Writing this column was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Not because I’m torn up about leaving The Daily Tar Heel, but because I'm struggling to find the words to accurately capture what the last four years have been like.
Being the editor-in-chief of an independent student newsroom is a truly unique experience that I wasn’t quite prepared for, especially during what will hopefully be one of the hardest years of our lives. I wasn’t prepared for the expectations. I wasn’t prepared for how lonely I would feel.
This job challenged me in ways I never expected and made me a better, stronger person and journalist. But at the same time, I have never felt so powerful and powerless.
I was 21-22 years old and making major decisions that affected the people and community around me in ways I couldn’t comprehend most of the time. Before the year even started, I was thinking about if and how to reopen the office. I was kept up at night thinking about how I would never forgive myself if someone got sick because of my choices.
But there were also so many things I couldn’t control, and I have so many regrets. I came into this position wanting to make the DTH a better newsroom in both our coverage and for the people who work here, and as my time comes to a close, I can’t help but focus on all the ways I fell short.
Sure, we got national attention for our coverage, we won some lawsuits and we produced amazing content despite all the obstacles. I got to watch some of my closest friends and editors succeed and grow during a terrible year. I’m incredibly proud of all of that.
But the environment at the DTH was still unhealthy at times. I knew the staff was underpaid, but I couldn’t control the budget. I knew they felt overworked, but I couldn’t control the news cycle and didn’t do enough to encourage them to prioritize their mental health. I don’t think that’s unique to us — the journalism industry has a lot to work on — but I wanted to do more.
In the first iterations of this column, I tried really hard to focus on the positives because there are so many. But I wasn’t open about my own mental health this year because I wanted to seem like a strong, reliable leader for the newsroom. I had heard stories about how editors struggled because they felt they couldn’t rely on the EIC, so I didn’t think people would feel comfortable talking to me about their issues if I seemed like I was going through stuff of my own.
And it just felt dishonest to not acknowledge that in my last piece for the DTH.
Don’t get me wrong — joining the newsroom was the best choice I made at UNC. I am undoubtedly graduating from the DTH in a few weeks; this is a place where I made friends, did some of my best work and found my home on campus for the last four years. On days when I was ashamed to go to UNC, the DTH made me proud.
And the people on staff this year are some of the best on this earth.
I’m going to cherish memories of singing Taylor Swift in the office, rediscovering childhood books, eating loaded tots at Linda’s, having heated discussions about Double Stuf Oreos.
I’m never going to forget how the lights went out the night before the clusterfuck paper, my "What Just Happened" outtakes of me screaming because I can never remember the sports information, dropping everything for the Roy Williams retirement paper and of course, Wampus/Not Wampus on Tuesdays.
So thank you, Brandon, Will and Maeve for being the best team I could have possibly done this year with; Praveena, for your brilliance and late-night grocery runs; Sonia, for reminding me why I wanted to be an editor in the first place; Maddie, for pep talks and bringing joy into every room you enter; Sergio, for being my rock this year; Lauren, for being there with me from the start; Paige, for making the DTH famous!!!; Morgan and Yates, for movies in the office and always making me laugh; Brittany, Misha and Heidi for your hard work and dedication; and Erica, for being the best mentor I could have asked for; Michael, Jamey, David, Veronica, Daniel, for advice and support when I needed it; and thank you to every single person I can’t name in this non-exhaustive list.
It’s true that the DTH was the biggest source of stress in my life. It’s also true that I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and it’s going to take me a long time to shed the weight of this institution. I wish I had been more open about my feelings this year, and I also wish I stopped more to take in some of my last moments in the office.
I warned you that it’s hard to describe my feelings for this place. I will always care about the DTH, and I can’t wait to watch it continue to grow.
For the last time: print news, raise hell.
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.
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