Life Stories

Life Stories: Local-news champion Randall Gregg dies at 44

CorrespondentMay 11, 2014 

  • Randall “Randy” Gregg

    Born: Nov. 24, 1969.

    Family: The middle of three sons born to Grace and Stewart Gregg, he is raised in Guilford County.

    Education: Graduates from Northwest Guilford High School in 1988 and earns a degree in business management from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1992. He earns a law degree from NCCU in 2005 but does not practice law.

    Career: Founds The Sun newspaper, covering Northwest Guilford County in 1993; co-founds Triangle TechJournal in 2001; founds RTP-TV in 2001, co-founds Raleigh Downtowner Magazine in 2005; founds the Raleigh Telegram in 2007; works as managing editor at The Pamlico News from 2009 to 2010; founds The Stokesdale Star in 2013.

    Dies: April 25.

Randall Gregg had a journalism career that took him all over the world, but his heart was most invested in his local news. After creating eight media outlets during the past 15 years, his most recent publishing endeavor was the Stokesdale Star, covering northwest Guilford County.

Put out monthly by a local boy long grown, it was often a thankless endeavor – long hours and little pay – but for those who knew Gregg, it made complete sense. All he ever wanted to do was tell the untold stories of his people. The trailer-park community on the verge of eviction, an increase in license fees that would surely hit the small businessman the hardest – these were the stories he lived to tell.

“He sort of liked to stand up for the little guy,” said his younger brother, Eric Gregg.

Gregg, 44, died in a motorcycle accident last month.

When Gregg put out the April issue of the Star, he featured an article about the three men who’d been arrested in a string of armed robberies. He also displayed a photo of the historic “flag building” in nearby Summerfield, which was dangerously close to falling in on itself and is soon to become town property. Readers learned that a Madison student had been killed by a deer in a traffic accident, and that former Stokesdale Mayor Randle Jones was named a district court judge in Greensboro.

There was often some overlap in the coverage of the Star and the (Greensboro) News & Record, which also covers northwest Guilford County. But in today’s digital media age, when regional newspapers have been forced to cut costs on just about everything, it’s rare to find people such as Gregg, still willing to publish small-town news.

It seems he could have chosen to leave for bigger things, and sometimes he did. In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, he volunteered to travel to Haiti as an embedded reporter with the U.S. Air Force. He also covered Hurricane Irene in 2011 as it unfolded in Pamlico.

His family says he also became a source for national media outlets and was featured on network news to speak about stories such as the 2008 murder of UNC-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson. He met four American presidents, and published four books of photography.

But Gregg always came home.

The family does not know what the future holds for the Star – Gregg was often the one attending town meetings, writing copy, and gathering art and ads.

“While we’ve received a strong desire from the community to see the newspaper continue, since he was the main driving force, we’re unsure at this time what the future of the publication will be,” Eric Gregg said.

Guilford County native

Gregg was born and raised in Guilford County, and attended UNC-Chapel Hill. He started as a scholarship student on track for a teaching degree, but quickly realized he had more the heart of an entrepreneur. He majored in business, but upon graduation, soon returned to one of his first passions: journalism.

While attending Northwest Guilford High School, Gregg was editor of the school newspaper. Though he would later earn a law degree from North Carolina Central University, his career never strayed from journalism. He founded Gregg Newspapers in 1993 and created the Sun Newspaper that same year, his first paper to cover northwest Guilford County. He later sold this publication to the Northwest Observer in 1998.

He was known for encouraging other young journalists. Akir Khan, a fellow Northwest Guilford High School alum, was nearly a decade younger than Gregg and was sent to see him by a teacher they had shared.

Khan, a doctoral student at High Point University, told the story of how Gregg helped the young journalist learn to embrace his anxieties. In the 1990s, Khan was often the lone, dark-skinned person of foreign descent in the room. Khan is Pakistani-American, and though he was born in the U.S., he was often perceived as an outsider.

“He said, ‘Akir, you’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable in life to be successful.’ ” Khan went on to write and edit for Gregg for the next 17 years. He credits Gregg for much of his current success. Now, in addition to earning his doctorate, Khan works at High Point University focusing on student retention as a freshman success coach.

‘Like an old friend’

The motorcycle accident that killed Gregg took place on the afternoon of April 25 at the eastbound entrance ramp to Interstate 40 on Davis Drive in Raleigh. The circumstances do not make sense to his family and friends, as he was a cautious driver. Why Gregg would fail to stop at a stoplight and drive his 1994 Honda into the side of a tractor-trailer remains a mystery.

Carolyn Joyner, Stokesdale town clerk and finance officer, said Gregg was frequenting town events just the week before he died. The Sun, then Star, were appreciated by the community, she said. “We didn’t have newspapers to cover our area,” Joyner said.

His way with people was appreciated as well.

“Randy had a way of making people open up. He listened,” Eric Gregg said.

When Randy Braswell was elected mayor of Stokesdale in 2013, Gregg was quick to look in on the new leadership.

“I did not know Randall very long, but the time I did he impressed me as a man who told it straight,” Braswell said.

Gregg demonstrated his skill for good old shoe-leather reporting.

“He came to the house one day to find out more about me. Oddly enough, we did not talk about me, but about the things we did growing up as kids and what we had in common,” Braswell said.

“He was like an old friend you had not seen in a while, relaxed and easy to talk with.”

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