Copy chief and social media manager Maddy Arrowood is the only candidate running to be the 2019-2020 editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a junior reporting and American history major from Tryon, N.C.
I came to the realization that I wanted to be a journalist when I was in high school. I previously thought I wanted to go into medicine, which is now laughable considering even simple math is enough to strike fear into my heart.
I guess my fear of going into a STEM field was pretty sizable, because it pushed me to fall headlong into what I had been told time and again was a failing industry. For years now, when someone asks what I want to do after graduation, their response has been a subtle look of surprise paired with an emphatic, “Oh, well, we need good journalists right now!” that I expect is covering up their condolences for my future salary.
Whether that’s an accurate interpretation of the subtext or not, I choose to overlook it and instead hear what they’re actually saying, because they’re right. We do need good journalists right now. But a “good journalist” today is not the same thing as a “good journalist” 50, 30, or even 10 years ago.
I’m no longer worried about the news industry failing. It’s going to be fine, and it’s going to survive, because there is a need for it. That need is changing, however, and we at the DTH must change too if we’re going to fill yours.
It’s odd, because none of us grew up reading print newspapers, but for some reason the newsroom still holds the underlying sentiment that print is king and digital is secondary. Print is still important and still holds value, of course, but I’m not breaking any news in saying it’s not where most people get their information today. We have to meet you where you are, which is online.
And to an extent, we do that — all our articles are on our website, we’re active on social media. But the shift from print to digital is more than just taking the same article that was on the page and posting it online. It’s a shift in how we interact with you, the readers, because for the first time, you’re able to tell us what it is you want and need to know.
The Daily Tar Heel is a community paper. Not only that, it’s the only newspaper covering the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. That means we have a big job on our hands, especially since we’re also an educational paper. I’m more confident than anything that we can do it because we have done it for the past 126 years.
But if we’re going to be your paper, we need you to be a part of it. We need you to reach out and tell us when we’re missing something in our coverage, when our reporting is one-sided or overlooks an important perspective, when you have questions about anything from how we got to where we are now with the Silent Sam situation to why you sometimes hear a train whistle in the middle of the night. I know you have questions, and I know we can answer them. It will just take a shift in the newsroom thinking to approach our coverage with a reader-first mindset.
That mindset won’t just be beneficial to our readers, but also to the students we’re training at the DTH. We have an obligation to prepare our journalists for whatever they do after they leave us, and we would be putting them at a disadvantage if we didn’t prepare them for the digital media landscape. Newsrooms are hiring journalists who can handle all the parts of telling a story online. We’re good at teaching students how to write, or take photos, but it would be a disservice to our staff to not also teach them video, social media or audience engagement.
As I’m sure you know, all of this costs money, which is something the DTH isn’t exactly swimming in. We’re here to serve you. We want to provide the robust coverage that you deserve, on and off campus. We want to adequately train the next generations of journalists so they can go on to do the same for other communities. But we need your help to do it. My hope is that we can build a relationship with the community that is strong enough that you want to help us, too, through small-dollar donations like your favorite podcast’s Patreon or those that support NPR. Because, after all, we do need good journalists.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.