As we’ve shown during the pandemic, The Daily Tar Heel is a newsroom that rises to the occasion.
But are we doing enough to evolve alongside our staff’s and community’s needs?
The answer is no.
Being involved in many areas of the DTH has shown me that it has room to grow. As editor, I will push the paper in the following areas: diversity, equity and inclusion, community engagement, multimedia, newsroom sustainability and staff training and culture.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Historically, the DTH has harmed and broken relationships with marginalized communities. Additionally, staffers from underrepresented communities have not always seen the newsroom as a welcoming space.
When I joined the paper in 2018, I often felt like I didn’t belong. I’ve heard the same from other journalists of color at the DTH.
This lack of inclusion is also reflected in the numbers. Last semester, we had 13 Black staffers and 20 Latinx staffers out of 223 total, according to our first diversity audit.
We have already taken some steps to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, which should continue, but there is much to be done next year to further diversify our staff and our coverage.
This starts with intentional relationship-building and recruitment efforts. It is our responsibility to connect with groups serving students from underrepresented communities. For example, we will collaborate with these groups to hold information sessions and encourage students to work with the DTH.
To support our two DEI officers, I will create a committee made up of at least one representative from each desk. This committee will ensure the newsroom’s efforts are uniform and consistent, particularly in producing journalism that amplifies the voices of marginalized communities.
In my DTH audience engagement work, the critique I most often see stems from readers’ confusion on our reporting. To address this, we need to make information about our reporting more accessible.
I will add transparency boxes for online stories in areas commonly questioned or critiqued. These boxes would explain the DTH’s sourcing and provide necessary context for readers. For example, a transparency box underneath the Editorial Board’s endorsement for Student Body President would explain why the endorsement was made and who comprises the Editorial Board.
Engaging with the community should also include in-person efforts, once the pandemic ends. The DTH should hold an open newsroom or virtual/on-campus office hours at least once a month to interact with the community. Holding this space will help us understand how to fill information gaps.
The ultimate goal is to meet community members where they are and be transparent about the DTH’s work.
In order to become a digital-first newsroom, I will restructure our leadership to include a Video Editor and Audio Editor, along with the Photo Editor. Each of these editors will lead staffers in creating multimedia content. Restructuring our multimedia team will allow us to use digital content more frequently.
Given that the publication will still be navigating finances coming off a pandemic next year, the DTH should continue printing once a week, at least for the fall semester. Print production can be re-evaluated for the spring semester.
The 1893 Brand Studio and advertising sales teams are integral to the DTH’s sustainability, as they create revenue that keeps our newsroom afloat. The better the work of the newsroom is, the easier it will be to generate revenue.
I will work with newsroom and studio leaders to successfully create products that are essential to our audience and generate revenue for the DTH.
Staff training and culture
As UNC’s campus moves to post-pandemic operations, the DTH will also need to ensure a smooth transition back to an in-person workflow. The DTH is a teaching paper, and we need to take advantage of this to create a workplace experience staffers will want to return to post-pandemic.
The DTH should start to use beat reporting for news desks, particularly University and City/State. Some examples of beats are student leadership, faculty governance and race and equity. With this model, DTH reporters can cultivate better source networks and a deeper knowledge of what they’re covering, which results in higher quality journalism.
The DTH’s culture of burnout needs to change.
During orientation, there will be a session on the passive and active indicators of burnout so staffers and editors can learn to recognize when they might need to take a break or lessen their workload. DTH management will also lead a discussion on newsroom culture, explicitly stating that staffers’ value is not based on their productivity.
At the end of the day, the staff is what makes the DTH what it is. Thus, it’s imperative to create a healthy and supportive environment.
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