This is What an Independent Bookstore Looks Like

Last Monday, the Chapel Hill Herald ran yet another gushing story about Branch's Bookstore in Chapel Hill, continuing their pointed avoidance of the fact of the Internationalist's very existence! In the caption for the adorable photo of Kate Branch it said "...Branch's Chapel Hill Bookshop, which is Chapel Hill's only independent bookstore."

The first time the Herald made this mistake (about a year ago, when Branch's opened), I thought they were just stupid, but now it appears they are willfully promoting Branch's business while ignoring one of Chapel Hill's most longstanding progressive institutions! Here's what I wrote to the editor five days ago. They still haven't published it, so I'm resorting to posting here.

I demand that you discontinue referring to Branch's as "Chapel Hill's only independent bookstore." (Chapel Hill Herald, 5/4/04) Internationalist Books was founded by Bob Sheldon in 1981 as a resource for open minds and free thinkers. It later moved to Rosemary Street and then to Franklin Street where it became Internationalist Books and Community Center.

We're all glad to have more alternatives to chains, and it's great to now have two choices for book shopping in southern Orange County. But since the topic of your story seemed to be the fate of independent booksellers generally in Chapel Hill, your omission of the one that has been serving the community for over 20 years is a serious one.

I encourage the reporter to visit Internationalist Books and Community Center at 405 West Franklin Street and see what a historic, independent, community-oriented bookstore looks like. More information is available at



I appreciate the Herald's correction, but since most of the article focused on the fate of indepedent booksellers in our chain-dominated economy, I expect more than just acknolwedgement of the fact that one-year-old Branch's is not the only game in town. This is journalism, right? Or did I accidentally open to the advertising circular?

Assuming the Herald now has it straight, let's hope that Branch's bookstore also notices all the other indies in town and stops promoting themselves as the "only."

May 5, 2004, p.3:

"A photo caption on page 1 of Tuesday's Chapel Hill Herald incorrectly stated that Branch's Chapel Hill Bookshop is the town's only independent boostore."

Caption writer error or reporter error or one in the smae?

May 5, 2004, p.3:

"A photo caption on page 1 of Tuesday's Chapel Hill Herald incorrectly stated that Branch's Chapel Hill Bookshop is the town's only independent boostore."

Caption writer error or reporter error or one in the smae?

The letter in question hasn't run for a couple of reasons that start with the fact it came in without a signature. We ask people who write us for publication to supply their name, address and phone number so we can verify that they are, in fact, who they say they are. A simple e-mail address doesn't cut it because we find in many cases that the person who sent us the letter is not the person who wrote it (one spouse might use the other's e-mail account, for example).

While it didn't run, this letter did trigger a correction that ran in the next day's paper. The mistake appeared in what we call a "photo refer," a picture and caption meant to direct Chapel Hill Herald readers to a story appearing in another section of the paper. Captions, headlines and refers are created by the copy desk in Durham; the only thing Neil and I actually work with is the body of the story. In this case, the story (by business writer Anne Krishnan) did not include the error described by Ruby, though it did include a quote from Kate Branch that may have misled a copy editor into thinking that Branch's has Chapel Hill's independent bookseller market to itself.

Neil and I both know that Branch's doesn't have this market cornered. To the contrary, there's a very healthy book sector here that claims a significant fraction of our after-tax income. In addition to the Internationalist and Second Foundation, there's also a store in Southern Village that sells maps and travel books, and several good second-hand stores, including The Bookshop on West Franklin, NIce Price in Carrboro and the Skylight Exchange on West Rosemary. Those are just the ones that come readily to mind; no doubt I've overlooked somebody and apologize in advance for having done so.

The snafu here is that we never did send Ruby a return e-mail asking her to resend her letter with signature and phone number. I think we took her message just as a heads-up that something needed correcting, and acted on it in that manner.

Ray--Thanks for the clarification. Why not consider running a story on all the independent booksellers in Chapel Hill? I think you've mentioned all of them, although I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Christian or New Age store--I tend to tune those out. People are a little puzzled as to why Branches gets so much press in the Herald.

Ray —

Thanks a lot for the correction and clarification, it sounds like things can unfortunately fall through the cracks for y'all if final edits and add-on frames to the story are prepared over in Durham. Appreciate the response.

- Nick

The bookstore in Southern Village, Marketplace Books & Maps, carries much more than maps and travel books. They have an outstanding children's section along with an eclectic selection of fiction and non-fiction.

Anne Krishnan, the article's author, says they ran a correction on May 5. Anyone have that paper?

Depending upon how "independent" bookstore is defined (not a chain or a member of Booksense), you could also include the BullsHead. If you Google "indepdent bookstore' you'll find one list that includes Branch's, Internationalist, and Bullshead. If you search the Booksense list (a buying cooperative for Independent booksellers), you'll find only Branches. Curiously, Marketplace Books & Maps (Southern Village) doesn't come up in any of the lists. Yet Marketplace is a BookSense member and has a very nice selection of books, including childrens and reference. It would appear that there are a number of good independent bookstores in the community overlooked by the Herald.Sounds like a case of bad reporting to me.

Ethan, if you read the letters in the Herald you'll see they get much nastier than mine (unfortunately).

Am I crazy expecting a professional news outlet to at least TRY to report things factually? How much effort would it take for them to open a damn phone book? This isn't the DTH where one interview makes a story 'cause you've got an exam to study for...

I emailed the article's author earlier today & will let (everyone) know if I get any response. I would guess that the reason your letter hasn't been published is the first sentence, "I demand that you discontinue..." Your probably would have had better luck just pointing out their error.

Isn't that bookshop, "The Bookshop," across the street from Trilussa an indy as well? Even though it serves a niche market of sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic literature geeks, Second Foundation Bookstore is still an independent operation that has been going for over 20 years. There is a depressingly low number of independent book sellers left in town, but there is still more than one. Considering that the Herald's offices are one block away from the Internationalist, I'm surprised that error slipped in there. I looked up who wrote the article by searching the archives, and I didn't recognize the author's byline, so I assume that the writer made an honest mistake. Maybe she hasn't been in the area for very long. Still, this shouldn't have slipped by the copy editor - all you need to do is open a phone book and look for non-corporate names and make a phone call or ask locals to verify that it's indeed locally owned. I don't think the Herald staff printed that Branch's is the only indy out of any sort of malice; they were just uninformed. At least they are spotlighting local, owner-operated businesses, so kudos on that part. But Ruby's letter warrants publication, and the Herald, at the very least, should run a correction where it prints the name of the small handful of bookstores around here that are independent.

- Nick


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.