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The Daily Tar Heel

Why the released records matter

University administrators tried very hard to keep you from seeing the information featured on today’s front page of The Daily Tar Heel.

Before being required by the N.C. Court of Appeals to release parking ticket and phone records pertaining to members of the football team, administrators had staff meticulously redact specific portions of the phone records, then dragged out the legal proceedings — which were handled by state attorneys — for months.

They claimed that these records, which the DTH and other media outlets sued for, were protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, an argument that a superior court and the appeals court rightly rejected.

I bring this to your attention not to chastise the University but to shed some light on why the news we have been reporting is worth reporting.

Some of our readers have made it apparent that they don’t believe it is.

The DTH, they say, is just trying to attract attention and trash the football team in the process. Why else would it be making such a big deal out of something as trivial as parking ticket records?

There is a reason, and it’s a good one.

The records do not prove Butch Davis knew players were doing anything wrong. There are no bombshells that jump out from the pages upon pages of numbers, or even in the records that show some players were clearly not afraid of repeatedly violating the University’s parking rules.

But the released records, taken together, gain ground in addressing the question we have been pondering for one year:

How did a handful of UNC football players manage to amass a small fortune of improper benefits, and was that episode indicative of a culture of exceptional privilege for student-athletes at the University?

No story we publish about UNC’s football program will offer a complete answer to this question. But the information we continue to report should begin to offer a clearer picture.

What we do is called reporting because it amounts to stating facts, framed in a way that best helps readers understand. The news desks of the DTH are not in the business of telling you what to think. We don’t do that, and we don’t want to do that.

I doubt this statement will stop the criticisms. But, of course, the scrutiny should never stop — on your side or ours.

And I know that some of our readers might never respect the information we offer, but I ask that they recognize what we stand for.

What the records reveal doesn’t matter as much as your right to see them. We fought for them so you could know what they said, and so powerful people couldn’t withhold them for fear of embarrassment, discomfort or a change in status. Those actions will never be acceptable — legally or ethically.

Public records belong in the light of day, and that’s why we find space for them on page one.

Andy Thomason is the summer editor for The Daily Tar Heel. He is a junior history major from Charlotte. Contact him at andyt13@email.unc.edu.

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