A project of Democracy Fund
The Local News Lab has been archived as of March 1, 2023. This page will remain online but will not be updated. More info.

UNC School of Media and Journalism: Trail Blazer

In Brief

The Trail Blazer project aims to build an issue-focused online research desk for North Carolina journalists pursuing sustained coverage of long-term, complex stories.


The Trail Blazer project will support ongoing reporting on complicated issues by providing comprehensive, updated, simple-to-navigate research for journalists in North Carolina. Presented through a mobile-friendly website, the issue-specific repository will compile information such as limited-scope facts, timelines, annotated documents and links to existing articles, organized in ways to help journalists understand and confirm important facts, add context and depth to current work, and explore potential stories.

The core concepts of Trail Blazer were developed by veteran journalist Vaughn Hagerty, who broke a story that the chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River had contaminated downstream public water systems serving hundreds of thousands of people. Hagerty will spearhead the work, with support from the Reese News Lab at UNC-Chapel Hill. The lab was founded in 2009 to research and prototype new media products that are viable and sustainable. Hagerty and Reese News Lab will use information relevant to the GenX story as raw material to build a framework that may be used to offer similar resources on other important stories.

How to Connect

Learn more about the Reese News Lab via its website. You can also find it on Facebook, and Twitter.

Total Commitment 

2018: $42,000 for one year