The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday April 13th

COLUMN: Lessons learned from my time at the DTH

<p>Assistant Sports Editor Jack Frederick</p>
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Assistant Sports Editor Jack Frederick

This column was a massive undertaking for me. 

I knew I wanted to write a final column, but it took thousands of words and several final versions before settling on this one. 

There was a potential rant about why sports writers aren’t fans — or haters — of your team, but simply objective professionals. Although that seems to be a forgotten standard of the field, I'll save that for another time. 

I also considered the deeply sentimental piece about the last four years, or maybe something else lighthearted or anti-serious. What I eventually settled on as my final act as assistant sports editor at the DTH was a list of lessons learned during my time here as a UNC student, which I’ll take with me long after I leave. 

Here we go:

-The first lesson is this, and stick with me here, because it’s an important one: it’s the North Carolina Tar Heels. That’s Tar Heels spelled with two words, both capitalized, and don’t forget the space. If you forget that, people will have learned everything they need to know about you — and that’s not a good thing. Be better than that.

-The second lesson I learned is from covering my first ever event, a swimming and diving meet at the Koury Natatorium in February 2016. I was so nervous that night that I forgot I was only interviewing athletes my own age. From then on, I understood the best way to talk to athletes, coaches and anyone I ever wrote about, was like they were anyone else — because they are. 

-The third lesson I learned is not to take yourself too seriously. If you get to cover sports, don’t make yourself too serious or self-important. After all, it’s meant to be fun. If you’re not good at the card game Anomia, and I'm certainly not, don’t pretend to be. And if you have “the worst take ever” about Michael Jordan cursing UNC, as Sarah Lundgren called it, write it anyway and be proud of it. 

-The fourth lesson falls right in line behind that and that’s to enjoy whatever experiences or opportunities come your way. Coming to UNC was a hard decision for me, but in the end I gave it a shot because I knew the experiences I’d have here would be next to nowhere else. 17-year-old me wasn’t wrong. 

I started out with my first regular beat being covering the UNC men's tennis team. From there at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center, the DTH has taken me from Chapel Hill over to Charlotte, Greenville and all the way to Kansas City. I’ve been in locker rooms at a pair of NCAA Tournaments, written stories for the front page, including after the UNC-Duke basketball games and enjoyed all of it. Seeing my name in print has been one of my favorite parts of being at the DTH. I’ve said it before, but hope I don’t ever take that for granted.

-The fifth lesson is that journalism, student journalism, print journalism — however you want to qualify it — still matters deeply. This year, I’ve seen my friends and fellow editors write all sorts of important stories on a whim, covering breaking news on a chancellor resignation, a fallen confederate monuments and UNC coaches being hired. As much as we are trashed in the comments by all of you, reporters at the DTH work hard and we try to do our jobs as best as we can. I don’t need that claim to be validated to know it’s true. 

-The sixth lesson I really never had to learn, but nonetheless confirmed as an assistant sports editor, is that sports writers are not in the "toy department" of journalism. I haven’t really run into that many people at UNC who think sports writers are doing less important work, but I know that opinion still exists here and in newsrooms everywhere.

Sports writers think thoughtfully about their words just like anyone else. We try to write as good of stories as we can on deadline and sometimes sports writing is business, politics, breaking news and feature writing all wrapped up under one. I would hope that if any of you reading this think we are in some way doing less important work than others, you’d rethink that idea. We are journalists, too, in the real sense of the word. 

-The seventh lesson I learned is that athletes at the top of their craft — no matter if you've heard of them or not — deserve to be listened to. I sincerely believe everyone has an important story to tell and I've already written a lot of cool stories about people at UNC. I hope sometime soon someone will pay me full time to keep doing that. 

-The final lesson learned from this job is that people matter and they're the best part of any experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed becoming friends with Chris Trenkle, Holt McKeithan and Ryan Wilcox, my fellow editors on the sports desk, taking trips next door after a long week to get Sup Crushes and the dumb nicknames we have given each other. 

I’ve also enjoyed getting to work alongside Chapel, Alex, James and Brennan in particular, including the rest of the sports desk. Y’all have put out a lot of good content and only some of it came in infuriating us. 

It has also been a lot of fun to come in every day and try to beat the U-Deskers — Myah, Kate and Taylor — in analytics, or fight over not answering the door with Maeve, Molly and Brian at arts desk. 

This paper also couldn't have functioned this year without the leadership of management, Sarah, Bailey and Rachel. Thanks to them in particular for tolerating so many sports statistics and for setting a high standard the rest of the paper could follow.

Newsrooms are cool places, but college newsrooms are even cooler than that. In between writing and editing, you get to talk life, shoot hoops on a mini basketball goal, debate, or maybe just shoot the shit and try to ignore the homework we all have after we leave the DTH. 

I’ll take away so many lessons learned from my time in Chapel Hill and my time at the DTH. Among them, I’ll always know that my decision to come to UNC, then apply as a sports staff writer in January 2016, was the right decision for me.

This column was hard to write, but it was just another reminder for me that college newspapers are awesome. 


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