News on the Move

When the Chapel Hill News began publishing recipes on its front page — sometimes recipes from restaurants in Raleigh — we knew its marriage to The News & Observer was on the skids. Today the breakup becomes official. As you read this, the sole reporter and her editor are cleaning out their desks and moving in with the Durham Herald-Sun.

For the first time in 94 years, Chapel Hill will not have a newspaper in town.

Louis Graves opened The Chapel Hill Weekly in 1923. Though the paper has gone from publishing weekly to daily to thrice a week and now twice, and has changed ownership a few times, some version of the Chapel Hill News has been in Chapel Hill since the paper’s birth. Starting Tuesday, it will operate out of Durham under the auspices of The Herald-Sun and will no longer be affiliated with The N&O.

In 1954, Graves sold the newspaper to Orville Campbell. In 1963, Campbell moved the six full-time staff to 501 W. Franklin St., which he had purchased and named the Bentley Building (his middle name, and his mother’s maiden name). He bought 503, next door, for Colonial Press. A decade later, the news staff had ballooned to 50 and had outgrown the Bentley Building. Campbell moved the entire operation a scootch west to 505 W. Franklin, which became the Chapel Hill News Building. The News rented out space to a variety of tenants over the years, including Algonquin Press and the Chapel Hill Board of Realtors.

In 1987, Campbell sold the paper to Ottaway Newspapers, which also published The Wall Street Journal. In 1993, the paper changed hands again, this time purchased by The N&O. In 1995, McClatchy Corp. bought The N&O, and with it, the Chapel Hill News.

The Chapel Hill News printing press closed in the early 2000s, and the building was sold to Scott Maitland, owner of Top of the Hill, who started a distillery in the space where the press used to roll. The news staff remained at the 505 building, which was informally dubbed “the Chapel Hill Booze Building,” until last year, when the dwindling news staff moved to The Center office complex at 1504 E. Franklin St.

Last December, McClatchy acquired The Herald-Sun from Paxton Media Group. Squeezing The Herald-Sun into the press rotation at McClatchy’s print facility in Garner required the Durham paper to move up its deadlines, leaving that much less time to update breaking stories. The Chapel Hill Herald has ceased publication.

Much is still unknown about how the transfer will affect delivery of the Chapel Hill News, which used to be inserted into The N&O or delivered separately and for free to non-N&O subscribers.

But Tammy Grubb, the reporter who for years has written the entire Chapel Hill News almost singlehandedly, will spend most of her time in Chapel Hill, camping out at the library and various coffee shops with free wifi as she writes up stories on the news she covers in town. She and editor Mark Schultz both used to work for The Herald-Sun, so it will be almost like coming home, in the Robert Frost sense of “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

They, like us, will be anxious to see how this new union will work out. In the meantime, watch your driveway for a newspaper.
— Nancy Oates

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  1. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 27, 2017

    OK – I’m confused. I thought McClatchy – who owns the N&O and the Durham and Chapel Hill News (and a bunch of other locals), bought the Herald Sun. If anything, I would have expected the Herald Sun to be folded into the N&O and eventually go away.

    Are you saying that the Herald Sun is staying and the others are going? Seems weird to me

  2. Nancy

     /  March 27, 2017

    No, all the newspapers are staying. McClatchy owns a slew of newspapers across the country, and the hope is that they will each bring in revenue. But the CHN, which used to share resources (stories, reporters, photographers, recipes) with the N&O now will share resources with the Herald Sun instead. The overall editor will be the Herald’s Bob Ashley, not The N&O’s John Drescher. Neither the Herald Sun nor The N&O will pay for office space in Chapel Hill for the CHN.

  3. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 27, 2017

    wow. Better start writing more letters to the Herald Sun!

    They have better coverage in Northern Orange – but more people have been picking up the N&O plus inserts.

  4. Technically, Chapel Hill still has a daily newspaper, The Daily Tarheel, which has the advantage of not having to pay its staff.

    There are many North Carolina towns smaller than Chapel Hill that somehow manage to support daily newspapers (e.g., Mt. Airy, Asheboro, Henderson, Washington, I don’t understand why Chapel Hill seems unable to support a local paper. Perhaps the presence nearby of larger population centers is a hindrance, because advertisers feel it’s more cost-effective to place their ads in the N&O rather than in a paper that has limited circulation.

    If we want independent professional journalism to survive in Chapel Hill, we may need to recognize it as a public good and publicly fund it accordingly. How about a “penny for a free press”?

  5. plurimus

     /  March 27, 2017

    IMO a penny for free press is quaint, but will do nothing to stop the aggressive consolidation of the media. Print media has been disrupted and McClatchy’s failure to realize a strategy to deal with the dismemberment of the 4th estate is a problem public funding cannot and will not solve.

    Bob Ashley has the same problems dealing with the disruption in the Heralds business

    In a nutshell, the problems are 1) the message has become decoupled from the medium and 2) the fiscal moat that newspapers used to have has been back filled by technology. 3) Other than depth, there is little value add print medium can offer. People are overwhelmed with change and when people (or institutions) are overwhelmed they retreat to what they know, making depth (and the resulting thought) less desirable.

    The good news is that this decoupling and technology back fill has made delivering content much cheaper and easy to disseminate. The bad news is that people are less able to process all of the data necessary to form a critical opinion. Worse yet, certain elements on both sides have seized on this disruption to make truth harder to recognize.

    Journalists and editors need to eat, I suspect that the hard work of covering local issues in the context of the state can be made to pay reasonably well, but as recent events have underscored it is essential that the press remain independent of government.

    I know I have re-upped my subscriptions to various national independent news sources as a result, and I would urge others to do so as well.

    As far as local news goes, I have long felt the CHN to be less than independent and way too focused on Chapel Hill proper while at the same time serving a dwindling audience. CHN also seemed to be beholding to certain entrenched ideologies and agendas and it felt less than neutral. Perhaps this is an opening for someone to build a truthful news source that covers BOTH the county and the towns and their relationship to the state context without being biased by advertisers and the politically powerful.

  6. Nancy

     /  March 29, 2017

    Does anyone know where to get a copy of the Chapel Hill News in Chapel Hill? It no longer comes with my N&O subscription.

  7. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 30, 2017

    They deliver the papers to Carolina Spring in Carrboro. I bet the senior center has them too.

  8. Nancy

     /  March 31, 2017

    And according to Mark Schultz, editor of the CHN, people who live in Chapel Hill can call Sean O’Rourke, 919-829-4514, to request their address be added to an established delivery route.

  9. Tammy Grubb

     /  April 12, 2017

    You still can find the paper at Harris Teeter in Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill North and University Place) and in Carrboro; at Neal’s Deli, the Root Cellar and the Pig.

    You can find the Chapel Hill News reporter (that’s me) at Whole Foods at least three days a week between 8 and 10 a.m. Other times, look for me at the Chapel Hill Library, Caribou Coffee or in your local wifi-accessible parking lot. I’m also trying to work in Hillsborough every week (usually at the library or Weaver Street). Always available by email.

  10. Louis Levy

     /  April 16, 2017

    Ms Grubb,

    How about a story on the Orange Co. tax revaluation. I haven’t seen any coverage on the average change of real property tax values in any of the local papers.

  11. plurimus

     /  April 16, 2017

    Tammy. I have to ask why your paper(s) do not take on the thornier issues? It seems (to me anyway) that the papers are content to let the citizens battle without taking a stand yourselves.

    I know you (and Mark) work hard and you’re in a tough business, but perhaps if the paper more often took an editorial stand on important issues and explained the puts and takes, it could add value to the discourse rather than being perceived as a lusty observer at an after school parking lot fight.

  12. Tammy Grubb

     /  April 17, 2017

    Thanks for your suggestions! Please keep them coming (you can reach me more quickly at

    I’ve actually been working on a story about the huge increase in commercial property taxes. With all the outspoken people in this town, you would think it would be easier to find someone who wants to speak on the record. Not so, but look for it soon.

    As for editorial stands, I’m not ethically allowed to take a stand on the issues. Editor Mark Schultz used to write these, but with consolidation (to the two of us), there’s just not enough hours in a week, and something had to give. That’s part of the reason we strive to publish as many letters and op-eds as possible about a topic.I will mention this to him and to Bob Ashley, our editor at The Herald-Sun, as something we might want to reconsider now that there are more people in the newsroom.

  13. Bonnie Hauser

     /  April 24, 2017

    Tammy – How about one last piece on light rail risks – and Orange County’s finances are looking. there’s the reval, plus we still have to pay for the school bonds (which only fund part of the needed repairs), then there’s new funds for schools, increased recycling fees. Plus we need help with broadband.

    Then there’s Trump budget which as Nancy has pointed out puts child and senior nutrition and CDBG grants on the block. Don’t forget healthcare and who knows what else.

    Plus we’re not growing very fast. So how are we going to pay for all of this?