'Nine Questions' with Neuse News Publisher/Owner B.J. Murphy
In a series of interviews leading up to the official launch of Neuse News on June 27, we are introducing you to the people behind the scenes of the endeavor. Our first Q&A is with the publisher, owner and creator of Neuse News, B.J. Murphy.
Neuse News: Why did you decide to start Neuse News?
B.J. Murphy: The idea of Neuse News started long before me and our team. Many citizens have issued concerns over the years of the amount of national and state content being published in our local newspaper. The concerns have been amplified by having to pay for that content online when so many other news outlets have no online subscription fees.
The nagging questions of “If not me, who? And, if not now, when?” has been top of mind these last few months. Having served in local office for eight years and been a regular face on TV since my early 20s, my experience with journalism has always been that I'm the one being interviewed. What most people don't know is that I'm just as content behind the scenes.
What I've witnessed in the last 17 years though is a major shift from what matters most to people - their kids, their tax dollars and local happenings - to a corporate journalistic world of hyper sensationalism of national and state politics. However, the romanticism of local news with crime has bothered me more.
All the blessings and my failures in life have led to this moment. Without the help of too many to name people, Neuse News would not be possible. Can we develop a locally-driven news outlet without annoying pop-ups, without online subscription fees and zero reliance on state or national news? The challenge of providing what the market seems to be demanding is exciting. The bottom line is through Neuse News I'll be able to serve my hometown and Eastern North Carolina, albeit in a different capacity than I imagined even 12 months ago.
NN: What does this community mean to you?
BJM: In the early 90s one of my sisters, Jennifer, contracted two types of cancers. The chemo from the first caused the second diagnosis. The family went from trips back and forth to Greenville to back and forth to Chapel Hill. Thankfully, the Family Medical Leave Act had not long been put into law and my father was able to live in Chapel Hill for several months. Jennifer, quite simply, needed a bone marrow transplant and even that was a major risk. To say our middle-income family hit hard times financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually during those three years is an understatement.
Name: B.J. Murphy
Neuse News title: Publisher/Owner
Birthplace: Kinston, NC
Education: Lenoir County Public Schools - KHS in 1998, LCC (1-year), BSBA from ECU in 2002
Family: Jessica (15 years - high school sweetheart), Gracyn (9), Kathryn (6), & Charlie Evans (Standard Poodle - 4)
However, the people of this community did something amazing. One afternoon, our entire family was picked up in a limousine and taken to Grainger-Hill Performing Arts Center. Several dance studios and local entertainers put on a show like you've never seen called “Jennifer's Jamboree” ... all for one little girl with no hair and puffy cheeks, but who had an amazing smile. They even painted a huge Tweety Bird image (her favorite character) on the backdrop and had several T-shirts with the logo made. Kinston and Lenoir County showed up and gave of their money and talents. That is the community I grew up in. I still see cookouts and fundraisers happening today. The impression the community made on me is a big reason why I love Kinston and Lenoir County.
NN: What does the term “community journalism” mean to you?
BJM: Community journalism means living in and breathing the same air as the people you're covering. Understanding that reporting news and over-sensationalizing that same news may be good for clicks and sales, but it's terrible for the community. Striking the balance between reporting what's happening – good or bad – and being a good corporate citizen is what defines community journalism to me.
NN: If you could do any job in the world for one day -- and only one day -- what would it be?
BJM: Truthfully, I'm living a dream every day. I'm excited about the climb. I love when people tell me I can't. The fire in my belly to do more and be more is stronger than words or social media can express. I'm happy and blessed. Oftentimes over the years I've said that you could take away the house, the cars, the titles and more ... just let me be a family man because that role means more to me than anything else.
NN: What does “B.J.” stand for?
BJM: Buster Junior, and it's a nickname. My father's nickname since he was a kid is Buster. So naturally, I earned the name B.J. the day I was born. And, to disclose my legal name would require you to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, lol.
NN: What has been the greatest moment in your life to this point?
BJM: Besides the mushy family stuff, without a doubt becoming mayor at 29 has been the greatest moment of my life to this point, and a close second is flying in an F-15E. Earning the right to serve your neighbors is an outstanding and humbling privilege. And since the job only pays a little over $10,000 per year, it was never about the money. In fact, we lost more in opportunity costs than anything. Yet, that never mattered. Humility, sincerity, honesty, passion and determination help distinguish the negative connotation of “politician” versus a true public “servant”. And, hopefully, people will see that I served more like the latter than the former.
NN: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
BJM: This is a question I ponder often, which is why I've created multiple dream boards over time. Politics, technology and business have intrigued me since Rochelle Middle School. There's little doubt that I'll continue to find ways to scratch that itch. I'm often asked about serving in Congress or Raleigh and truthfully, I don't know. Is serving in either location possible? Sure. But is asking for the hyper-partisan challenge something I'm seeking? Not at this moment. My biggest life goal at the moment is to be uberly-successful in business by providing more value than we receive, so that within the next 10 years those questions will be easier to answer, whether that's yes or no.
NN: If your house was on fire and you had to grab three physical items (not people), what would they be and why?
BJM: My cell phone, simply because it's amazing how dependent we've become on them. Phone calls, emails, video, texts, social media, banking and more can be done on a hand-held device more powerful than technology first used to land man on the moon. And, considering that my children have had almost their entire lives posted to social media, then I've got access to special moments and more.
My grandfather's Bible. He preached out of it at the church he built on East Street and Vernon Avenue, yet he passed away 10 years before I was born. Oftentimes I wish I could go back in time, sit in a rocking chair, and chat with him for an hour or two.
A picture hanging in our den that depicts my grandfather's church homecoming in 1953. All 12 of his kids are in the picture of about 200 people, and they're numbered in a legend so I can tell who's who. The unique thing about it, though, is my grandparents are on both sides of the panoramic picture; that means they literally walked around the camera as the photographer, under the black camera sheet, panned the crowd.
NN: Elvis or The Beatles (and why)?
BJM: This is a tough question because I've got incredible respect for both; however, I will choose Elvis. Single-handedly, he broke through a new genre mixing blues and rock, but stayed true to his love of religious songs and ballads. His mark on America still ripples throughout our culture. My business partner of more than ten years, Bill Stovall, used to be a (good) Elvis impersonator and his collection of Elvis memorabilia should be in a museum. The only downside to that was being forced to listen to the Sirius/XM Elvis channel for hours on the highway. Still, his legend lives on.