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Essay: What I learned from a summer as a reporter at the Charlotte Post

UNC-Chapel Hill senior Asheebo Rojas is the Post’s Emerging Reporter for Summer 2022.

Three months ago, as the spring semester wrapped up at UNC-Chapel Hill, I had no idea what my summer would be like.

At the start of my final year as a journalism major, I thought it was time to step into a newsroom. I wanted to be in North Carolina and I wanted to cover sports. Naturally, the News & Observer was my target landing spot, as it was close to school, my friends, and from what I heard it was a great experience.

After months of preparing the application and waiting for a response, I was denied. My backup plan with Warner Media was also a no, and it was starting to look like a summer in Chapel Hill or back home.

In mid-April, I still had hope when I attended a virtual internship fair organized by UNC Hussman Careers. There, I ran into Post editor Herbert L. White, who presented a unique opportunity — covering Charlotte’s black community.

I reached out and he said I would be able to cover sports and any other subject I wanted, which would help diversify my portfolio of journalists. Doing this while still in North Carolina — in a big city, too — felt perfect. Fast forward three months of many stories and experiences, being at the Post has been nothing less than that.

Covering stories no one else would consider made my job at the Post perfect for me. What I wrote meant something – it affected lives and brought attention to things usually overlooked by the media. My report on the poor living conditions at Parker Heights Apartments is a prime example. Black residents weren’t having their voices heard by property management, and because of history, their situation began to change for the better. Doing the follow-up story and hearing how property management began to take tenant concerns more seriously felt rewarding knowing that my work had a positive impact on the community.

There was also the story about how inflation affects prices for black hair services, which I brought up to explain to black consumers why getting their hair done is more expensive. I felt like I was doing something right talking to the stylists because they passionately showed how they fared in this economy. They also told me how important it was to me to tell the story and create understanding between them and their clientele.

Then there was the sports coverage. In a small newsroom like The Post, I never imagined sitting in the same room with Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak on draft night, or talking face to face. with the players of Charlotte FC. After covering college sports in my short career, I didn’t think professional work would come any time soon. Yet The Post gave me the opportunity to be in those spaces and do with them what I wanted.

If you told me three months ago that I would contribute to Charlotte’s media discourse on the Baker Mayfield trade or write four stories leading up to the Duke’s Mayo Classic between North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central, I wouldn’t believe it not.

These are experiences that I don’t think I would have had had I gone anywhere else. And for that, I am grateful.

Thank you, Herb White and the Charlotte Post team, and thank you Charlotte for a wonderful summer. I’ll be back on Sunday, helping Herb cover for your beloved Carolina Panthers.

Asheebo Rojas is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he is a sports reporter for the Daily Tar Heel and Black Ink magazine.

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