About the Border Belt Independent

“Rural southeastern North Carolina matters. That’s why we dig deep into the power and people of Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties.”

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The Border Belt Independent is a nonprofit, digital newsroom that focuses on issues and challenges that affect Bladen, Columbus, Robeson, and Scotland counties in southeastern North Carolina.

We are a North Carolina nonprofit corporation founded in April 2021 that was initially funded by a three-year, $495,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust of North Carolina. The grant renewed for another three years in 2024. The North Carolina Local News Lab provided a $10,000 grant to fund a feasibility study before the BBI was founded. The trust nor other funders have influence on editorial decisions.

The North Carolina Press Foundation, a 501-C-3, is the fiscal sponsor of the Border Belt Independent.

Publisher and founder Les High is a lifelong journalist who spent his career at his family’s newspaper, The News Reporter, in Whiteville, North Carolina, until the family sold it in August 2021.

We serve no cause other than to report the truth fairly and without bias for the public good. We publish stories at borderbelt.org and also provide local newspapers in our primary coverage with these stories at no cost.

Corrections, clarifications and contact information

We work hard to make sure our stories are factual and truthful, but sometimes mistakes happen.

Our policy is to correct stories promptly and openly. If we make an error, we will fix the story and note at the bottom of the page what has been corrected.

We will make corrections for mistakes and clarifications for vague or potentially misleading information.

If you think we’ve made an error or information in a story needs clarifying, email editor Sarah Nagem at sarahnagem@borderbelt.org or publisher leshigh@borderbelt.org, or reach us by phone or text at 910-640-7252.

Transparency policies

The Border Belt Independent strives to avoid conflicts of interest. If a staff member or the publisher is involved in a capacity that could be perceived to be a conflict, we will share the information at the conclusion of the story.

We subscribe to standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.

We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.

Our organization may consider donations to support the coverage of particular topics, but our organization maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content. Our organization will make public all donors who give a total of $5,000 or more per year. We will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place that the expenditure of that donation is made independently by our organization and in compliance with INN’s membership standards.


Board of Directors
Les High, President 
Becky High, Treasurer
Fuller Royal
Carol Caldwell