The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

For College Newspapers, Perfection Is an Interactive Process

At least not according to the Associated Collegiate Press.

We're not even in the top six.

Those newspapers would be, in no particular order, The University Daily Kansan, The Daily Iowan, The Indiana Daily Student, The Ball State Daily News, The Kansas State Collegian and The Daily O'Collegian (Oklahoma State University).

We were, however, in the top 12. Officially, The Daily Tar Heel was a finalist in the 1999-2000 Pacemaker Awards. The Pacemakers are considered by some to be the collegiate equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes. And they were handed out this weekend in Washington, D.C.

Individual prizes were handed out in such categories as "Best Comic Strip" and "Best Sports Writing." Our own design editors Tom Ausman and Lindsay Kinkade, who both have graduated, took third place in the "Design of the Year" category.

(You can view all the awards at

Why was the DTH snubbed in the "Four-Year Daily" category?

I must confess, I am not too familiar with all the papers that received Pacemakers. To thoroughly answer this question, one would have to be not only a regular reader of all the papers, but a member of the communities where the papers are published to understand the breadth and fairness of the reporting. And of course, the awards are only based on last year's work.

Thus, in the ongoing debate over which college has the best newspaper, reputation often takes precedence over substance. And we have a solid one.

This was the seventh time the DTH has been nominated for a Pacemaker and the first time we didn't win. (We won in '66, '67, '90, '91, '96 and '97.) Most of the newspapers that won this year usually don't win. And there are many newspapers that would consider it an honor just to be nominated.

Perhaps a more productive discussion should center on what we can do to make the DTH a better paper. And your input is crucial.

We've put out a solid paper this year. Now, we need to turn it up a notch. We need to go after the tough stories. We need to turn our stories on their sides and take a more critical look at them.

We shouldn't report news that everyone else reports. We should report news that no one else reports.

Becoming a better newspaper means not limiting ourselves to the confines of the traditional newspaper. It's not just about conveying the news in timely, edible capsules. It's about telling stories. Good ones.

"Historically, in America, good journalism becomes good literature," writes William Zinsser. With any luck, 20 years from now, someone will pick up a DTH, read an article and not just have a better understanding of today's issues, but he or she will think, "That was a damn good story. It still rings true today."

It's often hard to find those stories from the back of the Student Union. That's why we need your help. Brainstorm. Give us ideas for flowery features and hard-hitting investigative pieces. My phone number and e-mail address are in the upper left corner of the Opinion page every day. (Take a quick look if necessary.)

Feel free to e-mail or call me with any ideas. Even anonymously if you have something serious.

At the ACP convention, one special award, the Press Freedom Award, was given to the staff of The Muleskinner at Central Missouri State University for their extensive investigation into an unusually lucrative contract between their retiring chancellor and their university. The students were met with great hostility by university officials but continued to dig and eventually, as a result of their work, the school's board of trustees voided the contract. And as a possible result of the work of the paper, the adviser of the Muleskinner was not re-hired by the university.

A similar situation could not occur here. In case you were unaware, The Daily Tar Heel is not affiliated with the University. We no longer receive funds from the University or student government, though we are housed in the Union. A paper like The Daily Iowan receives in excess of $300,000 from the University of Iowa. That's a big chunk of change.

The Daily Tar Heel chooses not to take those funds for the sake of editorial freedom. We can go after the big stories without fear of the consequences. We can publish opinions that might not be popular with the administration or the journalism school.

And while a story like what The Muleskinner stumbled onto might be extremely unusual, know that if we learn of something similar, we will tackle it with great enthusiasm.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

After the ACP awards ceremony, the members of the DTH who had driven to D.C. were pretty disappointed. A couple of pitchers of beer later, though, there were smiles again. By the end of a delicious Italian dinner and plenty of red wine, the students were once again believing they worked for the best paper in the country.

No award could ever give that to them.

Brian Frederick is a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication from Lawrence, Kan. He reminds his 144 class to pick up their trash. Professor Chuck Stone is too old to do it for them.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023