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 avlwatchdog.org.
- Ashvegas.com, 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.