Decades ago, a fire was burning on the The Daily Tar Heel’s newsroom floor in the middle of a contentious editor election season.
In the past, the editor-in-chief was selected through a campus-wide election where candidates had to campaign to secure their peers’ votes.
This year marks two decades since the DTH began choosing its editor by committeee. In 1993, the paper stopped accepting student fees. And without an attachment to student government, the devastating election season was left behind.
Kevin Schwartz, general manager of the DTH, recalled the strain caused by the elections.
“It decimated the staff,” he said.
Before 1993, elections were held in February — the same time as student body elections. Candidates for editor had to campaign, so many quit in January, taking other staff writers with them, Schwartz said.
Candidates were elected on a Tuesday and took over the paper on a Sunday, Schwartz said.
“In the middle of the spring semester when the paper should be at its best, you break everything down and start over, basically,” he said.
The campaigns themselves were huge points of friction, too.
“The race was so nasty,” Schwartz said. “Campaign staffers stole all the Rolodexes from the office, which were like the Bible back then.”
“I know people who lost an election for DTH editor in the 1990s and still aren’t over it,” he said.
Amber Nimocks ran for editor in 1993’s inaugural selection process. She said the campaign process was rough, but the selection process was daunting as well.
“I was quite reluctant to go through the selection process because it was new and it was a change,” she said.
“(The selection process) was a good thing because hopefully the selection board uses more professional standards than a bunch of kids fighting in a popularity contest,” she said.
Anna Griffin, a fellow 1993 candidate, agreed.
“Campaigning for public office becomes about contrast between candidates, and some years it got very personal,” Griffin said. “But that’s just the nature of politics.”
Griffin said although she was not selected to be editor and the process was not easy, she believes the system is a positive one.
“Journalists running for public office like that was nightmarish, especially for someone who is supposed to be an independent voice.”
Contact the University Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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