Mark Binker, a widely respected journalist and experienced member of the North Carolina Capitol Press Corps, died unexpectedly Saturday morning. He was 43.
Binker could regularly be seen moving swiftly through the halls of the legislature, with a lanyard hanging around his neck, and a notebook tucked into his back pocket. He began reporting on the General Assembly for the Greensboro News & Record in 2005, worked as a multimedia reporter with WRAL television for five years, and earlier this year began writing for The Insider, a government newsletter owned by the News & Observer.
He is survived by his wife, Marla, and two sons, Max (10) and Mason (13) .
According to the News and Observer, the cause of death is unknown.
Many of Binker’s friends, colleagues, and those in political circles shared their shock, disbelief and sadness on social media Saturday.
“This is a devastating loss to our state. A great reporter, passionate about 1st Amendment. So privileged to have worked in the trenches with him,” Associated Press reporter Gary Robertson, who worked alongside Binker for a decade at the legislature, said in a tweet.
He added: “Twitter a weak method to describe respect Capitol Press Corps had for our colleague. Not enough characters to praise his character.”
Binker will indeed be remembered for his character, along with fair and thorough reporting, an ability to succinctly explain complicated policy issues, and a deep passion for journalism. He had an expansive knowledge about state government and its process, and his dogged approach to the craft earned him the respect of those he covered. He was a role model for younger and new members of the capitol press corps, quietly serving as a standard to emulate.
Loretta Boniti, a Senior Reporter with Spectrum News (formerly News 14) shared on her Twitter page: “Smart, funny, damned good journalist. Proud Father. Also great colleague, confidant, and most important friend. Such an incredible loss. RIP.”
In addition to the dozens of postings on Facebook and Twitter, several lawmakers expressed their grief as well.
Senate Leader Phil Berger:
“I'm greatly saddened by the passing of Mark Binker. Binker always called himself a ‘scruffy old reporter,’ but his humility couldn't hide his sharp intellect – he was a policy wonk at heart who always did his homework. Because of his professionalism, Binker was both respected by and respectful of everyone he covered. The highest compliment I can pay Binker as a political reporter is that, through almost 15 years of regular interaction with him, I have no idea what his personal politics were. I want to extend my deepest condolences to his wife and sons.”
Governor Roy Cooper:
"Mark Binker was an outstanding journalist who uniquely understood complex issues and explained to viewers and readers why they should care. He never ducked asking tough questions, or stopped digging for more. His death leaves a huge hole in the press corps, and our hearts go out to his family."
Statements and social media offerings of condolences were issued from U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, Congressmen Mark Meadows and David Price, and state Senator Dan Blue, among others.
Funeral arrangements are pending.