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Back for the first time

A column from the guy in charge of making the news

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Last week marked the release of the first Creative Loafing Charlotte with yours truly at the helm of the News section.

Some CL readers may recognize my name as a reporter with this publication in the past, some don't care who I am and they're probably in the right.

My maturation as a writer started while covering the protest movement for the months leading up to the 2012 Democratic National Convention and well after that. I've also written investigative pieces on gangs, homelessness and a list of other issues within the city.

For better or worse, after years of writing for CL, most people who know my name only know it from The Blotter, which I also wrote for six years, beginning during my 2008 internship. I could ramble off any number of cover stories I spent months reporting on but people usually light up if I just say the word Blotter.

I stopped freelancing for Loafing, as I know it, last year and took a full-time reporter position with Carolina Weekly Newspapers. I enjoyed my time there and was working as Managing Editor of Union County Weekly when the opportunity presented itself to return here and serve as News Editor. I worked under Kim Lawson and Ana McKenzie in the past and I learned a lot from both of them. It is with great excitement that I step into the news editor's shoes.

I am here now to cultivate a culture of hard news with teeth at CL that I just don't see in the recently growing number of blogs and other outlets sprouting up through town. I want people to know that things are happening outside of Southend, Plaza Midwood and NoDa.

It wouldn't be hard to presume after reading a morning's worth of Charlotte news on the web that nothing exists west of I-77 save for the airport. I will tell the stories of the folks at all four corners of the greater Charlotte area: those doing amazing things and those who are struggling the hardest.

While I'm as excited as the next guy at all the cool things happening in this city, I'm not blind to the fact that Charlotte's poor population has more than doubled in the last 15 years. We enjoy the second-fastest growth rate of any city, and also are experiencing the third fastest growth of a population living in poverty.

According to the most recent data available, from 2013, 22 percent of children in Charlotte lived in poverty. That's a healthy drop from previous years and brings the city back to the national average, but it's still 44,000 kids that the normal Charlotte news consumer doesn't see, hear or think about.

A recent Harvard study ranks Charlotte 99th of the 100 largest U.S. counties for the potential of poor youth to escape the cycle of poverty, ranking just ahead of Baltimore City. Charlotte expects to be in the national spotlight this July as Randall Kerrick goes to trial for the killing of Jonathan Ferrell, and it's important to look at the root causes of such a systemic struggle, as opposed to propagating a fear factor present in most reactive coverage of such complex issues.

I'm familiar with the culture here at CL and will continue to supply an alternative view of the goings-on in Charlotte. I would describe stories like last week's feature, which took a closer look at Gov. McCrory's intentions for the infamous "Ag-Gag Bill," as deeper journalistic looks at what's been covered in tidbits on TV or in short articles. I'm not here to beat a dead horse – or in last week's case, chickens – that readers have seen beaten 100 times already during the nightly news. I'm here to make you look at it a bit differently.

More importantly, I'm here to find those stories that really aren't being told anywhere else; to give a voice to the voiceless, in the words of many a wide-eyed journalism student. I've never lost that spirit and it motivates me now that I'm in a spot where I truly feel I can act on it.

I'm not a thinkpiece guy, I'm a reporter who goes about things a little differently. I'm of a school that believes both sides of a conflict should always have their say, but the idea of objectivity is naive.

All reporters, or the ones who deserve to be called such, are giving a platform to a voice they don't believe is getting the proper platform elsewhere. That's what I'm here to do.

Reach me at rpitkin@clclt.com or follow me on Twitter @pitkin_ryan.

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