The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

The learning curve of the DTH

The job means working constant hours and making decisions that draw merciless public scrutiny. It means feeling, sometimes, like you’re graduating from The Daily Tar Heel and not from UNC.

People ask me why I do it.

I do it for the questions that won’t get answered unless we answer them.

I do it for the momentum of each night, after midnight, after the paper has been sent to the printer and my managing editors and I talk about what we can tackle tomorrow.

Most of all, I do it for the people — about 56,000 people — who open each day a blue newspaper box or an Internet browser and read.

My term as editor-in-chief was just one in the 118-year history of this newspaper. It was the next step in a constant series of steps toward making the DTH a better resource for readers.

Sometimes I stepped on toes.

I received hate mail for weeks after deciding to sue the University for public records and after publishing an editorial stating that Butch Davis should no longer be our football coach. (“To the editors of the DTH: I hope your next meal at Lenoir gives you food poisoning,” said one reader in a Kvetch that I’ve taped to my computer.)

But those things pay off — sometimes in a personal lesson, sometimes in a DTH victory. In the lawsuit, for example, a judge ruled in our favor.

It’s taught me that a constantly changing group of 250 students — simultaneously learning to become better journalists, coordinate on projects and go to a class or two — can’t underestimate their influence or potential.

We’ve found new ways to operate, leading to better planning ahead for coverage in the paper and online.

And just this week, we rolled out the first major redesign of the DTH since 2003.

In the editor role, I’ve been more connected with the readers of the DTH, who have both thanked me and critiqued me, and who have pushed me to do better than I thought I could.

What we plan doesn’t always turn out as expected. The news is unpredictable, and sometimes our most dynamic days (and hardest days) are the ones which resulted in swapping out stories on the front page in favor of more important breaking news.

The staff of the DTH mobilizes with a contagious energy and curiosity.

I’ve seen nothing less since my freshman year, when former Student Body President Eve Carson’s murder shocked the campus and sent reporters instinctively to the newsroom.

I’ve learned more working with these people than I’ve learned in any college class.

For each paper, from the pitch to the plan to the project to the product, I’m inspired — and I’m proud.

Sarah Frier is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior journalism major from Los Altos, California. Contact her at frier@email.unc.edu.

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