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2012 Pelican Award: Lumina News

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH – As a small coastal community, Wrightsville Beach packs in countless ongoing debates and issues surrounding the area’s tourism appeal, local wildlife habitat preservation and restoration efforts and quality of life of its residents. Whether it’s another vote to ban smoking on area beaches, which recently passed in the 2012 elections, or an update on the multi-faceted issue of the Carolinas Cement project, Lumina News continues to offer award-winning coverage to its readers.

As the sister publication of the Wrightsville Beach Magazine, Lumina News originally began as a free resource on Wrightsville Beach and surrounding area news in May 2002. The weekly publication has since become the most affordable news source on local, regional and state issues, and has received over a dozen awards for public service, advertising and editorial content, including a 2012 Pelican Award from the N.C. Coastal Federation.

Marimar McNaughton, managing editor of Lumina News, accepted the award from the Federation’s Vice President, Dick Bierly, at the awards ceremony in August for the paper’s “dedication to research and investigative reporting of what are often complex environmental issues.” While McNaughton is also the editorial director for Wrightsville Beach Magazine, she manages and coordinates the handful of writers, photographers and interns that work tirelessly to produce a well-rounded newspaper each week.

Wrightsville Beach, home of the Lumina News, has a big economic stake in its coast.

: 0in 0in 10pt;”>In 400 to 800 words, Lumina News writers must accurately and concisely explain complex issues to readers, piecing together facts and providing multiple perspectives from experts and citizens involved.

While staff and contributing writers are assigned regular “beats,” everyone must have the ability to provide comprehensive, objective and consistent coverage of the surrounding coastal and environmental issues where it is needed. They often cover significant environmental stories that are lightly treated by other print and television media, such as the Carolinas Cement–also known as Titan America–proposed cement plant in Castle Hayne, NC and the Stop Titan Action Network (STAN) coalition formed to deny the project.

Sarah Gilliam is the program coordinator for STAN. She praised the continuous coverage of this and other ongoing community and environmental issues. “Lumina News is a vital component to our coastal community,” she said. “Their dedication to investigative journalism on coastal issues sets them apart from other news outlets in town.”

Regardless of the clear threats the coal-burning cement plant poses for the environment and public health, the Titan project has become a political hot-button issue in the media that often marginalizes the arguments of proponents and opponents of the project. Going beyond the farce of environment vs. economy (or jobs), Gilliam said that Lumina News goes further for its readers. “The staff has always gone the extra mile to dig a little deeper on controversial issues, like Titan Cement,” she said. “Citizens are better served by a paper like Lumina News.”

Though Lumina strives for unbiased coverage of community news and issues like Titan, Gilliam also commended editor and publisher, Pat Bradford for stating her well-researched, fact-based opinion on the company’s looming presence in her “My Thoughts” opinion column.

Bradford has served as senior editor and journalist of both Wrightsville Beach Magazine and Lumina News since their beginnings and took over as publisher and CEO of the company in June 2003.

By connecting the dots between eerily similar stories of intensive industry moving into people’s backyards, such as the story of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear facility being built six miles from the “ghost town” of Minami Soma, Bradford points out how government sometimes acts in the best interest of corporations over people, who become “collateral damage.”

“State and county leaders invited Titan to locate quarry and cement kilns in the midst of the ecological splendor that is our home place,” Bradford wrote on April 7, 2011. “Was the decision in the best interest of business leaders and the state, or the people and the environment?”

Bradford went on to point out that in March of that same year, Titan “flexed its muscle yet again” by threatening the county commissioners with lawsuits against the county if they tightened regulations to protect the environment.

“They were kind enough to point out that in the current recession, the county might want to reconsider tightening restrictions that would result in defending itself in a court of law,” she wrote. “At the same time the county faces an impending EPA non-attainment air quality designation.”

Bradford’s thoughtful research and arguments reflect the ongoing attention to details, facts and local, as well as global, perspectives that are often overlooked in other publications.

“Americans have grown accustomed to seeing Japanese survivors and aid workers on the nightly news wearing the white breathing masks,” Bradford concluded. “It’s a sure bet the tourists and recreational visitors who flock to our shores will not be so keen to wear them. Unless New Hanover really cleans up its air and keeps it clean, that portion of our economy will most certainly fall victim to the dirty air, and we will be the collateral damage.”

About the Author

Shannon Gentry

Shannon Rae Gentry grew up in the foothills of Western North Carolina and earned a BS in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and an MFA in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Shannon has written for encore magazine in Wilmington, NC, and currently contributes to Lumina News in Wrightsville Beach, while offering freelance services to other publications.