Harsh national media spotlight trained on NC
Posted July 10, 2013
Updated July 11, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — A Wednesday editorial in The New York Times is the latest blow to North Carolina's reputation as a progressive state.
Headlined "The Decline of North Carolina," the editorial criticizes the "grotesque damage" created by the Republican-led General Assembly.
"State government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot," the editorial states.
"North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build."
The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Fox News also have pointed a harsh spotlight on changes in the state, from cuts to unemployment benefits to the repeal of the Racial Justice Act to the abortion restrictions now under consideration.
"I don't think they're headlines that are necessarily good from an economic development standpoint," said Rick French, chairman and chief executive of French/West/Vaughan, a Raleigh public relations agency.
Many people absorb information and form opinions based on headlines, said French, who noted that he doesn't take sides on any of the issues and follows the debates only from a public relations perspective as to their potential impact. PR exec says protests, legislation tarnishing NC image
"The question is, is North Carolina doing damage to its reputation? And the answer is probably so. Is it doing irreparable harm to its reputation? I think that remains to be seen," he said.
"I think (people) will still come here to play. The question will be, will they come here to live and work?" he said.
Officials with the state Department of Commerce said the negative publicity hasn't hurt their business recruitment efforts. Companies are more concerned with tax reform proposals that lawmakers are considering, including the future of any state incentives for business relocations and expansions, they said.
A spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory issued a response to the Times editorial Wednesday afternoon and said the governor plans to write to the paper's editorial board.
“The New York Times editorial is riddled with errors, and maybe if they came to North Carolina, they would understand that Gov. McCrory remains 100 percent focused on the economy, education and government efficiency, as he has been for the first six months in office,” the statement said.
French said he believes the state needs to provide a stronger response to the news stories and editorials, calling it a basic Issues Management 101 case study.
"These headlines are out there and people are believing, 'Wow, what's going on in North Carolina?' There's no one from North Carolina who's really advocating why these things are being discussed," he said.