The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 29th

Student election coverage important

With student body elections less than a week away DTH campaign coverage is kicking into high gear.

Which means invariably that criticism of DTH campaign coverage will be kicking into high gear.

The paper doesn't tread lightly with its election coverage and this year has been no exception.

Candidates had scarcely been certified before the DTH was embroiled in a successful fight with the Board of Elections for prompt access to candidate petitions.

Then the DTH scheduled a candidate forum for tonight" pushing back a previously planned BoUNCe forum. (""We are being shoved around"" wrote BoUNCe editor Sam Morgan in a  letter to the editor.)

And looming next week is the prospect of endorsements by the DTH editorial board. Every year on election day, the back page of the campus newspaper declares full-throated support for one candidate above all others.

All of which leaves a great many readers asking: Does the DTH exercise outsized influence in student elections?

University Editor Andrew Dunn said the DTH is basically the only source of election news.

The Carolina Review in an editorial earlier this year called us the ‘de facto supreme authority' on campus. I kind of enjoyed that.""

There's no way to measure the impact DTH coverage has on student voting" but it seems inarguable that the only daily paper covering the race will have some sway.

The paper's editors know this (see Dunn above) and they take it seriously. That's why you have seen profiles of every candidate running in the same location on page three in alphabetical order.

It's the reason you've seen very cautious summaries of candidate platforms in the paper" without much subjective analysis.

""We've tried to focus on important issues"" said Allison Nichols, DTH editor-in-chief. As much as possible"" we let the candidates speak for themselves.""

Still"" every article contains plenty of phrases for partisans to parse.

Was it opinion to suggest that Ashley Klein's platform contains ""inconsistencies?"" Or to write that Matt Wohlford ""speaks like a well-edited English paper?""

I don't think so. A little bit of colorful writing makes for better candidate profiles.

Those endorsements that will run so prominently on election day are the product of lengthy candidate interviews by the editorial board. Although no reporters are involved in the board's discussions"" Nichols has been active in the endorsement process.

""Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one"" wrote Ryan Thornburg, a professor in the School of Journalism, in response to an e-mailed question. If endorsements are the way that the DTH wants to use its freedom"" then it should have no hesitation about doing so.""

Still" owning a press doesn't guarantee monopoly on public opinion.

While the editorial board has backed the winner for the past four years it found itself on the losing side in 2002 2003 and 2004.

No matter what runs in these pages" it will be the students who pick the winner next week. Even the ""de facto supreme authority"" has its limits.


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