Praveena Somasundaram was elected the next editor-in-chief of the Daily Tar Heel on Saturday.
Somasundaram, a junior, currently manages newsletters and social media as the paper’s audience engagement editor, and she is a senior writer for the University Desk.
“I'm feeling so many emotions and disbelief that I can't really sum it all up,” Somasundaram said. “But if I had to in one word, it would be unreal.”
Before coming to UNC, she gained writing and editing experience at The Guilfordian, the student-run paper at Guilford College. Somasundaram joined The Daily Tar Heel as a staff writer for the University Desk when she was a first year in 2018.
She became a senior writer for the University Desk in August 2019. Last fall, Somasundaram became the producer for the DTH Heel Talk podcast, which released a pilot episode in March 2020. In her platform, Somasundaram said multimedia content — like Heel Talk — will be a major focus for the paper next year.
Rob Nelson, who was editor-in-chief of DTH in 1999-2000, said the paper ultimately serves the students of UNC, who are often getting their news on their phones like all young people these days. He said her focus on the paper’s website and social media is necessary given how people are consuming media.
“She understands the concept that you have to meet people where they are,” Nelson said. “And where we all are today, particularly younger people like college students are in the digital realm.”
Somasundaram is a member of the Sharif Durhams Leadership Program, which is a professional development program for DTH students from underrepresented groups. She said being a part of the program was pivotal in deciding to apply to become the editor-in-chief.
Dana Anthony, who leads and manages the program, said Somasundaram’s appointment to editor-in-chief shows her that their goal in running the program is not in vain. She said it is satisfying to see students who they know are talented excel in leadership positions. Anthony said what impresses her most about Somasundaram is that she is committed and thorough.
“In any type of leadership position, you have to be thorough in everything,” Anthony said. “You can't be superficial.”
As the second Asian American editor-in-chief of the DTH since 1993, Somasundaram made diversity, equity and inclusion a large part of her platform, in which she references the lack of inclusion among the DTH staff and promises to be more intentional with recruitment efforts in the future.
“I'm looking forward to reaching out to different groups on campus — whether or not they have a journalism focus,” Somasundaram said. “I hope to just start building those relationships with groups who are willing.”
She said these issues would not be solved overnight, or even during the next year, but she is excited to continue taking steps towards repairing relationships. Twumasi Duah-Mensah, a member of the editor-in-chief selection committee and staff writer for the sports desk, said it was important to have a person of color in this position of power.
“She gets the struggles that we go through, and she understands those,” Duah-Mensah said. “She showed that she was very willing to make outreach efforts and make sure that we felt seen and just as included as everybody else.”
With the COVID-19 vaccine being distributed, Somasundaram said it is important to note that while everyone is transitioning into a life post-pandemic, the DTH newsroom will be doing so as well.
“I just think The Daily Tar Heel has given me some really unforgettable experiences,” she said. “And I hope to give that back to the newsroom next year and continue as a resource for our community.”
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