The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Platform: It’s time for us to think digitally

Paige Ladisic is the editor-in-chief. She is a senior journalism and political science major from Oak Island. 

Paige Ladisic is the editor-in-chief. She is a senior journalism and political science major from Oak Island. 

Every year, our print edition gets a little smaller, and we have fewer pages dedicated to our content. But as our paper gets thinner, I have grown our social media reach and engagement, and I have worked to make our website more user friendly.

The words ‘digital first’ are present in every newsroom, college and professional, around the country. We’ve heard them at The Daily Tar Heel, but obstacles always stand in the way. It is time for us to be ‘digital first,’ no more hesitating. My ultimate goal is for the DTH to be constantly relevant, no matter what our readers need.

I believe that means we must push harder on the digital level.

Consider digital

The digital product will not be an afterthought, saved until 12:30 a.m., or a responsibility given to only a select few. When our staff meets to plan the paper, we will also weigh in on the layout of the website for the following day. Stories will no longer be held until the paper is sent to print; once a story has been read through two copy editors, it will be pushed to the website and social media.

An Online Managing Editor position will be recreated in order to give a voice to the digital product. This editor will be vital in continuing’s award-winning excellence, focusing on maximizing reader engagement and usability.

The Visual Managing Editor position will be brought back also — not only to ensure that our paper is consistently visually appealing and our long-term projects are managed, but also to interact closely with the online position to ensure that photographers and designers are working not only for print, but also for online.

The online staff will work closely with desk editors and reporters to ensure that every story maxes out its digital potential, and during the day after a story is published, online staff will continue to monitor analytics and trends to respond to our readers’ needs and story performance. We must extend the shelf life of our stories past the day of publication in order to continue to act as a constant reference for readers.

Bring investigations into the day-to-day

The projects and investigations team will become an even more important part of our newsroom, as the team leader will be part of the day-to-day and added to my management team. He or she will work more regularly with desk editors and staff writers, organizing the special issues as well as daily enterprise projects.

This team will not be a separate entity from the newsroom as it is now; the writers and photographers will function on their respective desks as normal senior writers and will be expected to write for the regular print editions as well as special sections.

A better path for staffers

During orientation, our newly hired staffers are learning the basics of reporting and writing, but I believe it is important to prepare our staff members for being journalists in a digital world — that includes the basics of social media, smartphone photography and videography and writing for digital media.

We currently require all new staffers to attend four enrichment sessions in order to “graduate” to a second-semester staff member. I would like to extend the enrichment requirements and expect all staffers beyond their first semester to attend two sessions each semester. The learning should not stop in the first semester, and we can continue the learning process with advanced workshops that refine a staffer’s skills.

Analyze online reader trends

We must balance what is newsworthy with what our readers want to read. The number of stories that fewer than 30 people read on our website is too high, while a good story often reaches a few thousand readers. Our trends in pickup and in web traffic show that some stories are more popular than others, and that’s common sense. The Online Managing Editor will be instrumental in analyzing our reader trends online and working with desk editors before a story is pitched for the paper.

Connect with the community

Our editorial board often works in a vacuum, meeting in the conference room a few times a week to talk over ideas. But reporting in the community adds voices to our argument and reinforces what we have to say.

As editor-in-chief, I will host monthly public forums with the opinion editor and editorial board during the semester, welcoming all of those interested — be it a student, a leader in the community or an entire organization — to speak their minds and address the opinion pieces we’ve written to that point and what we should consider in the coming months.

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