All it took was one post from a high school friend for then first-year biology major Brandon Standley to apply to The Daily Tar Heel.
Now, three years later, Standley serves the DTH as the copy chief and social media manager, supervising a team of 32 staffers and four assistants, with experience in both production and reporting.
Standley hopes to bring this range of experiences to the position of 2020-2021 editor-in-chief.
His trajectory to copy chief began with his role on the online desk, writing social media posts and contributing to the daily newsletter. Sophomore year, Standley joined the copy desk and was promoted to copy assistant second semester. That summer, Standley served as copy chief and social media manager.
But Standley started his junior year in an entirely different position. For about a month and a half, Standley served a brief stint as photo editor. Standley said he is proud of this period, because it was time when he got to prove he was adaptable.
“We did not have strong leadership in that area for a while there, and we needed somebody who was willing to not only do the job but also try to make the job a little bit better for whoever was going to take over,” Standley said. “I figured I’m the man for the job — I'm kind of an everyman."
Serving in this position was just another opportunity for Standley to learn more, which he said has become his personal mission.
“I think that I have this genuine curiosity that leads me to want to know more about everything,” Standley said.
Growing up in eastern North Carolina, traveling the state and meeting people from all walks of life has led Standley to feel he carries a sense of history with him. With this range of experiences — inside the newsroom and out — Standley said he hopes to bring knowledge to both the DTH and the community.
“I think that currently as it stands at The Daily Tar Heel we do things really well,” Standley said. “We have a lot of infrastructure set up — but that doesn’t mean we can’t be doing things better.”
Standley said two primary goals motivated him to run for editor-in-chief: increasing diversity and efficiency.
As a member of multiple diverse communities, Standley said the DTH is largely homogeneous and could improve in its outreach.
“We are excluding voices, not only from our coverage, but also from our newsroom,” Standley said.
Standley said the inclusion of diverse voices is necessary for the DTH to live up to its role as record of the community. As it stands now, Standley said DTH coverage focuses on certain issues while leaving others out completely, contributing to the silencing of these voices.
For Standley, improving diversity would first mean stepping outside of the newsroom — respectfully.
“I think that stepping outside of my comfort zone, going to these places, asking for their permission, talking to them and seeing how we can include their voices is the biggest thing for me,” Standley said.
But Standley acknowledged that while it’s one thing to strive to improve in these areas, it’s important to check on these goals through external critique.
“Rarely do we ever go out to the community and say, ‘Okay, what are we doing wrong?'” Standley said. “I think that’s really important because we are not perfect, The Daily Tar Heel’s never been perfect, and it never will be perfect. But we can at least try to recognize our imperfections and recognize what we can do better.”
To improve efficiency, Standley hopes to improve cohesion and communication. As editors change each year, information is lost in the transitions. Standley said this gap in communication can be fixed by recording relevant information for future generations.
Above all, Standley said his strength lies in his experiences.
"I feel like I've dipped my toes into a lot of different spaces, and I can bring some knowledge to each area," Standley said.
Looking back on his time at the DTH, Standley said there is one experience that sums up everything he loves about the newsroom.
One night, then editor-in-chief Tyler Fleming brought his Nintendo Switch to the office and invited Standley, a first-year online staffer at the time, to play a game of Mario Kart. For Standley, this relatively simple moment marked the first time he felt like he truly belonged in that space.
“I take that memory, and I think about it a lot because I want to make sure that every person that I interact with at The Daily Tar Heel feels like they’re welcome,” Standley said.
Despite all the challenges that comes with the job, what motivates Standley is relatively simple — seeing it all come to fruition.
“Seeing that final product and seeing how impactful it’s going to be for people is what gets me through the night,” Standley said.
At the end of the day, Standley describes himself as a people-person, which allows him to bring everyone together through hard times.
"Producing a newspaper is not all fun and games," he said.
But equipped with an icebreaker or motivator, Standley said he can get people laughing and energized to get the job done.
No matter the outcome, Standley said he hopes the DTH continues to live up to its legacy.
“We are a tiny dot on the map, all things considered, but we have a huge impact,” Standley said. “So we need to make sure we are making that impact as large as possible, because it is the most important thing we can do. We have a moral obligation I think to do just that.”
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