Saturday, July 9, 2011

New feature: Young people who inspire

If you spend any time with young people, you know that the best among them don't always get the attention they deserve.

This is especially true in the media's coverage of the daily news.

It shouldn't be that way. News, by definition, is what's extraordinary to our readers. And when young people achieve remarkable accomplishments, that is extraordinarily good news.

The Observer has long valued this news. It's why each spring we honor more than 100 of the region's top students as Observer All-Star Scholars. It's also why we've been proud to sponsor the Charlotte Observer Regional Spelling Bee for 57 years.

On Tuesday, we introduce another way to mark the accomplishments of young people with a new feature called Young Achievers.

Each week, we will bring you news and insightful profiles of young people in our region who are excelling in academics, the arts, public service and a variety of other settings that are richer because of their involvement.

On Tuesday, for instance, you will meet Manasvi Koul. Manasvi's personal battle with a potentially fatal illness motivated her to raise more than $500,000 in support of other sick children while she was still a high school student in Union County.

Young Achievers will appear in our printed edition as two full-color pages inside our Carolina Living section. Online, you will find that content, plus videos, photo slideshows, archives and the means to share your own stories about inspiring young people.

Some readers may be surprised to see added community coverage in an era when the trend has been for most news media to cut back.

This is possible through a new funding model the Observer is developing for coverage that you would welcome. Under this approach, we find a company, foundation or individual willing to underwrite the cost of high-quality content as an important investment in the life of its community.

Similar to underwriters of content on NPR and PBS, our underwriters play no role in the selection or editing of the content. But their support is a high-profile commitment to coverage that is good for our region.

This is how we are able to bring you our widely acclaimed Sci-Tech section each Monday. Its exclusive coverage of advances in science and technology across the Carolinas is underwritten by Duke Energy.

For Young Achievers, we found another willing underwriter: Piedmont Natural Gas.

"We see this as a wonderful opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of young people throughout our community and to show appreciation for the contributions they are making, not only in their own lives but in the lives of others," said Thomas Skains, Piedmont's chairman, president, and CEO. "I have no doubt that the talents, energy, and passion represented . . . will be as impressive as they are inspirational to us all."

Of course, there are many more young people deserving of recognition than we can mention in any weekly package. So this coverage is in addition to ongoing schools and youth-oriented features you find now in our community sections and daily news coverage. Many of those features also invite you to submit an idea or an item for publication.

Our goal is that, with your help, we will leave no significant achievement unrecognized.

I think you will be touched and encouraged by what you read. These are remarkable individuals. To know them through their personal experiences is to appreciate all the more how far they have come already in such young lives.

-- Reach Rick Thames at, and Phone: 704-358-5001.