Tuesday, May 02, 2017

N.C. journalist dies at 43, after challenging bill that would rob papers of public-notice advertising

Mark Binker
Just days before dying unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of 43, a political journalist who didn't work directly for a traditional newspaper defended papers against a bill that would take away most of their legal-notice advertising in North Carolina. Mark Binker, editor of the NC Insider State Government News Service, wrote April 26 in response to a Senate committee's approval of a bill to let cities and counties post public notices on their websites, "It's bad for journalism and bad for democracy."

Binker wrote: "Those ads help pay for reporters who will not only read public notices, but head on down to the city council meeting and ask about why the town is giving away incentives to a new business, or hasn't filled a pothole Main Street or is bothering to pay for the mayor's junket to the big League of Municipalities confab this June, hosted at the Embassy Suites Spa & Golf Resort in Concord, if you must know."

Binker was well respected among his peers, Jennifer Fernandez reports for the Winston-Salem Journal. "Binker covered the Guilford County commissioners, Greensboro City Council, High Point government and the General Assembly during nearly 12 years with the Greensboro News & Record. In 2012, he took a job reporting on the legislature with WRAL in Raleigh. In March, he became editor of N.C. Insider, a state-government newsletter owned by the News & Observer" in Raleigh.

Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement: “He never ducked asking tough questions, or stopped digging for more. His death leaves a huge hole in the press corps." Former News & Record editor John Robinson said of Binker, “He earned great respectability and credibility in Raleigh because his reporting was so good. He was just a straight down the middle, shoe leather reporter.”

Social media has lit up with tributes to Binker. Tyler Dukes, a WRAL colleague, who headlined his Twitter feed "Thinking about all the lessons learned from watching, reading and collaborating with Mark Binker, wrote: "Be courageous. Be fair. Be skeptical. Know the context, and communicate it clearly. Respect sources. No cheap shots. No surprises.Hold power to high standards. Hold yourself to high standards. Trust your ethics, discuss and defend them. Share your knowledge."

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