Live streaming allows us to shine sun on local boards

We have learned that some of our elected officials are a tad camera shy.

Apparently they aren’t enamored with this newspaper’s decision to provide live-stream video coverage of the meetings of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, as well as the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County. Plans are to include the Lumberton City Council in that rotation, and other governmental meetings when we believe there exists heightened interest to those of you who depend on us for their local news.

That will include a candidates forum that this newspaper will co-sponsor with the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce on April 10 at the Carolina Civic Center. The five sheriff’s candidates have all been invited to appear, as well as the three candidates for district attorney, and the initial response has been positive. A short story about the event is on page 1A of today’s newspaper, and we will update it as we get commitments from the candidates who have been invited to appear.

While some elected officials aren’t thrilled with the live stream, the public’s reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with thousands of people watching live and then others watching an archived version later, when it fits their schedule. We have fielded, and appreciate, many expressions of thanks.

There has been plenty to see, including the pursuit by some commissioners of the Angel Exchange building, a deal that might have been closed by now except for the scrutiny, and now appears to be in doubt, as well as last week’s decision by the school board to take away the interim label from Superintendent Shanita Wooten.

While The Robesonian will continue to provide the written word in our coverage of these governmental bodies, in the print edition as well as robesonian.com, seeing is believing — or, perhaps, disbelieving. It would have been difficult for even the most descriptive reporter to capture the hostility displayed by some county commissioners during their meeting on Feb. 5 — the first one that this newspaper live streamed — toward anyone who dared question their push at that time to buy a building with limited function, that would cost millions of dollars, and for which school officials said they had no use.

The quality, especially the audio, of that night’s broadcast was at times shaky, but we have gotten much more skilled since then, having learned from our mistakes, and we have also had some equipment upgrades. If you have not seen a live steam of a local board, the next opportunity is on Monday at 6 p.m. when the county commissioners meet again.

Last week was Sunshine Week in North Carolina, which highlights the need for transparency with local governmental boards. Anyone who has watched our school board and county Board of Commissioners know that some of their members, not all, don’t exactly bask in the sunshine, and prefer an uninformed public that enables them to cling to the power they use to honor themselves.

No number of written words can match the comprehensive coverage that live streaming provides, not only in the totality of the coverage, but in enabling the public to observe the behavior of some of these elected officials.

It is vastly informative.