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MAY 13-14, 2011

For the last two years I’ve been privileged to participate in one of North Carolina community journalism’s best-kept secrets: the Eastern North Carolina Press Association annual gathering at Carolina Beach.

Remember growing up and going to Scout, church or Y camp – and sitting around that evening campfire with your buddies, perhaps by the lake with the frogs going full tilt…

It’s not often that newspaperfolk get a chance to share in that “campfire” experience. But that just the way it felt at this May’s annual get-together at the Clamdigger Inn at Salter Path.

The ENCPA dates back to the ‘30s, so I’m told, with a membership that has always leaned heavily toward the indies, with past presidents names, Harper, Lassiter, Tanner, reflecting that dynamic.

Attending this year were (and I hope I haven’t left anyone out!): Gary Cunard of the Franklin Times, JoAnne Cooper of the Nashville Graphic, Brinn and Jerry Clayton of the Roxboro Courier=Tribune, Bob and Todd Allen of the Wake Forest Weekly, Harry and Bebe Coleman of the Butner-Creedmoor News, Ken and Vickie Ripley of the Spring Hope Enterprise, Ed Harper of the State Port Pilot, Al and Mary John Resch of the Chatham News and Record, Rick Stewart of the Kenly News,  Mark Wilson of Cooke Communications, and NCPA Executive Director Beth Grace.

The annual event is a healthy combination of social and business, with an opening workshop or two bracketing something that smacks of a never-ending reception. The coolest thing about ENCPA is the Saturday morning “Roundtable” — a gloves-off airing and sharing of issues particular to small newspaper management and publishing:

• how’s your print circulation doing?
• What are you doing with online?
• How has social media impacted your approach?
• How’s advertising?
• Are you hiring?
• How are salaries?
• What are you issues with the local post office?
• How are you dealing with local government and law enforcement offices that want to deny you public record info?
• What are you doing out-of-the-box that’s working?

For the second year in a row, I observed a distinct air of cautious optimism (Imagine that. Optimistic newspaper publishers!) running through all the discussions of the weekend.

Furthermore, there is a sense that this retreat serves as a healthy support group for newspaper editors and publishers. I encourage all NC community publishers from the Piedmont to Down East to put May 18-19 on their 2012 calendar and contact Rick Stewart ( at the Kenly News to get details and sign up to attend next year’s ENCPA weekend at the Clamdigger.  This year’s all-beachfront rooms ran $85 a night; you can’t beat that!)

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