The Daily Tar Heel is beginning the editor selection process for the 2020-21 academic year. Candidate Anna Pogarcic discusses her platform of transparency, accountability and innovation in the newsroom. For candidate Brandon Standley's platform, look here.
The DTH is a strong publication and a leader among college newsrooms, but I want to make our newsroom more open to trying new things, more transparent and more accountable both to our staff and to our audience.
Multimedia and digital first
While we always talk about transitioning to a digital-first model, the reality is we are far behind. The structure of the Copy & Online desk needs to change to realize our full potential. It should have two desk editors: one for copy, and one for online. This new desk would be tasked with doing the same functions, while also working with management and Photo to think of different ways of telling stories across platforms. In conjunction, our Photo desk needs to grow to emphasize video. It would help our photographers to gain diverse experience, and it could also help attract more applicants.
The Daily Tar Heel has expanded its multimedia capacity in the past few years, but we need to continue to push ourselves to do more. I have led the City & State desk in launching projects like these and have seen how much we were able to learn from doing them, and every desk on the DTH should have these opportunities.
Diversity and community engagement
We can do more to make our staff look like the communities we cover by engaging with underrepresented groups.
The City & State desk did this as we launched our Tar Heels Vote project when we partnered with Mi Pueblo, and I’ll never forget the conversation I had with their PAC co-chair when they thanked us for doing so. When we hosted our town hall, many attendees said they picked up a DTH for the first time that day.
Community engagement and inclusion go hand-in-hand. We should continue reaching out to groups like Mi Pueblo and foster these relationships by doing things like going to their meetings to pass out papers. This will not only make our coverage better because we’ll be exposed to more ideas, but it will help us build trust with our audience.
To manage this, the DTH needs a diversity and inclusion officer. They wouldn’t be tasked with doing all of this on their own – this should be a paper-wide effort. But they would be in charge of making sure things don’t fall through the cracks.
2020 elections coverage
This fall is going to be a consequential election, which makes it an exciting opportunity for the DTH to have impactful and experimental storytelling. With North Carolina set to be a battleground state and the RNC being held in Charlotte, the whole paper should be involved in coverage.
Due to the volume of coverage the City & State desk is going to be responsible for, they should receive an extra assistant for the fall 2020 semester. The DTH should make full use of our skills and consider other multimedia projects, like interactive maps, rally videos and even a weekly political podcast. We have the opportunity to inform and empower an entire campus and community, and we should seize it.
The last two years of constant breaking news have revealed how exhausting it is to be a student journalist for the DTH. The stress can lead to unhealthy behavior and hurts our retention. To combat burnout, I would give desk editors two monthly days off, much like a professional workplace environment would. This gives desk editors a mental break or a night off to do something else.
I often hear from my staffers that the DTH doesn’t feel like a space to build relationships. We’re rarely all in the room together at the same time, making it difficult to address problems when they arise. To facilitate communication and collaboration, I would hold weekly editor meetings as an efficient and healthy way to pass on announcements and talk out any minor issues. This would also provide an opportunity for team building because it could be a space for the management team or anyone else to compliment people on their hard work from the past week.
The investigations team often struggles to find its place in the newsroom. Its size has varied widely, and it often works in its own lane away from the other desks. Rather than having a separate investigations desk, these writers should remain as senior writers on the appropriate desk for their beat. That way they can collaborate with the editor with the most knowledge of what they’re trying to cover.
This restructuring would not eliminate the DTH’s investigative coverage because we will still have a Director of Enterprise to oversee all the desks and provide guidance. This is just a way to refine the place of these stories within the newsroom culture and build on the expertise we already have.
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.