Most local news outlets seem to be doing a decent job of getting out both sides of this story - covering the WidenI77.org efforts to promote investigating alternatives. Most are at least making an attempt to give space to alternative opinions in their letters to the editor or commentary pages. Most aren't aggressively attacking those alternative opinions when they should know better.
DavidsonNews.net & CorneliusNews.net have covered the story well - posting notifications of WidenI77.org meetings, multiple articles about the citizens group's efforts, and even giving space for a lengthy commentary on the subject by Mr Vince Winegardner. See articles here, here, and here with Mr. Winegardner's commentary here. DNN has even posted links directly to WidenI77.org information and links to audio and video of the Iredell County Commissioners and Cornelius Board meetings where those boards voted against the proposed toll plan. They are doing a good job of giving citizens all sides of this important story as it unfolds. (Note: Posting Mr. Windgardner's commentary shows a particular willingness to give hearing to all voices. During the last municipal election in Davidson, there was a bit of tension between Candidate Winegardner and DavidsonNews.net, but the publication does not appear to let that impact it's editorial choices.)
The Huntersville Herald has also done a fair job of reporting. It's coverage of the WidenI77.org January 14th meeting was nothing but a presentation of the facts of the event. The publication has also allowed letters to the editor from the citizens group's members to be published. See here and here.
Cornelius Today has had similar reporting to the Herald - covering the January 14th meeting here as well as the Cornelius Board resolution against the project here. They also posted the announcement for the December North Mecklenburg Republican Women's (NMRW) meeting in December where this topic was discussed as did some of the other publications.
Incidentally, the NMRW hosted both Kurt Naas, founder of the WidenI77.org group, and Bill Thunberg of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission (LNTC) at their December monthly meeting. There was a conscious effort on the group's part to include both sides of the discussion at the meeting to ensure attendees heard as much information as possible. For a group that's not a news organization, this effort at evenhandedness was nice to see.
Then we get to the Lake Norman Citizen. The Citizen is one of the Lake Norman area's main sources of local news. They have a history of poking at some of the Lake Norman area municipal governments and have regularly posted biting letters to the editor on controversial subjects. However, on the I-77 HOT Lanes the Citizen has fallen down on the job. In fact at times, they have veered into actively attacking those who are questioning the proposal. They seem to have thrown objectivity into the backseat on this ride.
Here are some examples:
Citizen coverage of the WidenI77.org January 14th meeting painted a much different picture than what actually happened. The post-meeting article focused almost entirely on comments by State Rep Bill Brawley rather than the presentation which was the reason for the meeting. It very incorrectly painted the meeting as "tense". If anything, the presenters from WidenI77.org did an excellent job throughout the evening of keeping what could have been a tense evening rather light. Everyone was treated with respect including those on hand from the NCDOT and the elected officials willing to express support for the project. The Citizen apparently didn't see it that way. (Watch the whole presentation here if you want proof.)
They took their disdain for opposition to toll lanes a step further when they also attacked a fellow member of the media - Mark Washburn of the Charlotte Observer - for writing this piece. The Citizen's anonymous Talkers page took a few cheap shots - anonymous cheap shots - at people who might want to speak out on the subject. And here's the kicker, they paint Mr. Washburn this way...
"Talkers just love it when one of the Charlotte daily paper's professional pontificators practices his profundity on a topic impacting we suburban pioneers (Did you know there are towns north of Charlotte that actually are in Mecklenburg County? Astounding!)."
...as if they didn't know Mr. Washburn actually lives in North Mecklenburg himself and certainly would have an opinion on what it's like actually driving I77 every day.
The Citizen has also refused to open it's pages to the members of WidenI77.org for commentary pieces and letters to the editor - at least since that January 14th meeting when the subject has become a much hotter topic. Based on what members of the group have made available to aShortChronicle, multiple pieces have been turned down from multiple writers. That's a sharp diversion from the openness to differing opinions the paper has shown in the past.
Finally, Citizen coverage of Cornelius's vote to oppose the current toll lane plan focused almost exclusively on why supporters thought opposition should be muted, and it reinforced the status quo position that there are no other options.
For all these reasons, the Citizen deserves 4 tanks out of 5 on their I-77 HOT Lanes coverage.
UPDATE: The Citizen has finally published a piece that is just "the facts" on the subject of I-77 HOT Lanes for their January 31 issue. Nice to see they were finally able to get there. See here.