Joey Pitchford, a 2015 graduate of Appalachian State University’s Department of Communication, was recently awarded third place for education reporting by the North Carolina Press Association (NCPA). His pair of articles, “Redistricting schools in Wayne County,” covered racial and socioeconomic disparities in the Wayne County school system. Pitchford was recognized for his work at the annual NCPA awards ceremony on February 22 in Raleigh.
Currently a reporter for the Goldsboro News Argus, he was intrigued by a NAACP survey that came across his desk in summer 2017. The survey provided access to a wealth of data, and he dug in.
“Wayne County’s school district lines haven’t been redrawn in decades – some schools are drastically overcrowded and some can’t get enough students,” he said. “There’s a correlation between racial segregation and performance. Those schools with the highest instance of free and reduced lunch, which indicate poverty rates, are also predominately black and have the highest instance of teacher turnover and lowest student performance.”
According to Pitchford’s articles, many of these problems can be addressed by redistricting, but the issue has sparked some controversy among Wayne County residents.
“The pieces have been a frequent topic of discussion at school board meetings, but people aren’t always in favor of having their children bussed across the county,” he remarked.
Pitchford has been with the News Argus since he graduated, but didn’t always know he wanted to be a reporter. He came to Appalachian as a psychology major and switched to journalism when he realized how much he enjoyed writing.
“My RA was a journalism major, and thought ‘I can do that too,’” he shared. “I started writing for the Rotten Apple, which is a satirical publication on campus, and eventually became the editor. I still have friends today that I made during my time with the publication.”
He credits faculty in the Communication Department, along with his time at the Rotten Apple, for preparing him to be a reporter.
“So many of my professors were helpful, but Dr. Carolyn Edy, Dr. Greg Perreault and Dr. Lynnette Holman really stood out,” he recalled. “Writing comedy also helped – I learned how to handle constructive criticism and people who were upset by my work.”
After a few years in the industry and an award for his work, Pitchford has advice for current and prospective students.
“Be ready to be a multi-media journalist. Audio, layout, photography, videography – you need to know how to do it all,” he shared. “Faculty in Appalachian’s Communication Department are great at teaching all of these aspects, so our students have a leg up going into the industry.”
About the Department of Communication
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Communicationat Appalachian State University focuses on preparing students to succeed in the varied fields within the communication industry. The department offers five majors – advertising, communication studies, electronic media/broadcasting, journalism and public relations – and a minor in communication studies. Graduates work in a wide range of positions in media, corporate, agency, government and nonprofit organizations.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.