Two reporters leaving Charlotte Observer biz desk
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Charlotte Observer business editor Patrick Scott sent out the following announcement on Thursday:
“Stella Hopkins and Jen Aronoff are leaving the paper for new opportunities. Stella is going to work for Bank of America in a newly created job working with the bank’s regulators, and Jen is going back to her alma mater Northwestern to get her law degree. Both will be sorely missed by the Business team and the paper.
“Stella has been the rock for the team and critical to the Observer’s watchdog mission, taking on the big stories and heavyweights in Carolinas business since she arrived in 1992. She wound up on 1A her first day, thrown into reporting on the USAir strike, and went on to cover just about every aspect of business. For much of her time, she has specialized in business investigations, distinguishing the paper in reports ranging from Duke Energy’s profiteering in energy trading to poor care and deaths at VA hospitals to businesses exploiting loopholes in the immigration system.
“Stella immerses herself in issues to the point of knowing them better than her sources. When we had a particularly complex and difficult story to seize, when we needed a reporter on the ground in China and India to connect trends to the Carolinas, when we needed someone to wrestle down the annual executive pay report, we turned to Stella.
“Most recently, we’ve relied on her for coverage on two major stories: the roiling housing market and the wounded banking sector. Stella has been a force for good in helping people save their homes as they got stuck in the quagmire of mortgage modification. She has developed a depth of expertise matched by few reporters covering housing in the U.S. She has created databases of foreclosures, housing sales and prices, as well as troubled commercial real estate, that have produced a variety of exclusive enterprise. She has also become an expert on the role of bank boards of directors in the financial crisis, insider loans to banking officials, and the rising number of troubled banks in the Carolinas and what that means for readers and the future.
“Through the years, Stella has helped the team win numerous national business awards for breaking news coverage and this year earned her own plaque from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers as an enterprise winner for a package on how the board of directors blundered in the failure of Cape Fear Bank.
“Said Stella: ‘My 22 years in newspapers have taken me around the world and backstage on events large and small. I have, with the help of editors and many others, been able to help people, expose wrongdoing and hypocrisy and even right a wrong or two. Now I’m onto an exciting new chapter, where I’ll use skills some of you helped me acquire in a new way.’
“Jen came to us in November 2004 after she graduated from Northwestern and Jim Walser saw talent in her clips. She worked in each of the regional offices covering everything from growth to Google, and joined Business to cover retail in early 2008. Jen developed impressive expertise on the retail beat and became one of our most gifted storytellers. She recently dove into chronicling the transformation of Discovery Place and Eastland Mall and took us to the outskirts of the region to explain the impact of slowing growth — each story evidence of Jen’s curiosity, intellect, enthusiasm, thorough reporting and literary touch.
“Jen has a talent for finding stories with a twist, like walking the mall with a marketing professor to show how stores to try to manipulate consumers. She also made sure she had fun, blogging about American Idol, finding ways to write about milkshakes and other sweets and checking out greasy spoons across the region, from The Shrimp Boat in Gastonia to the Varsity in Rock Hill.
“Jen amped up our holiday retail coverage with stories including the memorable ‘Locked, Loaded and Levy Free’ on the S.C. sales-tax holiday for guns. She was a key player in the whiplash of the collapse of Wachovia, owning the coverage of shareholders on the losing end of the sale of the bank and helping the team win breaking news SABEW awards for banking coverage that year. She also helped win a breaking news award this year, coming back to work the evening Brian Moynihan was named BofA CEO.
“Said Jen: ‘I’ve appreciated all of this so much, and I have loved having the chance to get to know this region and tell its stories. Now, I am also looking forward to trying something new, and to returning to the Great Lakes, winters and all.’
“Jen’s last day will be Aug. 11 and Stella’s final day will be early in the week of Aug. 16.
“We will be filling the two positions. If you are interested in covering retails/sports business or housing/special projects, let’s talk by Aug. 13.”