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The Daily Tar Heel

Being a resource: Frier pledges to optimize staff potential if she becomes next DTH editor

The Daily Tar Heel is at its best when it engages the University community in informed conversation. If I am selected editor, I will dedicate myself to reaching and connecting with our community more effectively. We can use the year to grow as a resource, both for our readers and for the student journalists we train.


As a news source
To ensure that The Daily Tar Heel grows in its ability to spark and foster community discussion.

The DTH should use its move off campus as a motivation to increase visibility and service as a community newspaper.

  • The DTH will host a forum twice a semester on a current issue of importance, determined by reader poll. The DTH community manager will gather experts or people involved in those issues and monitor discussions, using questions from the audience, from online readers and from video. The discussions will be streamed and covered live on the Web site.
  • The DTH will add an "ask any question" page on the Web site, monitored by the community manager or by an online desk staffer. Readers can pose a question about anything - a campus housing rule, a crime that occurred on their street, a plan by University administrators - and the monitor of the page will ensure that a DTH reporter investigate the issue. The DTH will report back by posting an answer on the page. The best questions will be displayed in the "That's what you said" feature in the paper. If the question leads to something newsworthy, it will be followed up with a story.
  • The community manager also will increase our visibility by visiting campus and town gathering spots like The Pit or Weaver Street Market at regularly scheduled intervals. He or she will talk with the public about how the DTH could be better and gather story ideas.
  • We will constantly work to ensure the writing and design of our newspaper and Web site presents content in the most approachable way possible. The design editors are working on a redesign of the newspaper, and once that is applied it will be revisited with plenty of feedback. We will also work with Web developers to continue pushing for usability on our site.

To increase our accountability to readers.

  • Our first priority should always be accuracy. We are failing to serve readers if we are publishing information they don't trust.
  •  Distribute accuracy statistics weekly to the DTH staff. Categorize statistics by writing desk, type of error and way it could have been prevented.
  • Encourage staffers to report any errors to management quickly so we can post a correction with the online version of the story. As soon as we know something is wrong, the reader should know.
  •  Increase training early in the semester to help staff recognize common errors and types of information to question. Follow up with those who make errors to strategize prevention of future mistakes.

We must reinstate the public editor position so we have a person familiar with how our organization works explaining our decisions and critiquing our coverage.

  • The public editor, as a former DTH staffer, will serve as a bridge between the newspaper and its readership. He or she will write independent columns to be published in the DTH twice a month.
  • The public editor will personally recruit members of the community to serve on a feedback board to discuss how the DTH is serving its readership. Anybody will be able to attend the monthly meetings. That regular core of feedback board members will be asked to bring anyone who particularly wants to express frustration or praise.

Times for editorial board meetings and daily budget meetings will be publicized so members of the community can attend if they choose. Planning for the paper is always a conversation, and that process should be transparent.

To rededicate ourselves to proactive coverage no other news source can provide.

We need to expect more from our experienced staffers.

  • Paid senior staffers will meet once a week as a group to brainstorm and set goals.
  • Any staff members who have been on a writing desk for more than one semester will be able to apply to write on a beat within that desk. This will increase these staffers' responsibility and ownership of their work and ease their transition into an assistant editor or senior writer position, should they choose that route.

We need to use the Web site to properly promote evergreen content.

  • We will enhance online resources like data pages, topic pages and the crime map.
  • We will make more public records data available and searchable on our site.
  • Multimedia content has a longer shelf life than daily news content and should be promoted prominently for more days.

We will take on projects that highlight our unique opportunities and access to give the reader something they can’t find elsewhere. For example:

  • Sports multimedia staffers will produce pieces that give an inside look at UNC athletics, like tours of facilities or practices and profiles of players, that move beyond our usual game highlight videos.
  • In a tight budget year, the University desk will produce more stories focusing on the school’s operation and finances.

We should recognize the power of in-person meetings to develop source relationships. Writing desk editors will be required to meet in person with major players in their coverage area at the start of the semester and on a regular basis.

As a leader
To train the staff and prepare them for jobs in the journalism industry, using their skills to full potential.

By rearranging some online tasks and replacing the Managing Editor for Online position with a Visual Managing Editor, the structure of the organization will better serve its staff, and ultimately its readers.

  • Currently the Online Managing Editor position primarily serves two desks - the online desk and the multimedia desk - while the Managing Editor for Newsroom Operations handles the 10 other desks. I propose removing the Online Managing Editor and instead adding a Visual Managing Editor. The photo, design, graphics and multimedia desks would report to the VME, who would coordinate action between them. This will result in more balanced management and better workflow. The online desk editor would adopt a more visionary role, enhancing the experience rather than directing the posting of print stories.
  • The new Visual Managing Editor will determine how to produce and present our visual content in the most effective way, in the paper and online.  The VME also will facilitate collaboration between visual desks to put staff resources where they are most useful. The VME would train us to think of the visual desks as content desks, not just as supplements to the writing desks. This member of management would ensure that we're taking full advantage of the talent available to us in a way that benefits both the paper and the staff member. Additionally, the VME will be charged with ensuring the desks are better organized, more productive and more dedicated to training.
  • We can't let our wait for back-end access to keep us from giving online staffers real jobs. The job of posting stories to the Web site takes time the online staff could be using to improve other Web functions. The role of posting print stories online will seamlessly transfer to the copy desk - after their final read, they can post the story. Individual online staff members will choose specific areas in which to build expertise. For example, we will have a person in charge of search engine optimization, a person in charge of finding applications to enhance coverage, a person in charge of enhancing site usability. Through this process, the staffers will develop marketable skills.
  • We can no longer afford to separate thinking about online from thinking about the print product. Without an online managing editor, all members of management will be held accountable for thinking of how best to present stories: online, in the paper or both.
  • News desks will put in requests for multimedia work on Fridays the same way they put in photo requests each night. Doing so as editors prepare stories for the week will allow multimedia to prioritize and plan coverage. Putting in the requests two days before our weekly planning meeting happens will give the multimedia editor time to determine how best to use multimedia for the idea and if the effort is necessary.

The DTH is a teaching paper. Students should always feel a job with us is a fun, challenging learning experience, steering them in the direction they want to grow.

  • We will do a skills survey of current and new staff to ensure we are pushing the limits of those skills. For instance, we may not know otherwise that a University Desk staff writer has video shooting and editing skills and would like to incorporate that with his next story.

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We host so many training enrichments, but we must increase the incentive to attend them.

  • In addition to our usual in-house training, we will more frequently invite guest speakers with various skills.
  • Editors will encourage staff to attend enrichments by directing them to a sign-up sheet early in the week. That way we can target and follow up with those who were interested.
  • Our news adviser, Erica Perel, will put a rack in her office for distributing tip sheets so staffers can easily access training information about how to improve accuracy or how to make a records request, for example.

To instill in all staff members that they are working towards a common goal; inspire them to be curious, risky, excited. We should all strive to be better, all the time, and love the challenge.

Ensuring that staffers are motivated, connected and prepared to succeed at the DTH is even more essential considering our move off campus.

  • I will host weekly all-staff meetings to set short-term goals, assign tasks and cross off accomplishments. The first week of each month it will be an editors-only meeting.
  • I will start an "I have a better idea" program and award prizes to people with original ideas for improvements in the DTH.
  • A team of staff members will mobilize in an effort to recruit a staff with diverse backgrounds and skills, showing people why we clearly are the place to jump-start a career. The recruiting team will focus especially on seeking those with multimedia and online skills. Experienced multimedia and Web artists don't know that they can come to the Daily Tar Heel and produce projects that will get them noticed by future employers – we are thought of more as a training ground. We need a good mix of experienced people and people who want to learn.
  • The DTH will seek grants to fund video equipment, photo equipment and computers so we can continue to grow. I will emphasize the necessity of treating newsroom equipment well.
  • Editors will focus on retaining their staff through consistent check-in to make sure people are working on projects they care about. The managing editors and I will focus on retaining and training editors.

New staff orientation must be completely redesigned so it engages staffers and more effectively teaches them how they fit into the organization.

  • We will add a video introducing the organization, showing how people have succeeded and explaining how to get there.
  • We will show a finished product and teach by explaining the steps we took to create it.

To be a transparent, collaborative leader when coming up with a solution to problems.

I will institute a regular feedback cycle of one-on-one meetings with editors so I can help them set and reach goals and discuss obstacles.

I will not micromanage, but I will intervene when necessary. When I see a recurring problem I will meet with editors and staff who may best know potential causes and solutions to work out improvements in a collaborative manner.

I will communicate clearly to members of the staff exactly how they are affected by any changes we make and why it was important for us to make those changes.

Sarah Frier is a Junior journalism major from Los Altos, CA.