Thad Ogburn named editor of Raleigh’s News & Observer
Career journalist Thad Ogburn, who helped guide The News & Observer reporters through reorganizations, consolidations and the move to digital-first publishing, has been named the newspaper’s editor.
Editor Bill Church announced the move on Thursday, saying, “Thad has a proven track record. He loves The N&O, knows the Triangle and our state, and above all cares about his colleagues, whether they’ve been here for decades or started just last week.
Ogburn, 59, started at The News & Observer in the early 1990s, when the paper was still owned by the Daniels family. A Winston-Salem native who grew up in the town of King, Stokes County, he graduated from the UNC School of Journalism and worked as a reporter for the Daily News in Jacksonville, North Carolina, from out of college before becoming the city’s editor there.
He joined The N&O as Editor-in-Chief and rose to the position of Editor-in-Chief, directing the work of the editorial office: editing, page design and headline writing. It was around this time that California-based McClatchy Co. bought The News & Observer.
In the late 90s, when The N&O began adding weekly newspapers focused on small communities, Ogburn assembled a team of seven to launch the first, the North Raleigh News, as editor and general manager. . Later he helped start a second, The Durham News, which competed with The Herald-Sun before McClatchy bought that paper.
He returned to the Raleigh Newsroom in 2003 to serve as Education Editor and later Subway Deputy Editor, then spent two years as Editor-in-Chief.
Ogburn has served as Metro’s editor since 2008, helping coordinate news coverage and directly supervising six reporters. In this role, he earned a reputation for being pragmatic and compassionate, able to polish disparate ideas and bring together deadline-averse writers and editors to produce a cohesive daily report for readers of online and print publications.
To give his reporters more time to polish their work, Ogburn can often be heard on the phone with readers calling in to offer story suggestions, reviews, or recollections of how things used to be.
The goal is always to “do good journalism”
Over the past year, Ogburn has overseen the launch of two initiatives McClatchy has rolled out to his publications across the country. One was the creation of the Service Desk, whose reporters and editors produce stories that quickly and clearly answer questions posed by current events, like explaining how people can get tested for COVID-19 or how get vaccinated against it.
The other initiative was to redraw the front two printed pages per week to feature a story or set of stories that explain a cultural issue, event or phenomenon in greater depth than daily coverage typically allows. The N&O used this project to make Sunday and Wednesday reporting more magazine-like, showcasing the work of reporters from all time in the newsroom and in sports. Stories are usually offered first, and often exclusively, to subscribers.
While some politicians have argued that local news coverage is becoming stale, Ogburn said readers have responded favorably to the changes and proven The N&O remains relevant and necessary for those interested in their community. That’s true whether they’re reading it on paper, on a laptop or a cellphone screen, he said.
“The way we deliver news has changed. The way people process the news has changed,” Ogburn said. “But the basics – doing good journalism, keeping people informed and just being indispensable to the local community – hasn’t changed.”
Church, who took over as editor in 2021, said: “Thad understands the dynamics of change because he experienced it at the N&O. As editor, he will ensure that we look to the future without forgetting our past. I appreciate his decency. And I admire his proactive ability to get things done.
Ogburn is rooted in the community
In his new role, Ogburn will oversee the daily operations of the newspaper and work with Church to determine coverage priorities. He has served in some of those roles since the departure earlier this year of former editor Sharif Durhams, who took a job with the Washington Post.
Scott Sharpe, director of multimedia and photography at the N&O, has worked with Ogburn since he joined the paper.
“For me,” Sharpe said, “his greatest strength is that he relates to people in the community and in the newsroom. He puts himself in the reader’s shoes and values this experience. It’s rooted in the community in many ways, rooted in North Carolina.
“He doesn’t shy away from making tough decisions.
“And I think he understands that the newspaper should inform and educate but also engage the reader.”
During his early years at the N&O, Ogburn met and married the former Becky Dillner, who worked in the news research department and is now a public relations professional. They live in Raleigh and have a daughter, Parker, who is now a senior at Appalachian State University.
“I want to continue The N&O’s legacy of doing great journalism that exposes things, explains things, enlightens people and entertains people,” Ogburn said. “I think we do all of that.”
This story was originally published September 1, 2022 10 a.m.