When he started out as a student at NC State, Paul Woolverton ’90 was a computer science major, but that all changed when he got a taste of writing for the campus newspaper, Technician. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After changing his degree to speech communication and minoring in journalism, Paul graduated and entered the field of print journalism. And while he didn’t have an inkling at that time that court and crime drama would become his specialty, the award-winning writer has parlayed his talents into serving as the senior state reporter for the Fayetteville Observer. He’s also found a bit of celebrity on the new ABC-TV show, The Genetic Detective.
“Back in college, I started losing interest in computer programming but learned a lot that I think has served me well,” explains Paul. “As I started working at the Technician and for the campus radio station, WKNC-FM, I not only met a lot of life-time friends but I picked up the training and skills that I needed for my career with reporting, writing and editing from professors like Dr. Cockshutt.”
His experience on the Technician was especially influential. Paul recalls that the paper had a writing coach come in two days a week to mentor the staff. The advisor was also a great source of networking and helped Paul secure an internship at a newspaper, which he says definitely led to being hired fresh out of college by the Wilmington Star News.
During his career, Paul has covered the legislature on and off for the 20 years and had his first big murder trial story in 2004.
“It was a sensational story that made national headlines because a woman and her boyfriend were accused of murdering her husband,” Paul recalls. “She had fled to Florida and had gone underground with an assumed name and plastic surgery.”
Another story that he covered for all of the newspapers in North Carolina was the Blackbeard pirate ship lawsuit, Allen v Cooper, that went to the US Supreme Court. This story was of particular interest to communication professionals and students because it was a copyright infringement case where a videographer/photographer sued the state of North Carolina.
“I like being out in front of things, being there when “history” is being made, so to speak,” Paul states. “There’s also the element of showing the public what’s going on so that if there’s a problem, people are aware and can potentially do something about it.”
Covering many trials as a court and crime reporter led to gigs on crime shows like Snapped, 48 Hours, Dateline and his current feature on the The Genetic Detective. The June 23, 2020 episode spotlighted the Ramsey Street rapist case, covered by Paul. For the show, they interviewed him about the overall story including anecdotes and facts about the case.
While not all careers in communication are as action-packed as Paul’s, he says that there are common pieces of advice he’d give to all students.
“If you’re going to go into journalism, PR or broadcast, you need an internship or some other opportunity to practice and learn what you’re going to do in the real world. In the classroom, you’ll learn a lot of theory and professors usually give you the best practical advice and experiences that they can, but you still need to get out into a real-life setting as soon as you possibly can.”