On Feb. 13, 2018, as the DTH's then-online managing editor, I blocked a profile named Dakota Stone from The Daily Tar Heel’s Facebook page. Stone wanted a high-resolution photo from a September 2017 noise protest outside South Building, which we had re-ran in print on Jan. 15 as part of a spread on student activism.
While blocking Stone removed his messages from our inbox, DTH general manager Erica Perel managed to find screenshots of our conversation in an email sent to the Chapel Hill Police Department.
The messages from Stone matched the tone of a call Perel had received earlier, which she had emailed then-editor-in-chief Tyler Fleming, then-managing editor Jessica Swanson and the DTH photo desk about earlier in the day.
"Hey, I just had a conversation with a man named Jack Corbin who wants us to send him a high-resolution photo of the Silent Sam protest that ran in the paper recently," Perel wrote. "My advice is that we not send him this photo, and I'm considering calling the Chapel Hill police about the situation. He wants to identify someone in the photo as a dangerous criminal from Charlottesville and to bring him to justice, and he did not seem stable.”
Perel ended up calling the police twice. Corbin also called the DTH photographer that had taken the photo he wanted. The photographer also called the police, and referred to the experience as “concerning."
Corbin initially tried to frame himself as law enforcement in his conversation with Perel, she said. The DTH, and most media outlets, often require a subpoena before turning photos over to law enforcement. It then became apparent that Corbin was working on his own to identify a protester, one that the Stone profile called “a violent terrorist” on Facebook.
“The vigilante nature of it really got my concern up,” Perel said.
I wasn’t copied on the original email about Corbin, and didn’t link last year’s newsroom harassment to him until Perel mentioned it the day after we published our piece last week. Neither the reporter nor any of the editors that worked on the piece were involved in the decision to block the Dakota Stone profile.
But even if we had realized Corbin and Stone were the same — even if I had edited the piece — it still would have been worth running. People like Corbin, who spew vitriolic hate at journalists and activists alike, are not First Amendment warriors. They’re bigots who can’t stand to be questioned. And I’m always happy to stand in opposition to that.