“Hey, make sure you close the door behind you, because it doesn't close on its own.”
As I stood at the top of the stairs, I scoured over the newsroom filled with student journalists who I believed were writing cutting-edge stories. What I quickly realized, though, was not the vast amount of iMacs scattered around the newsroom; rather, I noticed what was missing — people who looked like me.
I was familiar with being the only Black kid in my classes in high school, but something felt different here. At the time, I wondered how a student newspaper that is held in such high regard didn't have at least one other Black person, but my nervousness about diving into the world of journalism for the first time overtook my curiosity.
I applied to The Daily Tar Heel after reading a story about the aftermath of Silent Sam's toppling, by Danielle Chemtob and María Elena Vizcaíno, in The Huffington Post. It was only my second day on campus, but I could feel a sense of excitement through the people they interviewed when I read their story.
I saw that Danielle and María both worked at the DTH, and I decided in that moment that if I wanted to write stories that conveyed that same type of emotion, I wanted to be around some of the best writers.
As a transfer student from North Carolina Central University, I was quite reserved when I stepped on campus my sophomore year, but I was excited to learn and grow as a writer. When I joined as a staff writer, I raved about all the types of stories I would get to write about on the University Desk. Still, when I stepped foot in the office, my excitement quickly diminished as I sat quietly beside my editor while engaging in lackluster small talk with other writers.
As these feelings carried on, I believed they’d go away if I continued to write better stories, in hopes of getting on the list of the top five stories from my desk and earning recognition from fellow staffers that could help spark interesting conversations or make new friends.
For every friend I didn't make at the DTH, I made through the stories I wrote. The DTH pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and talk to students I may have never met because I needed student sources, and I will forever be grateful for that.
What started as mere Instagram DMs to potential Miss UNC candidates later flourished into me walking into Davis Library and asking every student studying for midterms if they'd like to talk about the Spider-Man flash mob that had taken place just moments before.