Charlotte Journalism Collaborative kicks off distribution of graphic novel

The Charlotte Journalism Collaborative (CJC) is proud to continue its rollout of the graphic novel “PANDEM!C,” detailing the events of the past year and how COVID-19 has impacted the local Charlotte area. 

“PANDEM!C” made its way onto the shelves of select Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) media centers last week, and this week is available for free to anyone in the community through the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. 

Published by the CJC in partnership with BOOM Charlotte, the book chronicles first-person accounts of people impacted by the coronavirus in 2020. Accounts ranged from those who made full recoveries and moved forward, to chilling tales of loved ones passing despite being in perfect health just days earlier. 

Each story is based on an actual article published by members of the Charlotte journalism community selected by the CJC, a collaborative launched in 2019 by the Solutions Journalism Network. The partnership includes seven major media companies and other local institutions focusing on issues of major importance to the Charlotte region. Members include The Charlotte Observer, Carolina Public Press, La Noticia, QCity Metro, Qnotes, WCNC-TV and WFAE 90.7, as well as the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Free Press. There are eight chapters plus a prelude, written in both English and Spanish.

“It [“PANDEM!C”] highlights the importance of journalism, and of the idea that everyone’s story matters,” said Kim King, director of virtual learning and media services for CMS. “It also does a great job of showing such a range of experiences and individuals. This would be an awesome text to add to our libraries, not only as a story to read to help students be engaged and informed, but also to serve as a mentor text and encourage them to tell their own and others’ stories.”

It’s already resonating at some schools. Two Charlotte Country Day students were quick to notice the successes of the project.

“Although I regularly listen to the news, I never completely grasped or recognized how greatly COVID-19 impacted the community of Charlotte until reading the graphic novel project,” said Elizabeth Beasley. “The graphic novel easily depicted personal stories about isolation when social interaction was needed most, and stories about local workers, the undocumented and uninsured, … reinforced the direct impacted of COVID-19 on the vulnerable population(s) of Charlotte.”

Davenport Hatcher shared a similar sentiment. “Practically everyone was affected, one way or another, by COVID-19,” she said. “By sharing this graphic novel to the younger generations and students, I believe this novel would bring people closer together by sharing common experiences.” 

One of the strengths of “PANDEM!C” comes from its reliance on solutions-based reporting. Solutions journalism means continuing a story beyond identification of a problem. Through careful research, journalists find other examples of people who share similar problems, and identify methods for overcoming them. In the case of COVID, this meant looking beyond the infection and death numbers. How were communities adapting? How did people cope with what was happening around them?

The CJC distributed more than 2,500 free copies of the “PANDEM!C” graphic novel, with the support of a Cultural Vision Grant from Arts & Science Council.  

Challenge / Opportunity

This graphic novel offers a unique perspective on the local impact of COVID-19 in Charlotte communities. A presentation of local journalism through and artistic lens, this partnership between reporters and artists, media outlets and art collectives, presents COVID-19 stories in a way that supports and showcases our local community. The questions that arose from producing a project like this include:

  • Would people consume this type of journalism?
  • Would this attract new audiences to local solutions-based journalism?

Key Elements of Innovation

Key elements of Innovation include:

  • Leveraging the library’s Digital Branch to host the digital graphic novel online and over social media.
  • Utilizing the twenty-branch library system to distribute 2000 physical graphic novels
  • Showcasing the graphic novel through digital programs hosted online by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Achieved Outcomes

Beginning on August 23, 2021 two thousand copies were distributed for FREE via Charlotte Mecklenburg Library distributing 100 copies each at our 20 branch locations.

In addition, more copies were delivered via:

  • 250 copies distributed by WFAE through their membership drive
  • 131 copies distributed through CJC at various community engagement events
  • 140 copies distributed by BOOM Charlotte through various community engagement events
  • 81 copies distributed to journalists, artists and partners involved in the project
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *