You could easily guess one reason Wednesday’s Charlotte Observer will be special. We’ll have expansive coverage of local, state and national elections.
Here’s another: Wednesday marks the debut of ShopTalk, a new Observer feature focusing on the world of small business. More on that in a moment.
First, here’s some of what we have for you in the run-up to Election Day.
Did you vote early? You are among millions in the state who are reshaping the dynamics of elections. See today’s 1A story analyzing early-voting trends and their potential impact across the state.
Today’s Big Picture section offers context. With polls suggesting a virtual tie in the presidential race, we explain how the Electoral College could come into play. Also don’t miss a breakout of key congressional races to watch and seven burning questions that the election will answer.
If you have yet to vote, go to CharlotteObserver.com, where you can make your own sample ballot by simply typing in your address. You will also find background on the candidates and other helpful voter information.
Need encouragement just to vote? On Monday, we complete our profiles of people who are so enthusiastic that they are working to turn out people like you. Read what inspires them.
On Tuesday, Election Day, we’ll offer last-minute tips for voters still going to the polls. On CharlotteObserver.com, you’ll find frequent updates on turnout and other developments as they unfold.
Tuesday night, you can check the returns for yourself, minute-by-minute, as they accumulate on Charlotte
On Wednesday, all of our reporting, photos and graphics will fill 15 extra pages in a special election edition of our printed paper.
A unique feature of the Wednesday paper will be our expanded use of full-color graphics. We’ve planned 10 in all. At a glance, we hope to show you how every N.C. county voted for governor and president. In Mecklenburg, we will break down results for your precinct. Other graphics will detail congressional races and voter turnout.
Now, a preview of ShopTalk, our new Wednesday feature that will be devoted to advice and insights for small business.
Whether you run a small business, or are merely thinking about starting one, we think you will find this to be very useful reading.
Every week, we’ll ask small-business owners who are succeeding to share their experiences, as well as their secrets. This Wednesday, for example, learn how Olive Stewart convinced Whole Foods to stock its shelves with her homemade marinades and seasonings.
Other features include an Ask the Experts column, a calendar of networking opportunities and columnists with advice on everything from time management to having a spouse as business partner.
Nearly one of every five jobs in North Carolina is tied to small business. We are pleased to expand our own coverage of this sector through our underwriting program.
The underwriter, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, pays for the cost of these pages. The Observer’s newsroom independently produces the content and maintains sole editorial responsibility.
Our editor for ShopTalk is Celeste Smith, a member of our business news team who has 18 years of experience at the Observer. The section’s reporter is Caroline McMillan, a Charlotte native who covers the region’s small-business scene.
Smith and McMillan have already been in touch with many in our business community. They look forward to hearing from you.
Reach Rick Thames at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-358-5001.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
I can see how someone coming across the murder trial of former Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald 33 years later would think he was wrongly convicted.
As a reporter who covered the trial, I watched the case build for and against MacDonald, day by day, for seven weeks inside a Raleigh courtroom.
I was a 24-year-old reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, barely a year into my first job as a journalist. My beat was the military, and MacDonald, 35, had been a doctor in the Army’s Special Forces.
Fort Bragg was where I reported most of my stories. It was there, nine years earlier, that MacDonald’s family had been savagely wiped out in one night.
Now, MacDonald stood accused of committing that savagery against his own pregnant wife and two small girls.
As the jury went into deliberations, the press corps quietly took its own poll. A majority said MacDonald would be found guilty.
I voted with the minority.
It wasn’t that I was convinced that MacDonald was innocent. I simply doubted that a jury of 12 people could see what I had seen and unanimously agree he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Yet they did. They looked right past nagging details that supported MacDonald’s case and decided that what really mattered was this: He was lying.
|A 33-year-old tape of the interview.|
That version goes like this. MacDonald and his family were attacked by two white men, a black man wearing a fatigue jacket and a blonde-haired white woman wearing a floppy hat and carrying what appeared to be a candle. The woman, he said, chanted: “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.”
Journalists tend to hang on to their work when they report memorable stories. For me, the MacDonald trial was that kind of story. When I heard last week about the new hearing, I dragged a plastic tub from a closet and soon was leafing through dozens of articles I filed over that seven-week period.
Reading those yellowed pages, I was reminded how the jury could think the unthinkable.
I also found a cassette tape. On it was my one-on-one interview with MacDonald, conducted while the trial was under way.
I didn’t know this in 1979, but it was remarkable we were talking at all. The government had begun presenting its case. MacDonald decided he could talk because the judge’s gag order covered witnesses, but not the prosecution or defense.
So there we were, sitting in a pizza restaurant during a lunch recess. The rookie reporter asking questions of a defendant who had been honing his story for nearly a decade.
In playing the tape now, I’m reminded of how indignant MacDonald was over the idea of a trial.
Nine years earlier, the Army had investigated MacDonald for the murders and declined to prosecute.
The latest set of prosecutors, he assured me, would present nothing new from that time.
“There is no case,” MacDonald said. “They know there is no case. What they are trying to do is, they are trying to mound up a pile of stuff and make it look like a good investigation was done, and then in a closing argument, unbuttressed with any facts at all, they’re going to misinterpret the witnesses’ words. You watch.”
He heaped special scorn on two people he held principally responsible: His stepfather-in-law, Alfred Kassab, whose complaint with the Justice Department was the basis for re-opening the case; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Murtagh, who helped prepare the case for trial.
I asked again. Are you sure there’s nothing new?
And then he brought it up. The blue pajama top.
MacDonald had worn it the night of the murders. He said a government expert had come up with a model of that shirt, which would be shown during the trial.
“(It’s) something he devised in 1974 that he felt added to the case,” MacDonald said.
He didn’t seem particularly worked up about this model. And showing my inexperience, I didn’t ask him to explain further.
But a few weeks later, its significance showed when the former FBI expert, Paul Stombaugh, took the stand.
Stombaugh said the shirt had 48 ice pick holes in it, more than four times the number of wounds found on MacDonald. None of the holes matched his wounds. But it was possible to fold the shirt in such a way that the holes equaled the 21 ice pick thrusts into the chest of MacDonald’s wife, Colette.
The shirt was found on her chest. MacDonald said he only put it there after regaining consciousness and finding her severely wounded.
But prosecutors asserted that he stabbed his wife with the ice pick through the pajama top to simulate an attack on him.
As the jury deliberated, among the evidence it requested to see again was that blue pajama top, as well as the top Stombaugh used as a model.
Later, jurors said it was part of a patchwork of physical evidence that convinced them MacDonald had made up his story.
Never mind that the initial Army investigation mishandled critical evidence.
Never mind that a neighbor saw three people, one with a candle, walking toward the MacDonald home the night of the murders.
Never mind that the defense worked to implicate a drug addict who owned a floppy hat and blonde wig, and bore an uncanny resemblance to one of MacDonald’s alleged attackers in a police sketch.
Clothing, blood, fibers and wounds all told a different story.
“All the pieces came together,” one juror told a Charlotte Observer reporter also covering the trial. “You couldn’t deny it.”
As long as those pieces stay firmly in place, it’s difficult to imagine MacDonald’s fate changing now.
|Clippings of some of the stories Thames wrote in 1979 while covering the Jeffrey MacDonald trial in Raleigh for the Fayetteville Observer.|