Veteran statehouse journalist Mark Binker dies at 43


Longtime North Carolina political reporter Mark Binker died early Saturday morning.

Binker, 43, was well-known through the halls of the N.C. General Assembly during his 12 years covering state government. He worked for the past five years with WRAL’s state capital team and joined the N.C. Insider, a state government newsletter owned by The News & Observer, in March.

North Carolina political leaders Saturday expressed shock and grief over Binker’s death.

“Mark Binker was an outstanding journalist who uniquely understood complex issues and explained to viewers and readers why they should care,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news release. “He never ducked asking tough questions, or stopped digging for more.”

Senate leader Phil Berger noted Binker’s humility, sharp intellect and professionalism.

“Binker was both respected by and respectful of everyone he covered,” Berger said in a release. “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.”

The cause of Binker’s death has yet to be determined.

Family friend Nancy MacIver said that early Saturday, Binker’s wife awoke and noticed Binker was in distress. She called 911, but paramedics were unable to revive him. An autopsy is planned.

“This was completely unexpected,” MacIver said. “He was a healthy guy, he had a healthy lifestyle. He was absolutely devoted to his wife and family.”

WRAL reporter Laura Leslie, who worked closely with Binker at the television station, said she can’t imagine the North Carolina press corps without him.

“A few years ago he went on this health kick. He got serious. He started walking and then running,” Leslie said. “He said, ‘I have a couple active sons and I want to be here for them.’”

Over the past week, Binker had been helping his youngest son build a marshmallow catapult for the Science Olympiad scheduled for Saturday.

John Drescher, editor in chief of the News & Observer, said of Binker, “He was really well-respected by his peers and everyone at the legislature. He was a real professional.”

Clifton Dowell, general manager for the N.C. Insider, said

Binker will be remembered for his fair reporting and good nature.

Before working at WRAL, Binker reported on state politics for the Greensboro News & Record.

Binker is survived by his wife, Marla; sons, Max, 10, and Mason, 13; his parents, Gerald and Barbara Binker; brothers Richard and David; and mother- and father-in-law Bob and Fran Smith.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.