Why a front-page editorial?

Regular readers of The Daily Tar Heel will find a surprise waiting for them in the boxes this morning, in the form of a bold proclamation on the way forward for UNC on sexual assault reform.

A front-page editorial, like the one that graces the cover of today’s issue, is a bold statement because it blurs the dividing line between news and opinion. Readers of the DTH can usually expect to find opinion on an isolated page inside. And that’s a good thing. This convention offers a silent recognition of the paper’s two distinct, valuable functions — and their sacred separation.

But every once in a while it seems appropriate to move an opinion of great relevance and importance to the front page (though very rarely — editorial production manager Stacy Wynn tells me he can’t recall such an editorial in his 28 years at the DTH).

A few factors played into the decision to use this special format. The controversy surrounding sexual assault has dominated our pages for months. The first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month seemed an opportune time to release the conclusion of a discussion had in meetings of the editorial board for many weeks: how to most effectively and honestly fix a system that is the subject of two federal investigations. Especially at a time when the University is eagerly soliciting ideas, we wanted to make sure our voice was heard.

Make no mistake. Today’s editorial, “Rape is a violent crime,” represents the opinion only of our independent editorial board. Members have no connection with the news side of our operation, except for yours truly, who oversees both.

That the DTH has played a leading role in chronicling the controversy seems to make the placement all the more apt. But we felt an editorial like this also required balancing voices. On the flip side of today’s first section is an editorial page devoted to other voices — the University’s sexual assault consultant, honor system leaders and the DTH senior writer who has been covering the story from the beginning.

The ultimate goal of such a statement is not to shock, or even to roundly persuade, but to force readers to weigh the validity of a serious proposal, and to become motivated to offer their own.


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