A few months ago, our family had the honor of welcoming Historian David Cecelski to our family farm in Pamlico County. Dr. Cecelski has authored numerous award-winning books including one of my favorites The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War. It was an amazing day sharing the history of my maternal family and hearing his wisdom and insights about the local history of this region. As hours passed, Dr. Cecelski narrowed our discussion to an interesting piece of my family’s history. It centered on my maternal grandfather, Frederick Douglas Fisher who was born in 1891 and his love for education but most specifically his love for the news and current events.
I shared my memories of how my granddaddy would walk out the dirt road that I now call home to get his local newspaper. It was an important daily ritual for him. He sat at his barn door and read the paper from front to back. I would learn in my early tweens why the paper mattered so much to him.
My grandfather, Fred was born to parents who were enslaved in this region. As free people, my great grandparents, William Henry “Harry” and Henrietta Robison Fisher believed education was of the upmost importance. My great grandfather got several national papers from Baltimore, Maryland and Chicago, Illinois, but most notably was the Carolinian Newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina. When he died in the 1920’s, his son-my grandfather continued to get the Carolinian Newspaper. I now receive the Carolinian weekly as the family tradition has continued.
There is a story that was passed down from my grandfather, that the Night Riders told my great grandfather Harry to stop getting that n***** paper but he continued even in the threat of violence to get his papers. My grandfather continued the legacy of his father of being an informed citizen as it was important to him. My granddaddy was a deeply religious man who served his country in World War I. He worked at Cherry Point. He served as a deacon for more than 70 years at his local church. He absolutely loved his family. He loved reading his books, encyclopedias, and yes, his newspapers.
I couldn’t help but grow up with a love for the news. Watching my granddaddy’s ritual with his newspapers made me want to be a journalist. So, I started as a staff writer for the New Bern High school newspaper in my junior year. I went on to major in mass communications at Shaw University but my love for words led me toward getting a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a concentration in English and on to East Carolina University to obtain the M.A. in English with a concentration in Technical and Professional Communications.
Thus, it was with dismay when I saw that the New Bern Post was going to shut down. I immediately reached out to the founder and editor about acquiring the paper because I have been raised understanding the importance of the news and especially the newspaper.
That is why Dr. Cecelski visit with us on that June day was so important because it was a reminder of the importance of newspapers in our family’s history. I was reminded of the power of words, information and yes, the news. Words matter. Information matters. News matters.
We live in unique times, and we are working at the New Bern Post to balance these emerging spaces of information and news. We know that public trust matters and we take that seriously. So, with diligence we are building this news platform, the New Bern Post.
We are grateful to our partners in this endeavor as they have been extremely helpful in providing guidance along with training for our citizen journalists. Thank you to the teams at the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media and the NC Local News Lab.
We will begin a weekly digital program on Mondays at 7:00pm starting January 3, 2022. Due to the significant and record-breaking increases of COVID19 infections due to the Omicron variant, we will focus on issues around this topic for the month of January.
We will provide written content from two of our state news partners as we work on building our staff infrastructure, which will include NC Health News and Carolina Public Press.
We are excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve Eastern North Carolina. We want for community members from all communities to be engaged in the news ecosystem. Thus, we will be asking for your input and feedback as we build this news infrastructure. Thank you so much for your time. Dawn Baldwin Gibson, Ph.D.