We’re less than a month into a new school year and it’s starting to feel like deja vu in a lot of ways. Rising COVID-19 cases and calls to move to remote learning are reminiscent of the uncertainty and fear from last fall.
And while there’s a lot that feels the same, there’s also a lot that’s different. The same can be said for our newsroom.
Elevate turned a year old last month. As a concept, Elevate was created by the first cohort of the Sharif Durhams Leadership Program, a talent and leadership development course at The Daily Tar Heel for staffers from underrepresented groups. Since its inception, the section has been dedicated to highlighting the stories of underrepresented communities at UNC and in Chapel Hill. Elevate is intended to be a space for coverage primarily by and for people whose stories often go unreported.
This year, our management team has made efforts to prioritize the section and its values. Elevate now appears in our print paper on a weekly basis, instead of twice a month.
Additionally, each desk editor is required and encouraged to pitch Elevate stories each week across a variety of beats. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important that the content and purpose of Elevate is upheld in every part of the paper, and we’re trying out different ways to fulfill that.
I’d also like for Elevate to take on longer-term reporting projects this semester and for our 2021-22 cohort of the Sharif Durhams Leadership Program to be more involved in shaping the section alongside me.
But there’s still more we want to address. Clay Morris, our diversity, equity and inclusion officer, and I know any sustainable changes we hope to see in the newsroom’s culture and coverage require genuine commitment and a sense of accountability. If you’re a reader from an underrepresented group flipping through the newspaper on any given Wednesday, I’d like for you to see yourself and the issues that matter to you in those pages.
Current reporting models that dictate the industry and traditional media outlets aren’t necessarily conducive for fostering a culture based on empathy. A constant race to get stories out, facing the competition of other publications and the 24-hour news cycle is inescapable. It leaves room for reporting errors, a casual callousness with sources and an inability to see beyond a deadline.
Part of the work we hope to do includes finding different ways to approach the reporting process, whether that’s asking more meaningful questions or taking more time to think through sourcing, deadlines and word choice.