Bryan Hanks: Meet our new team members

Bryan Hanks: Meet our new team members

There are people you encounter in this journey on this planet who possess so much character and integriy, they actually make you a better person — not because they force their will upon you but because they motivate you with their resolve and personal ethic.

That clearly defines Janet Sutton … and it’s a reason I’m glad she is joining our little (but growing) team at Neuse News.

Janet, along with Rudy Coggins and Laieke Abebe (more on them in a moment), are the most recent additions to our NN staff.

From left, Jon Dawson, Junious Smith III, Janet Sutton and the column’s author pose for a photo on Aug. 1 during a Neuse News staff party. The quartet originally worked together for a local newspaper but are now reunited with Neuse News. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

Janet is an amazing photographer — and she has nearly 20 North Carolina Press Association awards to back that up. She is not just defined by the photos she’s snapped or the accolades in her resume, though — she has an incredible community journalism mindset.

We started working together in 2003 when she joined The Free Press newsroom as an understudy to the venerable Charles Buchanan. Janet learned the valuable tenets of community journalism at the footsteps of a legend; on more than a few occasions, Charles shared his pride with me at the amazing photojournalist she was becoming.

After Charles passed away, she took the reins of the photography department and then taught her young and talented protégé — Zach Frailey — how to be a community photojournalist. Janet was also what I liked to call the “conscience of our newsroom;” she wouldn’t hesitate to hold me accountable to our newsroom and our community when I needed it.

Janet Sutton

Although Janet had already won a wall full of awards, it was the leadership she displayed in The Free Press newsroom during and after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that showed me she had become a fully-engaged journalist, not just a person who takes photos. I had left that newsroom a couple months before the storm struck and was serving Lenoir County as its public information officer.

During that historic event, Janet stepped up and was the leader of intensive press coverage for a Lenoir County community in its time of need. As the PIO who dealt with media entities all over the nation during Hurricane Matthew, I was duly impressed by Janet’s attention to detail and her leadership skills.

I was outside the bubble of that newsroom for the first time in 14 years and was equally proud and sincerely moved by the way she took the reins of coverage for The Free Press newsroom at a time when it was sorely needed.

And now she’s on my team again … and I couldn’t be happier.

Rudy Coggins

She is joined by Rudy Coggins, formerly of the Goldsboro News-Argus. Rudy is a Wayne County sports reporting legend who has micro-covered events in that market for a couple of decades. Like Janet (and our own sports-writing guru Junious Smith III and publisher B.J. Murphy for that matter), Rudy understands the importance of community journalism.

I first met Rudy at a North Lenoir playoff volleyball match in October 2002 and was blown away by how dedicated he was to reporting every high school sport for his GNA audience — not just the primary sports such as football, basketball and baseball. I’ve admired his work from afar for 17 years and can’t actually believe we are going to work together.

While Rudy will certainly add to the extensive sports coverage to which you’ve become accustomed with Neuse News, he will also help us with the inevitable and exciting growth we’ll have in the Wayne County market in the not-so-distant future.

Laieke Abebe

Also joining our NN team is Laieke Abebe, who introduced himself to you two weeks ago in his introductory column. In his short time in this market, he has earned the respect of coaches, athletes and readers alike for his dedication to accurate reporting.

Laieke is a talented young sports journalist with an impressive work ethic who also understands the importance of community journalism. He boasts some valuable new media experience that will help Neuse News remain No. 1 in Lenoir, Greene and Jones counties for sports coverage for years to come.

When B.J. launched this site not much more than a year ago, he promised you, dear reader, that he would do everything he could to bring you a comprehensive and quality news source this area hasn’t seen in many years. In a ridiculously short amount of time, he’s already done that — the numbers bear it out — but he’s not resting on his laurels.

It’s truly an exciting time for us here at Neuse News! Welcome to the team, Janet, Rudy and Laieke!

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