By Justin Smith
Carrboro will have its own traditional weekly newspaper starting next month.
The first edition of The Carrboro Citizen will roll off the press March 21, and subsequent issues of the free traditional-sized newspaper will be distributed each Wednesday.
Third-generation newspaper publisher Robert “Bubba” Dickson will publish the paper, and long-time local journalist Kirk Ross will serve as the editor.
Both men believed that Carrboro needed its own community newspaper and decided the time was right to launch the publication.
“We kept trying to talk ourselves out of it, but it kept seeming like a good idea,” Dickson said with a grin.
Ross worked for The Chapel Hill News before becoming managing editor of The Independent in 2003. He left The Independent in May 2006 to write a column about state politics and to work as a freelance writer.
Both journalists said they have become increasingly disappointed with the way area newspapers cover Carrboro.
“You can’t engage a community when you’re covering it from 5,000 feet [up],” Ross said. “It’s just not possible.”
Ross and Dickson said the Citizen will feature stories about town government, schools and local residents.
Both will be accessible to readers at their second-story office at 309 Weaver St. They also plan to hold community forums to solicit input about the paper’s coverage.
“This is how Carrboro works: whenever there’s a development or whenever there’s some sort of plan, we talk to each other,” Dickson said.
Ross said, interviews with Carrboro residents indicated a strong desire for a tangible ink-on-paper product that readers can hold in their hands. In addition to the paper, the Citizen will also produce a regularly updated Web site. Ross currently runs a blog called The Mill, which will become a part of the Citizen’s Web site.
The newspaper will also include stories reprinted from The Carrboro Commons. (The Commons is an online newspaper produced by the community journalism class in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.) The agreement will provide the students with published clips of their work and will provide the Citizen with free content.
The Citizen will have a staff of about five people, Ross said, with the publisher and editor doing a little bit of everything.
“You’re likely to find us both on the street distributing papers at some point,” Ross said. “Yeah, I expect to drive a route for a little while.”
Although the Citizen will focus on Carrboro news, the pair plans to cover stories in the surrounding areas as well.
“I feel fairly certain that you’ll see a photograph from the tractor pull at the White Cross Community Center somewhere in the paper, and if somebody hauls in a particularly large bass at University Lake, that would possibly get into the newspaper,” Ross said.
“That’s what community newspapers do,” Dickson added. “We tell you about the births, the deaths and everything that goes on in between.”