Focal Point

Produced by the documentary unit of Raleigh-based WRAL-TV/Capitol Broadcasting, Focal Point's in-depth news programs about North Carolina issues focus on a single topic for 30 minutes to an hour, bringing depth and clarity to complicated issues.

From North Carolina's economy and environment, to health care and race relations, Focal Point takes viewers inside the lives of the people most affected and tackles the tough questions with leaders and policymakers who have the power to effect change. The series is hosted by WRAL News anchors, including Gerald Owens, David Crabtree, Pam Saulsby, Bill Leslie and Debra Morgan.

Thursday nights, UNC-TV presents informative Focal Point specials of interest to all North Carolinians.

Citizen Soldier
Considers challenges faced by families of deployed troops in the guardsmen and reservists.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have led to the largest call up of National Guardsmen and reservists since World War II. Large portions of these troops hail directly from North Carolina. For those citizen soldiers, being in the Guard and Reserve no longer means just two weeks a year and one weekend a month of service. Instead, it can mean repeated war-zone deployments that can last a year or more.

Focal Point: Citizen Soldier looks at the challenge their assignments create for their families and communities back home.

Another Mother's Child
Examines the foster care system, in which black children comprise a disproportionate share of the population in North Carolina, and profiles a black foster child who will soon leave the system.

Black children make up a disproportionate share of the foster care population in North Carolina. In many counties the number of black children in foster care is more than twice the number of black children in the general population.

WRAL’s new Focal Point documentary, Focal Point: Another Mother’s Child, examines the issue and looks at its impact on the state. The program is hosted by WRAL news anchor David Crabtree.

Divided We Fall
Probes the high divorce rate among Army spouses due to war.

Troop deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq led to a dramatic increase in divorce among Army couples from 2001 to 2004, including many stationed at Fort Bragg.

WRAL's Focal Point: Divided We Fall examines the cause of divorce in the military and looks at how the high divorce rate has changed the way the Army deals with issues of marriage and family life.

The Other North Carolina
Surveys efforts by local economic development officials to create new opportunities for displaced workers.

Since 2000, North Carolina's population has grown by nearly 800,000 people – with most of that growth in metropolitan areas such as Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle.

Although these urban areas have been growing and prospering, many rural counties across the state have been struggling with declining populations, stagnant economies, high unemployment rates and high poverty rates.

Many of these communities have suffered from the loss of textile and furniture manufacturing operations that have moved to other countries. "It's hard to keep your sanity about you when you get booted out the door from three different plants," said J. D. Biggs, a former furniture plant worker in Spruce Pine. "It's really tough on any family."

Inland coastal counties have seen a decline in the state’s commercial seafood industry, which has been battered by hurricanes, pollution and foreign imports.

As young people leave these rural counties looking for economic opportunities in urban areas, they leave behind communities that are struggling economically.

Focal Point: The Other North Carolina explores this issue by looking at four rural counties across the state that have lost thousands of jobs and are looking for ways to replace them.

Mercury Falling
Examines mercury levels in fish caught around our state.

The number of species of fish the state considers unsafe to eat because of high levels of mercury more than tripled in 2006, but doctors also say fish is full of nutrients that are good for our hearts and brains.

Hosted by Valonda Calloway, WRAL's Focal Point documentary, Mercury Falling, looks at which fish contain unsafe mercury levels, the risk associated with eating them, where the mercury comes from and what's being done about it.

Line in the Sand
Explores the threat of erosion to the Outer Banks.

The Outer Banks are home to one of North Carolina's most visible and most famous landmarks, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. They are also home to a major national park and wildlife refuge. Their natural beauty and beaches attract millions of tourists who contribute hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the state’s economy.

However, scientists say erosion, combined with a rising sea level and increased storm activity, could cause major sections of the Outer Banks to go under water within our lifetime, and they say the Bonner Bridge that connects the northern and southern Outer Banks may not last much longer. They also say many of the expensive efforts to protect the Outer Banks are only making the problem worse.

While most people agree that the Outer Banks are fragile and in danger, few people agree on a strategy to protect and preserve them. While various interest groups have drawn their own lines in the sand, the sands of the Outer Banks continue to shift and drift, reminding everyone that Mother Nature is the one in charge.

North Carolina Highway 12, which provides access to the Outer Banks and connects its communities, is another line in the sand. The state has spent tens of millions of dollars rebuilding, relocating and trying to protect the highway, only to have sections of it continually washed away by the sea. Critics say it is an exercise in futility and a waste of state and federal tax dollars. To some, Highway 12 is a symbol of the problem not only on the Outer Banks, but on most of the state’s barrier islands. They say it represents a series of short-term fixes to protect immediate economic interests that do nothing to ensure the long-term viability of the Outer Banks’ critical connector.

WRAL TV anchor Bill Leslie hosts Focal Point: Line in the Sand. This eye-opening exploration looks at the future of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and examines scientists’ dire environmental predictions as well as the political battle that continues to delay the search for a long-term solution to protect one of our state’s most valuable natural, recreational and economic resources from climate change and erosion.

Green Acres
Highlights the impact of development and management of it to safeguard NC's natural beauty.

Conservation groups say development consumes an average of 383 acres of land a day in North Carolina, adding up to well over 100,000 acres a year.

Growth might be good for the state’s economy, but many people are worried about the loss of open, green space that helps protect water and air quality and provides opportunities for recreation, including hiking, hunting and fishing.

Many agree that growth and development will continue, so the question is how to manage it so that North Carolina can preserve the open, green space that makes it such a great place to live. Focal Point: Green Acres explores that question and the impact of development on quality of life.

Click here to visit the official WRAL Focal Point Web site.