Major milestones, unprecedented challenges for local media outlets in 2020

Jon Elliston
Jon Elliston. Photo by Thomas Calder

To call 2020 a news-heavy year is barely to do it justice: The last 12 months brought an avalanche of news, from the scourge of the pandemic to the racial justice uprising to high-stakes political contests. Asheville-area news publications were buffeted — and in some cases, enlivened — by all these forces and more. Here’s a quick recap of key developments in 2020’s local media landscape.

  • This year saw the retirement of two lions of local broadcasting. In May, WLOS TV’s Darcel Grimes completed 39 years with the station as a reporter and anchor, and in November, WLOS sports director Stan Pamfilis stepped down after 40 years on the air.
  • Newspapers, like many other local businesses, took a revenue beating from the pandemic and made painful steps to cut costs. The Asheville Citizen Times instituted weeklong furloughs for most of its staff beginning in March, and Mountain Xpress laid off seven employees. At the same time, Xpress launched a community support drive that has brought in donations from 1,193 readers to date.
  • Carolina Public Press, the Asheville-based journalism nonprofit, expanded its statewide network of contributors and established an “emergency news team” to collaborate with local news outlets struggling to keep up with COVID-19 developments.
  • 2020’s new heavy-hitter was Asheville Watchdog, a nonprofit online news outlet started by veteran journalists that shares its content with other publications. Check out its investigative work at
  •, one of the city’s most venerable online news and culture websites, celebrated 15 years in operation. The site and its founder/editor, Jason Sandford, marked the occasion with an extensive redesign.
  • Blue Ridge Public Radio, the network of NPR stations in WNC, ramped up its local programming this year. Two of its long-running programs, “The Waters & Harvey Show” and “Going Deep: Sport in the 21st Century,” doubled in length to a full hour per episode, and a new in-depth interview show, “The Porch,” was added to the mix.

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About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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2 thoughts on “Major milestones, unprecedented challenges for local media outlets in 2020

  1. Media Watcher

    Does Mr. Elliston think there can ever be a significant local daily newspaper in Asheville again? John Boyle’s column about the 150th anniversary of the Citizen-Times was a sad reminder of how far that paper has declined.

    • bsummers

      Does Mr. Elliston think there can ever be a significant local daily newspaper in Asheville again?

      Not while AC-T squats in the space a real newspaper could occupy, sucking up the ad revenue to send off to Gannett.

      Sadly – and I don’t have any animus to those good people still employed at AC-T – but Asheville would be better off if everyone stopped buying/subscribing, etc. Once Gannett finds the teat has run dry, they’ll sell it off. It’s a crapshoot what would replace it, but anything is better than what Asheville has now.

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