The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Taking an active role in the DTH

If you’re a very careful reader of The Daily Tar Heel, you may have noticed a box on page 7 of today’s paper inviting members of the community to apply to be on the DTH’s Board of Directors.

Though it’s only about 3 inches square, this box is very important. The Board of Directors is the group of people who oversee the DTH’s business operations; they make the big financial decisions about the paper, allowing the reporters to focus on getting the news out.

I’ve heard from a number of people this year who were unhappy with the DTH, and a lot of the more vocal complaints centered around the basic question of who is in charge.

The answer is simple. Steven Norton, our editor-in-chief — to whom I and every other person at this organization ultimately report — is responsible for every word (and photo and cartoon and kvetch) printed in this newspaper.

Steven makes the decisions about what the news side of the DTH covers and how they cover it. He also sits on the editorial board, which means he is privy to the conversations that culminate in the unsigned board editorials you see on this page every day.

And when the editorial board can’t agree on a position, Steven is one of the 12 people whose votes decide where we’ll come down on an issue. In short, Steven is involved in all aspects of this paper’s production and is ultimately responsible for the entirety of its content.

But a few weeks ago, when a group of students asked me to whom, exactly, the editor-in-chief is accountable, I didn’t really have an answer.

The best I could come up with was that our editor-in-chief is accountable to the paper’s readers — an answer which felt flimsy when talking to an angry group of these very readers.

Though the DTH’s Board of Directors has no say over the paper’s content, the editor-in-chief still has some accountability to this board. Its members also hire our general manager, who in turn allocates the newspaper’s annual budget of more than $1 million.

Given this enormous power, I feel strongly that more of our readers should know about the Board of Directors, who they are, what they do and how they’re selected. And I’d love to see more of our readers apply to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, not many people know that the board even exists, let alone what it does. To be honest, most of the people who work here don’t know about it either. It’s under-publicized, and unfortunately you — the readers — are the ones it impacts most.

So if you’re among the readers who’ve found themselves angry, frustrated or just annoyed with the way the DTH has covered something this year, I encourage you to take an active role in the paper’s operation. The Board of Directors is an obvious and important place to start. Applications can be found online and are due April 15.

Another great place to start is the selection committee for editor-in-chief. Though it won’t make another decision for nearly a year, it plays a crucial role in the paper’s operation. And there’s no DTH experience required.

Finally, the most direct and perhaps most effective way to change things at this paper is to work here.

Working at the DTH is at once frustrating and rewarding — some days, we miss the mark, but we also sometimes get it right. And we always learn something in the process.

Maggie Zellner is the opinion editor of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a junior comparative literature major from Lynchburg, Va. Contact her at opinion@dailytarheel.com.

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